Ivete Lucas knew that to become a better film director, she needed some direction herself.
"I wanted to find my own voice as a director," she said. "And I knew that to do that I needed to make several more films. But I also wanted to have guidance, so I started looking for a master's degree."
"At first I was reluctant to come to the United States because I just didn't want to do Hollywood movies, and I felt like New York puts you in a box, sort of," Lucas said. "There's so much competition, and people think they have to do certain things to get ahead. I wanted to be free, basically."
Lucas said she felt like Austin and The University of Texas at Austin offered her exactly what she was looking for: an independent and supportive film scene with easy access to Spanish-speaking actors so she could create films that reflect her Latin American culture.
According to the Radio-Television-Film Department, about 25 percent of the graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in the film program are Hispanic or Latino. They come from Texas, California and Florida as well as Spanish-speaking countries, including Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.
Lucas was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. She grew up speaking Portuguese, Spanish and English.
"I grew up in between cultures, I guess," she said. "I used to write, but when I discovered photography and video I was able to have a language that any culture could understand. And that was really important to me."
How she got into filmmaking
After completing her undergraduate degree, Lucas got a job as a script supervisor for a feature film in Mexico, and an art collective she participated in college wrote a screenplay together.
"We applied for this big grant from the Mexican Film Institute, and we miraculously got the grant. We were all 21, 22 maybe. We got $50,000 to make a short film, and then we got distribution."
The film was screened throughout Mexico and shortlisted for the Mexican Academy Awards.
Among other side projects, Lucas has made two films as a master's candidate: "Mexican Fried Chicken," a short documentary about a teenage boy from Mexico coming of age in America; and "La Lupita," a love story that takes place at an Austin flea market.
To the U.S. and back
Monterrey, Mexico is only an eight-hour drive from Austin. That means Lucas is able to easily visit her family. It also keeps her connected to her culture and continues to influence the film projects she takes on.
"As Latinos I think we do need a voice," Lucas said. "I know there are really good films coming out of Latin America, but there aren't many. It's important that people who want to have a voice are able to."
She said that a lot of her inspiration comes from traveling and meeting people, and her thesis film is a prime example. It's about a religious procession in Mexico and a fictional immaculate conception. She saw a real procession and was moved by the devoted people who participated in it.
"I sort of wanted to make a story about a miracle, especially at a time like right now," she said. "In Mexico it's really hard because of the drug war a year ago it got really crazy and nasty, violent and sad. And I wanted to make a story that wasn't sad. So I wanted a miracle, because I feel like we need a miracle."
She's also simultaneously working on another documentary about the town of Ivanhoe, Va., which is struggling to hold itself together after the mining industry left and abandoned the crumbling town and its residents.
Lucas is incredibly driven, equipped with a keen sense of organization and dedication to her work. But she doesn't really consider it work, because she said she's doing what she loves and learning from her filmmaker peers and friends. She said she's on track to graduate in 2012.
"Sometimes it's stressful but we get through it because we have such a passion for what we do," she said about herself and the other RTF students. "Sometimes you don't have a lot of money because filmmaking is really expensive. I don't give up because I think I have something really important to say. And I think that's why I'm here in this world."
Read more about the Latino and Latina filmmakers at The University of Texas at Austin and the university's film program:
- A new lens on the American experience: The university's film program equips the next wave of Latino filmmakers with the tools to share their world views
Ivete Lucas is a fellow of the Mexican Fund for the Culture and the Arts (FONCA).