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“Improv A Saving Grace” Directed by Amalia Ramirez Atilez (California)

By Mikel Fair / a few months ago
Ricky Cruz Screen Shot 2018-05-15 Improv A Saving Grace Directed by Amalia Ramirez Atilez 4

Treating Depression With Comedy: Improv A Saving Grace

First of all, Improv A Saving Grace, directed by Amalia Ramirez Atilez is a 2018 Oregon Documentary Film Festival Official Selection. Furthermore, this film screened on May 25, 2018. This film is about how Ricky Cruz is dealing with his depression and will warm your heart. Ricky and his parents, who were visiting from South Africa, attended the screening. Ricky Cruz was very candid during his Q&A about how much he missed his grandmother, as well as, dealing with this loss. The judges of the Oregon Documentary Film Festival nominated Improv A Saving Grace for the Best Short Film Award. From some of the audience questions, I could tell that people had fun watching the film. This film also sparked in interest in Improv comedy in general, therefore inspiring some attendees to support Improv events in Portland. 

Improv A Saving Grace: Synopsis

"A short personal reflection on how improv, sketch comedy and live theatre can be an aid and coping mechanism. Life hurts, but improv heals." I had a chance to ask Ricky Cruz if there is a special meaning to the title? "It plays on the idea that improv is a respective saving grace that people may look. Simultaneously it refers to the action of having to improvise to find your relative saving grace."

Improv A Saving Grace Directed by Amalia Ramirez Atilez: Synopsis

Improv A Saving Grace, directed by Amalia Ramirez Atilez, is a self reflective narrative documentary that stemmed from a turbulent period of adjustment, loss and trauma. Ricky Cruz found support and comfort in live theatre, sketch comedy and improv. He wanted to chronicle the healing power of the performance arts in this short documentary. He hopes that anyone who may be experiencing similar difficulties, may be made aware that there is a productive, creative and powerful outlet to channel pain and suffering. Ricky Cruz dedicates the documentary's nominations and awards won to his grandmother Colleen Fox. Ricky Cruz is a producer, writer and actor from South Africa.

Interview with Ricky Cruz (Part One)

  1. Why did you submit to the Oregon Documentary Film Festival? "I have always wanted to visit Portland and Oregon. Considering my short documentary is such a personal piece, I wanted to submit and screen it at festivals which held some sort of sentimental weight. A personal history for myself."
  2. Why did you choose to tell this particular story? "The short documentary chronicles a very difficult period in my life in which I struggled with loss, pain and guilt and in which I felt as if all hope was lost. I wanted to tell my story through a documentary as a way to cope with the suffering, hoping that the final product would be some sort of resource that could be accessed by others experiencing a similar difficulty and reassure them that there is a productive and creative way to channel pain and suffering into something bigger and beautiful."
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Cameras, Audio and Gear

What camera(s) did you use to during the production of this film? "Everything would always be easier with more money and more equipment. Having said that, an awesome team and crew who care about the project can make a tight budget feel much bigger. My director Amalia Ramirez has a phenomenal ability to simultaneously think creatively. and technically. As as result, this makes her a great director and a huge asset on any set. We used a RED camera which looks phenomenal. But above all, it was the creativity and competence of Robert Ford, who was our remarkable DP. Robert ensured that any potential issue was quickly snuffed out to the point beyond notice. 

I also owe a great deal to Zane Hudson, who is a great actor and friend of mine. Above all, helped me record the personal and sometimes painful voice over in his homemade ADR booth. Sean Babapulle, another friend of mine and my roommate at the time, punctuated the scenes with his original score. Sean recorded the music in his bedroom following the filming of the documentary."

Interview With Ricky Cruz (Part Two)

  1. Did you discover certain story elements during the production of this film that you never expected to find in the planning stages of this project? "The process of self reflection and engaging in a stream of consciousness and honest self analysis was always something that I knew would be therapeutic, but I was really surprised as to just how cathartic the process was and how helpful and healing the experience really was."
  2. Did anything happen during the production of this film that was very interesting, but never made it on camera? "We actually intended to include numerous interviews that we shot with myself as multiple improv characters that I have gotten comfortable performing, but, while I thought they were interesting and funny, I think they took too much attention away from the overall message that I wanted the documentary to get across."
Oregon Documentary Film Festival 2018 Ricky Cruz Improv A Saving Grace Amalia Ramirez Atilez

Interview With Ricky Cruz (Part Three)

  1. How did you fund this film? "I funded this project with the money I earned and saved as a stage manager at the theaters I worked at and discuss in the documentary including but not limited to: The Victory Theater Centre, The ACME Comedy Theatre and The Groundlings Theatre and School."
  2. What kind of audience reaction are you getting to this film? Discuss any Positives or Negatives that you feel comfortable talking about. "The documentary seems to be further fueling the discussion on the healing power and impact that theater can have on trauma, loss, pain and suffering in general. I believe it is a key element particularity in grief counseling and I'm just happy that there is now an additional tangible and personal referral to explore the idea that can hopefully help someone else experiencing similar difficulties."
Improv A Saving Grace Poster Amalia Ramirez Atilez Ricky Cruz

Interview With Ricky Cruz (Part Four)

  1. Do you have plans for a sequel or future film that you are working on? "I would like to explore the healing power of live performance further on different kinds of pain and suffering (with respect to illnesses, diseases, PTSD, depression etc) and study the impact it has on individuals in a feature length format."
  2. You have completed a documentary film, which is a huge achievement. Do you have any advice for a future filmmaker that is about to start a documentary project? Advice that you wish you had been given before you started yours? "I really do believe that truth, honesty and passion for subject matter makes for interesting and relatable stories in filmmaking and as painful, difficult or off-putting as it may be, the outcome is really rewarding and something worth pursuing."
Oregon Documentary Film Festival 2018 Ricky Cruz Improv A Saving Grace Amalia Ramirez Atilez
About the author

Mikel Fair

My name is Mikel Fair. I am the Director of Film Festival Circuit Inc. First of all, we are a company that manages film festival events in Texas and Oregon. Furthermore, we like to have fun and celebrate independent film. I worked for 15 years in the television and film production as a location sound mixer and production manager. I have also worked in post production as an editor, post sound mixer and composer. Above all, watching independent films and reading creative screenplays is my passion.


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