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A Filmmaker Possessed: Eight Questions with Director Amel J. Figueroa

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By Constantine Frangos.

For the past 13 years, independent film company SaintSinner Entertainment Group has been quietly making movies in Southern New Jersey. Steadily building up its filmography since the early to mid 2000s, founders Brandon E. Brooks and Amel J. Figueroa have gone on to create the lion’s share of 17 different film, television, and video productions. One of the latest films from the collective is the drama A Man Possessed by writer/director Figueroa.

The film is a story of a man (Ricardo Segarra) shattered by personal loss who undertakes a steadfast and cryptic vendetta as a form of reactive coping to bring about “justice.” Yet, he finds himself swaying between salvation and pain. Figueroa handled the cinematography himself and is the film’s greatest asset. In particular, he was able, through visuals, to evoke an elegiac tone, which underscored in the movie’s quieter moments. For the most part, this is an action movie that plays with certain “revenge film” conventions but ultimately tells a personal story worth watching for the promise Figueroa’s talents hold.

I recently spoke with Figueroa about A Man Possessed, his motivations, influences, and goals. The film is being screened as part of the Reel East Film Society’s Fall Selections in Blackwood, NJ at 8:00pm on Friday, October 6, 2017.

What drove (or possessed) you to tell this story?

It came from a tragedy in my life. I had, unfortunately, lost my mom to cancer. She was my best friend and the woman who shaped who I am [today]. She influenced my love of movies. It was devastating for me to have lost her and I went through a slew of emotions.

I wanted to let people know the pain I felt but I wanted to do it on a spectrum where people can relate to the situation, to relate to loving and being loved.

The other part of it had to do with the love I crave in a partner, the fun times I want to provide and in some instances have provided. And knowing myself, and the emotions I’ve felt on both sides of that spectrum, I wanted to take everyone on my journey.

What was the biggest challenge in making this movie?

The biggest challenge was making a feature within 10 days, with no budget and no crew. But overall, I managed to keep it light and fun on set. I like to believe everyone had a great time.

How does A Man Possessed fit in with your overall body of work? How is it different?

A Man Possessed doesn’t really fit into my normal body of work. I had a lot of things to work through and that’s what the project was all about.

As mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed the cinematography. Who or what are some of your influences?

Possessed 02Right now, I really love Emmanuel Lubezki. I mean I always have but I feel he gets to really shine under Terrence Malick. Every shot is a beautiful picture. Of course, it would be a strange style to [use] on an action comedy. Other notable cinematographers I love are Georg Krause, Larry Smith, Newton Thomas Sigel, and, of course, John Alcott. Kubrick was my first teacher on film. I read many books on the man and his style, which became part of my signature. So his collaborators were an interesting bunch and of course, he wasn’t an easy man to get along with.

If budget was not a concern, what would be your dream project to work on?

Well, I’d love to work for Disney on a big Disney film. Something the family can go to and have fun and…be something visually stunning and engaging like Maleficent. On another side, I’d love to make a Swamp Thing feature. Strange, I know.

What are you working on next?

Right now, I’m developing a revenge thriller titled VIXEN and a buddy cop action comedy titled Adult Film Star. I’m trying to get everything together to raise more money to get them off the ground. Money always makes it harder.

What plans do you have regarding distribution for A Man Possessed? Is there still a viable DVD market in this age of downloads and streaming? What do you think is the future of indie film distribution?

We managed to get a distribution deal with Wild Eye Releasing. The film will be out some time first quarter of 2018. The market is interesting for DVD and Blu-Ray because here, stateside, it is about the digital format and the process of “mobile entertainment.”

As for the future of indie film distribution? It’s already here, whether we are talking about Vimeo, YouTube, etc. I think the better question would be what is the future of indie film marketing? Not that I have an immediate answer; it’s probably the toughest thing to get your project out to the masses and have them stop to take a look.

Is there anything you learned while making this film that you would do differently next time?

We are always learning. I wish I could’ve taken more time on a few scenes instead of having to rush through but, overall, I am happy with the final product. I’ll definitely be taking more time to really execute my vision. I think the most important lesson I learned (relates to) who is willing to walk with you and who is willing to step on you. It’s an interesting industry, but I must say, I love the friends I’ve made along the way.

Constantine Frangos is a programmer for the Reel East Film Festival. He contributed articles in Filmmatters 8.2 (2017) and illustrations for the upcoming documentary Sickies Making Films by Joe Tropea.

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