Trashborn WINS Mary Austin award for Best Director for Documentary!

Last week at the Idyllwild International Film Festival of Cinema, in a mountain town just outside of Los Angeles, we screened our premiere of Trashborn.

Trashborn was then nominated for both Best Cinematography for Documentary and the Mary Austin Best Director for Documentary.

We ended up taking home the Mary Austin Award for Best Director for Documentary!

Our Theatrical Premiere in Los Angeles

It’s happening.

Right now the film is playing at the Landmark Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles

11272 Santa Monica Blvd

August 8,9,10, 11 at noon


August 12,13,14 at 2:10pm

Go see it for its limited run!

Please take a picture for us of the tickets/marquee




Through a long and serendipitous journey since our last work-in-progress screening at RDOC in Dominican Republic in February, producer Skye Fitzgerald has come on board to help bring the film on its last journey. We have cut it down to 29 minutes, renamed it to Trashborn, and reshaped the story arc a bit over the last three months. This past week, we’ve been been hard at work in Portland, Oregon at Rex Post sweetening the audio, creating a 5.1 surround sound mix, color correcting, creating key art and printing theater posters all in anticipation for our theatrical premiere in Los Angeles. Here’s Russ Gorsline from Rex-Post doing his audio sweetening/mixing magic:

Russ doing his magic!

Russ doing his magic!

But yes, you heard that right. Theatrical premiere. Los Angeles. In a few weeks. Here is Skye and I with our sweet new theatrical posters:


Isabelle & Skye at Rex-Post



Work-in-Progress in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

One of my goals since the beginning of this film would be that the buzos featured in the film would get some amount of public recognition. When RDOC decided to screen a work-in-progress of the film in Santo Domingo, it was the perfect time to bring out the buzos down to the capital and include them in the session. Hunting them down yet again – I hadn’t been there in two years – was its own special time. I had tried to send one of my “helpers” ahead of me to search for them to no avail (both major characters I was looking for had moved), so we had to go in there and do it on our own. I had forgotten that they go by several names and that with me they always use their official name… for example Arisleyda actually goes by Yobi in the community. If you ask for Arisleyda, no one knows who you’re talking about unless they’re family members.

Long story short is that we found them. I didn’t go searching for everyone for reasons I’ll go into another time. Pablo, his wife Maria, and Arisleyda and her family are what I kept it to for this trip – just bringing them (4 people total) was a bit overwhelming. Money for the bus tickets had to be given the night before because I wasn’t sure that money would make it through the week (and we couldn’t drive them for other reasons, so they had to take the bus, and the bus company didn’t do will call, so they had to buy the tickets directly). They almost missed the bus because the guagua to get to the bus took forever… but they made it finally. We waited to pick them up a few hours south. When they stepped off the bus I almost didn’t recognize them – it was the first time I had ever seen them dressed up in their Sunday best. Arisleyda (who is missing a limb) looked gorgeous in heels and a pretty blouse… I realized that dressing up humanized them in some way (even to me). Pablo was acting strangely from the start – morose and almost resentful – but the other three informed me he was just really nervous. I had been so focused on just getting them to the session that I had forgotten what the emotional impact might be on them.

We arrive at the session and they are warmly greeted by those in the know; they started to relax. After the session was over, we stood up to do a Q&A and get feedback on the film; they came with me up to the stage. All were nervous and could barely speak at all, save for Arisleyda who really stole the show. Well-spoken, clear, articulate, impassioned, emotional… she was amazing. At one point, one of the audience members said, “You may not believe this, but you have all become my heroes.” The entire room clapped.

We have decided from this cut that it needs to be cut further down. At one time I thought this film would serve best as a feature but it is clearly an incredibly impactful short. A hard decision but one that ultimately will be strongest for the subject matter.




On my way to a visit to Cuba this past August, I stopped in Dominican Republic to capture an update of the buzos as a last possible hurrah to finish the film. On my first day I tried to enter the dump but got stopped by a troop of armed guards. A few phone calls later, a friend got me permission to enter, but it was clear I wouldn’t have any kind of the same freedom I had had years prior to move around (see picture below where I ham it up with the guards).

On my last night in the community, I did a private screening of our work in progress for only the characters involved in the film. The only place we could find where we wouldn’t attract a large crowd was a shut-up boarded pitch-black empty house someone had recently vacated, and it had no electricity. We brought in a candle, a little wooden stool to prop up my computer, and everyone sat on the concrete floor to watch. At first they called out the people they saw on screen, “Look it’s Ramon! Pablo! Arisleyda!” They laughed. But then they grew serious. At the end, I asked them, “Did I represent you fairly? Is anything exaggerated or mis-stated? Is this the real story?” It’s the moment of truth for a filmmaker when you hold up a mirror of your work to the participants of your film. I had chewed off all my nails during the screening, nervous about what they would say.

They looked at me and said, “No. You showed us as we are. This is the reality. Our reality.”

Sometimes films take a long journey. Having started this film in 2007, I cannot believe I am in 2012, nearly 5 years later, and the film still isn’t hasn’t gone through all the finishing needed. It is an expedition however that has taught me much in the way of filmmaking, approach, process, mistakes, lessons. It also taught me the meaning of magic.


Leaving Havana, Arriving in Santo Domingo

After a trip to Cuba, I planned a stopover in Dominican Republic in order to film an update and get some much-needed pick-up shots for the film. Upon leaving city, I arrived at the Havana airport with $35 dollars left in my pocket. This disappeared in paying the taxi and the exit visa fee, and with not a cent to my name I flew out of Cuba 3 hours later. I hadn’t eaten much of anything in the last day, just some rice and eggs and was very hungry. On the plane I received the same meal I had gotten two weeks earlier, which I had looked upon with disdain: pan con queso (stale white bread with cheese and “ham”). This time, I devoured it. Upon arriving to Dominican Republic – a total reverse culture shock: I went straight to the ATM and with relish got crisp Dominican Pesos; I rented a car; I stopped to buy gas, and paid with my credit card just because I could; going inside the gas station store I felt like a kid in candyland… Lays potato chips! Hershey bars! I was overwhelmed. These are things I normally avoid like the plague and here I was gorging on junk food. Yesterday night entering a grocery store was almost a spiritual experience. Shelves and shelves teeming with a seemingly endless variety… SO MANY OPTIONS, SO MUCH FOOD!!!!!!!! It’s like seeing two sister islands back to back, but feeling like I traveled to another planet. I went to sleep with my belly full, and 10 hours later, awake again for the next adventure. I am going to drive today to Santiago, 2 hours north, and visit the trash dump for the first time in four years.


Rough Cut Work-in-progress screening TONIGHT at George Washington University

We’re having a work-in-progress screening at George Washington University under the umbrella of Docs In Progress, a very cool organization based right here in Washington DC. It’ll be the very first time I show the whole documentary to an audience.

Check this link for more information:

It’s at 7pm-930pm at if you’d like to come,

George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs Building
805 21st Street, NW
Auditorium B-07
Washington DC 20052

There definitely will be one more work-in-progress screening at another location in the future, ideally in the DR.

Much love

Isabelle (& the team)

Rough Cut Progress

Massive progress on the rough cut! We are hovering at right under 70 minutes.

On the homefront, we’re at the stage to fill out the visuals and start building scenes visually (not just audio-interview-content). It’s overwhelming, but according to my story consultant, she’s never seen anyone shoot a feature length documentary with less than 40 hours of footage at the quality of visuals I made.

Did I mention we officially have DCIFF fiscal sponsorship as well? It’s nice as it allows us to submit to more foundations and grants, and opens a few other doors as well.

I’m currently based in Dubai for another month. It’s been a little nuts watching the news, feeling close and far away to everything happening in the middle east re: revolutions as Dubai is geographically and culturally close, but politically so far away. No protests or issues here.

Over and out,


Quick update on Story Structure

After some massive work over the story structure in the past month and a half, we are finally almost settled on an arc. It’s shorter, falling at around 70 minutes for the rough cut presently. Lots of good work and more to come ahead. We hope to finalize the structure in the next two weeks and then begin working on visuals.

Thanks again to everyone for the amazing kickstarter support!



Successful Campaign! Thank You!

Thanks to each and everyone for your support. I feel totally invincible to finish this film!

This immediate infusion is going to cover a lot of what I need done Right Now to be able to get to the Next Steps.

Because of your support, tomorrow I’m going to New York for a professional story consultancy session as one of my first very important steps to finish the rough cut!

Meanwhile, an important note: I need each and every backer’s address so I can send a little something-something to you. Even if you selected “no reward” please email me your address at

A second important note: if you are inspired by this campaign and would like to start your own, PLEASE EMAIL ME OR CALL ME FIRST so I can walk you through the pros and cons of doing a Kickstarter or other Crowdfunding campaign. It is not as easy as it seems on several levels! Let me help you get to know some of the ropes. I have some issues with Kickstarter and although I’m very grateful to have achieved this position, it’s something to be aware of.

Much love to everyone, and I’ll keep updating you on the progress that you helped create! I attached some pictures: The first is of Chivito, one of the child characters of the film, taking a picture of me taking a picture of him with a disposable camera he found in the dump. The second picture features some of the most adorable neighborhood kids that routinely all work in the dump with their parents…

More to come soon!

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