“Keep laughing. As long as you’re laughing you still have hope.”
-Moe Howard, The Three Stooges
The world was crumbling around me and I was hell bent on getting my movie ‘Aguruphobia’ made because sometimes we just need to laugh… My father had recently passed away. I was devastated. As a child growing up, I watched endless hours of classic comedies with him, from Abbott and Costello Universal Monster movies to the screwball comedies like “Bringing up Baby” and dark comedies such as “Arsenic and Old Lace”. Between the flickering television and warm laughter of my father was comfort. A comfort my heart ached for. I needed so desperately to laugh when all I wanted to do was cry, so I took comfort in the company of my old pals: Moe, Larry and Curly. As I watched Larry pop Moe and Moe pop Curly in the belly for the hundredth time, I yearned to hear my father’s chuckling fill the emptiness I felt inside. Instead I found myself alone yet strangely inspired and invigorated. The kind of inspired invigoration that makes you feel like you can do anything and fuels the rigorous task of writing and directing a low budget indie feature.
With this newly found inspiration, I was on the road to healing as only I knew how--through creating-- and as my father taught me with laughter. So comedy it was, but directing comedy is a whole other animal. There are comedic timing and pacing issues. And what direction should I move in? Slapstick? Screwball? Dark Comedy? All the above? It had to have heart, the characters had to be real, the story needed enough wacky fun and tear jerker moments that would entertain and allow viewers to engage with the lives and world of the characters. I set out to make ‘Aguruphobia’, with my wife and writing-producing partner Jade Puga. Drawing from past experiences, some research, and whole lot of, “What if’s?” Jade and I developed and wrote the script during one hot summer.
With a small budget from investors, we were set to move into production, but still had not found an actor we were happy with for the role of the charismatic internet guru Nanak. The role called for a larger than life personality that would command the screen with his presence and capture an audience with a blink of the eye. When we landed Pepe Serna for the role I knew he had the bold and fearless chutzpah it took to bring this character to life. The film was now officially on its way. I grew up watching all of Pepe’s films, and he did comedy really well. Now with little money, a veteran Hollywood Latino icon attached and a growing production, how were we going to continue? With Heart! Not only did the film have to have heart, but both Jade and I needed to have heart and determination to complete this film, no matter how tired we were, how inexperienced of a crew we had, or how many hats we had to wear. Ultimately our drive won out and no matter the limitations, we persisted. We dreamt the impossible dream and made our first narrative indie feature.
Although ‘Aguruphobia’, is an independent film, I never lost sight of my obligation as a director to create an intimate and specific point of view that would entertain audiences. I worked at creating a cohesive world and made sure that each element in the film was in service of the story. Working with the actors was an exercise in walking a tight rope to rein in the actor’s natural sensibilities into the world I was creating for the type of movie I was making. A movie that all audiences could enjoy. A movie my father would have loved. I am extremely proud on how ‘Aguruphobia’ turned out. Despite the roadblocks, and there were many, Jade and I overcame them to create a film on par with our vision when we first typed the words “Fade In”.