Latina Mentors Series: Márcia Nunes and Elena Greenlee on Their New Movie Manos Sucias and Working with Spike Lee!

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Every month, we feature one extraordinary Latina in our Latina Mentors Series, but this month we were so impressed by the work of TWO remarkable Latinas, that we decided to feature both of them in our monthly series!

Márcia Nunes, 29, and Elena Greenlee, 31, are the producers of a new, much-buzzed about movie called Manos Sucias that had its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014 and opens in New York City on Friday (expanding into additional cities on April 10).

Nunes and Greenlee—both of whom are graduates of NYU—are not only the recipients of two filmmaking grants from the San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation, but they also managed to get their professor at NYU (you may have heard of him — his name is Spike Lee!)— to sign on to their film as an executive producer. And if that isn’t impressive enough, these two talented Latinas also managed to create a five-week storytelling workshop for the local residents of Buenaventura, Colombia (where their film was shot), in an effort to build lasting, sustainable skills among the community.�?Check out our interview with our Latina Mentors of the Month below!

Tell us about your new film, Manos Sucias!
 �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? Márcia:�?The film is about two desperate men—one seasoned, the other naive—embarking on a dangerous journey. Posing as fishermen, they travel up the Pacific coast from Buenaventura, Colombia in a wooden canoe. Hidden beneath the waves, they tow a narco torpedo filled with millions of dollars worth of cocaine. Following these characters who risk everything for a chance at a better life, Manos Sucias takes a look at the bottom of the food chain in the international drug trade.

Spike Lee is one of the executive producers on the film. How did he get involved with the film? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? Elena: Writer-director Josef Kubota Wladyka and I studied together at NYU Tisch Graduate Film School and in our third year, Spike Lee—who is the program’s artistic director—became our professor and mentor. He was interested in the material from very early on when Josef �?was just starting to develop the script and granted the project his Fellowship Award, which allowed Josef to continue his research in Colombia. Spike served as an advocate and mentor to the project over the years and when we showed him a final cut of the film, he decided to come on board officially as our presenter and executive producer. Spike has long been a supporter of up-and-coming filmmakers and continues to be an inspiration to us.

Speaking of mentors, who are three mentors (Latino or otherwise) who believed in you and helped you get to where you are today?
 �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? Márcia: Peter Newman was Josef and Elena’s professor at NYU Tisch�?and taught me when I was getting my graduate degree at the NYU Stern Business School. In early 2012, Peter introduced us to each other, which brought the team together. Himself a veteran producer, he provided us with invaluable advice as we prepared to go into production. We met Michele Turnure-Salleo in the fall of 2012 and she quickly became one of our most important mentors. As the Director of Filmmaker 360�?at the San Francisco Film Society, Michele has been spearheading programs that are very innovative in their support of independent film—especially producers and women filmmakers. We’ve been lucky enough to work closely with her through Manos Sucias, having been awarded two filmmaking grants from the San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation and we’ve both continued our close collaboration with her in our upcoming projects.

{And} José Angel Santana taught a course called Directing the Actor at NYU Tisch and his lessons became guidelines that we followed in forming our creative collaboration and building trust both within our team and in our community outreach in Buenaventura.

Tell us about the community outreach you did and the five-week storytelling workshop you created in Colombia! �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �?Elena: The idea to do a workshop came up when we were location scouting in Buenaventura and meeting with community leaders to ask them how they would feel about our team making a film dealing with themes of narco-trafficking in their neighborhood. Most people reacted really positively to the project and felt that it was an important story to tell, but even so, they said, ‘Were opening our homes and our lives to you and your cameras. What are you going to give us in return?’ We had to think really hard about that question because we knew that what they were offering us was exceptional, and the degree of economic hardship these communities were facing was so great, that the impact we felt we could make financially with crew salaries and location fees didnt feel like enough.

The local people were very interested in exchanging skills, however, and many were very keen to learn filmmaking so that they could get their own stories out there in the world. We focused the workshops on building visual story-telling from script to editing, with each weeks session focusing on a different phase and limited our resources to what is naturally available there—shooting on cellphone cameras, etc. A different member of our crew visited the workshop each Saturday during pre-production, taking time away from their own prep work in order to teach the participants about their departments responsibilities. The experience was truly wonderful for us— hopefully for the students, too. We’re especially proud of the fact that many of them came on board to work with us full-time during production and increased their skills throughout the length of the shoot. We’re still very close to some of the local youths from Buenaventura who we brought on to work on the film.

Do you think it’s important for Latino professionals to mentor younger Latinos? Does it happen often enough?
 �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? Márcia: It is hugely important for all professionals to give back and do mentorships. I believe professionals of all backgrounds should look to young Latinos and other minorities as important candidates who will influence the future of our industry. I’m not sure how often Latino professionals are mentoring younger Latinos, but my gut is to say that if it isn’t happening enough, that is due to a lack of Latino professionals in the upper echelons of the industry; and as we break through to those higher levels, we will see more Latino mentors.

It can be challenging for Latinas to break into the mostly-male film industry. What advice do you have for your fellow Latinas about breaking in and, or producing their first film?
 �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? Elena: Find a story that you’re truly passionate about and that you are exceptionally equipped to tell, because it’ll take years and you’ll have to rely on your enthusiasm and drive to see it through. 
 �?Márcia: It’s always a challenge to step into the role of a team leader for the first time and it’s normal to experience some pushback – as women we often experience even more. Don’t be discouraged when facing these challenges and stay focused on the great work that you’re doing.

Why should Latinas check out your movie?
 �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? Elena: We think everyone should check out the movie! Sometimes Latinos feel like theyve heard enough sad stories about drug-trafficking and lack of opportunity ruining lives in impoverished areas. From our perspective we feel that these stories continue to be extremely important for people all over the world to see, since the drug trade is a global economy. We hope the film— with its universally relatable characters and gripping story—will help spark dialogue across borders. But outside of the challenging subject matter, this is a film that really highlights the immense amount of talent that exists in Buenaventura. Almost 100% of the cast is local and much of the music comes from local artists: Theres a wide range, from Choque to Salsa, Hip-Hop, and beautiful folkloric tracks from the pacific coast of Colombia.

�?Photo courtesy of�?Pascal Perich

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About Author

Lee Hernandez is a writer, editor and executive producer. Lee has been the Deputy Editor of Latina Magazine; Editor of Latino Voices at the Pulitzer-Prize winning site The Huffington Post and a breaking news contributor to dozens of leading sites and magazines, including the best-in-class celebrity site PEOPLE.com; Cosmopolitan for Latinas magazine, AOL.com, The Wrap, HollywoodLife, Celebuzz, The New York Daily News and Fox News Latino.