“Calloused Hands” tells the near autobiographical coming-of-age story of director Jesse Quinones. This is a
unique Latino film that showcases touching storytelling and deals with a12-year-old mixed
and interfaith boy growing up in Miami. The acting alone behind Jesse’s
direction make this a must see film to support. (Also seeing my fellow
Chilena Julia Grob in the film made me proud!).
LatinoBuzz: This is a deeply personal story, was there any fear of telling it?
Quinones: While I was writing it especially, that process was quite painful, and I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to delve back into some of those memories.
It definitely brought up some stuff for me. Once I got into the pre-production and production side of things, there was so much to do, that there was
little room to think about the fact that this was a personal story. At that point, we were just trying to make a film. But there were some moments during
the film that definitely caught me off guard, where I had to step away from the monitor and gather myself. The actors and crew were really respectful of
that, which I appreciated a lot. They knew they were telling a story based on my life, and they really worked hard to honor that.
LatinoBuzz: What is your background?
Quinones: My father is from Cuba and my mother is from Ireland and she’s Jewish. So I’m pretty mixed up!
LatinoBuzz: What was the fundraising process? Did it come from the UK or Stateside?
Quinones: Funding for the film largely came from private investors in the UK. And then we got some finishing funds from a private investor out of Miami. We
also got a lot of in-kind support from the crew. They were amazing and worked tirelessly for very little.
LatinoBuzz: How did you get into the industry? Was there a particular filmmaker or film that influenced you?
Quinones: I had a real indirect way into the industry. I started off as a reporter in print journalism, then moved into theater, and from there into
documentaries, and finally into feature films. You know I’ve had a lot of influences. I think my earliest memory of going to the cinema and just being so
touched by what I saw was Malcolm X by Spike Lee. It was just such a powerful film, and really stayed with me. Spike Lee is a great story teller and
definitely up there for me. More recent influences, Derek Cianfrance is a big inspiration to me. I loved both Blue Valentine and Place Beyond the Pines. I love the performance in his films, the pacing, the tone, when you see one of his films, you kind of get taken for this
ride, he really goes there. I’d love my films to create that same feeling.
LatinoBuzz: Has any members of your family seen it?
Quinones: Yeah my mother saw it. She’s real proud of me. She’s no stranger to using her own life as a creative template, she’s a writer herself, and has
written a book about her life. So when I started working on Calloused Hands she gave me her blessing. She’s been real supportive of it.
LatinoBuzz: What’s the next project?
Quinones: I have a few projects in the pipeline. I’m working on a British set fight movie about a Cagefighter who has to fight his demons both in and outside
of the cage. That is being produced by Paula Crickard, who also produced Calloused Hands. I’m also working on a romantic comedy called Carlito y Jane,
which is about a British playwright that goes to Cuba and ends up marrying a young Cuban playboy. That has the Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta attached.
And then I’m attached to direct a project called The Nanny, which was written by Braulio Montovani, he also wrote City of God.
Also working on some short
form stuff, I just shot a music video for a great singer named Kathrin deBoer, which I’m real excited about. You can check out some of her work at www.kathrindeboer.com . And recently I was signed to the agency Irresistible Films, who represent me for
commercials and documentaries. So at the moment just trying to stay busy and creative!
LatinoBuzz: Luca and Andre have incredible and heartbreaking chemistry. How did you find them?
Quinones: Luca was found via a very traditional audition process. I had a staged reading in LA about a year before we shot the film and we saw about 50 kids
for it, and all of them were really good. But there was just something about Luca. I think he reminded me a lot of me. He’s serious, big for his age, kind
of looks real quiet on the outside but has a lot going on underneath. Andre, we connected via a mutual friend Julia Grob, who also has a role in the film.
She hit him up on Twitter, and asked if he’d be interested in reading my script. He was, and read it, and asked to meet me.
I live in London and he lives
in LA so I was hoping a ‘meet’ might be translated into a Skype. But he really wanted a face to face, I think he wanted to see if I was for real. It’s
Andre Royo, he played the most favorite character (Bubbles) on one of America’s most favorite shows (The Wire). So I got myself on a plane, headed to LA,
and we met and talked about the project. He had lots of questions, lots of notes, but ultimately I think he saw enough in it. The film wouldn’t have been
the same without those two, they brought a huge amount to their parts, stuff that wasn’t necessarily on the page.
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