'Canto de Familia,' Directed by Lindsey Villarreal

'Canto de Familia' aired as part of the 2013 edition of "Fine Cut." A summary: The Mata Family from Boyle Heights runs an after school mariachi music program called The Mariachi Conservatory, this documentary captures their passion to keep mariachi music alive.

Here, we speak with Lindsey Villarreal, the director of "Canto de Familia," about mariachi music, Mexican culture, and producing.


You originally hail from Texas. How does your experience with culture differ between San Antonio and Los Angeles?

Lindsey VillarrealIt's not very different, actually. I like to think of myself as a person who can immerse themselves in a different culture easily, but as I get older I realize that a lot of the things I love about L.A. are the same things I love about San Antonio. It's important to me to be surrounded by Mexican culture, and if I were to have children one day, I'd want them to experience that, too.

How do you feel mariachi music fits into the longstanding musical culture of Los Angeles?

I feel like Mariachi music fits into the fabric of Mexican culture regardless of where I am. It's been a part of the big celebrations in my life since I was young. I think it must be like that for all young Mexican-Americans my age. So as long as the population of Los Angeles remains largely Latino, mariachi music will remain a staple of what it means to be Latino in Los Angeles.

You've recently worked on a webseries called "The Ultimates." What are the differences between these formats from a filmmaking perspective?

I love both formats. In a perfect world, I would produce scripted format and direct documentaries. There's something about directing documentaries that allows you to explore in a different way than making what's on a script come alive. With documentaries I feel like the idea is always changing even while I'm in the middle of a scene, [but] with scripted I feel like it's more of a controlled chaos. I come into scripted more prepared for all possible combinations of what could change on set. I've thought it through beforehand. With documentaries, I start the day hoping something will come my way I'm not expecting and then get ready to chase that idea. Both are equally fulfilling.

Your main concentration at USC is producing. What can you tell people about that process as opposed to other concentrations such as directing, editing, or writing?

I love producing. It's one of those things that you know is just inherently inside of you. It's a little bit of a micromanagement problem. Even while I'm directing, I'm thinking, "Is there enough food for everyone? What time did the actors get here? How much is this going to cost us? Are we on time?" I really love being involved at every stage of the production from pre-production to post-production.

Who do you consider some of your greatest artistic inspirations?

I love Julie Taymor and all things Frida. I visited the Blue House in Mexico City once and it really left an impression on me. I think my parents both really allowed me to be who I wanted to be without a lot of pressure. They've always given me constant support.

What's next for you?

Right now, I'm in my last semester at USC. I'm looking for job in scripted television. I'm interning in the producing department at the TV show "Mad Men" and finishing a one-hour TV pilot script with my friend to fulfill my thesis requirements. I guess at this point, anything could happen!


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