There is so much social divisiveness in the world right now and I believe that if we had more diverse stories from diverse voices in film and television, people would be more empathetic to others and we’d realize that we all have so many more things in common than we think.
The international market is maturing and if we had more diversity represented on screen, the studios would have the opportunity to make more money and make more films. Just think about the enormous success movies like Black Panther, Wonder Woman and Crazy Rich Asians had. That wouldn’t have been possible without diversity.
As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing André Fernández.
André is a film and television producer. He made his first short film when he was 12 years old and at 23, he’s already produced two feature films, a documentary series, multiple award-winning short films, music videos and commercials. He is also the founder of Intercept Entertainment, a film and television production company based in Mexico. André recently graduated from Arizona State University and his debut feature film as a producer, “Until They Bury Us All” premiered in Mexico last November.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Thank you for having me! I was born and raised in Mexico. When I was 6 years old, I started making stop motion videos using my toys and my parent’s camcorder. My grandfather would help me voice some of the characters and before I knew how to edit using computer software, I would hit pause and then change the shot or move to a different location. It was funny because if someone made a mistake, we had to start all over again.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always been passionate about working in the entertainment industry but after making my first short film, I realized that a producer’s work lived at the intersection of the creative and business aspect of filmmaking. That’s what grabbed my attention and led me to decide that I wanted to be a producer.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
It was the first day of production of my first feature film, “Until They Bury Us All.” When I went to the set and introduced myself to the cast and crew, they were in shock. They were expecting the producer to be someone older and more experienced. I hadn’t met most of them in person before because during pre-production, we had only talked over the phone, text or email since the majority of them were based in Mexico City and not in Culiacan, where we shot the entire movie. I was 18 years old at the time.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
While working as an intern at a talent agency, I was asked to review some audition self-tapes and send notes to the agent’s assistant. After watching one of the tapes, I wrote and sent the comments to the assistant but I forgot to take the client’s email off the thread. Luckily, the notes were good and the client replied saying “Thank you!” But that wasn’t always the case. Now, I always double-check the To: and Cc: fields before sending an email.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I recently signed a deal with a film sales company to represent my feature film “Until They Bury Us All” at international film festivals and markets. A few weeks ago, they launched worldwide sales at the Virtual Cannes Market and the film had a lot of interest so we are hoping something exciting comes out of it. Another film that I executive produced, “Apollo”, was scheduled to be released in Mexico in April, but now we’re just waiting for the theaters to re-open. I’m also currently developing a documentary project that I’m very excited about, but we’re still in the very early stages and can’t say much about it yet.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
- There is so much social divisiveness in the world right now and I believe that if we had more diverse stories from diverse voices in film and television, people would be more empathetic to others and we’d realize that we all have so many more things in common than we think.
- To have a more accurate representation of our society on the screens. According to a study by TheWrap, if you look at the numbers of all wide released films by major studios in the last 5 years, only 15% were directed by a person of color. Yet, 45% of last year’s frequent moviegoers were non-white. Latinx directors were only 5%. That’s why the efforts to improve representation in the industry by organizations like NALIP are so important.
- The international market is maturing and if we had more diversity represented on screen, the studios would have the opportunity to make more money and make more films. Just think about the enormous success movies like Black Panther, Wonder Woman and Crazy Rich Asians had. That wouldn’t have been possible without diversity.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Be opinionated — in my experience, I feel that this is often discouraged by traditional Mexican culture as it can sometimes come across as being rude or disrespectful, but I’ve found it’s very valued in the entertainment industry.
- Build meaningful relationships — everyone tells you that it’s important to network and meet people. But it’s much more than just going to events, shaking hands and giving out business cards to everyone you make eye contact with.
- Read the trades — I didn’t start reading Deadline, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter every day until I was in college. If you want to be a producer, reading them gives you an idea of how everything works in Hollywood.
- Develop your emotional intelligence — this is key to being successful in film and television. Most classes and courses focus on developing general intelligence and forget about the fact that, in this industry, you’re dealing with people on a daily basis.
- Just do it — don’t wait for anyone to give you permission to do something. Create your own opportunities by finding the most affordable way to do what you want and make it happen.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Don’t be too afraid to make mistakes, especially early on in your career. I feel people tend to forgive much more when you’re young. But you still need to prepare and do your homework first. That way, you can make affordable mistakes that you can learn from, instead of ruining your entire career.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d like to inspire a movement that uses storytelling as a tool to raise awareness of humanity’s more pressing issues and inspire people around the world to take action and tackle those problems. Climate change, for example. People don’t realize how powerful storytelling is and the enormous impact and influence it has on our lives.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
That’s very true, and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of so many people. It’s very hard to only mention one. All my family including my parents, my sister and my grandparents have been really supportive from day one. Also, my professors from ASU, especially Adam Collis and FilmSpark. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for them.
Fernando Lebrija gave me the chance to visit a professional movie set for the first time when I was 15 years old. I spent about two weeks wandering around the set of his film Sundown in Puerto Vallarta. They were shooting at night during the first week. I’d be on the set from 6 PM to 6 AM, then go home and sleep from 7 AM to 3 PM, wake up, eat and then go back to the set again. It was a great experience, I learned a lot and met some great people. Fernando has supported and mentored me ever since.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite quotes is from a conversation between Alice and the cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland: “One day, Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ She asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know’, Alice answered. ‘Then’, said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.’”
Every time I have to make a decision, I think about this. It’s important to know where you want to end up in order to make informed and better decisions overall. If you don’t know where you want to get, then whatever you choose is irrelevant. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t change your mind along the way.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have lunch with Jason Blum. There are so many questions that I’d like to ask him! He’s produced over 150 movies and television series and I think that’s extraordinary. I like that he’s able to take bigger risks because of his smaller budgets without compromising the quality of the storytelling, and that also helps to get more original movies produced from filmmakers with diverse backgrounds.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!