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John Sheedy: Director, The Tijuana Project

February 16, 2013

sheedy1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of THE TIJUANA PROJECT, from concept to financing.

The concept for The Tijuana Project was shared with me by Victor Villaseñor, author of Rain of Gold. I was looking for a story of hope about kids living and surviving in an inhospitable place and he told me about the kids in the Tijuana garbage dump and a school that was built for them right next to the dump.  I only had $1,000 to start with, but after seeing the apocalyptic environment where these kids and their families lived and worked I knew I had to do the film.

2Q: What were the reasons for picking the specific children who you focused on?  Do you know their current status in Tijuana?

I knew that I had to profile a group of kids to make the film more personal and these kids actually found me.  I was filming in the dump my second day and ten year old Juan Pedro started following me because he thought I might have pizza.  We goofed off and played with the camera and he ultimately invited myself and my crew back to the shack where his family lives.  I loved the energy of Juan Pedro and his brothers, sisters, and cousins and chose them to profile.  I also liked that fact that his mom, Valentina is such a hard worker in the dump with a positive attitude. I have stayed in touch with Valentina, Juan Pedro and the other kids and we talk every month.  Juan Pedro is doing well in school and joined a soccer team.  His cousin Reyna is now almost 15 and wants us to help her throw a quinceañera party.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making
THE TIJUANA PROJECT?

My best experience on the project was working with Valentina in the dump on a sunny fall day with the ground shaking like jello underneath everytime a dump truck passed.  I helped her carry her bags and she got excited every time she found a treasure in the garbage.  Then a truck showed up and dumped a load of fresh watermelons.  We all ran and broke open the watermelons to eat together.

My worst experience is when my car was stolen out of the dump neighborhood.  I was picking up Valentina and in the five minutes it took me to run down to her shack, someone broke in and hot wired my car escaping with everything in it including my cameras.  We had to walk back across the border in the rain empty handed.  My friends in the dump neighborhood came together to find out who stole the car, but unfortunately he had already sold it to the car crusher for $200 worth of metal.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

People should see my film because, although it addresses some very hard and depressing global themes, it shows hope and presents answers in a fun way with cool kids.

5Q: The current market for independent films is fractured, to put it lightly, and existing distribution models grow more ineffective with each passing moment. What are your hopes or plans for distribution?

We hope to get lucky and sell the film.

From → Interviews

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