Jorge "Jokes" Yanes Talks Producing Avaricious and Making Movies From Scratch
Jorge "Jokes" Yanes is one of the most respected filmmakers in Miami.
Almost ten years before Youtube, when the TV news was still editing on Beta tapes, Yanes built his own computerized editing system in his family's home from Chinese parts bought in Doral.
He's done every job on every set in the 305, and put in more work as an independent than some do their whole lives. He's a mentor to many, including award-winning documentary maker Michael Garcia, who's first narrative short, Avaricious, he's also producing. Here's what Jokes had to say about putting in work, scriptwriting, and working with Mark Wahlberg's brother, Jim Wahlberg, on a comedy series.
New Times: Congratulations on all your years of hard work. Anybody who has worked in Miami's production community knows you, and even from the time when I was a PA on sets like eight or ten years ago, you're someone a lot of people look up to...
Jorge Yanes: Damn, thanks.
You got started as a kid writing graffiti?
Yeah, I used to write Cam or Cams, that was my first tag from like age 15 to 18. But I got caught so many damn times that I eventually got out of that. I used to make music, too. I always been an artist my whole life with painting, drawing, sculpture, but I really express myself more through film since my early 20s when I got bit by the film bug.
You were doing script writing then?
Yeah, I got hired while I was still going to film school at MDC to write scripts for some urban films. At that time I was also working as a production assistant too and all that stuff.
How'd you get started making movies?
I kinda always did my own productions and I'd get my hands on cameras however. As a matter of fact, the first music video I ever shot was for Garcia. I bought a DV camera on a credit card and then returned it when we were done shooting. And that's how I did his first video. I was focused on doing movies, but I met Garcia when he was just starting and I was finishing film school. He was a rapper and he was like "Yo, we should do a music video." And I was like , "Word, let's do it." I was the only guy who had an editing system at that time.
What do you mean by that?
I built my own non-linear editing system in like 1998 or '99 in my house. I found a VideoMaker magazine that was like, "you can build your own editing system with parts you can buy." So I went to all the Chinese stores in Doral and searched out the pieces, put in special orders for parts, and I built it, and it fuckin' worked. I didn't know if it was going to, but it did, and I started editing.
Damn, hell yeah, you and Robert Rodriguez must have been almost the only motherfuckers with some shit like that in their house.
Ha, yeah, and that's how me and Garcia got down and we became good friends.
You did that show for Mun2, The Roof, and Mayday's video for Groundhog Day with Cee-Lo when Youtube first came out and got a million views over night, right? The New York Times even wrote an article about it right...
Yeah. Every year I would set goals for myself and then go accomplish them.
And more recently you directed the movie Eenie Meenie Miney Moe....
Yeah, that's out right now on video on demand on Comcast, Verizon, and Cox, and it's also in Red Box, and Amazon Instant Prime, and coming soon to Netflix. So little by little.
How'd that come about?
I made Eenie Meenie Miney Moe to be independent. It's an underground flick. When it comes to making these small movies, it's hard to be profitable or anything. Realistically, it's more about learning the whole process. The big movie studios aren't gonna be around much longer and we really wanted to create a piece that we did ourselves from beginning to end.
And now you're working on Garcia's Avaricious, can you tell some about that?
...It was an early draft, and me and him were just talking and strategizing cause we've worked on countless music videos together and in the last couple of years he's really gotten into film. He's a rapper, but he branched out. When I raised the money for my feature, the reason I was able to do it is cause I worked my ass off and saved, and I also had some investors because of the narrative work I've done. So I told Garcia, "You have to do a short film that shows you can handle narrative work." He's done award-winning documentary work now with the movie Coming Home, but he's still got to prove himself in the narrative field. Real investors don't fund something from somebody that doesn't even have a short film.
Cool, then what?
...It was about him doing him. And when the script was done and in a good place, he said, "I'm gonna do a crowdfunding campaign to make the movie. Do you wanna work on it?" And I was like, "Fuck yeah, I'm down."
What's your role in the movie?
I'm the producer. And on set, I was the assistant director, making the schedules, running the set, and I edited it.
How does it fit into the local film community?
I think it's a great representation of what's going on in Miami, and without being too over the top, it's real, it's genuine, and our focus was to get Miami actors to look good, and look right. And all the goals we set for ourself, we accomplished. Now we've set up Mike as a guy who can do a narrative, and all of us together can execute at a level the same as Hollywood or anywhere else they do film.
How did you approach the technical aspects of the production?
Mike and I both work in production, so we're used to doing it at a high level, with high quality, and it's never gonna be lower than what we've already done. That's the type of guy I am, and that's the type of guy he is. I don't give a fuck if I'm getting the food, I'm going to do it the best that it can be done. That's how we've both been since we first met. And that's why it's a good synergy. I don't care who I am. I wanna make sure that it's hot, and that we all participate in that manner.
What do you think about Miami movies?
I wish there were more being made. I'm happy though that Miami has evolved. When I started like ten or 12 years ago I used to have to fly in directors of photography from Cali. Now I have the pick of the litter. There are great DP's and techs, and producers. What we're still lacking is writers who can write great screenplays. But Miami is evolving into a place where movies can be made completely from scratch right here.
What do you have coming next?
Right now I'm setting up a comedy series that I'm working on with Mark Wahlberg's brother. He's producing the series. I'm doing that now, in the next month. Then there's Mike's feature that he wants to do. That's kind of a lot of money, so in between that I'm doing a lot of music videos to pay the bills, and that's what we got on deck right now.
What does it take to get it done?
Showing initiative, and not being scared. Going full force. Every guy or every girl that's a filmmaker that doesn't get scared, and wants to get it done, that's what it takes. I left to L.A. and I came back because I want to be here and I want to build the industry here. Anybody that wants to build, hit me up at email@example.com.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about arts and culture events in Miami and offers you won't hear about anywhere else.