As he stood over yet another dead animal during a sophomore biology lab, Steve Acevedo made a decision. Becoming a doctor would probably guarantee he’d live the good life monetarily, but he knew he wasn’t going to find the artistic outlet he needed studying medicine.
“We were dissecting animals every week, and I just lost my stomach for that stuff,” Acevedo, 30, said. “I was disgusted with the smell of formaldehyde and the whole idea of surgery. I couldn’t see myself doing it for a living. I wasn’t being fulfilled creatively.”
By his junior year at St. Mary’s University, Acevedo, a 1996 graduate of Keystone, was majoring in English communications and trying to assure his parents he had made the right choice.
“`My parents` were a little concerned and kept asking me what my plans were, but I had no idea,” Acevedo said. “I had these fascinations about the film world, like it would be a great place to be, but I didn’t think it was possible.”
Ten years later, the decision to put away the scalpel and bet on the entertainment industry is paying off. In August, Acevedo moved to Los Angeles after he was selected by ABC-Disney Television Group and the Directors Guild of America as one of three participants in their seventh annual Directing Fellowship.
According to Tim McNeal, vice president of talent development and diversity for ABC-Disney, Acevedo was chosen through an extensive selection process from more than 600 applicants. The program will allow him the opportunity to observe and learn from TV directors on set and possibly direct an episode of an ABC show when he completes the fellowship.
“We felt like `Steve` was very committed to his craft,” said McNeal. “There is a tremendous amount of competition, especially as the marketplace contracts, and there are fewer scripted programs available for directors. But as in any business, there is a cycle. Our intent is to develop the new generation of directors.”
What caught the eye of ABC execs was an 11-minute film Acevedo directed called “Shot,” which he submitted in his application package. Recently named the Grand Jury Prize winner of the upcoming SAL Film Festival (see page 35 for list of screening selections), “Shot” is a dark comedy about a hired gun named Jimmy (Armando Riesco of National Treasure and Garden State) who becomes distracted while attempting a hit. With an emotionally distant girlfriend on his mind, Jimmy, perched atop a building in downtown San Antonio, has his finger on the trigger and a target in his crosshairs.
Shot is a clever, amusing and, well-produced short film. It could be described as a compacted version of 2005’s The Matador directed by Richard Shepard (who’s also directed ABC’s Ugly Betty).
And that’s exactly where Acevedo would like to see himself in about a year. Reaching a professional level, he says, has been an aspiration for him since graduating from St. Mary’s in 2000 and starting film school the following year at Florida State University.
“My goal for film school was to make movies,” Acevedo said. “At Florida State, the whole program was designed for students to make movies no matter what. That’s not always the case at other schools like NYU or USC. `Florida State` was so conducive to me making movies and really learning the technical skills required to do that.”
During his time in Florida, Acevedo also discovered his passion for cinematography. Just in case things didn’t work out for him as a director, he wanted to have something he appreciated to fall back on.
“The power of visual images is what drew me in,” Acevedo said. “I wanted to make my movies look like the movies that I watched in theaters. I started seeing the importance of production. If you have a talented cinematographer, your movie, at the very least, is going to look good.”
His thesis in cinematography came into good use when he received his MFA in film production in 2005. He moved back to San Antonio and started working as a camera operator for a number of different multimedia companies, producing commercials, features, shorts, and music videos.
“I had to figure out how I was going to eat,” Acevedo said. “It was a means to making a living and to become better visually. The natural progression, I thought, would lead me back to directing.”
After “hustling for `director of photography` jobs” for three years, Acevedo’s first opportunity to direct a film came when Tom Nador, owner of local production company Lazlo Rain, added a film division to his business in 2007 to “help the independent film movement in San Antonio.” “Shot,” he said, was the first project they undertook.
The “labor of love” began with Acevedo co-writing the script and then sending it out to the agents of Latino actors he admired. From a pool of six, which included Riesco, Jay Hernandez (Friday Night Lights), and Freddy Rodríguez (Grindhouse), Acevedo was pleasantly surprised to get a call from Riesco.
“`Armando` called me up randomly one morning and said he liked the script and agreed to do it,” Acevedo said. “This is an actor who’s worked with Spike Lee and Oliver Stone and other big-time directors, so the fact that he was interested was great.”
“Steve and I share a lot of the same struggles; we are both young(ish) Latino artists trying to make it in this business,” said Riesco, who was shooting National Treasure: Book of Secrets when Acevedo flew him down to San Antonio to film. “He’s a very down-to-earth, cool individual and it shows in his directing.”
Now, with his foot in the door at ABC-Disney, Acevedo looks forward to impressing studio executives and securing a place in the competitive studio world.
“There’s no guarantee that I’ll be directing next year but … it’s a huge break for me,” Acevedo said. “They are putting me in the position to get these jobs and it’s up to me to make it
SAL Film Festival
7pm, Oct 10
226 N St. Mary’s St.
SAL Film Fest 2008 Screening Selections
“Incredible Hope,” directed by Reagan Arevalos
“Reve, Directed,” directed by Wes Barlow
“Back Up,” directed by Michael Cantu
“Hope,” directed by Will Shipley
“L.A.R.P.,” directed by Reagan Arevalos
“Blink,” directed by Allison Hoxie (Jury Selection)
“Four Minutes Till the End,” directed by Bryan Ortiz (Jury Prize)
“Shot,” directed by Steve Acevedo (Grand Jury Prize)
“Fresh Fruit,” directed by Brendon Cicoria
& Ed Kelley (Honorable Mention, Short Animation)