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Betty Ramirez: “Never give up!”

I wish somebody had told me how important it is, even with a documentary, to stick closely to the script! We strayed so many times from what we had written down compared to what we did on camera, that later on it made editing and putting everything together exactly right much more challenging than it […]

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I wish somebody had told me how important it is, even with a documentary, to stick closely to the script! We strayed so many times from what we had written down compared to what we did on camera, that later on it made editing and putting everything together exactly right much more challenging than it needed to be.

I also wish somebody had told me to take more pictures and do more behind-the-scenes footage during production to capture all those moments that you don’t see in the final film that later on we could have used to promote the documentary with video clips and photos of the crew and all that went into producing what people see on the screen. Yes, we did take some pictures and a little video… but not enough!


As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Betty Ramirez.

Betty Ramirez is a first-time film-maker and Vice-President of the Chandler International Film Festival, a non-profit organization based in Chandler, Arizona, dedicated to supporting the independent film-making community worldwide. She is also a small business owner with her husband Paul and lives in Chandler, where she is actively involved in local civic activities and events.


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?

I’m originally from Mexico, but I have lived in the U.S. for almost 35 years. I believe every human being is unique and has a unique story to tell. I love to work with people. When the COVID-19 pandemic started and I saw all the hardships being created for so many people, I knew I wanted to learn more and share how this was impacting our community. I decided that I wanted to make a documentary so I could help people to tell their stories. It was very low budget! Most of it was produced on a volunteer basis with the help of Mitesh Patel, president of the Chandler International Film Festival, and his production crew along with local business owners, professionals, the mayor and city officials, a local sheriff, the first female Maricopa County attorney, and others who agreed to appear in the film. I wanted the proceeds to benefit the Festival so we can continue helping independent film-makers to bring their movies before the public and to the world.

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

One thing that made the production of our documentary a little bit challenging was that all of the interviews were shot at two local hotels in Chandler. One was open for regular business and so guests kept coming in and out because they were curious about what was going on, so we had to work around the distractions. Fortunately, our interviewees were very understanding of the situation! The other hotel was still under construction at the time, so even though there weren’t any guests staying there, there was a lot of noise from the construction, so that was the main challenge we had to work around. But, still, we were grateful to both hotels because they were willing and able to accommodate us.

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

For the documentary, we were able to interview some really interesting people. Some of them had unique, first-time accomplishments. For example, Christine Ellis, a registered nurse originally from Haiti, was just elected the first Black female city council member in Chandler. Also, Allister Adel, she is the first female county attorney in Maricopa County. Miranda Fimbres was a young lady that we interviewed who is the first high school graduate in her family and the first to enter college. Cade Askey was a young man we interviewed who was on a Mormon mission in the Philippines that was cut short by the pandemic and he had to return to the U.S. for quarantine and now he is back working and living at home. We interviewed Chandler police chief Sean Duggan, fire chief Tom Dwiggins, Chandler mayor and pastor Kevin Hartke, Billy Harfosh, a local iHeart radio talk show host, Sheriff Mark Lamb of Pinal County, pastor and youth counselor Ted Huntington, auto repair shop owner and car talk radio personality Frank Leutz, dentist, Dr. Michael Crockett, Chandler city council member Mark Stewart, and motivational speaker Tina Majerle who shared her experience with COVID-19. So, we had a lot of interesting interviews!

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

One that I’m working on is with Lirong Huang, an Asian-American woman I’ve become friends with who owns a small, local TV studio in Mesa. After the documentary was finished, Lirong approached me with an idea she had of using her media platform for covering some of the more serious issues affecting her community, beyond just the cultural and entertainment stories she was used to doing. So, we’ve been talking about developing that concept and how we can structure something that will have the kind of impact she wants it to have.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

I really liked Ronald Reagan. He made a lot of inspiring speeches and he said a lot of things that people remember. One of my favorite quotes from him is: “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

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?

Besides the documentary, there’s a project I’m working on that has nothing to do with filmmaking but one that I’m very passionate about and I feel is very important. It’s a personal development and training and mentoring program with minority women helping others in the community by serving as mentors and leaders for those who are in different parts of society. I want to involve not just women of influence and authority but also just everyday women who are “behind the scenes” at home taking care of their families and working at jobs where nobody really sees them. To me they are all important and have something to offer.

I will continue to work with the Chandler International Film Festival because I know it can have a big impact on our local community, and because it gives filmmakers from all over the world a chance to show their creative work. For example, in 2020, we had submissions from over a thousand filmmakers from 35 countries and six continents. We also had the privilege of doing a 20th anniversary screening for Michelle Rodriguez’s first movie, Girlfight, which was an independent film that premiered at the 2000 Sundance Festival. What made it even more special was that we were able to fly Michelle in from L.A. on Saturday afternoon for her to do the red carpet event and interview along with the screening.

My goal is to continue growing our festival. We’re small and we are a 501(c)3 non-profit, so part of my work is to continue trying to promote independent filmmakers and to bring their art and their hard work together so people can come see and enjoy and appreciate what they do.

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?

My whole life I’ve taken chances. Being an immigrant, not speaking the language, working hard together with my husband to raise our family, jumping over so many obstacles in my life, I’m the type of person that doesn’t let go of things very easy. The truth is I’m stubborn. Even with all that, for me this was a huge step outside my comfort zone. But for sure this year 2020 has been a wake-up year and one that makes you reinvent yourself and think in a different way. Just watching everything happening with the pandemic, dealing with it as business owners in the medical field, I started thinking, how are other people doing and how is this impacting them and our city and state and our communities. That’s when I started planning to do the documentary and I started talking with Mitesh and his crew and we put everything together in two weeks. I believe things happen for a reason. The people we asked to be in the documentary were very busy but they still made time for us because I think they saw the importance of what we were doing and I asked them to share their experiences and their situations so that we could share them with our community and help other people to understand how they have had to deal with this crisis.

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

Lirong Huang, my Asian friend. Besides having the TV studio, she is a journalist and photographer. That’s why I asked her to take some pictures for us while we were doing the documentary. She was very impressed and inspired by what we did and what she saw. So she started talking to me about wanting to do something for her Chinese and Asian communities especially to help the young people and families. There are over 300,000 Asians living in Arizona and Lirong has a dream of reaching them with her media platform to help find and develop leaders and thinkers.

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

Right now, I’m still in the planning stages and just starting to talk to people about my project involving women mentors and helping to develop leaders and role models in different areas of society. I’m looking for women in my local area who are willing to volunteer their time to do this, and to share their own experiences of how they have handled trials and obstacles in both their personal and professional lives. I’m not looking for any government support. I’m really just looking for women who want to help.

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

I wish somebody had told me how important it is, even with a documentary, to stick closely to the script! We strayed so many times from what we had written down compared to what we did on camera, that later on it made editing and putting everything together exactly right much more challenging than it needed to be.

I also wish somebody had told me to take more pictures and do more behind-the-scenes footage during production to capture all those moments that you don’t see in the final film that later on we could have used to promote the documentary with video clips and photos of the crew and all that went into producing what people see on the screen. Yes, we did take some pictures and a little video… but not enough!

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?

I would tell them that no matter where we come from, we have a responsibility to make a positive impact. Life can bring bad situations. But bad situations can create opportunities. It’s up to us what we want to do with them and how we want to build our own destinies.

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. 🙂

I don’t have anybody in mind right now. But as far as the Chandler Film Festival, I want to continue doing what I can to raise money and support it and help it grow because that’s how we’re able to bring more independent filmmakers and actors to come and be a part of our dream. We also need movie lovers who want to be a part of this to join us as donors and sponsors of the festival. Anybody who wants to do this can go to our website!

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

“Never give up!” That has really been the story of my life. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be involved in filmmaking and working with other women the way I am and doing the things I’m doing in my city and in my community. But I guess that is what making a positive impact is all about. It’s why I’m already thinking about what my next documentary is going to be!

How can our readers follow you online?

ChandlerFilmFestival.com

facebook.com/chandlerfilmfest

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