We had the good fortune of connecting with Jonathan Cuartas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jonathan, what’s your definition for success?
There’s this idea in filmmaking of “making it” that has become nothing but a romanticized notion. Making it can mean so many different things. For me, making it is waking up every day knowing I’m pursuing what I want to do with my life. If that means I’m getting paid to do it, excellent, but if not, that’s okay too. If I know I’ll dedicate a portion of my day to filmmaking, then I call that success. If you keep studying, practicing and applying, there’s no way you won’t succeed. The failures along the way aren’t definitive, they’re just checkpoints. Examine and push forward.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a writer/director with a focus on narrative genre films. Currently, I’m working on the distribution of my debut feature film, My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To. Ultimately, my goal is to tell stories about my Latin (specifically Colombian) heritage, while espousing them with archetypes of horror. It’s been interesting making horror short films in and around Miami, and a feature film in Salt Lake City. I think there’s something to be said about building a film career in a city that’s not a filmmaking hub like New York City or Los Angeles. It’s definitely something I’m proud of. My brother Michael (cinematographer) and I built the foundation of our careers here in Miami, gathering resources wherever we could, collaborating with friends we met at film school. I think I got to where I am today by making as many films as I could in between semesters, no matter the budget or scope, and focusing on the exhibition of said films. It was a necessity for my brother and I to fly or drive out to any festival or event willing to exhibit our films. We wanted to shake the hands of other folks in our industry, and expand our pool of relationships. We also worked on as many film sets as possible, no matter the position or day rate, just to expose ourselves to the process of other filmmakers. It was never easy, and there was (and still is) definitely a disparity between personal and financial success, but with the support of our family and community, we were able to push through and continue to make films. Always be kind in this industry, even if others aren’t. Kindness can go a long way, especially on set.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love Calle Ocho. There are so many things going on at once, and the Tower Theater is situated in the middle of it all. Nothing like an arthouse theater to visit after getting some Abuela Maria ice cream at the famous Azucar, or watching locals play dominoes at Domino Park. It’s an eclectic strip of electrifying sights and sounds, somewhere I would take anyone visiting the city. I also enjoy going off the beaten path, way out in Homestead. Nothing beats a drive through the farmlands off Krome Avenue late at night, especially when taking a hike through some abandoned campgrounds or the Aerojet facility.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I wouldn’t be where I am today without my brother (and cinematographer) Michael Cuartas. We built the foundation of our career and artistic journey together.
Main Image “Ivanna Picon” Film Stills “Courtesy of Dualist Films”