Radhaa leads a vegetarian lifestyle and practices yoga and meditation. Radhaa continues to write and create films that move, touch, and inspire through her production company Radhaa Nilia Productions. She has just released a film called Hope Cafe.
1. How did you get started in filmmaking?
I've always had an interest in filmmaking--acting, producing, and directing, too. I'm a multimedia artist by nature and it's my heart's passion to create.
I attended Southern Oregon University Producers Program and because of my desire to learn more, I found an internship at a production company at Sunset Gower studios. It was really cool going to the studio every day with my official pass, feeling like a part of a production company. I started out as a secretary and worked my way up to becoming a producer. There was nothing glamorous about it, though. I pretty much started doing everything under the umbrella of producing and I did it mostly as a solo, female, aspiring producer. I had to learn a lot of tough lessons!
I got to do it all, from casting, catering, and wardrobe styling, and I acted as a makeup artist and therapist on set; I had to learn to pull all the loose ends together with no additional budget at all and not much time to make it happen. It felt like wild makeshift producing, creating something out of thin air. I ended up completing four films that all got picked up for distribution. That was the reward.
I started to feel it was time to break free and create something on my own. My friend Vin Diesel was a really big inspiration for me at the time, and he encouraged me to work hard and get as much experience as I could.
I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could actually make a film on my own--even though I had no budget or backing when I started; I just had a dream, courage and endless drive to make it happen.
2. You have an impressive cast for a first-time filmmaker: how did this happen?
I have to say, it was amazing to have this caliber of talents and I would be happy to give you a rundown of our main actors.
Noel G, who plays Hector:
Noel G is such a talented actor and I really respect his work ethic. He has one hundred and eleven films and TV shows combined under his belt as of now including classics like Training Day, Fast & Furious, The Walking Dead, and The Dark Knight Rises. I am just so proud to have him as our main lead.
Noel is a full-time working actor and he gave his precious time and energy even though he was in the midst of multiple projects when I approached him. Noel made time to fly out to Ashland, Oregon for the scenes. I can't say enough good things about Noel. He is a great actor and so easy to work with. He may act like a gangster in films, but he is such a professional in real life. He also keeps the fun flowing and really made me laugh so much. I am really, really thankful I got to work with him.
Joseph Midyett, who plays Ray & the Homeless man:
Joseph Midyett at the time was working at the Shakespeare Festival Theatre in Ashland, Oregon. Playing two roles is not easy and he did above and beyond in both his roles in Hope Cafe. He even brought his own beard and props to play the homeless man, alongside Noel Gugliemi. That is one of my favorite scenes! In a turn of a hat, Joseph Midyett also plays the boss at the cafe and played the role of a creepy and sinister man. You can't recognize him at all; his whole energy, body language and facial expressions have shifted.
Any director would want him on their set because he makes it easy for other actors and is so emotionally intelligent with his combined instincts and intuition; he uses them all in his work. Joseph Midyett is one of the finest actors I have the pleasure of working with. His work makes me cry because it's just so good, and at the same time I celebrate what a true artist can really do. I know he has a big future and I look forward to working with him again.
F. Valentino Morales of Fast & Furious, who plays Marco:
I had known F. Valentino Morales for many years, through my friendship with Vin Diesel. He is a one-of-a-kind, genuine person. Valentino looks so big and strong and maybe even intimidating, but he is such a kindred soul, a very talented and a unique actor. We had been asking him for a very long time if he could play this role that we had wrote for him, but he had been so busy on location with Vin Diesel that we were not sure if he would be able to do it. But he kept his word and really came through for us. Before he became famous, Valentino had been through the process of making his own indie film with Vin, so he knows what it's like to be an indie filmmaker. He still had the passion and the heart for it, which a lot of people lose when they get to that level of success. I couldn't feel more blessed because he is so perfect for the role of Marco in Hope Cafe and I am so glad that he loves Hope Cafe as well. It was a big pat on the back from someone of his caliber. Be on the lookout for F. Valentino Morales as he is set to produce Fast & Furious 7!
Ayvee Baby, who plays Hayden:
Supporting actress Ayvee Baby is a beautiful woman with multi talents. She did a wonderful job playing the sassy Hayden. She helped me put together musical talents for Hope Cafe. She can sing, rap, and dance; it was fun!
We had some wild road trips together as we drove all the way to Oregon from LA and back a few times to shoot some scenes. We both laughed and definitely cried a few times throughout the making. I think it's safe to say we both learned a lot in the process and it is an experience we will always remember and can laugh about too. Besides acting, Ayvee is also a curvy model. You can find out more about her at: www.ayveebaby.me.
Asia's award-winning actor Raymond Bagatsing, who plays Pastor Miles:
Raymond Bagatsing is a celebrated actor in the Philippines and Asia. He is the equivalent of Brad Pitt in the Philippines' entertainment industry. His ability and range of creativity as an actor is mind-blowing! Raymond has received Asia's best actor award. I had the great opportunity to also work with him in other projects while he was in the USA. It is such an honor to work with someone as brilliant as he is. He can literally play any role and we are so proud to have him in Hope Cafe. He is now back in the Philippines on one of the hottest hit series. I can't get over how blessed we have been to have him play such an important role as Pastor Miles. It was not a role that anyone could just play. Raymond Bagatsing had the right spirit to play the role, as he is a very spiritual person, and that really comes through. He is a true inspiration with his craft. It's something to aspire to and I hope I get the opportunity to work with him again.
Multi-platinum producer Cool from Cool & Dre, who plays Diego:
Cool is a multi-platinum music producer, but he is just really down-to-earth and is very supportive of Hope Cafe. He took a chance on us and did his first cameo role. He was a good sport, and a fine actor. Though he is one of the industy's top music producers in working with Lil Wayne, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, and Queen Latifah to name a few, he was once an indie artist just like us. Cool worked really hard to get to the top of the industry starting from his garage, so he respects a hard work ethic. He said one thing that I always remember: "It doesn't matter where you start as long as you keep going and never give up 'cause some way, some how you're gonna get there."
That is why he gave us a chance and came out to show his love and support for our project. I'm so grateful and happy that he could grace us with his presence in Hope Cafe.
Mindy Tiry, who plays Beatrice:
Beatrice was a very special character that we created, played by Mindy Tiry. She is a wise, loving, and non-judgemental character. It was hard to cast someone who embodied all these qualities, but Mindy Tiry brought her to life. I actually met Mindy in a memoir writing class many years ago in Oregon, and she happens to be one of the most interesting people I have ever met. I couldn't help but think of her when we were doing casting. This was her first acting role, but she is such a natural actress and it was so easy and comfortable to work with her.
Rapper Phil The Agony, who plays Noel's brother:
Phil The Agony is a music artist, rapper, and a great actor too. He is a big name in the underground hip hop world. He was also behind-the-scenes in creating parts of the music for Hope Cafe. He has a natural charm on screen and has an authenticity that shines through. One of my favorite scenes of his is with Pastor Miles (Raymond Bagatsing)--it's very heartfelt. For being a hardcore rapper, he shows his vulnerability as he ask Pastor Miles to pray for him and his brother. It's a real moment that touches the heart, and a reminder that no matter how tough or indifferent we may act on the outside, at the end of the day we all need love and compassion.
Finally, the role of Larissa is played by myself, Radhaa Nilia:
I auditioned many actresses to play this role, but casting someone to realize my vision of her did not match what I had in mind, so I ended up having to play her last minute. It was so fun acting Larissa! She is a feisty Latina and the complete opposite of Jade. She is not afraid to fight back and say what's on her mind. Many people have told me that Larissa stole their heart and the show and wished that she had more screen time. You never know; she may reappear again!
I want to tell you: it takes a lot of people to put a film project together on any level, and of course I want to give gratitude and a shout out to every single person that has given their support in the making of Hope Cafe. It's been a long journey, and you know who you are: many thanks to you!
I have to say, it an honor to have this caliber of diverse talents.
3. What is Hope Cafe about, what inspired you to make it, and how is diversity an important part of the film?
We live in a very diverse world and that diversity is growing more every day. Growing up, I never saw multi-ethnic role models in Hollywood whom I could identify with. That was a really big challenge for me growing up, and made me with feel really left out. I want to celebrate diversity. It's a beautiful thing to work with people of different backgrounds and ethnicities and that is something to be really proud of.
We started to create an outline for the film and a story of someone that seemed all too familiar kept coming up. I started to realize that this film is based on a real life story and was being manifested through the writing.
One main character stood out, and her name was Jade.
There was something about her: she was a young woman with many disappointments in her life and though she felt like giving up, she kept searching for that "something" that would keep her alive.
Jade is someone who had lost everything, including her faith, but still has that glimmer of hope inside her that keeps her going.
There was something therapeutic about bringing this character back to life. I found a sense of healing and completion in this process. The need to tell this woman's story was the driving force behind this film. She and her daughter have passed away in real life, but in the film I could create an ending that makes me happy. If you really want to know the story, then watch the film. That's as much as I can tell you!
4. I see you are also a model, and that you do energy work, too. How do you balance these pursuits with your film work, too?
Modeling is something that is lighthearted and fun for me in contrast to the hard and sometimes gut-wrenching work of indie filmmaking. When I get to model, I don't have to think much, and I just get to dress up and play.
I enjoy modeling: it is so nice for me to go on set and have my makeup done by a professional makeup artist, designer jewelry and clothes perfectly ready to go. I walk in and catering and hot coffee greets me in the morning. To have everything set up professionally for me makes the shoot a real treat, and I never ever take that for granted.
Doing healing energy work is a whole other level. It gives me a constant perspective, and it's very rewarding. It's one of the best gifts in my life, and keeps me balanced and sane. There is that part of me that is very nurturing and caring, and I get to express and share that in a healing session with someone who is also ready to receive that kind of energy. There is a time and place for everything. I love this work which adds depth and meaning in my life.
I don't mind having a life of contrast because I know as I continue to make more films it will get easier and I know more support will be available to help make this process flow with more grace and ease. I really put everything on the line to achieve my goals. I'm not frivolous; I really just reinvest my resources right back into my projects with Radhaa Nilia Productions. It's my baby and I look forward to the future when I can make a profit, but for now I continue to put my time, energy and money where my heart is, in filmmaking.
5. With the internet allowing you to sell copies of your film, are you centering your publicity efforts on getting the film screened at festivals, or reaching individuals who might buy a DVD copy of your film--or both of these?
We are doing both. We are so honored that Hope Cafe was officially selected at a few film festivals, such as the Golden Door International Film Festival, Oct 10-13th 2013, in New Jersey. Tickets are available at http://goldendoorfilmfestival.org.
Hope Cafe has also been invited to Indie Fest and has the honors of being the first film for the opening night in honor of Latin & Multi Ethnic Filmmakers October 24th-27th in Garden Grove California. Tickets at: http://www.indiefestusa.com.
We would love it if you would join us, but you don't have to wait to see Hope Cafe! You can buy a copy at www.radhaaniliaproductions.com.
Thank you so much for taking the time and supporting my dream as an indie female filmmaker!