AN INTERVIEW WITH Eric Ayala, DIRECTOR
As a filmmaker, please introduce yourself.
My name is Eric Ayala. I started out as a playwright and director for the theatre. I gradually moved into writing books.
In 2010, with 6 stage plays and 12 published books under my belt, I was prepared to tackle my first screenplay entitled Sunday Morning Rapture, which can now be seen on Prime Video. Not only was I privileged to write the script,
I was tapped to serve as Assistant Director. The acclaim received for that film prompted me to pen my own project,
If I Should Die Before I Wake, also on Prime Video.
Why you became a filmmaker as director and producer?
My journey into filmmaking was sort of an accidental path, if you believe in accidents. Some may call it providence.
After facilitating a writer’s conference in 2009, I was asked to write a Black History month play from one of the attendees.
One of the principal actors in that play had an idea for a film and asked me to write the script.
That script became Sunday Morning Rapture. The seed was planted and I was hooked on the process of seeing
a film progress from the written word to the ending credits on the screen.
Give some more information about yourself and the films you have made so far, about your experience?
Overcoming challenges might be part of the filmmaker's credo. I’ve come to discover that it is the determination
to do so that proves one's mettle. When I endeavored to write and direct If I Should Die Before I Wake,
I didn’t realize just how challenging that effort would be. I had been away from the stage for a number of years
and my first thought was to write this story as a stage play. It was suggested that I write it for film instead.
The same person that suggested the story be turned into a film also offered to finance the project.
Anyone who knows me knows that when you give me a green light I do not stand idle. As a very organized person,
by the time I left my meeting with this potential investor, I was already on the phone planning the auditions,
and my production team had begun to take shape. By August 2013, I’d received half the funds for the projected
budget with the promise that the balance would be paid at the close of filming. Sadly, the balance was not forthcoming,
but I’d made a promise and there were contracts that needed to be honored. I am, if nothing else, a man of my word.
It was a challenge to gather the remaining funds to get everyone paid, but that is exactly what I did.
A culmination of 28 awards, accolades, and the attendance at several indie film festivals later took the sting out of
what was surely a crushing blow. Landing on Prime Video wasn’t bad either.
What are the films or people that had impacts on you and deeply inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I have been inspired by the talents and the struggles of Issa Rae, Lena Waithe, Denzel Washington,
Jordan Peele, Ava DuVernay, Donald Glover, and Viola Davis, just to name a few. I not only love and
respect their considerable contributions to film and television, their work, grit and determination continues
to inspire and push me forward regardless of the obstacles and opposition.
You have made your film "Arlington Heights" which we saw the Trailer of the film in the
"American Golden Picture International Film Festival".
As a filmmaker, why you decided to make it?
I am so appreciative of the recognition of our trailer from the "American Golden Picture International Film Festival”.
Currently, the complete filming of Arlington Heights is pending. Right now, there is a trailer, a pitch deck,
and the proof-of-concept which I hope to use to garner financial support to complete the production.
What were some of the challenges you faced in making this specific film?
One of the major problems I experienced during the filming of the proof-of-concept is that one of the
principal actors contracted Covid which delayed our production by 2 weeks. Given the past issues with financing,
a bout with Covid was merely a blip on the radar.
Let us more about your experience in this film?
Arlington Heights is 1 of 3 projects that we filmed a proof-of-concept for based off of books that I’ve authored.
My goal is to find a home for each project, and also to get the backing to create a more extensive catalog for film, television,
or streaming based on all my IP. I wrote Arlington Heights in the fashion that I’ve done in my previous works.
There is a feature script as well as a breakdown for an episodic series.
It looks like cinematography, acting and editing in this film supports the story in a very effective way.
What was it like to work with all Cast and Crew?
I have been very fortunate since I began my foray into filmmaking. I have been supported by a very talented
cinematographer and editor, as well as a sound engineer that has deep ties to the industry, and most of all exceptional actors.
Some I’ve worked with over the years on other projects, others I am introduced to as new opportunities arise.
In each and every case everyone involved believes in me. They believe in the work.
They believe in its potential, and that is very gratifying.
For you what was the biggest lesson you had to learn after making this film?
Always have signed contracts. Never take anyone’s word for anything. No handshake deals. This was a painful and almost financially devastating lesson I learned doing If I Should Die Before I Wake. A lesson that I have leaned into for every project since.
What keeps you inspired to continue filmmaking?
The hope that one day someone will SEE me. Someone will find value in the talent and perseverance that I bring to the table.
Whether this ever happens or not, there is something deep within me, since I was a child writing backyard plays
for the neighborhood kids, that keeps driving me forward. Whenever I’ve wanted to quit, I see that little boy and
those that gravitated toward him because he could do the things that he could do. I remind myself that the
little boy’s talent has matured, and that fire that ignited the very first words on the page is still burning. So,
I take the bumps and the bruises, pour that pain into my characters, and keep writing.
The most important part is distributing the film. What did you do for distributing your feature film "Arlington Heights"?
I’m currently working with a team that has aided in getting me recognition at the American Film Market in Los Angeles, California.
We are in constant contact with the distribution company for If I Should Die Before I Wake. Up until the recent writers and actors strike, we had very positive and open communication with a company that has access to major outlets such as Netflix,
Amazon, BET, and Hulu. It is my hope that now that the strike is over, and once the dust settles, those talks will resume.
What are your filmmaking goals?
For my voice to be HEARD and my work to be SEEN. Not as the next whoever, but as the first ME.
What is your next project?
I’m working on two fronts. (1) filming a proof-of-concept for another of my books, Darkness in the Mirror.
(2) continuing to raise the funding that will enable me to produce the entire pilot for Arlington Heights or film the feature.
Thank You and GOOD LUCK Eric