Puerto Rican Women Killing It In The Independent Art Scene: Samara Pérez Santiago


With the internet being so easy to access, it has become easier for independent artists to find an audience and let their work be known. As a result, a variety of movements, collectives, and scenes have found a way to pave their path. The independent art scene in Puerto Rico is no different. Recently, many artists from a variety of disciplines have found platforms that have made it easier for them to share their work. In addition, small businesses such as Electroshock in Santurce and Rio Piedras, bars like Off The Wall in Mayaguez, and libraries like La Casita Books and Gifts in Aguadilla have provided up-and-coming artists a space to display their talents. “Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene” is a series of  interviews that provides a glimpse at some of the women who have recently gained recognition in the art scene. Though the artists are asked similar questions, some are asked queries surrounding their work, specifically.

Samara Pérez Santiago is “an independent filmmaker based on the west side of Puerto Rico. I mostly do work as a film producer, but I also like getting involved in projects as a director and/or screenwriter.”

What got you into filmmaking?

It’s kind of a long story, so I’ll try to be brief. Since I was very little, films were my passion. I enjoyed watching and critiquing them. I started studying up on specific directors and began to take notes on the films I liked and especially the ones I didn’t like. Thanks to Adriana Hernandez (my editor-in-chief), I started writing film reviews for my high school newspaper and I thought for a while that this would be my career path, that is until I reached college. On my second year at UPRM, I decided to enroll myself in the Film Certificate, clear that my goal was going to be something in Film Theory. Nonetheless, thanks to some good advice from a few amazing professors, I immersed myself into filmmaking and haven’t stopped since.

How did you develop your style?

My style is constantly evolving. It first developed by watching a lot of movies. Little by little, I started acquiring a certain taste in art house cinema and my style began to get increasingly ambitious. Then, I met some remarkable filmmakers and began putting my style to work and improving it along the way. At first, my style was way more simple, due to lack of time, budget and confidence. Now, I enjoy ambitious projects (the more challenging, the better) that have a certain slow pace and are expressed by absurdist, ambiguous, or existentialist elements.

How has it evolved through the years?

Through trial and error. ‘Till this day I make mistakes when producing my films, but each mistake has helped me define more and more who I want to be as a filmmaker and what I want to tell.

What are some of the themes that you wish to explore?

Throughout my short films, I have always tried to represent the Puerto Rican culture and its vast richness. Right now, just like Puerto Rico’s political status, I am very interested in showcasing our culture through an absurdist and slightly ambiguous stand point. However, I also love to immerse myself in feminist driven narratives as well as queer related projects.

What are some of your influences and inspirations?

Overall, the films and filmmakers that have struck a chord with me have been my major influences. Films such as The Graduate, Blade Runner, Mommy, 45 Years, etc., and filmmakers such as Andrea Arnolds, Xavier Dolan, David Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson and various others. I’m inspired by the continuous pursuit of creating unique, visual stories that reflect our culture and society. I’m also inspired by the many, many filmmakers I have met and/or worked with along the journey. Filmmakers such as Raul A. Samrah, Ada Rodríguez, Diego Toro, Raisa Bonnet, Ed Andrés, Lorraine Jones, Cristian Carretero, C.J Lozada and so many others. Their style, stories, and perspective offer something new to the table, and inspire me to keep producing films (preferably alongside them).

Is there any other form of art you wish to pursue? If so, what field and why?

I would like to practice my craft in photography. I really enjoy hiking and taking photos of nature, but I don’t do it as often as I should. Nonetheless, this would be more as something for my own self-fulfillment rather than an actual pursue.

What do you think about the current state of the arts in Puerto Rico?

Our film industry’s current state is complicated. It has been a constant uphill battle. We have always had issues with funding and distribution. Our market just recently started to exhibit more art house style films on the big screen, which is something that makes me really happy, but there is still a lot of work to be done. There is an exuberant amount of talent in our field and there are still a lot of concepts and styles which have yet to be explored. Luckily, Puerto Ricans are very perseverant; an important quality to have when making art.

What do you think about the current state of the independent scene in Puerto Rico?

Some of the best projects that are representing Puerto Rico both nationally and internationally, are independent, low-budget short films. Right now, most filmmakers are creating groundbreaking work in this specific format. Like I mentioned, there are so many talented professionals that have been releasing incredibly significant movies. At least in my experience, most independent filmmakers I have worked with continue to shine a light on the importance of establishing an authentic Puerto Rican cinema. They are caring, creative, detailed, giving and passionate people who aspire to do an amazing job no matter the circumstance or budget.

If a young girl came up to you and said she wanted to be an artist, what would be your advice for her?

My advice would be to start creating her art, no matter what. Everyone has a cellphone these days, you can start by filming the movie you want right there. She should try finding friends or respected peers who can help her make it cause at the end of the day creating art is supposed to be fun and collaborative. There are no excuses to not be creating your stories. She should not be afraid of making mistakes because they are inevitable and they will only make her grow. The world needs more female filmmakers. Our voice matters and it can speak volume. All she has to do is start using it.

What is your biggest goal right now?

Right now, I am in the process of officially launching Filmes Casa, a producer’s brand, formed by two creative investors, producer Raúl A. Samrah and I. We describe ourselves as a home for visionaries and strive to create stories that are bold, passionate, unique and influential. We get involved in the project since the development stage all the way to distribution. We have been making films under this company for a while now, but we have re-focused some of our goals and are expected to officially launch our new image in these next months. I am also currently working for a production company here in Mayagüez, called Experimento Lúdico. My goal is to continue creating impactful creative content, via short films, documentaries, feature films, etc., with Lorraine, Cristian and Yarelmi (the Experimento Lúdico team) here on the west side of Puerto Rico.

What do you seek to achieve with work?

I seek to inspire and impact others to create their own style and to not be afraid of being authentic.

All of the pictures in this article were provided by Samara Pérez Santiago