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The feature film “SEEDS” wrapped up shooting in mid-June in Brownsville and Washington D.C., resulting in great memories and much anticipation for local cast and crew, three of whom spoke with The Brownsville Herald about the project.
Luis Foncerrada ran audio for the production. Dominic Hernandez as Diego and Franco Israel as Pepe had main roles in the film, which Foncerrada characterized as a political action thriller set in and around Brownsville and the nation’s capital. All three are Brownsville natives.
The film’s executive producer is Jeffrey R. Cohen. The directors and producers will have more to say about the film nearer its release, possibly sometime next year. A trailer, and later, a Brownsville showing are tentatively planned. The film employed about 60 extras locally, people associated with the movie said.
“Jeff Cohen owns the whole thing, the whole production company, as well as a bunch of record labels. He’s bringing like all these kids, some not so kids anymore, giving all these people opportunities to grow in the production sense. It’s an opportunity a lot of people don’t get, because normally you’re either in the scene or you’re not and it’s hard to get in, especially without that experience,” Foncerrada said.
“So what this man is doing is he is slowly gathering a crew, and they’re all Black and Hispanic and so he’s like giving all these people an opportunity to put a few titles on their resume.”
Foncerrada said he learned audio recording growing up around music. His family owns El Hueso De Fraile in downtown Brownsville, but he eventually branched out into other areas and now works mainly in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin. As the sound man his job was to capture everything that was said and heard during a shoot.
“We filmed over at the Port of Brownsville. We used it as a Mexico border sort of deal. We also did a few alleys downtown and a few days at the Balli residence over on Palm Boulevard,” he said.
Foncerrada said Brownsville is a great place to make movies because it has everything from jungle-like scenes to sandy beaches, downtown alleys and places where it looks just like LA at a fraction of the production costs of making a movie there.
“I was fortunate in that I don’t know how or why, but he decided to come down to Brownsville and he ended up calling me up. It was a very nice opportunity for me because the most professional person on that set was my partner, the guy I got to work with, Erik Meiselman. He’s been in big production, he lives in LA, he’s been in big production for 20, 30 years, probably most of his life, because that’s his legacy in the production realm. If you’re born into it, you get to jump a few steps and so I got to work with him, to learn about the film world within production. This was my first time working with someone that professional,” Foncerrada said.
“Erik was like the grandpa teaching everyone how things are done,” Foncerrada added. “There were people there doing extremely important jobs on the film set for the first time, you know green green people. I think it was a great experience for everyone. And you know the movie’s fun you know, thriller, political thriller-ish. We got to do some stunts, we got to kill some people, we got to you know do stuff that on a low-budget indie film we wouldn’t have been able to do, and this was all because of Jeff. Jeff Cohen was throwing his money at these guys and hoping to eventually develop a good solid crew to keep making movies.”
For Dominic Hernandez, it was his second time working on a feature-length film, the first being on a project with with Chris Elliott of Schitt’s Creek.
“I’m the guy from the Rio Grande Valley, from Matamoros. He’s trying to get back home,” Hernandez said of his role in SEEDS.
“So this is the first time I’ve actually been flown out for a project,” Hernandez, who lives in Los Angeles, said. “Being able to go to my childhood home and sleep there and then go to the film set is special. To be able to say ‘go hit this spot for food go hit that spot.’ It was a 36-day project.”
A notable point was one Saturday.
“We all had off and we went to South Padre Island, and I was able to show them what I grew up with, which was fun because as fun as making a film is, it’s a lot of work and a lot of long days. And everyone wants to do good work, but they also want to do good work in only eight hours. But sometimes it’s going to take 10 hours and sometimes 12 hours,” he said.
Another favorite moment was when he and his mother Rita Hernandez, who was part of the production team, went out for dinner together “and someone asked me what are you dong back in town, and I said I’m filming a movie and they said, ‘Oh SEEDS, I saw that on Facebook.’ That was really cool, the whole community was talking about it, the whole community knew about it. People were excited to hear about filming down here.”
Franco Gonzalez, a social studies teacher and soccer coach at Porter Early College High School, responded to a casting call he saw on the Brownsville Film Society Facebook Page in February and applied for a bit part as a police officer or medical student.
Instead, Gonzalez, who acts under the stage name Franco Israel, got chosen for one of the leads, the gang member Pepe.
“The director thought the exact opposite. I had applied for the role of a cop. She thought the role of gang member, a little bit bigger role. It was an amazing experience, the environment, the set, everybody that worked in it was so supportive so collaborative, so creative. It was just a great experience,” Israel said.
Israel said he had always wanted to try acting. Although he had worked in a couple of student films, he saw his chance with SEEDS.
“At a point it felt like I was in Disneyland. I was like a little kid walking in there seeing all that they were doing, right? Each time they were doing something different, because you would film a scene, right, but you would have to go back to the trailer. It would probably take 30-40 minutes to organize this different setup that we have, and most of the time I would just stay there, like mesmerized by how they were working,” he said.
“This only grows my interest in wanting to try more whenever I have the possibility … maybe someday to film in a production that’s out of Brownsville, maybe that’s even out of Texas.”
To see more, view Brownsville Herald photojournalist Miguel Roberts’ full photo gallery here: