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Interview: Director Carmen Marron’s Passion to ‘Go For It!’

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CHICAGO – What if you had a deep desire and passion to make a movie? Would you know what to do, how to go about it? Carmen Marron was in that spot seven years ago, with no connections, no clue on how to do it, only that necessary passion and desire. This Friday, her hip-hop dance film, “Go for It!” opens in 250 theaters nationwide.

The extraordinary journey of Carmen Marron is one of grit and determination. She learned the right process of movie making, sought the right advice and knocked on the right doors. She wrote the screenplay, directed the film and took it to the festivals, where it won four audience favorite awards. Lionsgate distributors contacted her last August, and is now releasing “Go for It!” Carmen Marron is simply the little engine that could, a monument to the power of a can-do spirit.

Carmen Marron at the Chicago International Film Festival, October 15th, 2010
Carmen Marron at the Chicago International Film Festival, October 15th, 2010
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

HollywoodChicago.com first met Carmen Marron at the Chicago International Film Festival, where she was previewing Go for It! Seven months later she sat down again on the eve of the film’s nationwide release, and talked about how to get here from there.

HollywoodChicago: You’ve had an extraordinary journey with this concept, the production and now the wide release of the film. Since getting a film to this point can be a murky jungle, what festival or screening peaked the interest of Lionsgate and led to the release?

Carmen Marron: I actually think it was was word of mouth, because we had won four audience awards. They would hear the buzz, because festival directors would call me and say that a studio called and asked about the film after I screened. When I got to Los Angeles at the end of August, right before I came to Chicago, I screened at the L.A. Film Festival, and we sold out at Mann’s Chinese Theater at 5pm on a Tuesday. Someone in the audience called someone that they knew at Lionsgate and said this was a film they had to see.

We just so happened to have another screening the next day, and the Lionsgate person saw it, somehow got my phone number and texted me within 20 minutes of the second screening, and ask me to come to the studio to screen the movie. And that’s where it all began.

HollywoodChicago: Movement and dance is gaining more of a foothold as a rite of passage in youth. What do you think this dance phenomenon expresses for someone who is in the same circumstances as the dancer in your film?

Marron: For me, dance is a dialogue. Kids see it as true creative freedom, a way to express their frustrations. I see it even more so now. In Go for It!, the main character [Aimee Garcia], she has all of these inner fears and struggles within herself that she never really addresses. And at the end of the film, she does this performance, and I always thought of it as her monologue to the audience…her transformation to a woman, and you see it all through dance.

HollywoodChicago: This is a film about urban kids. What do you think is the biggest misconception about that culture in more suburban or rural parts of America?

Marron: For sure, for what I’ve experienced as a guidance counselor and also growing up is the notion that city kids are punks. That many of them have no future, that they’re not ambitious or they don’t have big dreams. I really don’t believe that to be the case, I really believe that these kids are as resilient as any. I am one of them, and the reason I’m where I’m at is that I stayed in school. We need role models, because I was fortunate enough to be in a household where my Dad valued education and impressed it upon me.

Aimee Garcia (Carmen) Creates Dialogue in ‘Go for It!’
Aimee Garcia (Carmen) Creates Dialogue in ‘Go for It!’
Photo credit: Lionsgate

HollywoodChicago: You were a dancer when you were younger. What aspect of your life is most present in Go For It!?

Marron: That is a really interwoven answer, because I think that the movie represents how I felt growing up, this yearning to do something and be something, but I didn’t know how to describe it at that point in my life. Now twenty years later I’m going through those emotions all over again, trying to figure out in this point in my life, how do I get to where I want to go? Because I have new dreams, new goals and these fears come back. It’s like the young character in the movie represents me as a teen and also me right now.

HollywoodChicago: Last year’s ‘Black Swan’ was a significant dissection of a certain form of art in dance. How does the movement of hip-hop dancing represent the art and culture of the humanity that is creating it?

Marron: I will say what I said before, dance is a dialogue and hip-hop is really eclectic and multi-cultural. In my film, I have styles of hip-hop in salsa, flamenco and martial arts. It’s a great representation of a person, as you can use hip-hop to represent a personality.

HollywoodChicago: In writing the film, which character besides the main one became more important to you as the screenplay developed, and what is that character’s eventual role in the film that makes them important and why?

Marron: Unintentionally, it ended up being the professors. Because when I started writing it over seven years ago I thought about all the instructors and professors that influenced me, and then by the time we got into production it’s like I became the professor, because after being a guidance counselor, having people discourage me in Hollywood, and then in trying to reach out and help others through the process.

I found that the words I wrote for the professor were words that I was feeling. In one line he says, ‘I don’t know why I believe in you, I don’t even know you.’ That role became very important for me, because I wanted to show the power of role models and that there are human struggles with what the instructors are going through.

HollywoodChicago: When faced with psychological and economic realities in an urban setting, how does art, and in this case dance, contribute to healing or modifying those realities?

Marron: Dance is a beautiful, artistic escape. It’s also a beautiful and artistic manifestation of what is both frustrating and good in your life, especially when you’re in an environment that is so hard. To be able to see kids in the inner city, where some of them have guardian issues or are living below the poverty line, and they are the most beautiful, graceful and eloquent dancers, to see them have that expression of creativity through art is like magic to me.

Dancers at the Ready in ‘Go for It!’
Dancers at the Ready in ‘Go for It!’
Photo credit: Lionsgate

HollywoodChicago: Let’s talk about post the sale of the film to the distributor. What changes or tweaks did you have to do to your film to make it ready for the wider release?

Marron: I had a very unique situation, which I am very grateful for, because I have heard the gamut on what happens when you sell your film. I was very fortunate that Lionsgate, in conjunction with Pantelion Films, gave me the notes and allowed me first to go ahead and clean it up. From there it was a discussion on what the final picture would look like, but they gave me a lot of say.

They asked me to take out some things, so now the movie is 90 minutes, down from 93 minutes. They added some great hip-hop animation sequences, and I added a new song for the opening and closing title credits.

HollywoodChicago: What is the greatest lesson you have learned in your journey through the maze of the business of movies?

Marron: That making movies is a business. I didn’t have any filmmaking experience, I had a bachelors in business and a masters in educational psychology. My business degree taught me that, in the end, if you don’t have business savvy, you’re not going to have a complete film, you’re not going to have a film that has a purpose and you’re not going to be able to get distribution. I had all the odds against me and I really believe my business sense put this movie on the map.

HollywoodChicago: What would be the title of the book you would write from that lesson?

Marron: My saying has always been ‘Si Se Puede,’ which is what my Dad taught me when I was growing up. The English translation is ‘Yes, You Can.’ That is what I would title my book, because it’s true.

”Go for It!” has a limited release, including Chicago, on May 13th. See local listings for show times and theaters. Featuring Aimee Garcia, Al Bandiero, Jossara Jinaro, Gina Rodriguez and Louie Alegria. Written and directed by Carmen Marron. Rated “PG-13.” To read the first HollywoodChicago.com interview with Carmen Marron, click here.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2011 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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