Andrew and Adrian Nuno: “Never underestimate the power of kindness”

For the past several years, we have viewed art not only as an opportunity to entertain but also as a means to inspire. Film is one of the greatest mediums there is for creating empathy and expanding people’s worldviews and we wanted to really bring that power to the forefront with every single one of […]

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For the past several years, we have viewed art not only as an opportunity to entertain but also as a means to inspire. Film is one of the greatest mediums there is for creating empathy and expanding people’s worldviews and we wanted to really bring that power to the forefront with every single one of our works. Whether it is inspiring people to talk about their mental health or diving into their ethnic heritage, we want to encourage people to have these difficult conversations using our art as the launching pad for these talks.

As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew and Adrian Nuno.

The Nuno Twins are a filmmaking/marketing duo from Chicago, IL. Through their production company Diginamic Productions, they have produced a variety of long and short-form content that has screened both across the United States and around the world. Their current project, the web series Border’d, is currently streaming on the Emmy-nominated platform Open TV and is in the middle of production on its first season.

Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?

Since we were young, we were absolutely captivated by the magic of the movies. Some of our earliest memories involve us coming back from the movie theater and acting out our favorite scenes from the film we just watched. We fell in love with the ability for cinema to transport audiences to a new world and have them empathize with characters and their journey. Especially when we found out that you could make a career as the folks that make these movies, we knew it was something that we wanted to pursue. As a result, every year since we were 13, we have made a film. Whether it was a feature length project, a short film, or a web series, we have kept on creating something new.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

Hands down the most interesting story that has occurred in our filmmaking career was being invited by the amazing folks at Open TV to participate in a weekend event with the Sundance Institute last August. It was an absolutely incredible weekend of mentorship and celebration that started at the studio owned by the Wachowskis (the amazing duo behind The Matrix) and was followed by the incredible opportunity to network with a variety of content creators ranging from a Sundance-nominated director to an executive at Warner Bros. We couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity we had to not only learn from other content creators like ourselves but also to learn from industry veterans who were willing to impart their knowledge.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

We would have to say it is a tie between Tony Revolori from The Grand Budapest Hotel/Spider-Man: Homecoming and Theo Germaine from Work In Progress/The Politician. We met Tony at the NALIP Summit in July 2019 and he was one of the kindest people we have ever met. We met him at a lounge at the beginning of our third or fourth day there and he was there promoting a project he was working on and we’ll never forget how willing he was to listen to us explain our project Border’d. He was one of the kindest people we met at that summit. We met Theo Germaine at a gala for the Human Rights Campaign in November 2019 where they were a guest speaker. We met them at the end of the gala and, to our surprise, they were already aware of our project Border’d and since we met them they have been such a huge supporter of our web series whether it was liking our posts or even sharing our casting call when we were looking for actors for the first season of the web series.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Right now, we are in the middle of finishing up production on the whole first season of our web series Border’d. This show focuses on a trio of Latinx siblings who are called back to their hometown following the passing of their dad and they are forced to confront their hidden secrets, ignored culture, and rejected dreams. What has been so exhilarating about this project is we’ve been able to tackle a lot of the challenges we experienced growing up as Latinx people in a nearly all-white suburban town. Whether it was dealing with our sexuality or Latinx heritage, we have loved being able to explore that in a way that not only serves as an outlet for us but hopefully inspires other people to be true to themselves in the process. The pilot episode is currently streaming on the Emmy-nominated platform Open TV but we are hoping to premiere the entire first season in spring 2021.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

For us, it is a combination of Larry Kramer, Tanya Saracho, and Lin Manuel-Miranda. The reason these three inspire us so much is because each one of them were brave enough to create art for their communities in a way that paved the way for us to create the art that we make. Larry Kramer’s art paved the way for LGBTQ+ art in a way that allowed us to live our truths as members of the queer community. Tanya Saracho and Lin-Manuel Miranda created art that was so unapologetically Latinx. In creating the art that these 3 incredible artists made, we have been permitted the space to create our art that is not only Latinx but also very queer and we owe these 3 artists for paving the way for our art to exist.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

For the past several years, we have viewed art not only as an opportunity to entertain but also as a means to inspire. Film is one of the greatest mediums there is for creating empathy and expanding people’s worldviews and we wanted to really bring that power to the forefront with every single one of our works. Whether it is inspiring people to talk about their mental health or diving into their ethnic heritage, we want to encourage people to have these difficult conversations using our art as the launching pad for these talks. Right now with Border’d, we are tackling not only the challenges of being multiethnic in America but the added challenges of being queer when you already exist in a minority community. Minority men especially face added challenges when dealing with their sexuality as a result of societal stigmas that exist in their communities and we wanted to create something that gives them characters to relate to.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

The big moment that totally changed how we viewed filmmaking was when we were invited to present a slam poem video we made at a meeting for our local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). After the presentation, the audience broke into small groups and the executive director pulled us aside. She told us that there was a woman who had been coming to meetings for a whole year and never said a word. However, after she saw our video, she felt inspired to speak up for the first time and was now actively participating in her small group. This moment rocked our world and opened our eyes to the ability of film to inspire people for the better. That was the final trigger for us and it is something we have taken with us to every project that we have done since then. For every project we do, we want there to be not only an entertaining angle but also a social justice angle where we’re tackling a topic that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

One of the most powerful moments we can recall is what happened after a screening of our film Little Things that addresses suicide and depression. We had just finished presenting the film at a conference and, after the screening, a woman approached us and opened up to us about how her daughter had recently attempted suicide just one month prior to the event. She mentioned how seeing our film had encouraged her to go home and talk with her daughter about her mental health and we were completely floored by the conversation. Even though that woman’s actions was the kind of reaction we hoped for with our film, it is still incredibly humbling whenever we find out that our content inspires people to change their lives for the better.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

We are going to break this out into one specific action that an individual, a society, and the government can do to support our work. The one thing the government can do to support our work is to give us space to exhibit our work. This is exactly what the City of Chicago did when they sponsored an event around immigrant-based content that included a screening of the pilot episode of our show Border’d. Opportunities like that offer so much visibility for our content and we couldn’t be more grateful for that kind of exposure. The one thing that individuals can do to support our efforts is to support our work. This is exactly the kind of actions we saw when we successfully raised 12,000 dollars in December to fund the first season of Border’d, Whether people gave money or shared the campaign, we were so inspired by the willingness of our friends, family, and even people we had never met to come together for our show. The one thing that society can do is become more willing to understand perspectives that extend beyond their worldview. This is what we witnessed when showing our film Little Things at the Southern City Film Festival in South Carolina. We were so touched by people coming up to us after the film to share how the film had made them feel and how inspired they were to reach out to the people in their lives that they felt may have been suicidal. We all have a role to play in the journey to build empathy. It is just a matter of if we feel empowered enough to take the necessary steps.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

The first thing we wish someone told us was to expect the unexpected. We experienced this when filming our short film Little Things and one of our sets literally went underwater as a result of torrential rain and we had to figure out a last-minute substitute location as a result. The second thing is to not be afraid to forge your own path. We have seen this be the case as each project we’ve been involved in the past few years has been projects we’ve produced ourselves as we’ve wanted to be the ones in control of our film path. The third thing is to never underestimate the importance of networking. We’ve met people everywhere from Ireland to Los Angeles that have played such important roles in our filmmaking journey. Never underestimate the impact that a single person can have on you whether it’s funding your next project or being an actor for your next film. The fourth thing is to trust your gut. This is a lesson that took us years to learn as it takes a lot of work to overcome your self-doubt and really trust your instincts. We saw this come to fruition when Adrian insisted a shoot shut down when we were filming Little Things and thankfully we listened to him because, within minutes, a tornado warning hit our area and we had to seek shelter. The fifth thing we wish someone told us when first starting out is that your most personal stories are the most powerful. We saw this come to fruition through the making of our web series Border’d. So much of Border’d has come from our personal experiences. As painful as it may have been to revisit some memories from our past, we have seen the power of those memories come through in the work we have been able to produce so far.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

We would tell them that there hasn’t been a better time in our history to use art as activism. Art has the power to stir souls and convince people to empathize with people that extend beyond their worldview. This kind of power is not to be underestimated. There is no end to the good that can happen if filmmakers come together to use their power to make a positive impact on the environment and our society. The only thing it takes is for us to be brave enough to use our skills and our talent to make a statement. We never cease to be amazed by the impact our work has made on encouraging people to change their lives for the better and we hope that more and more filmmakers will be inspired to use their talents for the same cause.

We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Lin-Manuel Miranda is far and away the person we would love to collaborate with! Ever since we first heard of his production In the Heights, we have loved the work he has done to not only create space for minorities but to tell our stories. We remember shedding tears listening to the opening number of In the Heights because we had finally listened to a musical number that so beautifully captured the spirit of the Latinx community in a way that no musical had done before. As accomplished as he has become, he has remained so humble and so willing to give back to the community in any way that he can. For these reasons, the chance to collaborate with him would be completely humbling.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Never underestimate the power of kindness. We always tell people that, among all the skills you develop as a content creator, kindness is the most important thing you can develop. We have been amazed over the years by the ways that simply being kind can manifest in new opportunities, consistent collaborators, and amazing friendships. Filmmakers need to understand that the ideas we have are completely irrelevant without people who are willing to back our visions with their time and their talent. Showing kindness to others, whether that’s helping someone with their project or providing praise where it’s due, can come back to you in ways that you can’t even imagine right now.

How can our readers follow you online?

We can be found online at our website or at our Instagram accounts! Andrew’s account is @andrewthenunotwin and Adrian’s account is @adrianthenunotwin.

This was great, thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this with us. We wish you continued success!

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