Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza, Director: KNOW HOW
1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of KNOW HOW, from concept to financing.
Each year a group of foster care youth discover a non-profit called the Possibility Project. These teenagers are chosen to participate in the program based on their desire to create a better world. They come together for one year to share their stories. They learn to create change for themselves and their communities. They also create an original musical from the stories of their lives.
I actually went to one of their first shows when I was in high school, and after college volunteered to shoot some of the productions. I fell out of touch with them once I started directing my first feature. And then, in 2010, I got a call from the founder, Paul Griffin, requesting a meeting. They wanted to make a movie.
The project felt like an amazing one to be a part of. I’d get to work with foster care youth to tell their stories for the screen and then they’d star in the film itself. It also sounded incredibly challenging, high risk, and unlikely to get funded. So we started by making a short fundraising piece for the film; rather than focus on it as a motion picture, the pitch was based on youth development and creating change with a national conversation. A day after the musical premiered on stage, we had a few major donations come in that allowed us to move forward — and so what originally was unlikely became very real overnight.
2Q: Cinequest is proud to host the World Premiere of KNOW HOW. Explain to us how it feels to bring this film before audiences for the first time, and what do you think their reaction will be to your film?
I’m so excited for others to see Know How, and could not be prouder to world premiere at Cinequest with a team that really understands what the mission has been all along: change the foster care system. All along the film has persevered through seemingly insurmountable odds due to the incredible strength of the youth telling their stories, the folks behind the camera who wanted to help them, and all those surrounding the picture who understand what a unique and important film it is.
I hope audiences learn more about what youth in foster care go through, are inspired by their stories, and will take action to help support others like them.
3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making KNOW HOW?
They call production a war because it can really feel that way, and when there’s a lot riding against a production, like in our case, it felt like the universe was against us. My assistant director would joke, “This movie is a 13 inch foot trying to fit in a size 9 shoe”, and he was right, we were creating an incredibly ambitious project with over sixty actors, hundreds of extras, in over twenty locations, on a shoestring budget, with a cast of youth in foster care whose lives were tumultuous. The day before we started shooting one of the cast members said, “We are Warriors, Juan Carlos” The next four months of production we battled to capture the moment. It was glorious and it was horrible.
On the one hand, I’ve never felt so alive than I did when on set. There were emotional scenes where a cast member would break down in tears, and we’d work through those moments together. There were other days where we were so frustrated that I didn’t think we’d make it out of production alive. I have never been more worried, pumped full of adrenaline, and ready to fight for what I believed in; what we believe in. Those days were lived in superlatives as if the world itself would come apart at the seams. Nothing has ever been so terrifying and gratifying as those moments of creation.
It’s a musical written and acted by youth in foster care, about their own lives. Have you ever heard of anything like that in your life? I don’t think there’s ever been something quite like this movie. These are voices of youth who are rarely heard, and it’s incredibly important to listen to what they have to say about the system we’ve created.
I had a teacher once say something that really stuck with me “Only Connect, that’s all you have to do”. He meant that our primary responsibility as filmmakers is to connect with audiences. He used to say it every single week in class, write it on the board, and I always wondered why he would reiterate it so much. Around the end of the year he told us, “It’s hard to remember what teachers said in school, and if there’s one thing you should take away more than anything else from film school it’s to only connect.” A decade later he’s the only person whose words I remember crystal clear; that age old idea that movies bring people together and help us see universal truths in each other. While watching “Know How” you will likely laugh, be angry, sad, and may even cry, but more importantly I hope you leave on a mission to change the world.
5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won an Oscar for KNOW HOW. Give us your acceptance speech.
Good evening and thank you so much for this award. I wouldn’t be here without the love and support of my wife Taylor, my family and friends. Above all I wouldn’t be here without the youth in foster care who breathed life into this film, the cast and crew who put in nights and weekends, Marcus Clarke without whom production would have been lost, and Paul Griffin whose vision for the nonprofit he started years ago breathed life into “Know How”.
A long while ago, before starting the motion picture, amidst some tumult, and looking for some direction in life, I started looking at the potential to do good, be good, and letting the rest follow. It led me to this movie and things falling in place rather miraculously, so I knew I must be on the right track. One day, during pre-production, when the youth and I were creating personal mantras to follow, I came up with one that has defined my life since 2010, and I’d like to tell you what it is: I am here on this earth to be a vessel for change. To fix the social inequities I perceive in our world. I use my love and willpower to create tangible change.
If you agree, I hope that tonight will be the beginning of a quest for you to do the same. Thank you so much for this award, I’ve been dreaming of it since I was a boy.
See KNOW HOW at Cinequest!
“Like” them on Facebook!
Follow them on Twitter!
***Help raise funds so the foster care cast can come to the World Premiere at Cinequest!***