His day job is working as an air conditioning technician, but Brawley-born Manuel Baeza’s passion is being a filmmaker.
His dream got a little closer to reality when a short film he wrote and directed, “A Bitter Murmur”, premiered at the prestigious Dances With Film Festival in Los Angeles on June 11 in the reputable TCI Chinese Theatres.
“I’m grateful to have been selected and screened at Dances With Films. It’s my first film to go this far,” he said. festival awards ceremony the following weekend, he was noticed, he added.
“He stood out from the crowd. It was the scariest movie… Really dark. It seemed like people were really getting into it. They asked a lot of questions. There was a lot of positive feedback from the other filmmakers who were there.
Now he’s writing the script for a full-length version of “A Bitter Murmur” and working on another short film project he plans to put into production later this year.
He is particularly intrigued by the horror genre.
“Growing up in the Imperial Valley, I’ve always been a big fan of the horror genre and knew from a young age that I wanted to be a filmmaker who also created thrills and thrills,” he said. he declares. “My main influences are Stephen King’s books and films. These were the kind of horror movies I grew up watching, reading and loving. ‘The Shining’ is my favorite movie.
From “A Bitter Murmur,” he said, “it feels like the culmination of a hit after years of trial and error. A labor of love and teamwork.
The film is the story of Sam’s struggle with loneliness and isolation that brings back a haunting presence from her childhood, forcing her to question what is real and what isn’t.
Baeza had the idea, wrote a plan, then wrote the screenplay. After receiving criticism from friends, he incorporated their ideas and finished the script.
When Baeza introduced him to producers in Los Angeles, he sparked the interest of producer Anjini Taneja Azhar, who helped him get the story off the page and onto the screen.
Making the short, which Baeza self-funded, was a whirlwind. One weekend in November, he traveled to Los Angeles, hired a camera crew and a cast of three actors, rented a house to shoot the movie, and shot it in one day. Then he put it in his computer and edited the film himself during Thanksgiving. After that, he hired a sound and music engineer for the soundtrack.
The film stars Cailyn Rice, Mary Carrig and Matanya Bar-Shalom. It is seven minutes long with credits.
“Once it was done, I knew I had captured something special,” Baeza said.
He’ll likely repeat the cinematic process with his next feature, hiring and filming in Los Angeles.
Baeza shared how he got started as a filmmaker. As a child, he used his parents’ camera to shoot short films with his friends. For a time he worked in San Diego, where people helped him in his craft. Images that have never seen the light of day, he admits. Others have been published on the Internet.
“But it was a lot of practice,” he said.
From an early age, he realized there would be challenges as a Latino filmmaker and growing up in such a small town, he said. “Navigating in that genre would be difficult.”
But he has found inspiration in recent years in the stories of other local filmmakers featured in the Imperial Valley Press. “It gave me hope that I, too, could make a movie if I tried. I love telling stories. There are things in my head that want to come out.