Two El Paso filmmakers receive $15K grant from Hornitos, Black List to produce short film

·4 min read

Two El Paso filmmakers are trying to change the way El Paso is portrayed in films and how El Pasoans are represented.

Roland Esparza and Austin Savage, are grant recipients of the Hornitos and Black List’s Take Your Shot Short Film Program. They were awarded a $15,000 grant to shoot a proof-of-concept short film.

The Black List is an online platform that lets writers showcase their screenplays for industry members and professional readers.

"We're trying to make something that's not about cartels or drug violence. There are a lot of negative connotations about life on the border and what it's like to coexist with the Mexican community," Savage said. "It's not as gritty as they make it seem."

Austin Savage headshot.
Austin Savage headshot.

They have until March 30, 2022, to produce their 15-minute film: "El Pavo Bravo;" the story of a luchador who abandons his career in wrestling after the death of his best friend and takes up a career in music in hopes of winning back his long-lost love.

Esparza said they want to make sure the luchador represents El Paso's Hispanic communities.

Savage and Esparza have more than a decade of experience in writing, art, comedy and film. Savage also hosts a paid, online writer's room every Sunday where he helps writers develop their scripts.

They first met more than 10 years ago, when Esparza auditioned for a play Savage was directing.

Roland Esparza headshot.
Roland Esparza headshot.

"Savage has really just been somewhat of a mentor to me, and now, at some point, we became equals, which is a super cool feeling," Esparza said, reflecting on working on the film project for the past year.

Savage said for the past 11 years, their goal has been to "always create original content by, and for, the community."

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Savage said he had his own ideas for short films, but was really excited to work on Esparza's project.

"Roland told me about this idea for a depressed luchador who takes up music, and there was something there," Savage said, adding that self-isolation during COVID-19 pandemic has allowed them to explore different emotions that they were feeling. "We realized we could use this; we could use this character to explore some of the themes that are going on in our own lives and the world at large."

One thing Esparza and Savage are excited about their film is the music track because it was produced by musicians and artists local to El Paso.

El Pavo Bravo movie poster.
El Pavo Bravo movie poster.

The sound track will include tracks from:

  • Omar Cuellar

  • Emily Davis

  • Jim Ward

  • Our Friend the Mountain

Nathan Stell-Smith will conduct the score.

Savage said its amazed him how much El Paso's music scene came together to support the film.

"Music was a huge driving force for the inspiration," Esparza said.

Savage agreed.

"The last thing we wanted was to create a film about a guy who takes up music and the music's terrible," Savage said.

In April 2021, Hornitos Tequila and the Black List announced the Take Your Shot Short Film Program in support of amplifying new voices in the film industry.

The duo from El Paso were among four other recipients for the grant.

"This partnership with Hornitos celebrates those who have been taking their shot as storytellers for years by giving them the resources necessary to do exactly that," Franklin Leonard, founder of the Black List, said in a news statement. "We're thrilled with this inaugural group of filmmakers and look forward to further supporting them in the coming weeks, months and years ahead as they bring their visions to life."

Hornitos® Tequila and The Black List Team up to help emerging filmmakers Take Their Shot in a first-of-its-kind Short Film Program.
Hornitos® Tequila and The Black List Team up to help emerging filmmakers Take Their Shot in a first-of-its-kind Short Film Program.

Even though they received the grant, that only covers a fraction of production expenses.

"The cost of quality Screen Actor Guild performers does, however, take a large portion of our $15,000 present budget and that is why we are seeking extra funds to help cover the cost of the performers, crew, equipment, and even our post-production, which will be done here in El Paso at Rio Bravo Outpost," the donation read.

Esparza said donations are tax deductible.

People can donate by visiting bit.ly/3J6QANP.

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Anthony Jackson may be reached at ADJackson@elpasotimes.com and @TonyAnjackson on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: El Paso filmmakers receive grant from Hornitos Tequila for short film