Oscar Torre: Directorial Debut Unlocks Deep Emotions in “Pretty Rosebud”

Chuti Tiu with “Pretty Rosebud” Director Oscar Torre — Photo Credit: Domenic Yovina

By Elia Esparza

In his directorial debut, actor Oscar Torre (Hangover3, Cane, Ladron Que Roba a Ladron, Counterpunch) has superbly captured the visual essence of Pretty Rosebud’s story of a woman struggling to find happiness living in a fishbowl, where cultural and religious traditions are smothering a young woman dying to be free.

Written by Chuti Tiu, who also stars as Cecilia “Cissy” Santos, a woman drowning in an unhappy marriage to an unemployed architect (Kipp Shitoani). Not helping matters are her culturally traditional parents (Bel Hernandez and Dana Lee), economic pressures and her religious beliefs— and Father Antonio (Richard Yniguez) continues with his pressures for Cissy to be the perfect wife and hopefully, a wonderful future mother. Whether you are Latino, Asian Pacific, African-American, Filippino, or any other ethnicity, being a woman of color, assimilated to American traditions, which usually clash with everything you’ve grown up to believe as sacred—you will relate to Pretty Rosebud.

Pretty Rosebud is the dramatic, and at times, tragic side of the comedic side to My Big Fat Beautiful Greek Wedding. In Chuti’s story Cissy is a trapped woman, a ticking time bomb and instead of confronting her parents, priest and cultural society, she rebels by doing everything she is not supposed to be doing as a traditional Chinese-Filipino young wife.

How did it come about that Chuti’s Pretty Rosebud script got made into an indie film? Well, it really helps to be married to a successful actor who happened to be looking for the right script to turn into a film… an indie that would serve as his directorial debut.  The busy Oscar Torre made time to talk to me about Pretty Rosebud.

Latin Heat: For months I’ve heard so much about your film, what was the motivation to turn this particular story into a film that marks your first directorial debut?

Oscar Torre: Pretty Rosebud was a story that my wife [Chuti Tiu] had written a few years ago. I had read it a while back and really liked it, but at the time I wasn’t thinking of directing. Finally, we decided to shoot the film and we discussed other directors. But, the more I read the script, the more I felt I understood the characters and story. That’s when I stepped in and decided to make this my first film as a director. I was attracted to the story because I liked that the film’s protagonist is flawed and makes many mistakes on her journey to find herself.

LH: What has the directing/filmmaking process experience taught you?

OT:  I think it has made me a better actor and artist. I’m much more appreciative of the amount of work it takes to make a film. Many times I now know what the director is trying to accomplish and the challenges he or she is facing. I knew it in concept but had never actually done it.

Chuti Tiu Cissy
Torre’s (back) in his role of Alejandro

LH:  Aside from directing, you’re playing double duty also acting in the role as Alejandro, what’s his role about?

OT: I play Alejandro an ex professional boxer who was almost the champion of the world and is now a personal trainer at a gym where Cissy [Chuti] works out. It’s a small character but important to the story. I didn’t want to play a bigger role because of the amount of work… directing a film keeps you a little busy [he laughs].

LH: Any advise to up and coming Latino filmmakers, writers, actors?

OT:  Go after your dreams with passion, knowing that you are going to have obstacles along the way but we are fortunate to be in a profession that everything that happens in our lives feeds our artist’s creativity, so make sure you learn from everything and everyone.

LH:  Acting, directing, are you heading into working behind the scenes more than in front one day?

OT: Hopefully, I will be able to do both. I’m passionate about acting. I love working on a character and finding out what makes them tick – what their reason is for waking up in the morning. As a director, I like that I have control of the whole story. I like the idea of telling a story in a simple but entertaining way. In the future, I can see myself possibly directing more than acting, but I’m not there yet.

LH: Since you first started in Hollywood, how has it changed from the time you got hired on your fist gig to where you are now making your own movies?

OT: Although I now get to play and audition for roles that I would never have in the past, it still feels the same to me in many ways. I still get nervous before an audition and with every role. I always have doubt at some point in the process of getting ready — of whether I’ll be able to pull it off. Making our own movies is a way of taking control of our careers and getting to play roles or tell stories that we might not be able to unless we do it ourselves. I do realize that I’ve been very blessed to be able to do something I truly love and am passionate about.

LH: Ever since Latinos reelected the president last November, the power of Latinos became evident… yet there are still hurdles. In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle Latinos still face in Hollywood?

OT: I think our biggest obstacle, or challenge is having more Latinos in positions of power: studio executives, producers, writers, and directors. People who know our stories and what’s interesting and unique about each one of us… Latinos working in film and television decision-making positions with power green lighting projects that are well told and that appeal to everyone, not just Latinos. Then our next challenge is getting Latino audiences to go out and buy the tickets and support the films.

LH: How was it working with your wife?

OT: I really had no idea of what it would be like directing her because at home she never listens to me [he laughs]. It was really a great experience. On the set, she wasn’t my wife but the lead in my film. I’ve been a fan of her work for a long time but I had never worked with her, so I really didn’t know what it was going to be like. Seeing her prepared and actually working on the set was inspiring to me. I saw an actress giving a performance that was raw, vulnerable and at times humorous. Even though her character at times could be unlikeable in the wrong hands, she made her very human and because of that we end up rooting for her. I believe Pretty Rosebud is the best work of her career and I’m really excited to see what the future has in store for her, because she can only get better – she just needed an opportunity.

Thank you, Oscar Torre. We can’t wait until Pretty Rosebud premieres… the trailer promises us a story many women of color will relate to.

Pretty Rosebud
Director: Oscar Torre
Writer: Chuti Tiu
Cast: Chuti TiuKipp ShiotaniDana Lee, Bel Hernandez, Richard Yniguez, Tamara Braun, Wolfgang Bodison, James Kyson

Pretty Rosebud has recently completed and is currently exploring the film festival circuit and looking for distribution.

More on Pretty Rosebud, read Latin Heat article titled Chuti Tiu’s Powerful “Pretty Rosebud” Ignites Vulnerability When Battling Cultural Traditions: http://www.latinheat.com/2013/05/07/chuti-tius-pretty-rosebud-ignites-human-vulnerability-when-battling-cultural-traditions/

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Elia Esparza is a leading expert in communications and journalism targeting the burgeoning Hispanic market and has produced and written dozens of articles. President and CEO of Always Evolving PR and a Communications Specialist, Elia, incorporates her 18 years experience in the areas of entertainment and education public relations, and marketing. promotions, market research and translations (Eng/Span).