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by Indiewire
February 13, 1998 2:00 AM
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Hispanic Film Project Set to Make the Leap to Features

by Eugene Hernandez




The Hispanic Film Project, formed over ten years ago as a non-profit
organization to "promote the presence and contribution of talented Hispanic
artists in the film industry," is making the leap to feature film
production this year, organization producer Carmen Avila told indieWIRE
yesterday. Since its formation in 1988 by Universal and the National
Hispanic
, the group has been funding and producing short films. The
development and production of a feature film this year marks HFP's first
foray into features. Avila told indieWIRE yesterday that a screenplay,
entitled "La Sirena," has been selected and that the group is in the
process of finding a director for the project. The film will be funded
mostly through financing provided through a grant from Universal and with
donated and discounted production services.


Last year HFP produced two short films, "English Only" and "El Artista."
"English" screened in a short program at last month's Sundance Film
Festival, and "Artista" has been acquired for television. Since the HFP was
founded in 1988, it has produced twelve short films.


With the leap to features, HFP aims to use its films as an opportunity to
give filmmakers "real world" experience and an opportunity to showcase
their talent. The group called for screenplays last year, and began sifting
through entries in October. Avila expressed disappointment that only 40
scripts were submitted and added that, in some cases, the quality of
scripts left much to be desired. Yet, HFP was founded with the intention of
tackling these very challenges, offering writers, directors, and producers
the opportunity for basic training in the Hollywood studio process. With
that in mind Avila is confident in this new project's ability to serve as a
step in the right direction. "For up and coming Hispanic filmmakers these
are terrific opportunities," she explained.


Avila said that in selecting their first script, organizers were determined
to find a story that focused on positive themes. She described "La Sirena"
as "an uplifting, romantic film," based on an Arleta play that was
originally staged in Mexico. Infused with magical realism, the love story
follows a fisherman who falls in love with a mermaid. Avila told indieWIRE
that the group hope to begin pre-production in May and shoot the film in
June. The budget for the film may end up near $100,000 according to Avila,
with up to half of that potentially coming from equity investments. Once completed
the project will be submitted to festivals and the search for a distributor
will begin.

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