We had the good fortune of connecting with Juan Sebastian Valencia and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Juan Sebastian, what is the most important factor behind your success?
I have always been a very organized, determined and responsible person. I feel these are specific qualities that always differentiate me from the rest. But there is no success without two key factors. One is creativity and the other one is the ability to dream. I see creativity like a muscle that needs daily training, I approach it like going to the gym, and in my case I like to workout this skill daily. I’m always creating whether it’s trying to come out with a new script, developing a new movie or working exercises with other movies from famous directors. Then there is the ability to dream, which is in fact a super power that sometimes fades with age. I have always believed that in order to work on an industry that make the audience dream, you must be a dreamer yourself. There is no way the audience will dream if the creator is not a dreamer. But dreaming is hard, there are many obstacles in an artist life trajectory, but keeping myself always open to dreaming, has taken me to places, reality wouldn’t have allowed me to.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m an artist in love with storytelling, my journey in creativity has driven me to write, direct, edit and produce projects for literature, film, television and theater for more than 20 years. As a storyteller, I enjoy narrative filmmaking, it is with a camera that I fill more comfortable, but it is with the written letter that I have a unique and almost uncontrollable connection. I started writing books, first with poetry, and slowly, with each book, I stepped in to short stories and novels. For me it’s been my creative process, my way of discovering those movies that I’ll later want to narrate with images, but it became much more.
I have a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Fine Arts in Filmmaking, a weird combination that has shift my vision of the entertainment industry. For many years, my work as a film director was always attached to the idea of “I have a unique opportunity”. Producers and executives most of the time want to sell you the idea that the fact your project is being made, it’s already a big payment, to which you should above all things feel very lucky to have. And the truth is, yeah, it’s a great opportunity, but your art cannot be subject to just the idea of an opportunity for you that benefits others bank. Moving from Colombia to Los Angeles was a big step for me. The industry even though it’s similar, (because we work in the same medium), the way the craft is approach is completely different, each with its unique exquisite differences, and I feel very lucky to have both experiences as my background.
Recently I’ve been working on LGBT projects. I released the web series Imperfect People and I’m working on my new project “The Most Wonderful” that will be release December 19 of 2021. As a director, I feel the responsibility to tell gay stories that can portrait the reality of the community; that it’s not always bullying, discrimination and rejection, but love, magic and the daily normal adventures everyone experiences. I’ve found a great amount support in my community to whom I’m also very grateful. It has inspired me and renew my energy in the most positive way, shifting what I was scared of and making it what I dream of.
The journey of telling stories is as difficult and adventurous for the protagonist as well as for the artist writing it. Art has always been portrait as something difficult and almost impossible, and even though it’s true that some waves are harder to surf inside the entertainment industry, hard does not mean it can’t be exciting, and I’m grateful for the journey I’ve been experiencing, which is to say the least, enough to keep telling stories.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The beauty about Los Angeles is that there is always something to do; it’s a place for everyone. I’m in love with the city, the weather and all the activities it offers in a monthly basis. I remember I used to visit the city as a tourist every year, spending any time available and yearly vacations to walk the street of Los Angeles, from Hollywood to Santa Monica. I remember everyone used to mention how difficult was going to be visiting without a car, and not only did I never had a car during my years of visiting, I’ve been living in the city for 4 years without the need for one. Public transportation in LA gets better every day and it’s very easy to move around the city.
My favorite spot to visit is Griffith observatory, I have a secret hike I always take my friends who are visiting for the first time, it starts near my house in Los Feliz and ends on a wonderful trail that goes straight to the observatory. If the person visiting really loves hiking, I’ll take them to the Hollywood sign and we’ll do the Runyon Canyon as well. There are great spots to exercise, delight yourself with an amazing views and probably step with someone famous.
If it’s the first time visiting California, I’ll recommend obviously the tourist places which are full of film history, like the Hollywood walk of fame, Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, Hermosa Beach. But I really like also introducing people to the Grove and Glendale Galleria which are amazing malls to shop, have a lovely meal and some entertainment with theaters and live concerts. If you want some LA night life I’ll recommend places like Mamas shelter; if you’re into having something to eat and drink with an amazing rooftop, Akbar and The Abbey have amazing music in case you want to have some dance floor action. I also like a lot going to museums and event in places like The Hollywood Bowl, specially their concerts with the LA Phil are amazing. You’ll get to catch John Williams; the maestro of film music with Steven Spielberg on stage. Museums like LACMA also have amazing venues and presentations, La Brea Tar Pits is just next to it and you’ll be able to check some interesting skeletons of ancient wild life. Lastly, if you want the real Los Angeles experience you got to get a ticket for a movie at the Hollywood Forever cemetery, grab some drinks and enjoy a picnic watching a movie.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’m extremely grateful with many people who have helped me in my career. There is no way I could have done anything I’ve done without their support. An artist needs friends, like a Disney movie said, and I have been surrounded by the most wonderful people who I am eternally grateful for. First of all, my parents, who have given their whole life to my dream. They are my inspiration and the motor that makes this machine going. My friends from Colombia and my new friends in Los Angeles, have been a strong support, without them I wouldn’t be where I am, friends are the family we get to choose from, and I’m thankful my friends chose me as part of theirs. I’ll like to thank Martina, Bambine and Mafalda, my three baby girls that have been an inspiration since my eyes saw them for the first time, and will always be the reason for many artistic creations and decisions. To the audience, I’m extremely grateful, I receive many messages about my work and projects, and by doing so, I know there are many people who are connecting with my ideas, for them I keep creating, and for them, my art. Lastly, but very important, I’ll like to thank Mr. Steven Spielberg and the Disney company for giving me such an inspiration during all my life and I’ll keep working to get to you.
Other: Tik tok: https://www.tiktok.com/@juansebvalencia?
Jonathan Christian Fernandez