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The AV Interview: Sandra Varona (producer of Shine)

Today, we interview Sandra Varona. Varona is the producer of Shine (opening this past Friday). Check out the review on the site, but for now a little background on today’s subject.

Sandra is a Los Angeles-based Producer from South Gate, CA with 10+years of experience.

In 2008, Sandra received the Panavision New Filmmaker Grant—which provides up-and-coming independent filmmakers a full camera package to jumpstart their careers. Soon after, she launched her own production company, Varona Productions —a banner that has been at the forefront of numerous music videos, short films, new media projects and now feature films.

In 2010, Varona was one of 30 participants selected for the highly coveted year-long mentorship program Project Involve sponsored by Film Independent. After completing Project Involve, she signed on as the Unit Production Manager on the feature film, FILLY BROWN, which premiered at Sundance.

Starting in 2013 Sandra became the Production & Crew Manager at Maker Studios working directly with the Head of Production to develop efficient and necessary protocols between producers and studio operations. Several years later she went on to production manage for Pop Sugar, REVOLT TV and at the end summer of 2017 for comedian Kevin Hart’s company.

Her debut as a Producer/Line Producer on her first feature film came in the fall of 2015 on the drama dance movie SHINE. Mainly shot in New York City with additional shoots in Los Angeles and London. SHINE premiered at Urbanworld Film (HBO) Festival on September of 2017 and won Best Feature Film (Audience Award). The feature stars David Zayas (Dexter & Gotham), Alysia Reiner (Orange is the New Black, Netflix), and world-renowned bachatero Jorge Burgos (Ataca). The film acquired distribution by GVN and it’s scheduled to hit theaters on October 5th, 2018.

In addition, Sandra had the opportunity to produce/line produce another feature film in November of 2016, titled Flavor of Life in her hometown of South Gate, CA. The film stars Pepe Serna (Scarface) and  Erick Lopez (Crazy Ex Girlfriend) and scheduled to release on VOD this October 2018 as well.

Varona is actively hiring minorities and women in key positions to promote and prove diversity behind camera is certainly attainable. In 2015 Sandra created FILM GALS, an online group to spotlight and inspire women working behind the camera while also providing job resources.


The Interview!

What about Shine spoke to you as a film producer?
The music and dance aspect of it was the first thing as I have a deep connection to music and secondly the fact that it was an all Latino cast set in New York, a place that I’ve always had an affinity for.

Why make the jump from music videos to feature films?
I have always loved making films since I was in middle school and even when I was consistently producing music videos in my early 20’s, I was also producing narrative content simultaneously through short films. However, before SHINE I had already production managed other feature films, so filmmaking was familiar.

How did crowdsourcing shape this film?
Crowdfunding was the main source for the production and created a buzz for the film early on because of the campaign. It truly was the launching pad to get started with pre production and growing a loyal fan base.

Did fundraising records for this movie change your views of its potential audience? 

Yes, absolutely, I soon realized how big the Puerto Rican culture/market was and specially how much Salsa was embraced all over the world. We are still often receiving messages from Spain, London, Canada, etc… from people asking to see the movie.

What do you enjoy about Salsa?

Oh man, hard to describe but I guess I can say, all the instruments, the sounds, the melodies and really what it exudes of me.

What are you working on next?

I have a short film in Post Production (REFLECTION) about self identity and race in America and 4 features (1 being a documentary) in development. All in different stages but 3 of those projects I can say will be heavily influenced by music as well. The documentary (FOR THE RECORD) is actually about music “Latin Hip Hop” and about spotlighting Latinos in that genre which is half way shot already.

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