Interview: The truth of masks with Ruben Rodriguez
This week I had the time to do an interview that I’ve been wanting to do for a while. We took some time to talk to Ruben Rodriguez, a long-time friend and one of those persons that has done everything. He created a video called the Truth of Masks and after watching I decided this interview needed to happen. Without further Ado, let’s go to the questions:
Alfredo: What town are you from and where do you call home?
Ruben: I’m originally from Buena Vista, Hatillo and home is currently Huntington Beach, California.
Alfredo: What path took you to start creating and editing films?
Ruben: Like a lot of other people, my first experience was with a few projects in college where I got to do two short videos. I loved the process. With that said, the idea that it could be a source of income or much less something I could sustain myself with was completely nonexistent.
While I was working a Microsoft, I got the opportunity to create some educational videos. It was during the DSLR revolution, so the technology, hardware, and the tools were becoming much more accessible and affordable. I also got to see what VICE, Invicta FC, Stuart Cooper, and other similar groups were doing with short documentaries. It was super inspiring to see that this was what some people were doing for a living. For the first time, the path seemed somewhat achievable. So, I did some research and signed up for a 6-month internship with Red Element Studios while still working full-time for Microsoft.
Alfredo: What would you call your major films?
Ruben: I still don’t feel super comfortable calling myself a filmmaker. I’m not exactly sure why… but one of my biggest projects is SICC in The Head: I followed comedians from the Seattle Comedy Competition and where they ended a few years later (If you want to help get this project done contact us via Facebook). Some of them have had HBO specials, been on Comedy Central, written for Jim Jeffries, and some have gone viral with a random clip about cat jokes. The process of finding their voice and how to survive as a comedian is something I’m very excited to put together.
My other big project is Fight Fam (awarded a grant from 4Culture in Seattle). It follows Amy and Dex Montenegro, a family of fighters on how they met, how fighting became their life, how they coach their daughter’s through tournaments, all while maintaining regular every day family stuff.
Alfredo: You have a lot of shorts about MMA and boxing. How did you end on this topic?
Ruben: Being Puerto Rican and growing up during the Tito Trinidad boxing days was huge. It felt as if all of Puerto Rico would stop when he fought. When he’d win, you could hear the whole island celebrating. It was like having a Super Bowl win every 4-5 months. It actually made me really happy to see stars like Manny Pacquiao and Connor McGregor come up through the ranks because I had an idea of what a super charismatic and amazing fighter can bring to a country.
When I moved to Seattle I started boxing at Che Lopez’s gym. About a year later, I started training Jiu Jitsu at Gracie Barra. As with stand-up comedy, it was mostly because I wanted to develop a deeper appreciation of the sport. Competing was never really my thing but I wanted to be able to contribute something to the scene.
One of my favorite parts of working for Invicta FC and EBI, is when a video I’ve worked on is published and seeing the fighter along with all of their friends geeking out on Facebook. For some of them, it might be the first time they’ve been captured in a non-iPhone video. For some, it is also when the people around them start to appreciate that they are the real deal. I love playing a part in that and seeing what those people now bring to those communities.
As I mentioned previously, I was a big fan of the Invicta FC media team. They were the first people I ever saw that were able to portray the sport like an art form. They would almost make a fight feel like a Sundance piece. Getting a chance to try to reach for the bar that Esther Lin and Casey Leydon put up is probably one of my biggest challenges and favorite parts about working there.
Alfredo: Changing topics how did the “Truth of Masks” came to exist?
Ruben: It was a bit random. I had just moved to Huntington Beach and was editing some pictures on a flight back from Panama. Someone saw me editing on the plane and told me to go to check out “Thank you for the invite LA”, an event where local and traveling artists, photographers, and actors meet once a month to show off their new makeup, costumes, performances, and take pictures.
I had nothing to do that day so I went to film it. It was super cool. It reminded me of Burning Man parties in Seattle. It had that similar type of artsy-gritty feeling. I also love getting any chance to shoot in low-light.
I found it interesting seeing how the actors would break character when they would see a picture someone just took of them. They would switch from dark, serious, and sinister to just plain geeky and joyful. It felt very genuine. They were using the mask and their character to express an aspect of themselves. When I got home, I googled to see if anyone had ever written something about truth or honesty coming from anonymity. That’s when I found the quote from Oscar Wilde.
Alfredo: While it talks about the method of the expression, the tonal voice seems pretty dystopian what caused this artistic decision?
Ruben: Originally, it was just a placeholder to maybe get a friend or colleague to do the voice over. When I listened to it, I kind of liked it. The idea of the voice being the text-to-speech feature from Apple (Siri), similar to what Anonymous does, served also like a mask. I liked that additional layer and allusion to the title.
Alfredo: Any words for aspiring videographers / editors in the island?
Ruben: What worked for me was to follow what I saw comedians and fighters doing. Find a way to sustain your passion, find a community that can help guide you, and get the repetitions. As a videographer/documentary person, I’d say find a topic you’re a fan of and find people who need the type of content you want to make. Maybe one day you’ll get paid or even be able to do it full-time. For me it was fighting, comedy, non-profits, and engineering, with the guidance from my internship and the Seattle Documentary Association. I know this can work for documentary-style content, but for fiction I have no idea.
Below you will find the short of the Truth of Masks make sure that you check it out and his other films(Also if interested on sponsoring Psyche in the head please contact us via facebook and we will make an introduction).