Jeff Rivera is an American writer | producer with an extensive body of work across all platforms, including TV, radio, and online. He is a contributor and entertainment reporter for the Huffington Post where he has interviewed nearly 200 high profile subjects.
A New York Based Author/Filmmaker Jeff Rivera, this is Jeff’s first attempt at making a feature film and he is very excited about this project. Jeff is also writing the songs for the movie. He wrote the book “Sing For Me” which is one of the songs he is writing for the movie around that book.
Divine Magazine caught up with Jeff to ask him some questions regarding his first attempt at filmmaking
Just to set the mood, I’m going to ask you a couple of silly questions, to begin with.
Give us your best pick up line
It’s been so long since I used a pick-up line I don’t even remember.
Name something you’re embarrassed to say you like
I have several guilty pleasures on TV such as The Wendy Williams Show and The Kardashians.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
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I would love to be able to make myself invisible and also to fly and walk through walls.
Okay now onto the more serious questions
What’s harder: getting started or being able to keep going?
Definitely getting started.
When inspiration is waning, when you feel creatively sapped, what do you do? How do you stay fresh?
I take a walk or I wash the dishes or take a shower. Something that lets my mind float.
How do you know when your story’s finished, when to walk away?
When I’m working on something I just know intuitively when it’s time to finish it or when the story is wrapped up. There’s a voice inside that tells you you’ve told as much as you need to tell.
Have you got a favorite movie that may have inspired you?
There so many movies have inspired me. Everything from ET: The Extraterrestrial to The Color Purple and Beyond.
Have you got any particular actors in mind for this movie?
For the film that I’m working on, I want only unknowns. I like the idea of discovering someone that hasn’t got a chance yet to make a break. And introducing them to the world.
How does where you live influence how and what you make, and how do you think NY currently affects your work and process? Would you move to LA?
I think living in the New York area influences me because I’m exposed to so many different types of people. There are stories everywhere and this area is a walking history book. No, I don’t think I would ever move to Los Angeles because I feel more at home in the New York area.
Do you ever get angry at a movie, what sets you off? Are there common qualities in cinema today that you dislike? Is there something you try to subvert to avoid to rebel against in your work?
I can’t think of a movie that I get angry about or that I have gotten angry about, but I’m sure there are moments when you get frustrated with a character and you question why they’re doing what they’re doing. That happens a lot when I watch horror flicks and you wonder why the characters are running into danger instead of running away from it. I think the closest thing I try to avoid when I’m working on something is having only one type of person. I try to have as much diversity as possible and that goes beyond just people color. It also means different body types or ages or language is it possible and of course sexuality.
How much do you think commerce affects your art? Or: how much do you have to compromise as a filmmaker because of financial restrictions or business?
That’s a really good question
because when you’re telling a story you want to tell the story that you’re passionate about, but you also know that if you can make it commercially successful that it will open doors to tell other stories are passionate about. One thing I learned when writing a romance was to write for the audience and sometimes that meant working on stories that I wasn’t necessarily passionate about. Now I’m focused on working on stories and a passionate about and telling the stories I want to tell and trying not to sell out whatsoever. There are compromises that I have to make to appeal to the audience more, but I don’t think that I overdo it.
What is the one mistake (in your opinion) most filmmakers make, regardless of experience?
I think there are common technical mistakes that filmmakers make such as not having great sound or making their film feel more like a home video than a film. But sometimes that is just a personal and creative choice. I think in general, storytellers have to be conscious not to bore the audience and to keep the story moving.
Why do you think there are so few women in filmmaking?
Being a man I don’t know if I’m qualified to answer this, but I can only imagine that the more women filmmakers see themselves in front of and behind the camera, the more it will inspire others what is possible. It’s the same thing that happens with people of color.
We all hear so often about the lack of original stories in the world. That we’ve all “seen it before”. How do you stay fresh in the face of an idea like that?
Well, first of all, there’s nothing new under the sun. All you can do is tell the best story you can that you’re passionate about and hope that people enjoy it. Also, sometimes telling a familiar story is important. People say they want original stories, but when you introduce that to them, oftentimes they reject them. One thing I learned from writing gay romance was that what people say they want and what they buy are often two different things. That said, I try my best and hope that it’s fresh.
What/who were some of your major influences when you first started out?
Of course, what filmmaker isn’t inspired by people like Steven Spielberg or Spike Lee? But I was also inspired by authors who wrote books like Where the Red Fern Grows or Summer of the Monkeys or other kids books excuse not to grab your camera and just start shooting. Also, stories from the Bible were very inspirational to me and my mom used to read to us when we were little.
What advice do you have for any young/aspiring directors who want to get started?
I think my biggest piece of advice for young aspiring directors would be that there is no excuse at the grab your camera and just start shooting. Waiting around to be discovered or to be picked by Hollywood is a waste of time. All that time that you’re waiting you could grab a camera and start shooting and creating. The technology and the free software that’s available online makes it much easier to just get started.
Is there a favorite director you look up to?
Steven Spielberg by far. He’s awesome. I also love Steven Soderbergh.
What was the most important lesson you have earned that has had a positive effect on your film? And can you share with us how that lesson happened?
One of the lessons that I’ve learned is to just tell the story you’re passionate about and trust your instinct. You’re not going to appeal to everyone, you’re not supposed to. And it’s a bit of a numbers game. The more stories you can tell, the more chances there are that something is going to be successful.
You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?
Most of the people that I have on my team are people who I have met online initially. Some of us have been working together or I become friends for years and yet have not met face-to-face yet. Basically, the way that I keep that relationship going is treating them the way I like to be treated and keeping in touch often. Also taking an interest in their personal projects and not just an interest in my own. We try to support each other. It’s important that I try to follow through and do what I say I’m going to do, when I say I’m going to do it because that builds trust in each other and they know that we can count on each other.
Jeff, could you tell the reader about the book to film project you’re currently busy with?
Sing to Me is the story of a young couple who married too soon and their first year together. It’s a tearjerker with a feel of a Nicholas Sparks type of story. It’s definitely an emotional roller coaster that people have enjoyed as a novel and I in the back of my mind thought would make a great film.
Divine would like to thank Jeff for taking the time to answer all our nosy questions and be a true sport. We wish him all the best with his project and hope he’ll visit us again soon.
Rivera began his career as a child actor which led to his becoming an assistant casting director for a C.S.A. member. Together, they cast bit parts, extras and principle roles in episodes of television, music videos, national commercials, video games, and feature films, such as episodes of CSI, America’s Most Wanted, Subway Sandwiches, James Bond the video game, to name a few.
Eager to expand on his talent and interest in storytelling, Rivera turned his attention to writing. He became a bestselling author, co-author and ghostwriter of nearly 100 books.
Rivera has appeared on national television, radio and print in such outlets as Forbes.com, The Boston Globe, Publishers Weekly, Right On! Magazine, Rotarian Magazine, TMZ, WABC, WNBC, WCBS, SITV, American Latino and NPR. Rivera has also written for Entertainment Weekly, Mediabistro/Adweek, GalleyCat, Publishing Perspectives, Digital Book World, Examiner, American Chronicle, School Library Journal and the Huffington Post.
Rivera is an internationally sought after speaker who gives inspirational talks on his life journey overcoming poverty and homelessness, as well as participates in panel discussions for The Library Journal, Authors Guild, the Harlem Book Fair and many others.
Rivera has produced social media campaigns, Skype/Google Hangout tours and web content for many high profile influencers, including Mark Cuban, Mark Victor Hansen, Jeff Kinney, Elmore Leonard, Mitch Albom, Stan Lee, Seth Godin, Nicholas Sparks, James Van Praagh, and cast members from from the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.
Rivera now develops film, television and web content full-time as a writer | producer.
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