Growing up on Key Biscayne in the '90s, Xavier Manrique's foremost passion was playing tennis. But there was always something about the movies. "Any time it was raining, we couldn't play tennis, so we'd watch movies," Manrique tells New Times. "I'd obsess over everything on the screen: the photography, the music, the costumes. Same with every Sunday, when my Dad would take me to the Riviera or the Miracle Center to see a movie."
When he went off to college at George Washington University, Manrique thought movie-making would be a hobby, so he majored in finance. But during his junior year, he landed an internship at MTV Latin America, headquartered on Lincoln Road.
"I took the night shift and I learned to edit. I was converting shows like The Fabulous Life for English-speaking audiences to Spanish."
While at MTV, he met one of the first of his filmmaking mentors, Ricardo de Montreuil, who brought Manrique aboard to help produce the Spanish-language feature film Máncora.
From there, he was hooked. Manrique got a job shadowing the Miami-based director David Frankel on big-budget movies such as The Big Year and Hope Springs. Frankel believed in him enough that when Manrique found a script he wanted to direct, Chronically Metropolitan, Frankel came aboard as a producer.
"David gave me a lot of good advice. He taught me casting was 90 percent of directing. If you get the right actors, it makes the job of directing much easier. He also emphasized if we were going to shoot so many pages a day, we needed to do our medium and closeup shots before the wide ones. Most movies are shot the opposite way, but this way we could spend most of our time showing actors' emotions."
But before Manrique could apply those theories, he still needed to raise the money to shoot Chronically Metropolitan, a Woody Allen-influenced dramedy about a young writer who returns to New York City to deal with his dysfunctional family and the girl he left behind. "I got the script in 2012, and we didn't have the funding to shoot in New York for three years. We had the film cast three times, and three times the cast fell apart." Among the actors who were attached to star in it at one point were John Lithgow, Rita Wilson, and Sebastian Stan. Finally, in February 2015, with a budget of 1.2 million, a shooting schedule of 17 days, and a cast that included Mary-Louise Parker, Shiloh Fernandez, Ashley Benson, and Chris Noth, cameras were ready to roll.
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There was only one problem: "It was the coldest winter in New York in 80 years. A lot of the actors knew this was an indie, but they weren't used to the guerrilla filmmaking where we didn't have trailers. I think it brought them back to the thrill of starting out. The cold definitely gave their lines more urgency."
After wrapping that March, they spent the rest of the year in postproduction before showing the film around a myriad of festivals, including the Miami International Film Festival. It was picked up by Universal Home Entertainment, which will release the movie this August in ten cities, including Miami.
But having accomplished his mission of getting his first film made, Manrique still has the movie bug. He's in preproduction on directing The Kubrick, about a writer who finds an unproduced Stanley Kubrick script. His hope, though, is to one day film a feature in Miami.
"I'd love to shoot here," he says. "I'd always see modeling shoots and Miami Vice shooting here as a kid. Other states right now give rebates [to film productions]. I'm hoping one day Florida makes it favorable again for indie filmmakers to shoot here."