As New York filmmaker Ronald Riqueros was busy promoting the second episode of his new male physique and poetry film series Boys Of Life, we got an exclusive Q+A with the visionary director to find out more about his current project and what inspires him.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: RONALD RIQUEROS (@A_BLUE_HEART) - Ever since attending film school at The School of Visual Arts in New York City, Ronald discovered a passion for a visual storytelling that was whimsical, poetic, and provocative. An example of his vision can be seen in his 2015 short film "Beautiful Meat", an official selection to The Boston Underground Film Festival and Cinerockom International Film Festival in which the topics of pornography, opera, and cannibalism are brought together in a stylized gory confection. With "Boys Of Life", as a clear tribute to Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Ragazzi Di Vita", Riqueros has pushed the buttons of his fascination with the consumption of beauty, now expanding to the phenomena of social media celebrity, exposing online male muses to seductive cinematic journeys that explore the symbiotic relationship between the model, the filmmaker, and the art of poetry.
Q+A - RONALD RIQUEROS x REID HAGGIS
REID HAGGIS: How did the idea to create the BOYS OF LIFE series first come to you?
RONALD RIQUEROS: I wanted to combine my love of poetry with my fascination with the consumption of beauty into the same film project. In today’s distracted modern age, people no longer read poetry. In contrast, the rise of social media has popularized beautiful people, creating a space where attractive guys have found niche stardom through various apps, like Instagram. I saw BOYS OF LIFE as an opportunity to explore the phenomena of social media celebrity while delivering literature to my audience.
RH: How do you marry certain poems with your actors? Is it their overall aura/vibe that influences the pairing? Do you direct them based on visions you have using the poetry selections? Or do you film them first and then discover which poetry works better in the editing process?
RR: The artistic process is very collaborative with the actor during pre-production of each episode. We would decide on the mood of the film, and choose the poetry prior to shooting. For example, @Acrodave wanted his episode to be wistful and nostalgic, while @SethFornea wanted his episode to be blissful and hopeful, so the scripts were based around the poetry we picked in our early meetings.
RH: How many episodes do you see yourself doing?
RR: Currently my goal is to create a first season with 10 episodes. Each episode will feature one, or maybe two, actors. The reception of the first two episodes have been overwhelmingly positive, so I will probably follow up with more than just one season.
RH: The second episode with @SethFornea seems to have more of an underlying narrative than the first one with @Acrodave. Was this intentional or purely a coincidence? And do you plan to connect all the episodes in some way? (I noticed @SethFornea was sending pics to @Acrodave)
RR: It is all intentional. Although the style of the narrative varies depending on each actor and the selection of the poetry, the connection between episodes (and actors) will be a constant theme. And that narrative will not only be written by me, but will develop organically through social media connections.
RH: I've noticed that Instagram handles have been a huge part of the aesthetic and marketing for this series. Is this purely promotional for the boys and yourself to gain more followers? Or are you using Instagram as a kind of commentary for this digital age of social media obsession?
RR: The use of Instagram handles to credit the actors, and even myself, instead of using real names was a very intentional choice to make a social commentary. Online platforms like Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube have launched many of their users into celebrity status. This is a fascinating phenomenon to me. Today fame can be self-made over the internet, by carefully curating one’s individual brand of beauty, and then offering it for public consumption. Whether this fame is bankable is another discussion, but someone like @Acrodave has built an audience using that handle, so I use it in part because that’s how the public knows him.
RH: How do you choose the boys? Are most of them your friends before hand? How would you approach a random specimen to be a part of your series?
RR: I was lucky that I was friends with @SethFornea and @Acrodave prior to shooting, so working with them was an easy choice. But it has not been as easy as I thought it would be to find the right guys, with a large online following and the time and mutual interest in doing an episode. I’ve approached @MatthewCamp, @VinnyVega_NYC, @JoshuaMBrickman, @KyleKriegerHair and @JF910 for the third episode. Some of these guys I have met and some I have not. It is a time consuming process, but definitely interesting.
RH: Is it difficult to maintain a level of professionalism while working with such beautiful naked men all the time?
RR: No. As a professional filmmaker and photographer, I have learned that maintaining professionalism is essential to a great product. And given how many of my projects involve beauty (I got my start photographing fashion shows), I’ve spent much of my professional life surrounded by beautiful people, so have become comfortable working with them in different settings. And I guess the same can be said for my social life as well, lol.
RH: Most of the actors seem to be very comfortable with their bodies (especially in a series of this nature) but sometimes in film that's not always the case...As a filmmaker how do you keep your actors feeling confident while baring all physically and emotionally?
RR: I try to connect with the guys during pre-production. I hang out with them and create a friendly relationship. Trust is key for their performance on film. I need them to know that it is an artistic collaboration, and that their episode is something they will be proud of. Also, music helps during filming. All of the audio is done in post-production for each episode, which allows me to play music that sets the mood while we are filming.
RH: What do you want people to know about BOYS OF LIFE ?
RR: I want people to know that BOYS OF LIFE is as much about art and poetry, as it is about the hot guys in each episode. The name BOYS OF LIFE is a direct reference to the novel “Ragazzi Di Vita” by Pier Paolo Pasolini, a famous gay Italian author and filmmaker in the 1950’s. He would write these beautiful and disarming poems to his lover Ninetto Davoli, a much younger actor whose career he helped launch. I’m always intrigued by love stories of this nature: where the filmmaker creates the star, and subsequently falls in love with his own creation. And very few of these relationships are clearly captured in poetry, like that of Pasolini and Ninetto.
RH: How important is racial/ethnic diversity and body type to you when casting? Obviously we are only two episodes in, but do you see yourself using boys with different body types rather than rippling muscles and perfectly sculpted derrières? For example slimmer twinks - or does that stray too far from your aesthetic?
RR: In the gay community labels are very divisive and limiting. My interest is not to celebrate a specific “type” of body. I want to portray as much diversity as I can. I think being attractive has very little to do with just being physically beautiful. So as long as you’re sending a healthy and positive message to your social media audience, I will definitely consider you to be in an episode.