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Alumni Scholarship Award Winner's Film About Sacrifice and Secrets

“You have to make your art first and foremost for yourself”

Over the next few weeks, SVA will be highlighting some of the many outstanding projects by its 2019 Alumni Scholarship Award winners. Today's featured work is by MPS Directing student Mateo Márquez, whose short film The Quiet follows a young man as he grapples with family sacrifices and long-held secrets.

Tell us about your project. What inspired the idea?
My thesis film, currently titled The Quiet, is the story of a young soldier who returns home in search of his brother amidst a deadly outbreak. Once he arrives, he discovers that his mother has been keeping a secret that puts them both in jeopardy.

The inspiration for this piece came from the experiences I have had growing up with my parents and my discovery of them as individual people. It has shocked me how my perception of them has radically altered from my time as an infant, through my teenage years, and now as a young adult. Over those years they became less idolized forms and more complex characters in my life. In my effort to understand them and their personas I made this piece to hopefully understand the things I like and do not like about them, and to ultimately question my role in their lives as an adult and beyond.

What most surprised you once you started working on the project?
For this project, in particular, I found the writing process to be the most surprising and challenging part. The MPS Directing program really stresses collaborating with professional screenwriters to have the highest caliber script. I had always written my own scripts, so expressing my thoughts to two screenwriters proved to be a tough but rewarding challenge.

What was a highlight of living and studying in New York City?
I have luckily always had the privilege of living, studying and working in New York City. I am a Queens native, so the Big Apple has been my creative sandbox for 25 years. However, I am always pleasantly surprised at the diverse pool of talent this city attracts and makes projects much more engaging.

What is something you learned at SVA that you'll always take with you?
Ultimately the lesson I've learned the most in this program and the College at large is the importance of a good community of artists. SVA provides many different fields of study, but it feels like everyone is here to achieve the same goal: artistic autonomy.

Was there a teacher or course that was essential for you?
All the classes in MPS Directing had excellent instructors who were attentive and gracious with sharing their firsthand experiences in the industry. However, the person who made me understand the structure of story and the power it has was my screenwriting instructor, Joshua James. His honesty and humility in the story-creating process was a refreshing perspective on a craft that can sometimes feel formulaic.

What was your favorite piece of advice that a teacher or student shared with you?
I believe the best piece of advice came from a fellow student. She said, "You have to make your art first and foremost for yourself." I believe it can be easy to have so many opinions crammed in your head, along with the high expectations to appease everyone, that you forget why you make the art that you do.

What advice do you have for next year's students going through your program?
I would advise any student who decides to embark on the journey that is Bob Giraldi's MPS Directing program to have thick skin. Bob's strong personality will push you to make the best piece of cinema possible, but not without obstacles. Ultimately his passion and tenacity create better filmmakers ready to face a very demanding industry.

This interview has been condensed and edited. For more on The Quiet, check out its Seed and Spark campaign to fund the completion of its post-production.

For this year's SVA Alumni Scholarship Awards, a record 68 students were chosen from a pool of over 270 applicants and were granted scholarships worth more than $60,000 for projects as varied as design products, animation, painting and photography. For more information about the Alumni Scholarship Awards and to see a complete list of this year's recipients, click here
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For more information about SVA's MPS Directing program, click here.

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