Here’s yet another reason why North Hollywood folks deserve a round of applause, a snap with a twist. OK, NoHo, meet 11:59 Films who will present 52 Films in 52 Weeks. Three local filmmakers, Samantha Simmonds, Javier Ronceros and Renee Ronceros will write, direct, produce, shoot, edit and score a film every week for an entire year. There will be two surprise guest directors who will write and direct a few each, so stay tuned!
Based on a writing exercise, this project with take a full year to complete with three filmmakers working 365 days to make it come true. The stories will be chosen from original short stories written by Javier Ronceros and then adapted by the three filmmakers into three-minute films. The three filmmakers will then divide the directing, writing, producing, editing and composing chores to bring to life 52 films. They will need and use the help of countless artists in every area of the filmmaking community to make this dream a reality. Filmmaking is a collaborative art form and no film is made alone. With an almost non- existent budget and the blood, sweat, and tears of the folks involved, their hope is to bring you stories that will touch your heart. Stay tuned.
The NoHo Team had the pleasure of interviewing 11:59 Films on their 52 Films/52 Weeks project.
How did you form the film company 52 Films/52 Weeks?
We have known each other for years. The film company already existed. Javier and Renee had made some short films, instructional films and a feature. Samantha lived in the UK originally, lived in LA for many years, moving back to the UK in 2004 to pursue an academic career. After discussing possible projects with Javier and Renee while she was there, she moved back to the US in August of 2010 for pre-production for 52 films 52 weeks.
So tell us about the talented 52 Films/52 Weeks team!
Samantha’s first love has arguably been music, but filmmaking and screenwriting are catching up quickly. Born in the County of Kent in England, she has lived in a castle and sailed yachts around the world. She arrived in America in 1990 and, after starting a family, she produced her first film in 2000, “Soledad.” Afterwards, she returned to her native England and began a colligate career and ended up getting a 1st in her graduating class at Bath Spa University in Creative Media Studies. She is back in America ready to take on the world with 52 Films/52 Weeks. She has a strong sense of visual storytelling and prefers smooth steady shots with long takes, but she’s not afraid to push the envelope all the way to the edge. She is a writer, producer and director and her main role in the project is producing and booking crew and locations.
Javier was born in Mira Flores, Peru and came to America when he was quite young. His earliest memories can be attributed to black and white movies from the 40s and 50s and from the silver age of television. Even as a young boy, he was creating scenarios and exaggerations of reality on a daily basis. Nothing has changed in his adulthood. Starting out as a tennis professional, a musician, a martial artist and finally an actor, the next logical step was making films. Together with his two collaborators, he believes this project will be the most satisfying filmmaking experience so far. Javier wrote the original short stories on which all the films are based. Because of his 20-year-career as an actor, his connections in the film industry and his understanding of the business have made him the central figure of this project.
Renee was born in the Pacific Northwest. Her love for nature and water first inspired her creative side. She moved to California when she was a teenager. Renee started her entertainment career in photography and as a singer in a rock and roll band. Her love for imagery and movies led her to an eventual career as a cinematographer and now a director and producer. Her cinematic vision tends towards a hand-held reality, but not too shaky style. She loves movies with happy endings, love stories, horror films and crime dramas. Her main goal with 52 Films/52 weeks is to bring across to the masses stories built around the human condition. She is a task master and is willing and has done in the past, all the work that is necessary to make a film a work of art. He strong connection to the camera and her love for cinematography have ensured that she acts as DP in almost every film.
What made you decide to do 52 three minute videos about the “the human condition?”
We have known each other for many years, and had made some independent films together, some shorts and a feature. In April 2010 we were discussing what projects to do next, we were all very keen on making short films again. But we discovered over the years that is takes a little more than just another short film, even if it’s excellent, to get some attention as film makers. And since none of us spring chickens, we wanted to do something that would bring us some attention and also showcase our talents as writers and producers. The market has changed so drastically in the last 10 years and especially in the last five, with online distribution and pay-per-view with almost everything, it’s hard to raise money from investors for projects when in a sense we are giving everything away. So giving ourselves something that we can managed ourselves financially, and that had no real expectation of income released us from that labyrinth of “but how can we make money out of this’.” The films are all adaptations of original short stories written by Javier. We decided that each of us would choose 15 or so stories of his 400 or so catalogue to adapt into screenplays and then direct. That way each film, although they all originate with Javier’s stories is very much the vision of each filmmaker.
What are some of your favorite films?
We have 35 films released so far this year, and it’s very hard to pick a few favorites.
I think our favorite films are probably the ones we have the fondest memories of making.
“The Robbery” because it was our first and it had the highest production value. Everything was new and we had no idea what we were doing. We had to shoot the opening scene with Renee balanced backwards on the back of Javier’s motor bike, very James Bond!
“Gustavo the Great” because of the strong adaptation written by Samantha who added a glorious twist to a wonderful story. It was shot at night in a camp ground in the San Gabrielle mountains. We had 20 cast and crew camping for the weekend, it was a wonderful experience.
Once all 52 videos are produced, what does the future look like for you all?
We would love to take this project much further. 52 Films/52 Weeks England? Or Canada? Or anywhere? We also think that because it’s such a spectacular way of learning how to write, produce, direct and edit films, it would be a terrific addition to a film school, or maybe we can start our own? The films themselves would make a great TV show, either as they are with commentary, and behind the scene additional material, or in their extended form. Some of them could easily be edited into six- or even 10-minute cuts. So we are open to suggestions…
What made you shoot everything in North Hollywood? We love the idea.
Well we do live in North Hollywood. But actually our first film was shot in Lancaster. So when we started shooting here it wasn’t by necessity, but by choice. It’s just an interesting mixture of architecture and design. The parks are quiet, and there are some lovely abandoned stores and alleyways. We have shot all over the place in this city, on the street, in apartments, houses, parking structures, parks and theaters. The whole city is like one big film set.
Where do you see the company in five years?
We have several projects in development, two features and a mini series we would love to produce next year.
What we are hoping is that these films will show investors that we can write produce, film and most importantly, complete interesting and compelling mini feature films on basically 0 budgets while being consistent in that. We would hope that this project gives us the opportunity to expand on some of these films and make longer versions, either in a ‘Twilight Zone’ anthology type series, or develop them into their feature length versions.
What advice would you give aspiring filmmakers?
Make films. Pick up a camera, any camera, get your friends to help and make the films you want to see. Everything is so available now, editing software has become easier to use and cheaper to buy, you can do everything on your laptop. The story is the most important aspect to a film, and if that can be told compellingly and with integrity, if the lighting isn’t perfect and the sound a little off, we will forgive. Films and television are so slick these days, we forget sometimes that what holds our interest is the story and how it touches us, not a cool crane shot or even a movie star. If you are a painter, you paint, a musician, you make music. A filmmaker must by definition make films, and you truly can. If we can then anybody can.
If you could shoot a video about NoHo in 2025, what would it look like?
I don’t imagine that it would look much different to how it would look now. I imagine that life will be much the same. But I’d love to think there would be hover cars and robots shopping for us… Probably less parking! I think NOHO needs more music in the air, so some wonderful live music leaking out onto the sidewalk from cafes would be nice, that way when we shoot a film, chasing through the streets of NOHO on our hover camera, our soundtrack would already be in place!
How can someone get involved in 52 Films/52 Weeks?
Since our project is entirely self-funded we are always trying to fit in some fundraising activities during our ridiculous schedule, to very little effect mostly to be honest. We are offering your viewers the opportunity to get involved with our project, become producers and even appear in films, in return for small contributions.
They can get involved, offer locations, audition for roles or give any kind of help by visiting the website and writing to us from there. email@example.com