Film School Faculty Member Wins Big at Independent Spirit Awards

Following the world premiere of Antonio Mendez Esparza’s second feature film Life and Nothing More at the Toronto International Film Festival, Variety named the Florida-set independent film one of the 10 Best Movies of the 2017 Festival.  Most recently, Life and Nothing More won the coveted John Cassavetes Award at the 2018 Independent Film Spirit Awards in Los Angeles. The Cassavetes Award recognizes the best feature made for under $500,000 and is awarded to the director, writer and producer. This was the film’s eighth nomination (including another nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards for Best Actress) and fourth award. The film had its European premiere at San Sebastian in Spain, where it won the International Federation of Film Critics award and the SIGNIS prize.

Life and Nothing More focuses tightly on three central characters, Andrew, a 14-year-old; his mother, Regina; and Robert, the new man in Regina’s life. Focusing on the small African-American family as well as the institutional obstacles standing in their way, the film features non-professional actors in a drama that also comments on our misconception of black incarceration. The film was called “Moving and finely observed” by the Hollywood Reporter, following its TIFF premiere and “a powerfully executed, richly human study of the challenges facing a black working class family,” by Screen Daily. In an interview with Variety, Méndez, Directing Faculty Filmmaker at the College of Motion Picture Arts, said that he came to make the film by stumbling upon it. “I have always admired the strength of single mothers, and wanted to tell a story about that. I started interviewing single mothers in Florida, in Tallahassee, where I live, and kids in the local school system….The same happened with the criminal justice system: the more I researched, the more it became part of the film.”

Méndez did not create this magic alone. His production team contained 14 alumni of the College, including his editor, Santiago Oviedo (‘16), and casting director Ivo Huahua (’16). Fellow faculty members Paul Cohen and Victor Nunez also served as executive producers on the film.



Production company: Aqui y Alla Films
Cast: Andrew Bleechington, Regina Williams, Robert Williams, Ry’Nesia Chambers
Director, screenwriter: Antonio Mendez Esparza
Producer: Pedro Hernandez Santos, Alvaro Portanet Hernandez, Amadeo Hernandez Bueno
Executive producers: Paul E. Cohen, Victor Nunez, Antonio Mendez Esparza
Director of photography: Barbu Balasoiu
Production designer: Claudia Gonzalez
Editor: Santiago Oviedo
Casting director: Ivo Huahua
Venue: Toronto International Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema)
Sales: Film Constellation