MEET GABRIEL RHENALS, AWARD-WINNING FILMMAKER
We had the good fortune of connecting with Gabriel Rhenals and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gabriel, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I’ve been active in visual art since I was very young so this career choice was somewhat inevitable. But as I matured, I realized that an artistic or creative career is one in which you can continue to grow and be productive without having to worry about your vulnerability in an economic system. There’s always room for art, even if you have to support yourself with employment in someone else’s company. Art gives you the freedom to be your own industry and chart your own path, whatever the circumstances.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m an all-in-one filmmaker who makes micro-budget, feature-length films.
I feel what sets me apart from my contemporaries is that I am not a technocrat. I love technology and recognize its essential role in any art but I try to maintain writing and the ferment of ideas as the principal focus in filmmaking as I practice it. This is something I’ve always ascribed to and a point of some pride for me.
After completing my first feature-length film, For My Sister, and succeeding in finding distribution for the film, I am most excited about what comes next! Unfortunately, I had to shelve the script for what I expected would be my follow-up feature film due to the pandemic but I’m currently working on a new, pandemic-proof script that will likely enter production before the middle of the year.
I’ve accomplished a great deal over my past two decades involved in filmmaking: 16 short films, a feature film and several unproduced feature-length scripts. But it hasn’t been easy and I attribute my accomplishments to hard work, fear of mediocrity and a more peculiar facet – amor fati or love of fate, which involves “[wanting] nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity,” as Nietzsche has said. That uncanny level of commitment to a chosen life path has appealed to me for quite a long time.
There have been many challenges; a lion’s share emanating from the writing or development process behind my projects. The greatest challenge I’ve faced so far was fairly recent and involved that aforementioned pandemic-proof script. I spent many months trying to arrive at a feasible idea which still retained enough cinematic potential to be viable. Luckily, I succeeded in finding it but it’s those quiet, intrapersonal challenges that can be the most infernal and insidious in what I do.
Some lessons I’ve learned include the value of taking breaks from creative problems and returning with a fresh mind in order to see new angles to the otherwise painfully familiar; secondly, realizing there is always ample financial and moral support from your community and those around you granted you proceed earnestly with your work; and finally, as director Patrick Read Johnson put it, “You can get from here to there so long as you never, never, never quit.” These are all lessons I’ve certainly gained from and reflect upon often.
I would like the world to know that my first feature-length film, For My Sister, is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video (FREE with Prime membership)! It’s a comedy/drama about sisterly devotion and mental illness. It currently wields a near-perfect 5-star rating on the streaming service! I’d also like the world to know that they can find the latest news and other content related to my work at my personal website, www.gabrielrhenals.com!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Amid this ongoing pandemic, this is a tricky scenario to respond to but if my best friend was willing to take a rain check, I’d probably recommend a few of my favorite Miami haunts such as the Wynwood Arts District to expose them to inspiring local art; Coral Gables Art Cinema for great film programming of obscure gems; South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center for a beautiful venue to take in a variety of stage performances; Tea & Poets in Sunset Place mall to see local performers take the stage during their open-mic nights; FIU’s Green Library for its vast book and media collection; and, for dining purposes, I’d recommend 109 Burger Joint across the street from FIU for some outrageous but utterly delectable gourmet burger confections.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to Michael Hill, a former high school English teacher of mine who I’m grateful to have had re-enter my life as an outstanding mentor and friend these past five years. Ruben Rosario, friend and local film critic, also deserves credit and recognition because not since film school have I enjoyed and gained from regular interaction as steeped in as much shared passion for film. I’d also like to acknowledge the love, support and encouragement of my family who’ve always been there for me. Lastly, some love to all the filmmakers, in Hollywood and beyond, who’ve committed a significant portion of their lives to this incredible and ever-rewarding artform – it’s constantly inspiring!