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Interview - Adriana Garza
by Kevin Gillette
Adriana Garza (c) Studio LM 2009
Adriana Garza's entry in the Samira category of The Experimental Witch won from over 6,000 international entries. The Experimental Witch was a film competition held by Paulo Coelho based on his novel The Witch of Portobello. He asked participants to choose a character, adapt their chapters, and produce a short with the work. From there the winners from each character would be used to piece the movie together. [More details - see notes at end]
Fringe Report (FR, Kevin Gillette): The Experimental Witch world premiered at the Rome International Film Festival, October 2009. Has it sunk in yet?
Adriana Garza (AG): It has, it was one of the first times in my life when I was fully present in the moment - very overwhelming. It's so big - but I was very clear that I had put in a lot of hard work, so it's about the journey and not the destination - it was a surreal moment for me and Jessica [Ranek] - I had read Coelho's work for so long, and if you'd told me that I'd be standing on the red carpet with him someday....
FR: You first got into the performing arts as a dancer. You've also worked in television. What motivated your move into films?
AG: My mom was a ballerina, and my uncle was a poet. I began dancing at age 3, so that was an early experience in performing. I've worked in commercials continuously, did a TV show on Telemundo in US, plus a bit role in a soap opera in Mexico at age 17. I always knew that I wanted to work in film, to tell stories that can be carried through film; there's more of a human connection. It's an incredibly tough industry, to say the least, but not impossible. It has been quite the journey to get to where I am today, and I think it is only possible if you have principles and values regarding what you want to do in life - so for me, being true to myself has been the most important element.
FR: The sense of timing and narrative flow in The Experimental Witch strongly hints at your dancing background. Are you conscious of having a sort of dancer's rhythm in the final edit of your work?
AG: That [dancing] was actually very important to me - the way I found out about the story, the way I identified with the story. My boyfriend broke up before Valentine's Day, so rather than spend time with him as originally planned, I went home to Austin, and read Paulo Coelho's book The Witch of Portobello. I really identified with the witch of Portobello, Athena. The day afterward I found out about the film competition. I planned to contact Paulo and ask if I could read for Athena if they ever turned it into a film. But before I could do that I got an email from goodreads.com the next day announcing a film competition he had launched based on The Witch of Portobello. That seemed propitious, to say the least. The dancing is so much a part of who she [Athena] is. And as the project progressed, things really fell together with regard to my team as well - I felt that the storyline was so important, and dancing an integral part of that.
FR: You've worked in both the US and in Mexico - do you have a favourite for work?
AG: I like them both. I was very young when I worked in Televisa in Mexico City. I was raised with both languages [AG does a send-up of what people often expect her to sound like as a Latina]. I consider myself to be from both countries, even though I was raised here. The US has given me the independence to do this kind of work. Mexican culture is more tight and more family-oriented, which is great, but can be rather limiting.
FR: What would you say to a very young performer - actor, actress, dancer, musician - about what makes for a successful career? And how you'd define success?
AG: Success is most important to be defined: what is it you're really after? I've already exceeded what I set out to do; I don't want to be famous per se. As far as advice: have whatever it is that you do be your passion. That is the #1 thing. Zoey - my Little Sister from [the international mentoring programme] Big Brothers Big Sisters - is already asking about what I do, the magazines she sees me in, and trips to Rome. I've told her it takes a lot of hard work to achieve that so make sure it's your passion. Because when it is your passion, then when the road seems impassable, that's when you find the strength to endure. It also has to be about more than just you. Have your work affect humanity as well, for me at least.
FR: Do you prefer being in front of the camera or behind?
AG: Because it's so much about the work, I like them both but for completely different reasons. I had an audition today for a Wells Fargo commercial where they actually asked me about my humanitarian work. So there it's good to be in front of the camera, but sometimes the material makes it hard to be an actor. If I had to choose, I'd incline toward producing. In this way I can be responsible for what's being put out into the world, and I can't point the finger at anyone.
FR: Any other film projects in the works? Screenplays? Perhaps theatrical plays?
AG: I'm in the very early stages of a project called Bearing Fruit written by an Austin [Texas, USA] writer, John Rincon. He responded to a bid I put out for a project. I hope to be ready to begin shooting by the summer of 2010. The story is about two sisters. One sister has her first child and then finds out she can't have more. So she asks her sister (this would be my character) to carry her next child as a surrogate. The sister says yes, and carries her child, and then - well, you'll have to see. I don't want to give it away but it's about the agony of the love of sisters and familial ties, obligations and sacrifices. Coming from a very strong family-oriented community myself, I find the story really resonates with me. In addition to appearing on-camera, I will be executive-producing.
FR: You have a special friend through Big Brothers & Sisters with whom you spend quite a bit of time, and you're working on a big project for UNICEF [United Nations Children's Fund (formerly United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund)]. Children seem to be a big theme in all of your activities?
AG: I don't know why, but since I was such a young kid, my mom always said I always cared for kids – I separated toys for kids to give them away, for instance. I'm glad I was born that way. There's always someone less fortunate than you. Kids are unique, too, in that they're always watching us. I've always believed that healthy, beautiful children come from healthy, beautiful adults but the key is to allow ourselves to define healthy and beautiful and not society. Big Brothers & Sisters was an easy charity to donate time to. My match with [My Little Sister] Zoey is perfect. It's been the biggest blessing of 2009. With regard to UNICEF: I've been with them as a donor for years. I really think we need do something about the disparity of circumstances among the kids of the world. I did a commercial for them that really ignited my passion for the project. I emailed the ad agency regarding the 2010 fundraiser - so that's how I got involved. It's such a huge job - my family thinks I'm crazy doing it for 7 months for free, but I know in my heart that things will get taken care of.
(c) Kevin Gillette 2009.
Notes:This interview published 7 May 2010. Adriana Garza spoke by phone with Kevin Gillette in November 2009.
Adriana Garza's website is www.adrianagarza.com
Adriana Garza's component of The Experimental Witch (in three parts) is on YouTube:
Paulo Coelo's blog describing The Experimental Witch competition is at http://paulocoelhoblog.com/experimental-witch/
Latin Star Magazine's article on Adriana Garza and the competition is here: Latin Star Magazine September / October 2009 Adriana Garza Interview (c) Rudi Arispe 2009
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