A Langley woman travelled to the New Mexico desert to produce her latest film, called At Your Own Risk.
Mighty Pharaoh Films actor and producer, Helenna Santos, and her team of three other independent filmmakers spent 12 days in the desert with a $5,000 budget to produce the film.
“We shot it specifically as something that would be a micro-budget project. So what that means is there’s no big studio financing it or helping us distribute it.
We wanted to do it as an experiment to test out this new distribution model where people can get things directly to an audience.”
Santos was referring to the music industry where listeners are able to access music directly from their own devices. At Your Own Risk is self-distributed on iTunes in a similar way. The film is being released on Oct. 9.
Santos is accompanied on-screen in New Mexico by actor Alexandra Boylan. Director John K.D. Graham and cinematographer Richard Galli made up the rest of the team in New Mexico.
With such a small team, Santos played a role in both acting and producing the film. At Your Own Risk is a psychological thriller that follows the story of two career-driven women who are hired to test out a pilot project in the New Mexico desert.
“It’s an exciting story because it captures an under served demographic of women in their 30s who aren’t reliant on a story to do with being just the girlfriend, the wife, the mistress, or the prostitute. All of these archetypes that women have been stuck in for so long. It’s about two women who are career driven and they go off on this grand adventure and everything becomes something they didn’t expect it to be,” said Santos.
As an independent film, At Your Own Risk faced a few challenges.
“There’s always challenges with wind and sound. Or how to execute things with only four people.”
Before her film career launched, Santos grew up in Langley and graduated from D.W. Poppy Secondary School.
After graduation, Santos attended Capilano College and then UBC, where she completed a bachelor of fine arts in the acting program.
Growing up in Langley, Santos said it was uncommon to see minorities on television or in the movies.
“I’m half Filipino and growing up I didn’t have any examples of people who looked like me on the screen. In Langley in the ’80s there just weren’t a lot of minorities around me. I’m really proud to be a lead in an adventure movie where you don’t normally see a minority female character shown that way.”
Santos started as an actor and got involved with production so she could give herself more opportunities on set. She said she loves producing and acting equally.
“It’s who I am. It’s not an easy career to pursue but I absolutely love it and I can’t imagine doing anything else. Even when it’s really difficult, those are the times I dig my heels in further and get more determined. It’s an incredible medium for change. We get to see humanity in a different way and we can experience someone else’s life in a way we couldn’t normally see it.”
Since earning her acting degree in 2004, Santos has spent time in Vancouver and the United States where she’s worked on digital series, network television and independent films.
Santos currently lives in Langley with her husband.
At Your Own Risk is available to order on iTunes .