PARADISO, 12min., USA
Directed by Jonna Volz
Paradiso is a glimpse of a day in the life of an unhoused couple looking for shelter for the evening. As they find paradise in a vacant apartment they start dreaming big with possibility, until they are caught.
Get to know the actor & producer Lenny Hernandez:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
Ultimately, it was an opportunity I wanted to challenge myself to create my own work. As an Actor you rely so heavily on other people to see your value, to give you a chance to showcase your skills and talents. It’s a tough industry to devote yourself to. And while I still love the process of auditioning for TV, Films, and hundreds of commercials, the reality is you only book a fraction of a fraction of paid gigs. So, I decided to take some time to shadow industry people behind the camera to learn the process of filmmaking. It was exactly the hands-on information I needed to learn. There I gathered enough knowledge and confidence to attempt to fully produce my own project in PARADISO.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
I came across the first draft of PARADISO back in 2010 when a writer friend of mine reached out to me to do some test footage of one of its scenes. Shout out to the writer Chris Paris. We ended up filming one night, overnight, in the dark with two small lights. Lesson learned as the footage was far too dark and unusable. Time went by and we completely forgot about it. 10 years later during the pandemic I re-came across the script clearing out my email, so I reached out to him about producing it myself. He graciously re-worked the script and handed me the reigns to fully produce it. And here we are hitting the festival scene in 2023-2024, 13 years later!
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
I think people can underestimate all the elements that go into the filmmaking process. When you have limited resources and you can’t just pay an expert at every hiccup, it can take a really long time to get things completed. There were several moments where we had to basically teach ourselves a new skill to move the film forward. Personally, I ended up teaching myself on the fly, on a very basic level, how to rough edit, rough color correct, sound design, and foley to get PARADISO fully completed. So ultimately, our biggest obstacle ending up being ourselves!
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
As an unknown independent filmmaker your biggest hope is that people actually see your project, period. People enjoying the project and genuinely having positive things to say about it afterwards, is just the cherry on top. I was absolutely humbled, elated, and blown away with the positive things the audience members had to say. We are truly lucky to have been able to make such a “POWERFUL”, “HEARTBREAKING”, “GREAT dramatic short film.” PARADISO “HIT’s HARD” telling the viewer “WE HAVE TO DO BETTER.” “AN AMAZING STORY” with “GREAT PACING”, “EXCELLENT” writing, and the acting is “INCREDIBLE.”
Those aren’t my words. Those are direct quotes from the Audience FEEDBACK video! I am truly thankful.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
I’ve known that I wanted to entertain people since I was in 4th grade. I had an elementary teacher who was very big into creative learning. So, we would create sketches, songs, and other presentations often in that class. Every quarter we would perform the best ones for our parents where I embraced the spotlight as a young child. It wasn’t long after, that I knew I wanted to be on TV and films after seeing Jim Carrey’s early movie The Mask. I have, and will always, admire the level of commitment it must have taken to play that character! As zany and mildly inappropriate it was for me to see at 12, I knew I wanted to do that. And yes, a new aged remake would be a dream role for me!
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
This is a tough question… I tend to watch movies in phases, where I will watch one I really enjoy repeatedly until I burn out on it. If we are speaking purely the number of views I’ve personally given it, then it’s either Robert Rodriguez’s DESPERADO or DreamWorks animated classic THE PRINCE OF EGYPT. Vastly different movies I know.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
Honestly, what the FEEDBACK Film Festival offers is truly unique. It is a brilliant way to get eyes on projects not only with traditional screenings (via online viewing) but with the included perks that aren’t offered anywhere else. Offering the FEEDBACK video compilation, publishing interview questions, and having us filmmakers as a guest on the founders’ podcast is a brilliant way to set yourself apart from other film festivals. I would love to see more of this marketing cross promotion!
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
It’s such a wonderful idea to have a one-stop shop for all film festivals. Having the information at your digital fingertips really has its advantages. I would have never been able to submit PARADISO to as many festivals as I would have been able to without it. There are definitely things about FilmFreeway that can be improved and cleaned up but overall, it has been a pleasant experience.
10. What is your favorite meal?
Puerto Rican style rice with chickpeas or Arroz con Gandules for sure! I can eat that any day, ALL day! I still haven’t mastered the recipe though so if you have suggestions/ recommendations I’ll gladly take them!
11. What is next for you? A new film?
Well after learning so much during the process of making / producing PARADISO I want to continue making projects for myself. I’m currently sitting on three different projects that I am very excited about. One is a feature. We are currently in the works of polishing the screenplay for that. The second is an animated short where I plan on producing and voicing the main character. And lastly, I am writing a 10 episode TV series based on my experience working in Senior Housing.