Kenneth Castillo: Absolutely Independent

A private encounter with a busy and brilliant young writer/director/producer

By Se Fija!
Published on LatinoLA: October 18, 2011

Kenneth Castillo: Absolutely Independent

It was a rare day in Los AngelesÔÇôa day after a real rain, when the sky was scrubbed clean and there was an extraordinary and rare clarity to the air. For a few minutes that day, Se Fija's publisher Angela Ort?¡z had a chance to sit down and talk one-on-one with Kenneth Castillo, the independent writer/producer/director.

Kenneth has built an impressive portfolio over the last decade or more. In 2000 he and his now-wife Karla Ojeda formed a film production company called Valor Productions; their first project was "The Misadventures of Cholo Chaplin," a re-framing of the Charlie Chaplin silent shorts of the 1920's and 30's set in the Mexicano world of the Day of the Dead. Some of the Cholo episodes screened at film festivals across the country, and one appeared at the 2007 Cannes film festival and one the Imagen Award for the Best Theatrical Short Film the next year.

Since 2008, Kenneth has written and directed four feature films, a series of "urban Latino" films under the group name of "The Drive-By Chronicles." The first two, "Sidewayz" and "Ghostown" are available at Walmart, Target, and Blockbuster, and "Ghostown" was honored at the 2010 Reel Rasquache Film Festival. Meanwhile, the third feature in the series, "Confessions of a Gangster," was released this fall, along with ten new episodes in his short film series. All three have now been picked up by Comcast and Time Warner cable for Video on Demand distribution.

And that's just the beginning.

By any measure, Kenneth is a busy filmmaker, with half a dozen projects or more in various stage of pre-production, shooting, or post-production. And in spite of all that activity, he doesn't begin to fit the stereotypical image of the young Hollywood hustler. "I'm not a networking guy," he said."I believe in building relationships. They're truer and they last longer, and they're more solid than 'networking' relationships. I'm proud of the process I've developed over the last twelve to fifteen years, proud that the actors want to continue to work with me after they've worked with me."

And there's plenty of work to be done. Castillo is finishing up post-production on "Hearts of Men," an action thriller, and "Counterpunch," about a Cuban boxer out of Miami who suffers from bipolar disorder. "I'm editing the trailer for that," he said. "And then we go into post. I'm planning on a screening soon." The cast of "Counterpunch" has a number of well-known names in it: Danny Trejo, Steven Bauer, Yeniffer Behrens, among many others. "A really great cast of established and up-and-coming talent," Castillo says, and a real challenge for him both creatively and organizationally: he served as writer/director on "Counterpunch," and the budget was three times larger than what he normally works with.

Part of the adventure was shooting "Counterpunch" in Los Angeles vs. Mexico. "It'sa balance," he said. "I have a lot more resources in T.J. The permit situation there is a lot different. I have unlimited resources. There's a lot of red tape to get a permit, but once you get it you can do a lot with it. I can close down the equivalent of Ventura Boulevard with it, and I can do it that fast," he says with a snap of his fingers. "In L.A. obviously, I can't do that. I'm able to provide a little bit better for my cast in L.A., and we're local, but everything else goes up. And even when you have all that, they're still trying to shut you down."

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