When I hear the term “inspirational” in conjunction with movies, I usually stop listening. Too many times I have gone to see an uplifting film and then left feeling annoyed and asking the same questions: Was a rose colored lens the only one available? Why is the majority of the audience white collar? What is the relevance? Why am I not a natural born boxer? So when I was told that I needed to watch Go For It! a film based on Latino youths’ struggles and one girl’s passion for street dancing, I was a little less than thrilled. Regardless of my preconceived notions, I took off my judgmental hat, swallowed my pride and decided to give this movie a chance. Fast-forward to post-screening reaction–I was refreshingly pleased.
First time filmmaker, writer and director, Carmen Marron, has reinvented the teen movie. Go For It! contains the teen flick necessities such as young love and lust, emotional torment, rebellious attitudes and a whole lot of street dance… come on, you know dancing movies make your secret internal voice say, “it would be fun.” But what really sets this film apart from other dance, inspirational, or teen movies is that fact that it depicts teenage reality with poignancy sans the Hannah Montana fluff and brings Latinos to the big screen as people that share similar thoughts and experiences as the rest of the U.S. population.
Go For It! revolves around the life, problems, and doubts of teenage Latina, Carmen. She has family and friends that love her, more opportunities to succeed than her immigrant parents ever had, but no idea of how to make success happen, much less, what success means to her. In a short amount of time before graduation, her life twists and turns around bliss and tragedy, doubt and love. Ultimately, it is up to Carmen to make the decision to do something with her life and her passion, but her progress is dependent on the support of those that surround her.
Marron takes culturally and age-sensitive topics such as domestic violence and racism to show not only their prevalence in high schooler’s lives and the harrowing results but also how parents and teachers alike don’t even recognize that these serious issues are taking place.
Although the story is told through a Latino cultural lens, the experiences are not unique to the Hispanic community. All kids growing up have either encountered or shared the experiences that are portrayed in the movie, which makes it so important that teenagers and parents (maybe not together) see this film. Teens will be comforted by the validation of their struggles and encouraging message and parents will get a reality check as to how life has changed since they were in school.
The music, action, and energy make Go For It! an extremely entertaining film, but before buy your ticket you need to remember that it is a film with the teenage audience in mind. If you have siblings that are in high school, go with them to see this movie. You will both come out with a refreshed and inspired mindset. Marron has already captured the attention of thousands of teenagers across the U.S. as well as Pantelion Films (a new venture between Lionsgate and Televisa) and as a result Pantelion will be donating a dollar back to schools for every ticket sold to their students.
After the official screening during Cine Las Americas, I got to talk with Carmen Marron about her experiences as a first time director, the importance of making this film, and the excitement about having Go For It! show nationwide on May 13, 2011. She was a pleasure to talk with and just as (if not more) inspiring as her movie.
Go For It! revolves around the life of a teenage girl and her high school friends (and enemies) but deals with very adult topics such as domestic violence, drug use, and creating your own path to success. Who do you consider to be your intended audience?
My audience is the kids because a lot of times there are a lot of parents who have just as many issues and can’t really be there for their kids so I thought that if I can’t reach the parents I am going to try and reach the kids before it’s too late; I am going to try and reach these kids, 13 and up, that can learn and see that certain things are unacceptable. I want to help them to think twice before they or their friends get into a situation like that.
Where did you gather your inspiration for creating a film for teens?
There are several factors-one is working as a guidance counselor for sure. That definitely fostered inspiration in me to get started on this project. Secondly is growing up. Growing up in the hood I saw bad things happen and when I think back, I realize that many of the problems from my teenage years are the same exact problems teens are having now. And also from what I am seeing currently when I read parent magazines and what they are dealing with or from teen blogs. All of this shows that domestic violence and other problems are pervasive everywhere amongst teenagers.
The main character in Go For It! has your name, Carmen, and I have read that you were also passionate about street dance when you were growing up. Is your film an autobiography?
It’s not. The reason I named the her Carmen is one, because I was drawing upon experiences in my life and two, Carmen is a very popular name, like Maria. Maria was my first choice but there are so many Marias in film so I decided to use Carmen. I never got suspended or had a best friend that was involved in domestic violence but I was a street dancer and went through the same issues that I saw teens going through when I was a guidance counselor: they weren’t getting along with their parents, they weren’t really caring about school, and they didn’t know what to do with their lives.
Can you tell me a little bit about growing up as a street dancer and how that impacted your creativity or the way you look at connecting real life with imagination?
Actually, it made a huge impact and I guess I never realized it until I started making my film because that was a great time of my life being a teenager. I used to stay up all night at this one place in Chicago and dance and perform. It impacted me because regardless of who you are or where you come from, I always respected and looked up to people that followed their gifts, whatever they were. And when I was dancing I saw so many gifted dancers. I used to look at them thinking that they should be doing something great but I know they never thought that for themselves because they were from broken homes, barely getting through high school, taking drugs… but I thought the world of them. I have always had huge respect for the arts even though I studied business and got my Masters in Educational Psychology. I guess I made my film with that creativity in mind.
How did you make the transition from business to counselor to filmmaker?
Honestly, I have always believed in following your heart. That’s how I have lived my life. I don’t believe in following the rules within the box. I worked on educational programs for the Illinois State Treasury and then decided that I wanted to go into education and help kids and loved that too! So I got my masters in education and I loved it! I found a job with mental health services organization and worked with at-risk kids and I loved it because I was following my heart. And then when I decided to write a script for a movie, it it felt really organic as well. The hardest part is talking yourself into turning words on paper into a film. I realize now that it is a monumental journey to get a film made. Its got to be something that you are willing to invest in with money, time and effort and people in Hollywood just don’t believe that Latino films make money. That’s why I took it upon myself to learn how to do it.
How long did it take you to write your script?
It didn’t take me that long but I don’t have a set amount of time because it was always evolving. I would have an experience that would remind me of a character and I’d go back to the script and include that. Or when I cast my actors I definitely changed my scenes to fit their approaches.
Not only is your film an inspiration within itself but your journey to becoming a filmmaker inspirational as well.
As long as you are following your heart and your gut and you are doing something for the right reasons that give you joy, and I don’t mean joy like money, but something that you really feel like you HAVE to do. You have to be patient and willing to work hard and learn. You make mistakes but then you learn how to make it right.
Do you have any aspirations to create another film in the future?
Oh absolutely. I am writing two scripts right now and I am hoping to get my next one into production before the end of this summer. They are going to be inspirational and portray Latinos again. That’s why I really want Go For It! to succeed. It’s a big mission for this movie to do well because I think it will open so many doors for Latino stories, actors and filmmakers and portray us in a way where we aren’t just seen as thugs, gardener or maids. I really want us to be seen as leaders in Hollywood so that kids can feel like they can do it too.
It must have been exciting when Lionsgate decided to pick up your first film.
Lionsgate is really a trailblazer in the fact that they created a division called Pantelion and they have a mission of creating Latino films in a universal way. They are really promoting Go For It! to the point that they have started an amazing fundraiser that is unique to Hollywood. If a school or non-profit saves their ticket stubs for Go For It! they will get a dollar back for each ticket sold. A check will be written to every school or organization that sends in the stubs. Plus, the school that sends in the most ticket stubs will get a check for an extra thousand dollars! This is all for education and we all know how much help education could use.
What is the nationwide premiere date?
Go For It! will be premiering nationwide on May 13, 2011 and along with the dollar back for every ticket stub sold to schools or non-profits, Pantelion is also holding a contest online where high school students can vote to bring Go For It! to their school and the school with the most votes will be the host of the red-carpet premiere with all of the actors and actresses involved.
Watch the Go For It! trailer below: