HFF 2015 Interview: Victor Director/Co-Writer Brandon Dickerson

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A mother’s love. A son’s rebellion. The faith to overcome. From the streets of The Cross & The Switchblade comes the inspiring true story of Victor Torres — a migrant teen from Puerto Rico forced to survive the ghetto of Brooklyn in 1962. Enslaved by the power of gangs and the addictions of the neighborhood, he must now find freedom before he destroys his family and himself.

2015 Heartland Film Festival Official Selection, Narrative Feature (World Premiere).


We spoke with Director/Co-Writer Brandon Dickerson about his film:

HF: What is your film about, and how did the project come to be?

BD: Victor tells the true story of Victor Torres — a migrant teen from Puerto Rico forced to survive the ghetto of Brooklyn in 1962.  Enslaved by the power of gangs and the addiction of the neighborhood, he must find freedom before he destroys his family and himself. Executive Producer Greg Wilkerson came to me with Victor’s memoir shortly after my film Sironia premiered. I was completely engaged with Victor’s journey. Once I spent some time with the real life Victor Torres, I knew I had to bring this story to the screen.

HF: What was your role in the production?

BD: I’m the director and co-writer of Victor.

HF: Why did you submit to the Heartland Film Festival? Have you been to the Festival before?

BD: Heartland was my top choice for premiering Victor.  It seems that “true” is at the core of the festival’s dedication to inspire through film. Victor is not only an inspiring “true story,” but explores truth in an honest way.

I was unable to come be a part of my first film playing at Heartland. I’ve been hearing for a while from other filmmakers what a fantastic festival this is and what a great experience it is to showcase your work as a storyteller.

HF: This year’s tagline is “Movies That Stay with You” – what lasting effect will your film have on moviegoers?

BD: I’m hopeful that the themes explored in Victor linger once the lights go up—Specifically the journey to break free from the things that enslave us and the courage of a family to rise above challenging circumstance.

HF: What has inspired you to become a filmmaker?

BD: Growing up in Southern California, my family would go to the movies almost every weekend. One October evening in 1979 we saw The Champ.

I cried.

We went back two weeks later to once again see little Ricky Schroder idolize his boxing father, Jon Voight.

I cried again.

I asked my dad, “How does it do that?” wondering how one could fully grasp what drama was coming and yet still be emotionally charged.

He explained to me how films worked and the guy at the helm was a “director.”

Amid schoolyard aspirations of being a fireman, dating Olivia Newton-John, and someday owning a Sony Walkman–I declared, “I want to be a film director.”

I wanted to be a part of stories so powerful they could make you cry. Twice.

HF: What is something that you know about filmmaking now, but you weren’t told when you started your career?

BD: Screen Size+Distribution.

When I started my career in commercials, docs, and music videos in the late 90’s, could you imagine being told that in the future there would be mass personal portable devices that would stream movies into the palm of your hand and all of the indie film distribution companies would disappear?!

I remain hopeful that independent film and the cinema experience will survive. I think calling Austin home keeps that dream alive with the Alamo Drafthouse paving the way.

HF: What are some of your favorite movies? What’s your favorite worst movie (you know it’s bad, but still love it)?

BD: You would think I would have my top ten movies nailed down… but I always get stumped by the “favorite movies” question.  I love the creative diversity of Danny Boyle+The Cohen Brothers, the craft of Terry Gilliam, the suspense of Hitchcock, and the style of Gene Kelly… so I’ll say Millions, Raising Arizona, The Fisher King, Vertigo, and Singing in the Rain.  Maybe that’s a good start to a top ten before I add Shawshank Redemption, Amélie, Jaws, 2001, Wings of Desire, and The Breakfast Club.  Oh, wait… that’s eleven.  Ok… and Spinal Tap.

In the so-bad-it’s-good category… I love Bollywood movies.  One of my all-time greatest movie experiences was watching the film Haseena Maan Jaayegi at a theater in New Delhi, India.  A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

HF: How many film festivals has your film been a part of? What do you like the most about the festival experience?

BD: This is the World Premiere for Victor, but my first film played in a variety of film festivals. I love getting to connect with other storytellers, seeing their films, and sharing the journey. The experience of presenting your film to a true film-fan audience in a theater is what you dream of when you’re a kid.

HF: Heartland Film Festival moviegoers love filmmaker Q&As. Let’s say a Festival attendee wants to earn some brownie points—what is a question that you’d love to answer, but haven’t yet been asked?

BD: What was the summer job you had in high school in order to get enough money to make your Super-8 Film Verge.


See Victor at the 2015 Heartland Film Festival

* Premiere Pavilion Special Event Screening (no passes)

Purchase Tickets

 

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