The journey to filmmaking for Ryan Velasquez was somewhat unconventional. The San Francisco Bay Area native first discovered his interest in film when he was in high school, but it wasn’t until he entered business school as and adult that he truly uncovered his desire to tell stories through this medium.

In 2012, he graduated from the American Film Institute’s prestigious directing program where he was given the Bridges-Larson Production grant for demonstrating skill in working with actors. His short film Ojalá went on to win the DGA Student Award and screened at over a dozen festivals around the world, and his follow-up short Record Breaker won “Best Comedy” at LA ShortsFest, making it eligible for Academy Award consideration. 

His latest production, a short titled Drowning is slated to premiere on PBS’s Indies site (pbs.org/indiefilms) on Monday, August 8, 2016. Yet to speak with the emerging director, is to understand his desire to develop even more creative projects.  

“To get to PBS, that’s definitely an honor, but it doesn’t feel like work. I think most people that do it [filmmaking], they get into it not because of the money or the status, but because they like telling stories,” he shared. “I mean I definitely do not think I’ve arrived in any way, shape or form.”

Velasquez was born to a Guatemalan father and a Chinese mother. He describes his short Drowning as the story of an overweight young boy who is coping with being bullied for the way he looks. The director notes that self doubt in his own life is something he reflected on when writing and developing the 14 minute and 13 second long production.

Drowning is one of three original shorts from Latino Public Broadcasting (LBP) that are featured in PBS’ Online Film Festival and Indies series, which began on July 11, 2016.

His advice for aspiring young directors is to focus less on networking with the “right” people and instead focus on developing great productions.  

“Just go into making stuff… Make stuff. Fail. You’ll make some good stuff. You’ll make some bad stuff. You’ll learn from both. And then eventually when you’ve made enough stuff, you’ll make something where you look at it and go ‘hey, that’s halfway decent,” he shared. “You will meet the right people. The right people will find you. People want to help.”

Velasquez is also currently in post-production on a web series called “Re-Date.”

Conversation with Ryan Velazquez, (Writer/Director, 'Drowning')

A frame from Velasquez’s ‘Drowning’ coming to pbs.org/indiefilms on August 8, 2016.


Conversation with Ryan Velazquez, (Writer/Director, 'Drowning')

Director Ryan Velasquez