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Victoria man competes in 72-hour film challenge

By Camille Doty
Aug. 5, 2012 at 3:05 a.m.

The last scene in "Avenue D" features actresses Elisha Licerio, left, and Emily Peña as friends celebrating a birthday in a dance club. The director says the short film lasts about eight minutes.

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To learn more, visit southtexas underground film.org. The winners will be announced on Sunday, Aug. 12.

David Soliz began as an artist and, later, became a filmmaker.

The 40-year-old Victoria native, who goes by the pseudonym Don Avlo, wanted to turn his still canvas into motion pictures to share his Mexican heritage with the world.

"Instead of people coming into a gallery and looking for me, I'm putting my work out there," he said.

Soliz said that by having a true, creative mind, he's never fully satisfied with his work because some element always could be better.

In his latest artistic attempt, he didn't have time to reflect, just create.

The Austin FilmWorks alum had only 72 hours to make a movie in a challenge sponsored by South Texas Underground Film.

Each contestant had from Thursday to Sunday to write, edit and turn in a short film at the Art Center of Corpus Christi.

To keep the contest participants honest, they had to draw loteria cards, or Mexican bingo cards, to select a genre during registration.

It was up to the contestants' discretion how to interpret the cards and incorporate them into their films.

Soliz had to do an anniversary/birthday type of movie using La Bandera, or the flag of Mexico. He said that he was dealt a good hand, but the pressure remained.

"When you have months to work on something, you make it happen. When you have 72 hours, our gig is up."

Organizers of the contest said it gives filmmakers a chance to expand their platform free of charge.

The celebrity jury consists of Jane Wiedlin, a musician with the Go-Go's and an actress; Michael Maize, director/screenwriter/filmmaker/actor in "National Treasure: Book of Secrets;" Christine Elise McCarthy, "Child's Play 2," an actress and filmmaker; and Victoria's own Anthony Pedone, filmmaker and executive director of the Victoria Texas Independent Film Festival.

Mariella Sonam Perez, the festival's director, said the contest is free because the contestants have made enough of their own investment.

"The time, money and work the filmmaker puts into their art is payment enough," she said.

Winners of the contest receive a gift certificate, but all gain something - a chance to showcase their work, as well as learn from the other filmmakers.

Perez advised contestants to get plenty of rest before the competition and drink a ton of coffee.

Beth Vianes-Soliz, wife of David Soliz, said the caffeine helped everyone stay awake, but the adrenaline is what keeps them going.

"You sleep for two hours and you wake up thinking about what you have to do," she said.

Vianes-Soliz helped her husband to complete the film project.

Soliz's film, "Avenue D," focuses on three young women, Smily, Flaca and Guera, played by Stephanie Arceo, Elisha Licerio and Emily Peña.

The characters are neighborhood girls who are involved with the Chola lifestyle. None is directly affiliated with gangs, but they have been raised in the streets.

Each protagonist struggles with her own vices, whether it's stealing, drinking or looking for love in the wrong places. Soliz described this culture as a real, inner-city way of life, especially in Los Angeles.

The close-knit crew overcame the obstacles of battling the elements, work schedules and running out of space on the computer to edit video.

Although the film contained serious scenes, the crew had bouts of laughter.

"I didn't know whether to laugh or cry," Soliz said.

He said he and his wife complement each other on the set and in life.

"My head is in the clouds, and she's down to earth," Soliz said.

Actor James Edward Garcia wore the hats as the assistant to the director and producer, as well as playing el borracho, or the drunk, named Mundo.

Garcia said Soliz's work is visually captivating and compelling.

"It's like poetry in motion," he said.

Soliz said working with family and friends produced a synergistic effort.

"Their vision becomes your vision," he said. "It works beautifully."

This competition is less about the result and more about the process.

Making "Avenue D" is another brush stroke on Soliz's film canvas.

"It's like playing a game: You can win or lose, but at least you're in it," Vianes-Soliz said.

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