Ey vato



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A group of young Latino filmmakers created a web series that showcases their skills and cultural assets.

Two cholo puppets talking about philosophy, their ex-girlfriends and the rims they are going to buy for their Geo Metro may not sound like forward thinking digital media — except when it’s done by the makers of the “Hey Vato” web series .

Juan Rodríguez, Robert Vasquez, Marc Rivera and Aldo E. Serrano created a web series that went from an inside joke between two friends to a YouTube web series, and now a 15-minute short film that has transformed the way they see themselves as artists and writers.

A couple years ago musicians and friends Robert and Marc began speaking to each other in silly faux cholo accents, particularly when wanted to mock each other. Eventually they turned their inside joke into a pitch to their mutual friend Rodríguez, who had just graduated from film school: let’s make this into a film. After some discussion, they realized the best way to produce a satirical work about cholos discussing philosophical questions of masculinity and love would be to create puppets.

Rodríguez, who originally intended to make dramatic movies when he entered film school, ended up making the puppets himself, including some fabric from a pair of his own jeans. He said one of his favorite things about “Hey Vato” is the layers upon layers of contradictions — that these tough cholo characters are actually really cute puppets, for example.

Once the puppets were complete, the guys filmed the first four episodes. Since, they have not only created more episodes, but added effects, characters and even made a 15-minute short featuring the puppets, Smiley and Chuy. An unexpected consequence for the makers of “Hey Vato” was that the web series got their creative juices flowing, both musically and for future movie projects, as Rodríguez and Vasquez are now collaborating on a live-action script for a short film.

Episodes “Hey Vato” have been featured in several film festivals since its launch last year, most recently at the San Francisco Frozen Film Fest. For Rodríguez, who said “Hey Vato” has been instrumental in his professional development as a filmmaker, the series has changed his perspective on working in the entertainment industry.

“When I first started to make movies I though about making big Hollywood movies,” he told Más Wired. “But now, I’m not sure that’s what I want to do right now. I’m into doing everything yourself and working with your friends; I’m not a businessman I just want to make puppets and my movie.”

In a sense, making cholo puppets helped the crew of “Hey Vato” mature professionally by allowing them to see a project through from beginning to end; and once the project received some acclaim, it allowed them to continue to develop it past their previous projects. For Rodríguez, who sees himself as a storyteller, it’s an opportunity to tell stories close to his heart.

“I think there’s a real lack of voices,” he said, referring to the absence of many U.S. Latino directors, or even Asian or African American directors for that matter. “It’s important to tell a story from a Latino or Asian American or African American point-of-view, and have those people in your movies, but don’t sell yourself short by saying ‘Only Latino people are going to watch this movie.’”

Sara Inés Calderón is a journalist and writer who lives between Texas and California. Follow her on Twitter @SaraChicaD.






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