Interview: Edward Burgos and Viviana Serratos

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A version of this interview appeared in May 2010’s issue of the Groove Magazine. All photos below are my own, and may differ from the printed version.

I recently sat down with Edward Burgos and Viviana Serratos over some burritos at Dos Tacos, eager to learn about their movie-making while in Korea. Their uncommon backgrounds (Edward is 1/2 El Salvadorian, while Viviana claims to be “Mexican, Puerto Rican and Spanish, and a mix of some other passionate cultures”) give them a unique perspective on life in Korea.

A version of this interview appeared in May 2010’s issue of the Groove Magazine. All photos below are my own, and may differ from the printed version.

I recently sat down with Edward Burgos and Viviana Serratos over some burritos at Dos Tacos, eager to learn about their movie-making while in Korea. Their uncommon backgrounds (Edward is 1/2 El Salvadorian, while Viviana claims to be “Mexican, Puerto Rican and Spanish, and a mix of some other passionate cultures”) give them a unique perspective on life in Korea.

Chris Backe: Tell us about yourself – how did you get into movie-making?

Edward Burgos: I studied Politics at UKC University in Canterbury, England, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. Eventually I began teaching English, then moved to Korea in 2005. While in Korea, I began learning about cameras and cinematography. On my way to work one day, I was reading a camera manual while riding the bus. I was so engrossed learning about light refraction that I missed my stop! It was an epiphany – loving what you do is so important.

Viviana Serratos: I free-fell 25 feet while rock climbing, broke the tibia and fibula in my right leg, the fibula being a compound fracture and almost died in the process. I was 19 and unhappy in where I was in life and school. I had always had this intense interest in film and wanted to direct, but came from a family where something at that caliber was unreachable. After recovering from my accident I ended transferring to film school and found my true passion and began pouring myself into film making, eventually working in Hollywood as a director’s assistant. I was fortunate enough to be a part of the films ‘Pride and Glory’, ‘The Rocker’, and ‘What Happens in Vegas’. Working as a director’s assistant was a lot like being an apprentice – you’re always learning and doing something new and learning what a real director goes through. After the writer’s strike and the economy going south, I came to Korea to teach English and learn the culture. It’s been a great opportunity to create instead of just thinking about creating.

CB: How did you two first meet?

VS: We met over the 48 Hour Film Project [a film-making contest where a team creates and produces a short film in 48 hours] and I contacted Edward because he had a video camera, but, sadly, was already committed to another team. A few months later I was directing a short film, THE RIGHT MARK, a cool little Romantic Comedyesque short, and we talked over some beers and funky corn with ham, and we eventually realized that we could make some movie magic together. I just knew right then that he was an amazingly talented man.

CB: What have you put together so far?

VS: [One of my favorites] is on Vimeo. It’s called ‘The Last Request’, and it’s basically a joke turned into a short film. Another of my favorites is on hitrecord.com – it’s called ‘Frequency’, but you’ll have to see it for yourself.

EB: I am in post production on an adaptation of a short story by Robert Heinlein, a contemporary of Isaac Asimov. It’s a cool noir-like sci-fi story about paradoxes. I hope to have it done in the next few months and have it up on my website.

CB: Being an English teacher must take a big dent out of your day – how have you worked around the schedule?

VS: Even after teaching, Taekwondo and Hapkido classes keep me busy during the week. But I always have a book with me, and I’m always thinking, jotting down notes to remember what I’m thinking about.

EB: I go through phases – some months I’m super busy with work, other months I’m spending every spare minute editing, producing, and so on. My master plan is to get a university job so I can get 4 months of paid vacation every year and make films!

CB: What drives you?

EB: If I’m not working with a film, I wonder, ‘why not?’ – I’m always seeing a shot, thinking of a short script, and my brain’s always working. You never really clock out from this sort of thought. Even the vocabulary is important – learning what a Dutch angle is or the technical aspects of lighting gets me pumped, something I never thought would happen.

VS: I left Hollywood because I felt it lacked originality – all they’re doing nowadays is remakes, movies of books, or just focusing on the special effects. In Hollywood, people want to use you to climb up. I’m going back there – but first I’m putting on a suit of armor for when I go back. The movies I work on now don’t have a budget, but it’s actually a blessing because you have to use your imagination. There’s also more freedom – there’s no investors or studios yelling at you to make the deadline. If you’re going to be a full filmmaker, you’re responsible for every step of the process. That means you’re always learning something new, and I have had always loved learning.

CB: What’s getting equipment like here?

EB: It’s rentable for the most part, but you still have to know how to work it. If you’re serious about making movies, you might consider buying the equipment you’ll need.

CB: What’s your current / next big project?

EB: Right now I’m working with ‘Root Experience’, a theater group that emphasizes artist and audience interaction, breaking down the fourth wall, and bridging cultures. I’m working with Simon Magnus, another producer and theater director to put together a feature-length documentary. I’m also starting a podcast where I talk about film – that’ll be at http://enanoski.webs.com.

VS: I would love to make a short film with Korean actors and use a Korean pseudonym [to make it appear that a foreigner wasn’t at the helm]. I’m currently on a radio show – TBS’s ‘Drive Time’ every Saturday providing the latest in Hollywood Gossip. My main film goal while in Korea is to build a collection of people’s experiences of living in Korea – ideally, I want to put these short films together like a quilt. Get a foreigners perspective of Korea and make it into a feature, having myself and other film makers direct these shorts. Also, I’m always looking for scripts to direct!

CB: How can people get involved with your projects?

EB: If you’re passionate about your art, I’ll work with you. You also have to remember that it’s a team effort. I’ve learned so much from the people around me that I have to ask ‘why SHOULDN’T I give back to the people around me?’ Stick with your friends, and be generous with them. You should never lose your civility. The little extra kindnesses really do go a long way.

CB: Any advice for other people looking into start something new?

EB: Love what you do.

VS: But keep a balance, or you’ll lose your head.

EB: You have to take the first step – don’t wait for someone to connect all the dots for you. You’re the one that has to make things come together. Don’t wait for a Korean partner to run interference or provide all the money you need. I tell my friends to keep me in check, to ground me. I can’t imagine becoming a sudden success story like that low-budget zombie film gone huge [“Colin”, which wowed crowds at Cannes on a budget of about $70].

CB: Anything else to add?

VS: Just that I’m very impressed with peoples willingness to get involved in Korea – weather it be giving their time, losing sleep or offering their homes to be invaded by a bunch of strangers with a camera, people are there to do whatever needs to be done. I am blessed to have made a good group of friends who provide a great deal of support for my art. Thank you.

Creative Commons License © Chris Backe – 2010

This post was originally published on my blog, Chris in South Korea. If you are reading this on another website and there is no linkback or credit given, you are reading an UNAUTHORIZED FEED.




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