By Annika Tomlin
When director Edgar Ybarra shot the independent production “All We Have” in Tucson, the cast and crew didn’t expect it to make it to the big screen.
But starting April 16, the film will be shown at three Valley Harkins Theaters (Chandler Fashion 20, Gateway Pavilions 18 and Superstition Springs 25). It previously debuted at Harkins’ Tucson Spectrum 18.
A love story, it focuses on a chance meeting between two people — Andres (played by Stefan Oropeza) and Natalia (Karen Marroquin) — that sets in motion a journey that will alter each other’s courses forever. But Paulo, a looming figure from Natalia’s personal life, has other plans.
“When I first started filming the movie, I would have never imagined that we would have had the film in Tucson, and especially here in Phoenix,” Marroquin admits over the phone. “I was very surprised when Edgar told me that we were going to be able to have it shown here in Phoenix, because Phoenix is a really really popular city right now, so for me, that’s a really big accomplishment.”
“The cast and crew, we never thought that the movie would get this far. It’s been a miracle and a dream come true,” adds Ybarra, whose dream of being a filmmaker dates back to the ’90s, when he was inspired by articles about director/producer Robert Rodriguez in Hispanic magazine.
“I discovered Robert Rodriguez and his movie ‘El Mariachi,’ which would take him to ‘The Desperado,’ ‘From Dusk Till Dawn,’ and the rest is history,” Ybarra recalls. “But he also wrote a very interesting book called ‘Rebel Without a Crew,’ and it was really the bible that I studied and helped me understand that storytelling and story filmmaking as a person of color with very limited means is very very possible, and in his book he wrote ‘here’s how you can do it.’”
First creating homemade films in his backyard with his dad’s video camera, Ybarra eventually wound up at the television network Telemundo, from which he says learned several skills because “it was basically the film school that I was not able to attend.”
Ybarra, who also spent time with the CBS affiliate of the station, now works for the KVOA-NBC affiliate in Tucson as a 17-year broadcast TV news veteran photojournalist/editor.
His feature film, however, has been in the works since 2016, when he developed the concept. After pre-production in 2017, Ybarra, his cast and crew filmed from spring to September 2018. But it took two years and some change to edit before it could make it to audiences.
“It’s been a little while,” Ybarra admits.
During the film’s production, Ybarra faced some difficulties in getting the film made, the toughest being finding “the perseverance to keep on going,” he says. He and his wife, Maribel, dealt with some health complications following principal filming, after which “lingering effects, such things as depression and anxiety and sleep hours (being) all over the place,” created a struggle to “just get back on the horse,” he explains.
“It was difficult for me to pull myself out of a very dark place … and just make sure that the film got done and that I saw it through,” he continues, noting, “I have never been one to step into a project and not complete it. Completion is important. Results matter.”
It wasn’t all difficult, though. Ybarra recalls the joy of seeing local creatives working together.
“The best part about making the film was the magic of just watching a lot of Arizona talent come together — there is so much talent in Arizona,” Ybarra says. “The talent just needs to be collected and harnessed, because people are hungry to do.”
From the main cast to the extras, everyone involved was “hungry to make,” he adds.
Marroquin is one such talent. The actress, aged 17 at the time, auditioned on a whim at the recommendation of her modeling contact, and just a few weeks later, she was surprised to find out she got the part.
“I was like, ‘No, you’re joking with me,’” Marroquin recalls. “Honestly, I’m so glad I decided to go that day because it opened up so many opportunities for me. I’ve learned so much by being a part of that film, and I’m so grateful for that opportunity.”
Though she remembers it being tough to wake up “super, super early to film” — sometimes going to bed at 3 a.m. and getting up at 6 a.m. — Ybarra, his wife and the rest of the cast were supportive.
“Sometimes my parents weren’t always able to be there, so just having (Maribel) there was really helpful,” Marroquin says.
As for her favorite part of the experience, she says she learned time management and personal growth.
“I was (18 when filming began), and the people that I was working with were adults,” Marroquin recalls. “I feel like being able to talk to a lot of other people and just know that people are going to have my back, that is what I really loved and why my experience was so beautiful because I had a lot of people that cared for me and understood that I was young.”
On Ybarra’s end, he hopes to create more independent films under his production company, Ybarra Films LLC. It all depends on how the COVID-19 pandemic goes, though.
“There are more plans for Arizona-based films in the not-too-distant future,” he hints. “The trick is answering the question: Where are we going to be in January 2022 with regards to public health?”
Whether or not he can write a script currently hinders on if he needs to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions.
“Are we up against the odds of a limited production budget, paying people? You are always going to be up against the odds,” Ybarra says.
“It is always going to be a boulder that you push uphill, but that’s always the case anyway. Everything is so possible, and yes, more independent film productions are on the horizon for Ybarra Films.”
Marroquin says playing the role of Natalia and appearing in a film “has been my dream my whole life.”
“I thank God, my family and everyone who has been supportive throughout this entire time,” Marroquin says. “Having it filmed in Tucson is very special for us. We appreciate the love and support from the community to come and watch the film. I really think that they will enjoy it and learn something from it.”
“I do hope people see this film as an example of reaching for your dreams and that people can go after their dreams whether they are an aspiring journalist, an aspiring filmmaker, aspiring actor or actress, or somebody who works behind the camera — maybe not even in the realm of creative arts and filmmaking,” Ybarra elaborates. “I hope people see this film, which is not a perfect film, but despite that, I hope people are able to look at this movie and say, ‘Wow, there are a bunch of people right there reaching for what they want to do and what they love to do. Maybe if they can do their thing, maybe I can do mine.’”
For showtimes, go to harkins.com.CT