Alumni’s Latest Film Gains Popularity on YouTube During Pandemic

Co-directors and real-life brothers Yecid Benavides Jr. (Left) and Johanan Benavides (Right) both star as geeky brothers hell-bent on winning a pricy laptop from a contest.

Dante Nahai/ Staff Writer 

As the pandemic continues to confine us to our homes, many people have taken up watching films they’d never seen before, often from other countries.

A few weeks ago, FIU alumni Yecid Benavides Jr. released his 2016 rom-com “Engaño a Primera Vista” (Deceit At First Sight) on Youtube for free due to the pandemic. 

In just a few weeks, the film gathered over two million views and over 31,000 likes. 

The film was originally released on September 8th, 2016 in Benavides’ home country, Bolivia. 

“The film follows two tech-savvy brothers who are determined to win the laptop of their dreams,” said Benavides, “but to do so they must get a kiss from two girls out of their league in a matter of 48 hours.” 

With the pandemic still disrupting the normalcy of our everyday lives, Benavides’ film achieved a level of exposure and word-of-mouth that might not have been possible before the quarentine. 

For now, Benavides is working on his next film in Miami, where he moved back to about a year and a half ago, and expects to start filming in the coming months after putting plans on hold.

“The movie is an art heist film,” Benavides hinted, “think ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ but instead of a casino in Las Vegas, it’s an art house in Wynwood.” 

From 2001 until 2005, Benavides attended FIU, where he worked on his acting and directing skills. However, since FIU did not have a film major or courses at the time, he decided to major in theater.

Once he graduated, Benavides went back home to Bolivia to work with his family and continued to grow his passion for filmmaking. 

While Benavides’ passion belongs to film, living with a family of equally creative artists definitely influenced his interests in filmmaking.

Both of his parents were involved with music, his mother being a singer and his father a composer and music producer. And seeing how influential they were with their own talents, Benavides decided to follow a career in film. 

“Film encompasses all the arts, I wanted to teach people new ideas and in film you can do it simply.” said Benavides.

Becoming a filmmaker was, and still is, easier said than done. But for any determined artist, that didn’t mean it was impossible. 

In 2005, film equipment was both expensive and hard to come by in Bolivia, a nation with an old and rich history in film, but  an extremely minute industry.

Despite the obstacle, it didn’t stop Benavides and his family from overcoming it.

His father, who also had a degree in mechanical engineering, was able to build their own filming equipment, enabling Benavides to find a film career.

“In Bolivia, we didn’t have access to a steady cam, if you needed one you’d have to hire someone from another country to bring one over,” Benavides said.  “My family and I studied pictures of a steady cam and made one from scratch.” 

For a while, the Benavides family was the only production company in Bolivia to have such equipment. So, they opened up a production house, where they rented out their cameras and other devices whenever it wasn’t being used by them

Soon, they were hired to film commercials and co-produce other films with local Bolivian directors including Jorge Sanjines, Antonio Eguino, Rodrigo Bellot, and Martin Boulocq. 

Even with the success of the rental company, Benavides remained dead-set on making his film.

“A lot of directors get stuck filming commercials and never get out of it,” he said. “At the time we had everything needed and decided to make the film”. 

The entire process, from writing the script to the end of post-production, took one year and nine months before the film was finally finished. But even with a film completed that fast, there was no shortage of challenges. 

Thankfully, finding the right location to film was not one of them.

“A majority of the film was shot in MegaCenter, our local mall, so the film naturally uses product placement,” Benavides explained. “Every store you see in the background, or restaurant the characters go to in the food court, all helped with the film’s funding.” 

As for the main cast, Benavides and his younger brother and co-director, Johanan, decided to both star as the leads, also playing brothers. The next major decision was the filming schedule. 

“We had two choices for filming, either film at the mall after hours or when they were open.

Filming at night would be difficult since we’d have to open parts of the mall. We thought this would make production last longer so we decided to film during the day.” 

While filming during mall hours was easier, it still had its setbacks. Benavides recalled the two biggest setbacks during filming, while managing to still work with them.

“While we were filming, people would walk in the shot,” Benavides said, “but if there were ones who were in the background, we considered them as extras. 

Not only did the directors deal with unpredictable pedestrians in a public place, they both had to work there for only a window of time. 

“We also had specific times to shoot, and had arrangements with the mall to shut off the music for the hour we’d film.” 

Once they were done filming it was off to post-production, then a release to theaters. During showings he and his crew interacted with fans, then held a meet and greet after the film ended. 

“When I had this idea for the film I didn’t think of it as an artsy film,” Benavides said, “I wanted it to appeal to the masses. And with a film, it can have a better reach in the audience. Showing a side of Bolivia that many may not know about.”

And with millions of views and countless comments praising the film, there is certainly no argument against that.

Benavides then spoke his advice on what students should do if interested in pursuing a career in film. 

“A film is something that you should dedicate your time to. There are many sources you can find on the internet that can help you learn the craft.” Benavides said.

“Look for work whether you’re being paid or you’re volunteering. It’ll take time until you’ll start making anything, but the experience is what matters the most.”

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