‘LL: John Marco, I’m told that you’re also a screenwriter. Was The Inquisition of Camilo Sanz one of the projects you’ve written?
John Marco Lopez: The writing process is something that I value greatly and have come to embrace as possibly my favorite part of the process. I’d like my films to have a unique voice and perspective that is uniquely mine, and in order to achieve that, I not only have to direct the film, but have my signature in the screenplay. It allows the viewer to identify with an author/filmmaker and decide whether they’d like to follow more his films. I also have to give credit to my co-writer Samuel Clemente, who contributed to the story of ICS. It was the accumulation of many stories we heard in the neighborhood growing up, with regards to immigration, loan sharks, and volatile love lives.
‘LL: Kevin, you’re also a film teacher. What inspired that move?
Kevin Lopez: I was broke. I was in my second or third year of “freelancing,” but much of that time was just learning and growing as an artist, so the last thing on my mind was that I needed to also make a living. I hit rock bottom at one point when I could not afford the cab ride to one of my shoots. I came to terms, as many New York City artists do, that in order to support the art, I needed a real job. I quickly applied to the New York Teaching Fellows Program, and within a few months of interviews and workshops, I was in the classroom in the South Bronx as a self-contained special education teach-er. That’s when the real work began.
‘LL: What does your LPZ Education program offer the kids in NYC?
Kevin Lopez: Once I began working as a Special Education teacher for the New York City Department of Education, I soon realized the harsh reality of student disengagement, particularly in high needs communities. Kids hated coming to school and those that actually showed up, were encountered by educators and administrators who where disconnected and out of touch with the community in which they served. Additionally, arts programs in many public schools were nearly non-existent, which certainly created environments that lacked the encouragement of creative freedom. That’s when I decided to bring in some of my own gear to create engaging English, Math, and Social Studies lessons through the power of filmmaking. My students quickly gravitated towards it, and in a few months, we saw improvement with attendance and even with their reading and math levels. The power of film inspired many of my students to connect the work they were forced to learn in class, with real practical skills that allowed them to create films. I, then, took many of the strategies and models I developed these early years, and have been applying them to programs that we developed throughout the City of New York.
‘LL: Do you have some advice to offer any aspiring film directors, producers or screenwriters?
John Marco Lopez: The only advice I could give would be to just grab a camera, gather some actors/friends, and make your film. Don’t listen to the doubters or “experts.” Just go out there, express yourself, keep trying to get better, and enjoy every minute of the process.
Kevin Lopez: My advice to up-and-coming filmmakers is to align yourselves with like-minded artists who will help you grow in all aspects of your lives. This is a field that requires enormous discipline and dedication, and with the right amount of support from people you, trust, you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience. I always tell my film students that this is a long journey that requires patience and consistency. Once you embrace that reality, you’ll be able to organically develop yourself into the filmmaker and storyteller you have always imagined yourself to be.