Making the mirror
Ever since he was a kid in the Bronx, Marco Santiago has wanted to make movies. Along the way, he took a detour and pursued education – a lot of it, and only some of it related to filmmaking. So far he’s garnered 500 college credits since 1983. Now a Phoenix resident, Santiago is back to his passion for writing and directing films, but this time with life experience under his belt.
Highlights: Two-time fellow of the NALIP Producers Academy: in 2006 as a producing fellow and in 2007 as a directing fellow. Two-time finalist for the Sundance Writers Lab: in 2007 for my 86 feature-film project and in 2008 for my adaptation of the satirical novel How to Cope with Suburban Stress by David Galef.
First film: A film school project titled El Tráfico, a story about an 8-year-old boy that gets caught up in the world of human smuggling along the Mexican border. The short was shot on 16mm film and went on to win a ton of awards at the school film festival. It basically swept the awards in 2004. I was totally shocked and humbled!
What do you hope to accomplish with your work? To make films that are intellectually interesting and to explore culturally significant themes that act like mirrors held up in front of the viewer’s face. They should be able to reflect on themselves based on what they see in my films.
What are you working on now? I’m currently in post production on my last short film, Xtraction, an action thriller set in Mexico about the world of organ trafficking. I’m also hard at work on the development of my first feature film, 86. My hopes are to go into preproduction on this project soon.
Favorite filmmakers: Directors and influencers – Paul Thomas Anderson, Martin Scorsese, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón and Oliver Stone. In my book, these guys are great artists and they are fearless. Actors – Philip Seymour Hoffman – what an incredibly versatile character actor. I’d also love to work with Ryan Gosling and Matt Damon. They have such good taste. And of course Jack Nicholson! As for female actors, I’d love to work with Vera Farmiga, another actor with great taste and sensibilities. And of course, I would love to be challenged by Meryl Streep.
Do you prefer writing, directing or producing? Why? I consider myself a writer-director, and I also enjoy the production process, but my first love is writing. I feel that directing is made so much easier if the writing is based on solidly drawn characters that actors want to work with and that are anchored by a solid thematic foundation.
Film credits: El Tráfico (2004); Once Upon a Time in the Desert (2005); Diablita (2007); Fallen Hero (2010); The Bear, cinematographer (2004).