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My latest film Mi Princesa at the Chicago Latino Film Festival 2014

There is an exciting world out there in the movie industry that many people have yet to experience. As actors, we often get asked when and in which movie theater our movie is going to be shown. Not every film makes it to the theaters. Some go straight to DVD or TV. Then you have the film festivals. Typically held annually all over the world, film festivals shed light on independent films, up-and-coming actors, and unique genres.

My heart is filled with happiness and pride as the Chicago Latino Film Festival wraps up. It was truly an amazing experience where stories were told through the eyes of filmmakers from all over the world. For us to be able to show Mi Princesa, a movie in which I had my first role as a lead actress, was an honor. We were one of the films representing my island, Puerto Rico.

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Top:  (Me during filming of Mi Princesa in Puerto Rico)

Bottom:  (With Mi Princesa Director Carlos Jimenez Flores at our movie premiere in the Festival)

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Our first presentation of “Mi Princesa” was on Saturday April 12. I did not know what to expect. Fortunately, we had a full house. It is customed that at the end of a movie being presented at a festival there is a Q & A (Questions and Answers) where the director, actors, producers step up to the front and respond to questions from the audience. I have to say that this was one of my favorite parts of the entire process. Being able to explain different aspects of working in the film, decisions taken as an actress for my role, and answering to the other curiosities from the audience was an absolute honor for me. Words cannot describe how I felt as I spoke to each and every one of the people that came to me after we exited the sala.

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Being an actress sometimes you go through your ups and downs, insecurities and fear regarding your career . It can be a very unstable lifestyle that you try to balance with family, friends and love relationships. But moments like these, when you receive immediate feedback from your work, is when you realize that you are where you have to be, you are doing what you should be doing. I met so many beautiful people. Words of encouragement, no agendas, simply pure love and respect. My heart was crying happy tears.

Attending these Film Festivals, you not only get the opportunity to interact with the audience but also with fellow actors, directors, and producers who are out there presenting their latest work of art, their “babies.” Through the daily luncheons provided by the swell festival organizers, we had the opportunity to meet, talk about our projects, make connections, share our experiences in the film making process while, of course, enjoy some great wine and food as well.

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(With Colombian actor Manolo Cardona)

How beautiful it is to sit in a room with people from completely different countries and backgrounds but with one big thing in common: a love for creating films. It has been one of my biggest gratifications so far. I will forever treasure the experience, the inspiration, and the kindness I received at the Chicago Latin Film Festival.

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(With Chilean actress Paulina Garcia.  She received the Career Achievement Award at the Festival)

I encourage everybody to support the Film Festivals. You learn to appreciate this art at a whole new level and at the same time learn about other cultures. Aside from our movie, “Mi Princesa”, I was able to attend various movie showings and enjoyed beautiful cinematography and storytelling. There is no need for a Hollywood budget to make a great movie. No big crews, not so much complexity on the story board. All you need is a good STORY to tell.

I want to highlight the movies “El Faro” (Colombia-Dir. Pacho Bottia), “No quiero dormir sola” (Mexico-Dir. Natalia Beristain), “I am from Chile” (Gonzalo Diaz), “Somos gente honrada” (Spain Dir. Alejandro Marzoa), “Corazon de Leon” (Argentina- Dir. Marcos Carnevale), and short film “Eggman” (USA-Dir. Victor Martin).

I also want to thank Festival Director Pepe Vargas for a well organized festival and for always being present and available for anything we needed. Congratulations on a successful 30th year Anniversary of the Chicago Latino Film Festival.

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(With Festival Director Pepe Vargas)

Follow me now on Twitter @darlenevaz
http://www.twitter.com/darlenevaz

 

© DarleneVazquetelles, [2014]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [DarleneVazquetelles] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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My Story: The Actor Behind MI PRINCESA

When people think of actors they probably think of these:  Hollywood, Glamour and Luxury.  Few are aware of the struggles most of the actors go through in order to be seen, get booked and be paid to do a job.  On the one hand, some make it all the way to the three I just mentioned.  On the other hand, some are happy just by getting paid doing something that they love.  The second is my case.  I started acting when I was in my early teens, doing local commercials and T.V. shows in Puerto Rico.  Although I wanted to work behind the scenes, life led me to the world in front of the camera and as time went by, I started considering acting as a career goal.  Little did I know that it was a decision that would involve more sacrifices than I could have ever imagined.

I moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting at a time when Latinas were still not accepted in the industry unless you were going for the maid, nanny or prostitute role.  Although some of these have not changed, Sofia Vergara has recently opened more doors for us.  When I first moved out there in 2002 I was constantly told that I had to take accent reduction classes.  Stubborn me, I refused.  Fast forward to the present and casting directors LOVE my accent as I sound like the girl from that show: Modern Family.

I never lost myself in the Hollywood field of dreams. I would be asked out by producers who thought I was going to be the “aspiring actress who would do anything for a role”.  I would walk away from these type of situations, with tears coming down my face as I faced the sad reality that can happen to young girls out there.  But nothing would make me give up.  I would wipe my tears and keep moving forward.  The sacrifice of being so far away from my family and the town that saw me grow was too hard and painful for me to get discouraged by the ignorance of some of the “powerful players” out there.

The money situation is another aspect that we actors struggle with.  Oftentimes, people joke about it but it is sadly the truth.  Because of the instability of auditions and work, we will be the ones acting as your server, bartender, hostess, etc.  If you think that sending resumes and going to a couple of job interviews is hard, imagine having to do that two to three times on a daily basis, to be called back one out of the last ten interviews (auditions). Although it can get frustrating, it is a matter of keeping your self-esteem and faith at a high level.

And then comes the times when an acting job parallels the reality of your life: “Too close to home” moments.

Such was my case for the movie I want to introduce to you called MI PRINCESA (My Princess).  I was sitting on the floor of my apartment in North Hollywood packing everything into boxes as my relationship of 2 ½ years came to an end.  It was a very emotional time for me when I was crawling around life with a broken heart.  Puerto Rican Director Carlos Jimenez Flores, whom I had worked for before in two other films, called and asked me to be in his next film which would start shooting in my hometown, Puerto Rico.  Although at first I did not want to do it as I was trying to take in what had just happened in my life, between him and friend and actor Sevier Crespo (who plays my brother in Mi Princesa), I was convinced to take the offer. I flew to Puerto Rico to work on the film and soon my life turned around for the better!

Although as actors we go through a lot of downs, there are the ups that you do experience when you are part of this beautiful art.  Talk about timing.  As my relationship with a love ends, I start working on my first acting job as the LEAD actress in a DRAMA/ROMANCE. Aside from having family and friends around to cheer me up, the irony of this life event brought smiles and laughter back to my life.  I arrived July 13th of 2012 and started shooting my scenes on the 14th. I did not have much time to settle in back at my parents’ apartment.  But there I was.  You move on and you show up for work.

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As I walked to my first day on set, I took in the beautiful scenery in front of me and thanked God for the opportunity to be working at home.  I was now playing the role of Mayra, a good girl who is full of life, surrounded by family and friends. The only thing she has been missing is love and she is about to find it.  Again, very ironic as I had just lost it in real life. Nevertheless, I was ready to play this character!

(CLOWNING BEHIND THE SCENES:  HUMOR ALWAYS WORKS)

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One of the challenges you can face when working on a film is a lack of connection with fellow actors, especially when shooting a romance. Being that Mi Princesa was shot without scripted lines and we had to improv, I was a little bit scared as to how the interaction was going to go between the actor who was playing my love interest and myself. I met him less than 10 minutes before shooting our first scene.  I have to admit that it was challenging at first.  The director let us know what he wanted out of the scene and we proceeded to give it to him, but it was a little bit uncomfortable at first, for both of us. This was his first acting job and I was fighting the emotions that were so raw inside of me as a result of all the changes that I was going through.  Still, we did our scene and after seeing the final result, it could not have been better!

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(First scene with my love interest in the movie, Ricky. Played by Roberto Perez Perez)

After the ice was broken and days of shooting went by, everything just started flowing in divine order.  The Director found some amazing locations where I got to enjoy the beautiful sceneries of my island that I had been missing for so long.  We shot at beaches, mountain view locations in the country, resorts, venues with great local live music, among others. I was finding that happy place again.  I was home.  I got to work with one of my best friends, actress Millie Ruperto, a great crew and the icing on the cake, my niece Kenya. The Director offered my niece a role in the movie and she flew in from Miami to be a part of it.  I had my team!

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(MOROVIS, PUERTO RICO)

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(WAITING TO SHOOT A WEDDING SCENE WITH ACTOR ROBERTO PEREZ PEREZ AND A GREAT FRIEND AND ACTRESS, MILLIE RUPERTO)

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(ABOVE: BEHIND THE SCENES WITH MY BEAUTIFUL NIECE KENYA DE JESUS)

(BELOW: KENYA RECEIVING DIRECTIONS)

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(OLD SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: ONE OF MY FAVORITE PLACES)

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After two weeks of shooting my heart was feeling happy! We had an amazing project in our hands.  I was able to go back and work in my beautiful Puerto Rico surrounded by love and creating new memories.  I was back to being me.

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(WITH THE PRODUCTION CREW BY THE FORTRESS-EL MORRO IN SAN JUAN)

Production finished the last week of July 2012.  As in any production, there can be obstacles that can risk a movie to be finished and/or released.  So was the case with Mi Princesa.  Some of the crew parted ways, footage was given to the editing team later than expected, while other footage was lost with really important scenes we will not get to see.  The editing went from hands of the crew in Puerto Rico to another company in Chicago, which is Director Carlos Jimenez Flores’ hometown.

Three months ago I received a phone call the day after Thanksgiving of 2013 in which I was notified of some scenes that were missing that needed to be shot.  And off to Chicago I went.  I was pretty excited.  Not only was I going to go back to portray the character of Mayra which I loved, but I was also going to do it in a completely new scenario for me, SNOW!

Yep, I had never seen snow and traveling to Chicago to shoot three more scenes for the movie allowed me to go through this experience for the first time ever!!  I was feeling like a little kid!

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So here I was in cold Chicago shooting scenes that were supposed to be in warm Puerto Rico.  Fortunately the scenes were shot inside.

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(WITH DIRECTOR CARLOS JIMENEZ FLORES)

MI PRINCESA is a beautiful film which includes culture, traditions, love, beautiful images, friendships, music, family and the art of being able to forgive.  It is amazing to me how I started shooting this film coming from a broken heart and finished it a year and a half later in love with an amazing man God was saving for me.  His name is Fabian Alicastro, a Colombian singer/songwriter/producer who happens to have a song in Mi Princesa.

Things happen for a reason! Sometimes you have to go back home, to your roots, to your self in order to move forward.  Trust in God that everything in life has a purpose and with love and faith you are going to be all right!
I want to share with you a teaser for MI PRINCESA.

This film will be premiering in Fine Arts, Hato Rey, Puerto Rico on June 17th, 2015.

If you want more information you can contact me at darlavaz@gmail.com or through my twitter page http://www.twitter.com/darlenevaz

Love,

Darlene

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© DarleneVazquetelles, [2013]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [DarleneVazquetelles] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The presence of Angels

The word “Angels” is often associated with guards, protectors, guides and messengers of God. Many people believe in their existence, many people don’t. Let me tell you how my belief and gratitude towards them began and what has kept it alive.

I was about four years old when my first encounter occurred. It was a beautiful day in my hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico. My dad and I had a beach day out. It was just the two of us plus some acquaintances from his job that happened to be at the same place. First, let me explain to you about the beach we went to on this particular day. It is located in Condado, East of the Historic Old San Juan. This morning my dad took me to the beach right behind La Concha Hotel, one of the many hotels that decorate this beautiful area of San Juan. As time has passed, more and more swimmers, both local and tourists, know that when you decide to go swimming in the ocean at this particular area, there has to be an extreme awareness and respect of the waters. Although beautiful, it is filled with rocks, aggressive waves and strong rip currents. It is a combination of these three what taught my dad about the dangers of this particular beach which  almost took our lives away.

My dad had me in his arms and we were enjoying the moment. Warm waters, waves, happy times between a father and his little girl.  Suddenly, he realized that he was slowly losing control and that the shore was becoming smaller and smaller to his eyes.  The waves were pulling us farther away by the second, passing the rocks, which were considered the safe zones. One thing is to lose control while you are on your own. You find a way, you try to call for help, you improvise. Unfortunately, even on their own, many people have not survived these waters. So add a small child to this troubling moment. My dad was carrying me in his arms and trying to fight for both of our lives. As he explains it to me the multiple times that I have inquired about what happened on that day, he could not be more certain about what happened next.

I am not a parent but I have four nieces and three nephews that I love with all my heart. I would do anything for them and in any given circumstance I will save their lives before mine. My father was about to do just that. He did not believe he was going to make it out of these waters so he did what he thought would save my life. He threw me up in the air towards the shore. You would think that a four year old would not be able to swim or survive those waves.  There are so many possibilities and different situations that could have happened, but my father believed that there was a chance I would be able to touch ground and walk away from the water to the safe sands. Then something happened that gave my dad confirmation that I was going to be fine. He saw a man with black shorts walking towards me and taking me by my hand all the way to shore.

Seeing how I was saved gave my dad motivation to save his own life and that he did. He took every opportunity he had to ‘body surf’ his way away from trouble. Taking one wave at a time he managed to go all the way to shore. Once he saw me happily playing with the sand by the water he went to his acquaintances that were standing around and told them what happened. They were not even aware that we had been in trouble. He then proceeded to find the man that had helped me for those well deserved two words: Thank You. But the man he had seen was no longer in the area. He asked his co-workers if they had seen the man that brought me to shore but they had absolutely no idea who dad was talking about. They only saw me walking out from the water to the sand. There was no man around. I truly believe that the man my dad had seen was an angel, one of God’s messengers sent out to help us. And it was him who took me by my hand and led me to safety, giving my dad the chance to save his own life without a toddler in his arms. And this is how an angel saved our lives.

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Angels come into our lives to comfort us, give us courage and fill us with hope. They appear in crucial moments and through a stranger or  a loved one. This second story is about that loved one that came to protect me.

About six months after my grandfather passed away I went into surgery. At five years of age I was diagnosed with a tumor in my left ovary. The first years of life of a child are so important. Even though I was very young when ‘Abuelo (Grandpa) Boabdil’ passed, I have memories of him. I remember all the affection that he would always give me and how he always found a way to show me I was protected and loved. Missing him was a daily thing for me for the rest of my life.

(Abuelo Boabdil)

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As my dad and mom sat in the waiting area of the Hospital del Maestro in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, I was having that left ovary removed. Imagine how nervous they were to have their little girl going through all the pain I went through prior to the surgery and now being in an operating table. All of a sudden my dad felt my Grandpa Boabdil (dad’s father) speak to him. Let me remind you that he had lost the battle to cancer just 6 months earlier. My dad looked at mom and told her, “Darlene is okay. Everything is okay”. My mom didn’t know how he would know being that they had been sitting there together all along. My dad then said, “Dad just told me she came out from surgery and that she is okay”. If my mom was surprised by this, imagine her surprise once I woke up in the recovery room and told her, “Mom, I saw grandpa. He was there with me during the surgery. He was wearing the same thing he had on at his funeral. He had that dark suit and his glasses. But this time he was also wearing wings and floating in the air”. Later on I drew a picture of my grandpa watching over me through a window that was right in front of me during surgery. Suit, glasses and wings.  I still have that drawing. Knowing that I have him to protect me, along with my other loved ones who have passed is so comforting to me.

(At the hospital)

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(With my dad the day I went back home after surgery)

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Oftentimes I am reminded of the existence of angels, either through personal experiences or through stories I hear from other people. So many different scenarios. People that are going through financial difficulties and suddenly receive money from a friend that know what they are going through. That moment when you have no food on the table and a knock on the door brings you some bread and butter because at the supermarket they had a 2 x 1. Little things like these show how there is never a moment when God does not have our back and he sends assistance through his angels, which come in so many shapes, colors, forms.

I believe that we can all serve as angels for someone who is in need. We have the power to be messengers of God. It is a matter of doing good, with no judgment or expectations. You never know how one little act can make someone’s day, week, month, life. And it is one of those stories that I want to share with you in a post which I will be dedicating to my friend Erick Cedeno. He has an inspiring story to tell about a goal, a journey, an important part of history, barriers encountered, motivation in the making and angels who protected his way.

Thank you for reading my post. It is very significant for me and I wanted to share it with you.

God Bless,

Darlene

© DarleneVazquetelles, [2013]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [DarleneVazquetelles] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Never Give Up

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So many times in life we get discouraged by external factors. My family does not have the resources or the contacts. I am too fat. I am too skinny. I am too tall. I am too short. I am not as pretty as her. I am not as built as him. The reality is that the opportunities in life are endless and there is room for every color, shape or situation.

When I decided to pursue a career in what had been my hobby for so many years, I knew that the road would be difficult. Deciding to move to Los Angeles and pursue acting was far away from my comfort. Still, even when there were no Actors, Singers, Artists, Producers, Directors, Writers, Investors, etc… in my family, no one to help me cut the line, I knew I wanted to go and chase that urge, that passion.  I left to study acting, find an agent and start auditioning in the Actor’s Disney World… Hollywood. I was discouraged so many times by people back home. They would tell me there was going to be too much competition. Their other argument was that I should stay closer to what I already knew (my hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico or Miami, Florida, which is where I finished college). But, my heart was pushing me to go and see what was out there for me.

I am not planning to write a book of my life…yet… so I will keep this simple. I lived in Los Angeles for ten years, back and forth because of different situations life threw at me…mostly positive. I could say that many things I was afraid of did happen. The story of the young actress that moves  to LA and then is “seduced” by that “manager” that wants to represent her is one of the many stereotypes that I did experience. But just as I did with that one, in every other situation I was able to carry myself with maturity and I never lost myself or my values. Nobody should lose themselves in the process of trying to “make it” in any business. Unfortunately, we see that too often, especially with the younger ones in Hollywood. I held my ground and to this day it is one of my proudest decisions. I could go on and on with stories.

Life threw a curve ball at me (that will be for another post) and now I sit here in Florida writing these lines. It has been a transitional year for me where I had to step back and figure out how I was going to approach that ball.  Do you ever have those moments when you feel discouraged, still unsure as to what direction you want to take? My direction will be to keep going forward. It is about maintaining the faith that God has a plan for you and that as long as you are persistent and what you do comes from a good place in your heart, then there is no reason to fear.

I want to introduce to you, in case you haven’t seen them yet, to FORTE….

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I have been supporting this group since they started participating in America’s Got Talent. Aside from the fact that I know one of the member’s brothers and that they are very talented, I believe that there had to be another reason I felt so drawn to them. Later I read a post by member Fernando Varela and it spoke to me. He wrote about the times in life when one is rejected, when you loose something right when it was so close to you, but then you just keep going and eventually that moment comes when things just start working out for you. Everything you have endured leads to that point and then you realize that the best plan in your life has been to NOT GIVE UP.

And that was it. That was when I was reminded, and God knows that I needed that,  that for us that work in this business or in ANY business, it is a matter of moving on. Take rejection, take criticism and then move on. The day will come when you will see your dreams come true. It could be to have a child, to have your own business, to travel to Greece, get a movie or a record deal. In life you have to be persistent and always do what you love.

I have struggled and struggled trying to become a respected Actress. Guess what? I was not in Spielberg’s or Almodovar’s latest movie, but I have worked, I am working and I will continue working.  And because it is about doing things that you love and make you happy, I have recently started Writing again. It has been in my heart for a long time and now I plan to dedicate more time to put into words the spirals that I have in my head.

Congratulations to FORTE for making it all the way to the finals. It is not about the outcome, but the process. They did not win the final prize but won the hearts of so many people like myself. I know that they will continue to be successful and the best is yet to come.  I am glad that Fernando never gave up!

God Bless

© DarleneVazquetelles, [2013]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [DarleneVazquetelles] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Darlene Vazquetelles

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