By November 1, 2016 Read More →

A&P Productions: Creating a Scene from Scratch

A&P Productions: Creating a Scene from Scratch

By Summer Krafft

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A&P Productions, a Modesto-based film production company, is setting the bar high for film in the Central Valley. They are the award winning duo of four feature films; the two artists who make up A&P Productions are Paul Ragsdale and Angie De Alba. Of their partnership, Paul said, “A lot of people don’t have a partner when it comes to helping you make decisions. I always have her to give me backup or feedback on decisions. I think that’s very important for film, to have collaboration. You can tell how much her abilities add to a film. She helps get everything done and make it three-dimensional.” In response, Angie said, “Visually, Paul is great at writing things and I’m really great at understanding and making them come to fruition. He has a clear idea of what he wants and I have a clear understanding of how to make that a reality. The process helps complete the whole aesthetic.”

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Within the process, Paul is usually the primary writer, director, cameraman, and editor; whereas Angie is usually the producer, artistic director, sharing in some editing, and handles the financial aspect of getting their work done. In addition to being a creative team, the two are also a real-life couple.

The pair met in school. Angie said, “We met in film school. We started off collaborating as friends, bought equipment, linked up with actors and other filmmakers, and it went from there.” Paul added, “After we left college, we were getting our life together: we didn’t start A & P until 2010, and then we started going to plays.” It was through watching local theater that the two found the actors they would come to work so closely with, and that some of their work would ultimately be influenced and inspired by.

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Their first feature, Cinco de Mayo, of which Paul said, “That was the first one we submitted to film festivals. It won the Tenacious Dream audience favorite award and was also submitted to ITSA and won the best horror film in that one. That was the film that got us distribution. It’s actually in stores.”

After that success they made Rough Cut. Paul said, “Rough Cut was a film we wanted to do inspired by a French director named Jean Luc Godard. It was also inspired by 70’s American cinema, Scorsese…a film in a certain style about a film maker who doesn’t want to compromise his views to a person with money who falls in love with his subject, his muse, played by Delawna McKinney. Her character is modeled after Anna Karina. They had a tempestuous relationship. It’s more of a comedy about his pompous, self-indulgent, self-obsessed film director. We really wanted to make fun of the self-obsessive things people do. It was just a film for ourselves and other film lovers.”

Their following film, their third feature, is the epic love story in the midst of familial drama and cartel dealings, La Soldadera. Of the film, Angie said, “We wanted to make a film that would be based more in our culture, Hispanic, Mexican expression, something based on what our family would have watched. It’s loosely based on our love story, minus all the guns and drug cartels and death. We wanted to focus the love story on loyalty, true love, sacrifice, and showing that kind of ride or die relationship no matter how crazy the circumstances are.” That film was also largely inspired by the actor who played the title role, Roni Espinoza, who Angie and Paul had been searching for to make the project for nearly a decade. Similarly, meeting Joshua Palafox at a local play and solidifying them as the two main characters propelled the idea into a reality. Angie also said, “We had been talking about this project for ten years, but we didn’t know anyone who could tap into those type of characters until we met them. The film became a lot of who they are as individuals.” Angie and Paul are especially inspired by their actors and always seems to honor them as people and artists.

Their most recent feature, Streets of Vengeance, premiered at Galaxy Theaters in Riverbank for the cast, crew, and a select audience on October 13th of this year. Streets of Vengeance is their most ambitious feature to date. Paul said, of the beginnings of the process, “Streets of Vengeance couldn’t have been done without Delawna. It was her boots that inspired the movie. She said, ‘Yeah, I want to do something with those.’ She always imagined playing something action-based. We wanted to find a story where she could be this female hero, leaning towards feminist.” (Editor’s note: to read Summer’s review of it, click here.)

The film is a dangerous, thrilling, girls-get-revenge romp in 80’s inspired San Francisco with a very strong underlying message. Of Streets of Vengeance, Paul said, “We’ve found success in making films with social commentary. There are a lot of political undertones having to do with misogyny, rape culture, and violence against women. We wanted to make a vehicle to be the wrap around for what we want to say. It felt like slasher movies were the best vehicle for this, and no slasher movies have this type of message. It’s there in our work, but it’s clouded by neon lighting and fishnets and big hair. We wanted to take these messages and make them easy to digest. It’s a fun revenge movie on the surface, but underneath it’s a very serious point of view that we have. It’s very serious, but we try to make it entertaining.” They have several offers for distribution for Streets of Vengeance, but they’re not jumping on any of them just yet.

When I asked what themes they find themselves returning to time and time again, Paul said, “A recurring theme would be artistic aspirations in people and how they deal with those in modern life. Mexican themes are also big for us.” When asked the same question, Angie said, “A big one that we find ourselves coming back to is strong, independent women.” Along those lines, another project they’re looking to in the future will feature Roni Espinoza again, this time in a film-noir set in the Central Valley with her playing something in a European style.

Another theme they’re hoping to explore in future works is toxic masculinity. Paul said, “It’s been a big part of films I love, but I’ve never really explored it. The antagonists on Streets of Vengeance are kind of like that, but it’s so over-the-top. I want to explore toxic masculinity from a male point of view as the main character.”

One of the most unique and most valuable aspects of their work is that they use almost exclusively local talent and give them the opportunity to perform on a new scale, as well as on-screen.  Paul said, “We started by scouting, going to local events. The actors started A&P by bringing up the level.” All involved in A&P Productions’ projects so far seem honored to be a part of the work, as well they should be. It’s an honor to witness, especially as the leading filmmakers in the Central Valley.

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