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  • Samira Burnside

Queer Artist Spotlight: Film as Community with Yaselyn Perez


Today I want to introduce you to Yaselyn Perez. You may know her from her award-winning short film ANGELO, or from her music video wok for artists like Worldwide Wednesday, Jessica Morale and Lochard. You can also find her photography work on dozens of website, and her unique creative touch on advertisements for organizations like The Motivational Edge and UNSUNG. She's also the co-director of Off The Reel film-fest, a film festival that highlights creators all up and down the east coast, and is currently accepting submissions for it's 2023 festival in Pennsylvania. In addition this, she is the Head of Media for the Ripple Effect, a music festival that brings together the indie artists in a set town, which has even highlighted the artists of South Florida. She is also the founder of Raven's Rose Productions, her very own production company.


She is also a queer artist who creates through it all, and I sat down with her today to speak about her art.



So just to kind of start us off here, tell us a little bit about yourself. What's your name, your pronouns, and what kind of art do you do?


Alright. My name is Yaselyn Perez. My pronouns are she/her, and I am a filmmaker and content strategist.


Right. Just to get a background on your art here, what inspires or influences your art?


My family, as basic as that might sound. We are a family full of entrepreneurs. So I see firsthand just how filmmaking and content strategy really helps and empowers small to medium sized businesses. It's a difference that truly matters. You know, being able to actually tell someone's story in the way that they want it to be told. Working with them and figuring out how to really like, niche them and position them as experts within their market is a big thing that's lacking in so many small to medium sized businesses. So having the power to do that and seeing firsthand just how it affects families. Like there's millions of families out there, just like my parents- they have their own plumbing company- is what truly keeps me moving. Because, yeah, I mean, this is the world that we live in right now. Like people are just kind of just doing things to make money and get by. And at the end of it, like, there's no heart in it. So through filmmaking, I'm able to kind of put that at the forefront of focus when people look (you) up online or what have you. And I do that for many businesses.

(One of Yaselyn Perez's music video endeavors for Worldwide Wednesday. Source: https://youtu.be/QLymNprPhIk)


Yeah, that's really great. What started your interest in video or film as a form of expression or marketing?


Just documenting, documenting my friends and family. Growing up, I found that it was a way to kind of like express myself and my life. In addition to that, like just pulling videos off of YouTube and making my own iterations of music videos, It was truly at the beginning of it that I realized like, Oh, I kind of enjoy doing this. If I keep on doing it, I keep saying and dealing with program crashes and not being able to really like max out in a way that I could. But I just had the patience to actually, like, manage it. So naturally, you know, I found a way to continue to figure out how to make a living doing it.



Yeah. And from those early days of documenting other people and your friends and family all the way to your more recent projects like the Gemini saga, your trailers for ripple effect and more, how would you say your style and skill has evolved over time?


(The first short film on Yaselyn's Youtube channel, from 2018)


It's a great question. I would say it's been a lot more focused. In the beginning it was like, how can I make the coolest looking thing, you know, and allow people to really see themselves in a different light and truly feel special in that kind of framework. And then now I was like, All right, how do we just go straight out the gate and let people know who we are, what we're about, what we're trying to do on Earth? And that has became the forefront of everything. Within my work for Ripple Effect is the same deal. Too many people are out here doing just like kind of, you know, recaps of shows and things and using, you know, what's it called mainstream artist music, you know, it be local music festival and they're using like J. Cole or something. And it's like, Hey, like these are real artists making real music, Like, show them. So, you know, trying my hand at, like, different skills. Like, I'm by no means a producer engineer within the music industry, but, you know, you kind of have to wear that hat a little bit when you're editing. So within Ripple, like, you know, embedding these real local artists music and they get to see themselves have that moment on screen with their music, not J. Cole's, it's empowering. It makes them feel that first, they wanted to come back, second, they want to continue to do it because it's hard out here for them. And same goes for businesses, you know, being able to really sit there and do these interviews and highlight them while they're working makes them feel (like) they're truly moving within the mission. Because being an entrepreneur and having your own business like it gets tough. You want to quit sometimes. So I, as a filmmaker, get to empower them just to keep moving forward.


(The trailer for the 2022 Ripple Fest celebration in Stache Fort Lauderdale, Florida)


And speaking about empowering them, you talk a lot about amplifying the voice of community underdogs through video, and that can be very clearly seen in your documentary short films like Angelo and the What Matter's Series. What value do you find in amplifying those hyper local voices and why is it important to you?


 

"So imagine if I keep going. What happens then? Whose lives can I touch there? So I would say the impact is is truly just empowering other people that I work with to keep pushing forward because it is worth it. And there are people watching you even though you don't think that they are, you know. Yeah, that's that's the beauty of filmmaking."

 

I kind of touched on this in the previous- previous question, but it's truly just being able to see -when it came to like my documentary work, albeit there's only like three projects in existence in the world at this moment. People cry, you know, people actually feel like, dang, like "I should continue to do music. I didn't- I didn't think I was that important. You know, like, I have this life story, but it didn't truly feel like something until you made it into something." So imagine if I keep going. What happens then? Whose lives can I touch there? So I would say the impact is is truly just empowering other people that I work with to keep pushing forward because it is worth it. And there are people watching you even though you don't think that they are, you know. Yeah, that's that's the beauty of filmmaking. You get to really sit back and and through discussions and you get to tap into this specific part of people that they don't just tell you right off the rip or maybe even just one or two interviews, like through spending time with them, through getting to know their business themselves, their family, their culture. You get to really study them essentially and get to those pieces that they might hide or they didn't know existed. And that's the impact that I get to, like walk away and be like, "I made a difference!" In someone's life, you know, through with what I do.

Speaking of your whole career, can you talk to us a little bit about your work with That's Young Films and Raven Rose Productions, all the way to what you're doing currently with Ripple and Off the Reel Film Fest? How has your career changed and what has each step on your path meant to you?


(Some of Yaselyn's Photography work. Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/TZImIkziaPc)


So I would say in the beginning it was about truly just self-expression and finding the thing- because growing up I was always try to find that thing. Like at first it was skateboarding and I like super invested myself into into that realm. And then it became music because music has always been a love of mine. It's the thing that allowed me to make movies in my head that I couldn't bring to life, you know? And then naturally that led to poetry. And then, you know, filmmaking was a way that I could combine telling stories and music. So that's where Ripple Effect came to be. When I first started working with Ripple, I was able to combine that that love for music and I love for telling stories. And I really that was like, I call it a playground of another form of self-expression where it was like, How cool can I make this look? It was a lot of how good can I be in this? How good can can I make THEM look? You know? And then now it's like, how clear can we be? I would say it is kind of like the the notch now. So this is kind of like within the last two years, truly since like right at the tail end of COVID is when I started to realize that we need to make a lot more meaningful work.


(Some of Yaselyn's Photography work. Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/TZImIkziaPc)


Not everyone is just going to look at a video and see the impact that it has if you don't tell them, you know? So I would say it's really like two big kind of like slates, like two big containers within my creative work. One of them being this like form of self-expression and being the, you know, the best filmmaker in the market that they know of to truly make something that is going to make people stop scrolling, and then into we need to tell people exactly who we are, what we're about, what we do off (the) rip and let the visuals support that. You know, instead of just showing them and hope that they get it. So and these are videos that they bring into their press kits to get hired for more gigs into their sponsorship packages, to get funded, to do more events, out to their websites so that customers trust them and truly feel like "okay these people, I see their faces, I see their names. They're about what they say they're about. They look like they know what they're doing because they do, they are the experts. So I'm gonna give them a call." Like these are the things that video has the power to like, actually shift (within) communities. And that's the biggest thing right now. That's the second container that I'm in where all my creative work is just like, how do how do we say what we need to say? Keep it short, keep it brief, move on, make a difference, because it will.


(Some of Yaselyn's Photography work. Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/TZImIkziaPc)

Yeah, that's powerful. This may be shifting gears a little bit. During the filmmaking process, there are so many chefs in the kitchen, especially in the case of the bigger productions, something like the Gemini Saga. Can you tell us a little bit about the communal nature of filmmaking and what that's like?


 

"The most special part about that kind of community aspect is that there is no ego."

 

Yeah. So that was actually- Gemini saga was my first full production funded independently. Because I've been contracted for studio work and stuff like that, but nothing of this caliber where it's all like, a labor of love, you know. And that project was super special because that was the first time where, you know, you come with your equipment, Nobody's judging you for what you got. I was actually the spearhead of that project. The filmmakers that I worked with, albeit a small team, was a lot of volunteers and PAs. But as far as the production crew, it was me and two other guys, Drew and Dak, and we we got a cinema camera for that and that's how we learned, you know, the most special part about that kind of community aspect is that there is no ego, there is no "I'm better than you" or "I can shoot this better". It's always constructive criticism and how you approach ascertaining a vision. You know, like if I have something to say, if I didn't really like what the frame looked like, (I would be) like "Hey guys, have you thought about this?" Or I let them rock and then they would try my suggested thing or vice versa. You know, truly within filmmaking, it's a community. Anybody that operates in this community with ego, they're not going to get very far. You've got to make friends. You got to hear people out. Sometimes other people's ideas are better than your own. You have to accept that, you know. So that's like the biggest thing within the honestly, the film industry in general that a lot of people kind of tend to forget because they live in their own kind of like holes. And at the end of the day, like you can't do everything on your own, like you can't. So the filmmaking community is, is truly special.



 

"it's almost like running a marathon and you're tired, you know, and you have that buddy next to you or a few buddies next to you, and they're like, Come on, let's keep going. I'm still going. So you can keep going. And you're just getting to that finish line. That's the process of making a film."

 

When you get a right group of friends around you, especially friends, and you build those connections and you are just being a nice person, like there's so many people are just not nice! And it's like, why do you have to be rude? Like you have so many people volunteering their time to like, help you make this thing real and they're proud that their name just comes on at the end for like 10 seconds, like, be real, Come on. You know? So I would say that the most special part about the filmmaking community is being able to truly nurture and foster impactful connections and make lifelong friends because the production process is a lot, like it takes a lot. You're crying, you're stressed. I never cried. I've been lucky so far. But like you get to the point where you're stressed out, you're hungry, you're just In go mode and I work like a workhorse. So it's like being- it's almost like running a marathon and you're tired, you know, and you have that buddy next to you or a few buddies next to you, and they're like, Come on, let's keep going. I'm still going. So you can keep going. And you're just getting to that finish line. That's the process of making a film.


What's your favorite part of the process, and what do you find difficult about it? And that's referring to kind of the whole thing, whether that be video production or being in the editing room or being on set for a film like Gemini Saga, etc.


 

"Just let the things go wrong because they will."

 

Um, it's a little tough because, like. Within every single phase of making anything there's always going to be a challenge. There's a challenge in pre-production, there's a challenge in production, there's a challenge in post-production. So each one of those kind of like three pillars of the process, have (a) thing. But the thread that kind of ties that all together is understanding that whatever you do- because I like friggin love organizing. Like I will organize and lose sleep and sleep only for 2 hours because I want to make sure that things just run as smoothly as possible. But, you know, being a professional creative means that you got to let go of perfectionism and you have to understand that, like, things are going to go wrong anyways, so just do your best to make it good, but don't stress out over what could go wrong. Just let the things go wrong because they will.



You know, come prepared of course. Like don't set yourself up, but most definitely have an understanding that there's always going to be something to fix. So, yeah, I mean, as far as the most difficult because I handle all three pillars, I would say editing is probably the hardest to manage because especially when you're directing your own projects and creating your own projects, you kind of hit this like "wanting it to be perfect" wall (and) sometimes it's really hard to break it. I just learned the other day, like speaking of Gemini Saga, that post-production depression exists. I didn't know that existed. And I definitely went through that with Gemini Saga because it was like, Yeah, the perfectionist factor was there. But also like I just spent so many months mulling over this project that I almost didn't want to let go. Because once you (do) once you let something kind of just exists in the world, that sounds off- it's like raising a kid and just letting it go. Bye! You know? So yeah, I would say editing would be the hardest, but every pillar of the process encounters many obstacles. But learning how to, you know, (take) your losses and be better for next time and just keep tabs on how to continue growing is the key to overcoming those obstacles.


(The Gemini Saga)


And last but not least, this is a bit open ended and you may have touched on it before, but what does making your art mean to you?


 

"I've had videos that have inspired events before. I've had videos that have inspired people to go and write a book before. I've had videos that have inspired people to continue doing music, continue running their business, because they saw themselves in a light that allowed them to feel more like they fit, that they belong in that role because they're too busy working in it, that they don't see how other people see them and now, through video, they're able to do that."

 

It means community. Like, I know it's like a basic word, but it's so impactful because community is where you get to make real connections, real impact, strive for, you know, more. Have a communal effort, whether that's like- I've had videos that have inspired events before. I've had videos that have inspired people to go and write a book before. I've had videos that have inspired people to continue doing music, continue running their business, because they saw themselves in a light that allowed them to feel more like they fit, that they belong in that role because they're too busy working in it, that they don't see how other people see them and now, through video, they're able to do that. So and yeah, I mean, Gemini Saga (is) the reason Off the Reel film festival exists and now we're here to stay, you know. So that was a thing since I worked so closely with Ripple Effect, we throw events anyways. The film festival came out of that like it was like, well, we have a film, how do we open this up to everybody else? And then we showed that film at the end of the night and it was Wednesday's birthday so we were like, "sure" like, let's just kind of go ham on that. So that's what I'm saying, like, out of all of these things, community has come out of it, difference has come out of it, and other people are just like, "Put me in next, put me in next!" And it's really cool to to be able to- it's a privilege to be able to tell people stories and be trusted enough to kind of like make them feel important, you know?

 

This article was written by Samira Burnside. You can contact her at sburnside@thequeernotion.com


You can find Yaselyn Perez on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/thatsjustyas/?hl=en


And find most of her work here: https://amap.to/yaselynperez/

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