BTS, warming up on location
What was your process for La Hora de Perrear? When you came on board was there already a clear script?
GSL: The visual album was a whole movie to make with Papo’s vision at the inception. They came to Grand Crew wanting to make a directorial debut that was a wild love letter to growing up in Miami around Cuban culture. Since the EP, Ian Kaplan, and myself also grew up in South Florida, it felt like a nice return to our roots. I’m half Cuban but have never made a project to nod at what I grew up around, and this felt like a way to have fun doing so while working with the purest of homies.
Papo had a tremendous amount of source material, everything from the vision of the compound type mansion to the clock skirt. I helped with a lot of the narrative sequencing – building scene to scene and figuring out how to flow between songs + set piece to the next. We did everything in lockstep from there and assembled a team that was a hybrid of fellow Miami heads and New York key crew that we loved and trusted. It was a big family vibe on set, nothing but love and sweat in 100 degree heat.
PAPO: It was such an organic ebb and flow between Geoff and I. Geoff is truly a master of his craft, I learned so much by bringing him the bones of this project and watching him build it out. There is no better film school than making something with someone you admire. I knew the vision was safe in Grand Crews’ arms; they are incredibly thoughtful and generous.
From the moment I heard the title track La Hora De Perrear, it took me to the intro of Missy Elliot’s Pass the Dutch (my personal hero). We loved that there was a sense of urgency, and it was filmed during a time when everyone was eager to dust off their pandemic cobwebs and perrear.
It looks like it must have been a crazy and fun atmosphere on set. Tell us a bit about shooting La Hora de Perrear. What challenges did you encounter during production?
PAPO: La pachanga was alive and well all three days of shooting. The film started as a love letter to the perreo El Mundo De Plan B created in the early 2000s, and became a mirror for an evolution of perreo I had yet to live. The whole team had such a good vibe from the get go. The Out Of Service dancers showed chonga culture only gets sexier the more inclusive and true to yourself you are. Although lots of the inspiration came from growing up in South Miami, the happiest surprise for me was seeing a new take on chonga culture that I know younger me would’ve loved to be a part of. It was so special to capture the essence of my home without having to recreate it somewhere else. It was real as hell, the energy was as relentless as the heat and Guatauba by Plan B became our pump up song between our takes in 100F+ MiamI weather.
GSL: It was truly nuts – we had a lot of looks, a lot of extras, a lot of movie parts. Ian was constantly on the phone making this and that happen, and our baller AD Mike Hart moved the whole machine. EVERYTHING was made possible by friends working with light resources – someone who knew someone who knew the guy with the pig. But once everything was in front of the camera, it was all the best energy. Performance, vibe, all of it just flowed.
We were consistently talking to our choreographer, iconic Renata Pereira Lima, about how much gas the dancers + Goony had left in the tank for additional takes – it was sweltering. We suddenly didn’t have steadicam on day two, so our DP Konstantin Lyubimov finessed rigging the camera to the cart and tracked back with full grace. The PD, Elysia Belilove’s, team was constantly a step ahead building / propping. The looks took a good while because that’s what iconic looks take which left us with limited takes, but we got plenty nonetheless.
BTS, keeping a watch on things
Having grown up in South Florida, did you have strong memories of the chonga culture of Miami before joining the project? How did you work with La Goony Chonga to explore such an iconic part of the Latinx scene?
PAPO: La Hora De Perrear Film is one giant inside joke for anyone who grew up in South Miami. For example we start La Pachanga true to life, with a parking lot full of cars and hot chongi’s chatting amongst them. We feature a Caja China where we roast our Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) pig and a piglet to represent how most South Miami kids have been tricked into picking their Christmas roast. Latin communities are often diluted, so it was fun to get hyper specific with a culture we lived and loved. The specificity came from the amazing wardrobe provided by Bri Dooley, creating iconic 2000s fits with vintage sourced pieces, our amazing set design team led by Elysia Belilove getting the saltiest mariquitas from Sedanos and even PSI Garage who provided all our cars helped make sure the charcoal on the Caja China was correctly placed. It also helped that I had real life best friends on set that lived this time with me: Chris Menendez, Ian Kaplan, Victor Borbolla. We were transported back to our teen days of lying about sleeping over your friend’s house, and speeding to Horse Country for a party in your friend’s older brother’s Scion, with the special speakers and the neon lights.
GSL: This project snapped me right back into growing up here. The ratchet energy of grinding at supervised house parties when you’re in middle school lol. Getting croquetas at the gas station. A favorite footnote of this project was having a cafecito between every setup to power through the day. A lot of my good friends in New York are from Miami and said we did them proud.
From a stills campaign about Brooklyn where you are are based, to a docushort about Spanish singer Rosalia, you clearly have a passion for making cultural-specific work. Why do you think that appeals to you so much?
GSL: I’ve thought about this a good amount after not giving it much conscious thought for a while – a lot of the times I’ve worked on projects because they were interesting to me and they’d be fun to make, or there was overlap with friends involved, or I was invited to be a creative partner and tell an honest story in an interesting way – even when they haven’t been my stories. I’m grateful that I’ve been invited into safe spaces. I never care to have the loudest voice in those situations, I just know how to communicate with a camera, how to preserve the realness, and how to enjoy doing it. And that’s made 100000 times better with working with people like Papo who have both passion, vision, and connection to what they want to make.
PAPO: I feel like I was touched by an angel to be alive and working during a time where Latin voices and the work to support them are really shining. For a long time growing up, I wished for a more Gringo experience. I wanted to be like Hallie from the Parent Trap – have a California accent and go to sleep away camp (instead of dog piling with my many cousins at my house all summer). Looking back, I wouldn’t have had it any other way and really realize what a treasure my childhood in Miami was. I love showing the culture that raised us – the good, the bad and the ugly (aka us being tricked into picking our own Christmas pig). Geoff lent such a special perspective, he was truly intrigued by so much of the hypespecific and helped me dig deeper on details I took for granted, I know this film wouldn’t have been so rich without him.
What are you working on next? Anything else you’d like to mention?
GSL: Most of my energy right now has been in building Grand Crew, the creative shop and production company that Ian Kaplan and myself run. I’m the ECD so there’s always something that needs attention and energy, from directing, to creative pitches, to searching for the right artist for a project that’s tapped us to find the right voice. I love it because it’s giving me opportunities to find artists, get a chance to work with them, and bolster their voice. We have a documentary / photo / AR magazine project about businesses in NYC’s Chinatown coming out soon – excited for the world to see that one.
In the not too distant future, I’d like to make a project about the roots of family coming from Poland to Cuba to the USA. My grandmother (my Mima) has been showing me photos and telling me stories of Havana in the 1940s. Not sure if it’s documentary, narrative, or something else entirely, but it’s burning a hole in my heart and I’ll have to make it at some point.
PAPO: All my life, my dream was to make a video just like this one, so after we wrapped the project I felt a bit aimless. I’d love to dive into something totally new again like set design for a live show or a narrative film. But like the great Julia Fox, I’m very superstitious. I don’t like to speak of things before they’re finished 😉
Photography credit: Alfonso Duran
Geoff Levy website
PAPO website (instagram)
La Hora de Perrear
Production Company: Grand Crew
DIRECTORS: PAPO & Geoff Sean Levy
Carolina Acosta Carrero
OFFICE PRODUCTION ASSISTANT
CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANT
Gianfranco "Franco" Bello
CLOCK SKIRT DESIGNER
Renata Pereira Lima
ASSISTANT CHOREO/LEAD DANCER
Out of Service Miami
Cross Cut Pictures