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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.

Chlorophyl

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.

Going up or down?
Going up or down?

Going up or down?

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.

Miami

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?

Ana Trevino:

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?

One

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?

Barry

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.

Midtown chillin
Midtown chillin

Midtown chillin

The script seemed very loose. Was that a challenge for you?

When

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.

Some

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?

I've

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?

Right

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.

Inside Barry Jenkins's Chlorophyl with Lead Ana Trevino

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