Several cult favorite movies, “Dazed and Confused,” “Office Space,” and “Boyhood,” share something in common: Austin. As Austinites, we not only enjoy these movies for themselves, but get to see our city on the big screen.
Currently, a movie is in production that not only has Austin as a backdrop, but also prides itself on having deep Austin roots. The “Vecinos” script was written by a local playwright; it had two separate runs as a play; and the film uses local talent, and crew.
“Vecinos” tells a story many will appreciate, about family, love, and the complexity of finding the people and places that make a home.
Vecinos: the Play
“Vecinos, Love Thy Neighbor,” was born in Austin in 2008. Originally produced by Teatro Vivo and hosted at Mexican American Cultural Center, the play ran as “Vecinos” or “Neighbors.”
The story centered around a widowed gentleman named Roberto (Rupert Reyes), whose life changes when a new neighbor moves in next door. In getting to know this new neighbor, he finds himself revisiting love. But it turns out the neighbor, Maria (Alma Chapa Moore), moved back to the neighborhood of her youth with a secret of her own.
Maria’s move to the neighborhood also impacts Roberto’s son, Samuel (Julio Carreon-Reyes), who is struggling with burnout in his career and looks for solace. Through the course of the play, all the characters face questions about their history and purpose, and how to define home, love, and family.
The play, set in Austin, found a home in the hearts and minds of local audiences. In 2014, it had a second run. The second run sold out many of its performances, again at Mexican American Cultural Center.
Vecinos: the Movie
The original play and subsequent movie script were written by Rupert Reyes. Reyes and his wife JoAnn were founding members of Teatro Vivo, and have always prided themselves on using local talent, paying fair wages, and creating environments that foster respect for all.
Following the success of the play, the Reyeses were urged by a cast member to make the stage production into a feature-length film. Once again, the community rallied behind the project, donating over $18,000 to the project over a few short weeks, and gifting other assistance such as locations and props. Alex Avila, a local professor and film veteran, is directing.
Filming began in late June 2019 and kicked off with a family meal, or “cena.” As JoAnn Reyes put it, “It’s a film about familia, and we gather as a production familia.” Beyond breaking bread together, the cena set the expectation that every place and person the team encountered would be left with a positive impression.
This intention was apparent when I visited the set and noticed the team carefully replace moved furniture and perform small repairs as they finished a scene in the borrowed office space. In this scene, the son Samuel’s boss asked about a required report that was outlined in an email. “I’m trying to catch up!” Samuel replied, and instantly the story felt familiar.
How to Get Involved
There are still several ways for the Austin community to get involved. First, follow Vecinos on Facebook, where calls for extras, props, and wrap ups are posted. Second, you can be an official “producer” of the film and/or be cast as an extra with a monetary donation. Finally, be prepared to watch and support the film once it’s released in spring 2020.
Let’s show the world that Austinites truly support our own vecinos.
@theAustinot wants to know:
Did you go to see “Vecinos,” the play?