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An Interview with LAFA Winner Manny Fresco ("One Thing")

Born in a small village in the Philippines, you moved to Florida with your family when you were 5 years old. Were these challenging times for you? How did this experience shape you as a human being and as an artist? I think anytime you are relocating to a new state or country it's going to be a little of a challenge. I was lucky to have a good foundation and support system around me. As for challenging times ?? .. It's really hard to say.. I mean when you are at the bottom, you don’t know of anything else. Life seemed “normal” per say. Although I did have an adventurous childhood. Felt like Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. It definitely taught and pushed me to be independent considering all the adults around me were never around because everyone worked so much. What made you interested in visual storytelling and were some of your first steps in the filmmaking world at highschool? What interested me in visual storytelling was being able to create something from nothing. So if there was something that was never created, I have the ability to create it. I can pretty much bring any story to life. Some of my first steps in the filmmaking world in high school were inspirations drawn from films like The Matrix, and video games like Diablo. I was always drawn into the fantasy/sci-fi genre. So I would try to recreate some scenes from my inspiration as content.

Do you feel your military service (12 years, and 4 tours) prepared you for a career in the entertainment industry? What are some valuable lessons you've picked up along the way? I feel like my 12 years of military service and tours overseas helped me prepare in the entertainment industry by having the luxury of binge watching as much entertainment as I can while I was on down time. This was the only thing we could really do to pass time without losing our minds haha. But on a serious note it really opened my eyes to how different others lived and helped me appreciate what I have as well. Things picked up very quickly for you after you've moved to Dallas- you worked as a production assistant for a documentary for Church's chicken, then filmed BTS for a Kevin Gates/Trevor Jackson music video, working on the Blue October documentary and then going on tour with them. You seem pretty busy!

How do you usually prioritize your projects, and how do you balance between career and personal life, as a single father to your son? How I usually prioritized my projects were usually based on whatever came first UNLESS it was something I'm more excited/passionate about than the others. What really excited me about a project would be what the creativity level of the project was. The more creative the project is, the sooner I’d like to complete it so I can share it to the world. How I balanced my life between my career and personal life, as a single father, was everything would be on halt whenever I had my son around. I wanted to spend every chance I could to hang out with him. When he falls asleep, that is when I would sneak in some editing work during the late hours of the night. You've mentioned that you're dreaming to collaborate with filmmakers like JJ Abrams, Michael Bay, Ridley Scott and Christopher Nolan. What do you admire about their work? These guys are legends in space and have made some of my favorite films of all time. JJ Abrams: His Star Wars films, Star Trek films, Mission Impossible; Michael Bay: All his Transformers films, Bad Boys, 13 Hours; Ridley Scott - just about every film he made; and Christopher Nolan: all his Batman films, Inception, Tenet, Dunkirk. Every one of these guys just had some of the best visuals around. Their visions are just incomparable. If you ever get the opportunity to work or learn from these masterminds you do it ...

Tell us about the collaboration with Rodney Pinz and Kevin Hawkins. How did you guys meet, and what was it like to co-direct One Thing? Rodney Pinz and I have known each other for about a decade, from the time I moved to Austin January 2010. He was barely starting to get into cinematography, but he was very coachable and willing to learn. He really was a rising star. He had the “eye” that you can’t teach people. His strong suit was definitely in making music videos. I met Kevin Hawkins just this year through his publicist, LaShirl Smith (shoutout LaShirl!). She reached out and scheduled a lunch meeting with the three of us. Kevin and I kicked it off from the jump. Then when he sent me his songs, I knew he was going to be a HIT! With that being said, I reached out to the best music video cinematographer I know, which was Rodney Pinz. I said “you have to check this artist out. He’s going to be big! He wants to do a music video. Let’s kill this thing.” Rodney and I have always wanted to work together for the longest. So this gave us the perfect opportunity to tag team a project. Needless to say Rodney and I make a pretty good dynamic duo. Co-directing was easy. Kevin is really easy to work with, and Rodney and I just work so well together. Kevin pretty much told us his vision for each scene and shot, and Rodney and I made them come to life.

How did you come up with the concept for the music video, and how did you prepare for the shoot? I have to give this credit all to Kevin. All the creativity came from him and his inspiration from Beyoncé music videos, which are proven success. Kevin and I had a zoom meeting the week of the shoot to go over major points. But that’s about it as far as preparation. Rodney and I can make anything happen, just tell us what your vision is haha. The underwater shots in the clip are so cool! Was it tricky to get these shots? Thanks!! I’ve done similar underwater projects before. So I just applied what I’ve done in the past. Not too tricky at all. I can’t tell you all my secrets though ;) Floyd McLean did a great job with the choreography. Is this your first project together? How did you recruit him? Floyd McLean did an amazing job for sure! This was our first project together. I think he’s worked with Kevin before. Kevin is the one that recruited him. I definitely recommend him for anyone needing some choreography work though.

What was the most rewarding part of the production for you? The most rewarding part of the production for me was being able to work with some many talented people. So many talented artists of different spectrums in one project. Nothing feels better than being around other talented artists of their crafts and taking their magic and making into something. What do you wish people knew about your work as a director? The amount of time/effort and investment I have made in myself. It takes a lot of long hours learning and becoming better in my craft. It wasn’t just overnight. Everyone sees my work. I just hope to be able to excel as much as I can, while I can; and to be able to share as much of my work to everyone. You're currently closely with a business partner, Dez Bryant, on a few big projects. What are your career goals for the near future, and how do you plan to achieve them? That's a great question and even tougher one to answer because I'm always adding and completing goals along the way if I had to say some of my larger career goals are to eventually have a featured film and/or land a big project with platforms like Netflix and Hulu. The only way I can do this is keep putting in the work and time to do what I do best and develop a vision ...

Is there anything you wish to add, or anyone you wish to thank? Yes ... I'm just so thankful for all the opportunities and people that I have had the privilege of working with. Every experience and project has added something new to my tool belt and look forward to what the future holds. I also want to take a minute to thank my parents for doing the best they can to get me through my younger years. Also want to thank everyone around me who has always believed in me. Your love and support is greatly appreciated and drives me to keep going.

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