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East Coast Premiere

Director: Laura Somers

United States, 2018, 97min
Format: Digital (screening) - Arri (shooting)
Festival Year: 2019
Category: Feature Narrative
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Cast:  Gerardo Velasquez, Justin Rodriguez, Michelle Magallon, Ulysses Montoya, Alessandra Mañon, Naomë Antionette, Kenneth Wayne Bradley, Ricky Catter, Amelia Rico, Brittany Sandoval
Crew:  Producers: Laura Somers and Eddie Rodriguez - Screenwriters: Laura Somers and David Saldaña

A group of troubled teens from a low-income community break into "Los Ricos", the local mansion with a border fence, and spend the day pretending to be rich in order to forget their difficult lives.

Laura Somers is originally Houston, TX. She is a determined, nurturing, and enthusiastic director committed to being an in demand film director. Laura's directing strengths lie with her solid storytelling skills, powerful use of imagery, and her ability to inspire dignified, passionate performances from actors. Her work focuses on highlighting social issues that reflect underrepresented communities. She is excellent with young talent. A graduate of NYU, American Theater Magazine called her work “hot, hip and on the verge”, and SHOOT Magazine highlighted her as a new commercial director of 2016. She was an Editor for TruTv, Spike, SyFy, TV One, and Lifetime, which helps her ability to direct quickly and efficiently on set. She mentors screenwriters with the Veterans Writing Project and the WGA. She is a member of Film Fatales Los Angeles, where she currently lives. Laura is proud that “Rich Kids” employs a diverse group of artists in front of and behind the camera, is a ten time award winner, and currently on the 2019 festival circuit.

filmmaker's note
I find as a writer/director that I’m drawn to telling stories that dig into untold regions of the American experience. And I usually tell stories that are intensely personal, usually coming from a facet of my life. The idea for Rich Kids came out of an incident that happened in the neighborhood I grew up in. Our road cut through two completely different neighborhoods, one, a low-income working class neighborhood and the other, an upper middle class neighborhood. Although the road was only eight feet wide, the divide was clear as day. Even made clearer when a neighbor from the upper class side boarded up a hole in the fence to keep the lower class kids from cutting through their neighborhood. My house was on the edge of the upper middle class neighborhood at the road. It was a beautiful, ostentatious fortress built incongruously in the neighborhood. And it had a tall, winding fence all around it, letting everyone on the other side of the road know to: Keep Out. The house was a neighborhood legend that the locals spun stories about. School friends and kids in the neighborhood were always breaking in to get a look inside. It wasn’t until I moved out on my own, did I grow to appreciate what that house represented to people who didn’t even have a house. The luxury and tranquility it offered. An escape from the hardships of life. That’s where Rich Kids begins. A few years ago, a group of kids broke into the house. Evidence left behind tells us that these kids lived in the house for a few days, having one hell of a time before it ended in tragedy. We turn on the local news and see stories like theirs all the time. And many people just think, “Well, they were bad kids,” change the channel, and forget about them. But I knew kids from this community, they were my friends. They are so much more than what you see on the news. They are brilliant, talented, passionate, and multi-faceted and many experience hardships in life including loss of a parent due to deportation, homelessness, hunger, and no access to education. I wanted to use this opportunity to give those kids a voice. To give as many marginalized communities as we could a creative say in this project. I made this movie because as a woman in film, I was tired of being marginalized. I was tired of seeing other people being marginalized in film. So I thought, let’s get together and make something beautiful that allows us to show the world who we are. I never realized how scarce Latino representation in the entertainment industry was until I started working on Rich Kids. Our primary goal for Rich Kids is to give a voice to Latino youth who are sorely underrepresented in media, to dissolve mass media stereotypes of Latinos, and to promote an appreciation for diversity. As of 2017, 55 million Latinos, about 18% of the total population, live in the United States. The Latino population is expected to grow to the extent that the US, non-Hispanic population will drop below 50% by 2042. Across the country, Latinos are moving to smaller towns across the country away from the major receiving states. Public reaction to this growth has varied from welcoming to violence. This demographic change will affect the United States’ political, cultural, and economic future. It’s very important to examine how the media and news affects the American public’s perception of Latinos. In order to live up to the ideals of an inclusive society, we must work to shift attention away from Latino stereotypes of maids or gang members. Another important theme for me in this film is the exploration of feminism and how this movement can have a positive effect on both young women and men today in how they interact with each other. Rich Kids highlights youth and sexuality by focusing on different facets of consent and pleasure from the perspective of the female gaze. It was important to me that there be no nudity or rape or any kind of sexual violence towards women, because I want to show young people what healthy sexual relationships and good communication looks like. Our culture expects women to be passive, emotional, and polite, and men to be strong, unemotional, and dominating. These unattainable ideas of femininity and masculinity are toxic to our self identity. My hope is that young women will be empowered by the female characters to stand up for equality and that young men will be inspired to show their softer sides, that the intimacy of sharing their true selves rather than playing into an idea of masculinity is a real reward. Bullying is another important topic that plays a large role in Rich Kids. Both David and I experienced bullying as kids, and we felt like it was an important part of our teen years to showcase. Bullying has become an ever-growing problem in the U.S., and it’s a very sensitive subject for many people to talk about. Rich Kids shows the crushing effects bullying can have on an individual and on our relationships. We hope this film can provide an opportunity to explore, in a safe, neutral way, the impact of bullying. Rich Kids also demonstrates the importance of standing up for those that are being bullied if they can’t protect themselves, and that anybody can do it if they can find the courage. The most important thing I'll take away from shooting Rich Kids was the creative joy and inspiration these young actors brought to my life. Our cast's energetic presence on set made the whole experience feel like we were at sleepaway camp. The nonstop laughs, music, and pranks kept an exhausted crew going well beyond a normal workday. But when it was time to shoot, these actors always knew their lines and gave their whole hearts to their characters and their cast mates. Because they relate so deeply to their characters’ lives and struggles, their courage and creative joy has been imprinted in every single frame, and I know you will feel it when you watch the film. I can’t stop thinking: what message did that big fence around our house send to the kids in my neighborhood? All our systems, whether they be economic, justice, or education, create their own invisible fences which block equal access to working class, poor, and ethnic communities. Making this film has been about breaking through those fences. Thank you for watching the film.

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