Inside Barry Jenkins's Chlorophyl with Lead Ana Trevino
Chlorophyl, the 25-minute short directed by Miami native Barry Jenkins, stars first-time actress and Miami local Ana Trevino. It premiered at last month's Borscht Film Festival. If you saw the movie, regardless of your opinion, it didn't quite fit into the context of the arena in which it was presented.
It was wedged between fast-paced, zany flicks like Otto and the Electric Eel and the one-minute home run I Am Your Grandma. By contrast, Chlorophyl was a sprawling mood piece with a quiet look at listlessness by one opaque girl, so perfectly portrayed by Trevino.
This year's Borscht sought to capture the sounds of Miami, making films (not
music videos) inspired by local minstrels. Creating a film based on a
song is not easy. Neither is working with a budget under $10,000 or coordinating the schedules of rising stars like director
Barry Jenkins, who literally is the next big thing, or at least one of them.
indeed had its obstacles. MillionYoung, whose title song inspired the
film, was unable to appear in the movie because he was on tour. One of
the last scenes, shot at Grand Central, had to be re-written on the fly
due to an unexpected lack of backstage access and low crowd turn-out. The film shot in just over
three days, meaning no second chances or re-shoots.
Another potential obstacle for Chlorophyl
could've been the lead, Ana Trevino. She'd never acted before. However,
Trevino proved to be the perfect fit for Jenkins, a filmmaker drawn to subtle themes of humanity, loss, and what it means to be alive.
has this annoying tendency to scream its image, whereas Trevino's simplicity was visually spellbinding and
strikingly original. She was able to convey a quiet look at loneliness in a city known for its decadence and false idols -- a theme
totally conducive to Borscht.
Borscht still has high expectations for Chlorophyl. Now that time is actually a luxury, Barry Jenkins is tightening the film, and it will be re-sound designed out in L.A. Then the boys will send their baby off to all of the fine mustache twirling film festivals like Cannes and Sundance. In the meantime, we caught up with Trevino.
New Times: How did you get involved in Chlorophyl?
I was approached by Barry Jenkins quite surprisingly. We met about two
years back at a small party. We hit it off that
night. I got a good vibe and thought he was a dope guy. To my surprise
over a year later, I received a message from him telling me about the
Borscht Film Festival and how he was commissioned to do a film in Miami.
He asked if I could help with the project, not as part of the crew, but
as the main actress.
I was flattered and surprised that he would think
of me to do this film. I've never been in front of a camera before
besides doing some photo shoots. I warned Barry that I didn't know
if I'd be the right choice since I had no experience. Barry's reaction
was always cool and positive and he constantly said that I was perfect
for it and not to sweat it. His attitude and belief in me to do the film
is what convinced me to work on it. Without that extra push I wouldn't
have been able to do it.
Any interesting anecdotes you remember while filming? Behind the scenes stuff?
of the funniest things that happened on set was that we had to have
joints in stock for the scene where I'm dancing in the living room of
the house. Barry said I had to have a drink in my hand and a joint in
the other. One of the PAs on the set had bought oregano so she made fake
joints out of it.
We ended up using them in a scene where I'm on the balcony
with my friends smoking a joint. I forgot it was oregano. I was
disgusted, but I rolled with it because I didn't want to complain or
mess up the scene. Never smoke oregano, it sucks!
Barry Jenkins is on the verge of becoming a very successful director in Hollywood. How was it working with him?
has to be one of the best directors to work with. He has a great
attitude on set and always wants to make it as smooth as possible during
shooting. He constantly sat with me and explained what he wanted for
each scene and made it very easy to get comfortable in front of the
camera. He's not uptight or bossy which you see in many directors. He
makes sure everyone is on the same page and wants you to have a good
time while working. You don't feel like it's actual work. He transmits a
good vibe to everyone in the room.
I'm not used to being the center of
attention by any means so having a group of people around you that
you've just met and then have to act in front isn't the easiest thing to
do. Not once did I feel nervous or embarrassed in front of the camera
because of Barry's motivation. He told me to just be myself and do my
best and that's exactly what I did.
The script seemed very loose. Was that a challenge for you?
I first read the treatment, I really liked the simplicity of it. I asked
about the script and what I would be saying and Barry told me I'd be
pretty much improvising the entire time. That actually made me feel
relieved because I think it would have been a much bigger challenge for
me to memorize and read lines. I don't think I can come across as
believable if I would've read lines. I like that the scenes were set up
for me before shooting so I'd just go with the flow and react as if I
were really in that situation. It was much easier than I anticipated.
people think the character in Chlorophyl (her name was Ana, right?) was
a little unsympathetic. Like why should we care about her. For example,
the scene at the De La Cruz gallery. While being interviewed for a hard
to get job, she's poorly dressed and texting during the interview. How
do you respond to the sympathy criticism?
I think it could go
either way. Some people might see Ana as a lost girl that has no idea
what she's going to do with her life and just trying to get through a
break-up, and be sympathetic. I think everyone could relate to her
because everyone has had their heart broken. When a relationship ends
that you don't want to it's hard to accept that the other person has
moved on. You're helpless and don't know what to do. Everyone's been
there. That's another reason why I accepted doing the project, I've been
there and could relate.
You've worked in film production. What exactly do you do on set?
done just about everything on set, from PAing to coordinating to
assisting with wardrobe. I'm still trying to figure out what I like the
most about working on production and what area of it I want to focus on.
A day on set can either be easy or very hectic, depending on what
you're shooting. I recently PA'd for the Charlie's Angels pilot
and got to spend a few days inside a mansion on Star Island for a huge
party scene. Production definitely has its perks. Now I'm working for Rock of Ages.
What's next for you?
now I'm trying to focus back on photography. I've been shooting for
years and I really want to get back into it. I started printing again
and want to work on my portfolio this year. Hopefully in the future I'll
be able to shoot for a living.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about arts and culture events in Miami and offers you won't hear about anywhere else.