Screens & Tech
Feature film beckons comic duo
Published: May 9, 2012
You might have seen them at December's 48-Hour Film Experience or at the recent Neighborhood Film Project 3.0: Bert López ("Officer Prieto," a skin-color reference) and Leonard Peña ("Officer Stern," named for his by-the-book behavior) are the funniest characters in San Antonio film.
The two crazy cops are the typical comedic duo: one "straight" (Stern), the other sloppy (Prieto). Together, they're the kind of characters that, as soon as they appear on the screen, get people laughing. The Best Gift was my personal runner-up of the 48-Hour fest, and My Westside should've won an audience award from the Neighborhood Film Project 3.0 (if it had such a category, as it should). Neither Peña or López have formal acting training, but they've been acting in church plays for years.
"His character drives mine crazy, because I take my job seriously and he's a mess," said Peña. "But [Officer Prieto is] trying to show me you gotta live a little bit, and at the end he's always right."
"He makes me quick," says López. "If I had no one to speak to it would be hard for me. I've known him for many years and we joke all the time. All those scenes are just me and Leo joking like we do at home, playing with the kids."
Their scenes have plenty of ad-lib, but are carefully written in director Ruben Rodríguez's favorite style: a Chaplinesque mix of drama and comedy that won't settle for cheap laughs.
"We don't want just to tell jokes," Rodríguez said, "but we don't want people to wait to laugh either — we want them giggling too, and these guys know how to do that."
The crazy cops are ready to do a feature, and Rodríguez is starting a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds. Most importantly, his team will spend June and July doing 48-hour-styled films just to practice.
"I believe every year the team has to grow," said Rodríguez, who will participate again in August in the 48 Hour film competition. "But we want to practice amongst ourselves first to see what each one of us can bring to the table. We need to be ahead of the game."
> Email Enrique Lopetegui