'I put my whole heart into it': This UA senior is ready to showcase what he's learned from film school

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Mira French | The Daily Wildcat

The cast and crew of "Guadalupe's Last Chance."

Sebastián Leyva Save first fell in love with film at 5 years old. 

At that young age, he said he remembers watching the Mexican drama film “Amores Perros” and finding connections to his own life. 

“That really got me into how powerful cinema can be,” Leyva Save said.

Despite this early interest, it took him a while to discover film as his true passion and career path. During high school, he began to enjoy making videos of his own, however, he didn’t truly consider studying filmmaking yet.

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“I was always scared of it,” Leyva Save said. “Taking a career in the arts is always risky.”

Leyva Save grew up in Mexico but went to high school across the border in the U.S. He came to the University of Arizona on a scholarship, originally pursuing an engineering degree, but ultimately, he decided to put his passions first and switch his major to film and television.

With his college career somewhat interrupted by the pandemic, Leyva Save realized he had to turn outside the university to develop the skills he needed. So, he landed an internship at local production company Crown Chimp and a gig working with a documentary filmmaker. 

Leyva Save has developed his own style simply through practice, whether that’s on a school project or just having his friends over to act out an idea. He is especially interested in telling realistic stories about everyday people. 

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Now in his senior year, Leyva Save is wrapping up his final project here, a film for the class Film and Television 315A, Fiction Production. The class is typically taken by junior film and television BFA students but is open to any film student. 

Students in the course are paired up and spend all semester creating a film, through the processes of generating ideas, writing, casting, fundraising, filming and editing.  

Leyva Save is directing a film titled “Guadalupe’s Last Chance.” His partner, Sean-David Ta, co-wrote and co-produced the film. 

With “Guadalupe’s Last Chance,” Leyva Save wanted the opportunity to tell a romantic story, but also bring in comedy and relatable situations for college students. 

The story was originally Leyva Save’s idea and was adapted by Ta and shaped based on the identities of the actors they chose.  

“My goal of the film is to hopefully have a story that a lot of queer people of color resonate with,” Ta said.

On set, as Leyva Save was directing the actors, Ta handled visuals and cinematography and helped assemble the film’s crew. 

“Guadalupe’s Last Chance” is currently in the editing process and Ta was very pleased with the film’s progress.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a student production on this level before that looks really professional and really just unique in general,” Ta said. 

The film stars UA theatre student Melanie Moreno and local actress Amanda Lopez-Castillo. Moreno plays Guadalupe, a college student who is in love with her best friend Monica, played by Lopez-Castillo. The film is set at Monica’s farewell party, as she is a foreign exchange student returning to Mexico. Guadalupe must decide how to confront her feelings for Monica while navigating a night full of obstacles.

Moreno found out about the opportunity through the film school’s presentations where potential cast and crew members are invited to hear about each film in the class and reach out to casting directors.

“It’s actually probably been one of the best sets I've been on,” Moreno said. “Working with [Leyva Save] was great.”

Lopez-Castillo is a recent graduate of Northern Arizona University and was following the UA’s social media channels to find opportunities. She was intrigued by “Guadalupe’s Last Chance” from the beginning of the process. 

“It was probably one of the best college auditions I’ve ever done because they were just so prepared and knew what they were looking for,” Lopez-Castillo said.

Lopez-Castillo was especially eager to participate in a film featuring a diverse cast. 

“I think it’s super cool that there’s two brown leads, two brown women leading this film,” Lopez-Castillo said. “Mexican people don’t just have to be telling border stories. We can tell creative stories like these that have to do with love and friendship.”

The actors were also appreciative of Leyva Save’s understanding of the characters and ability to communicate well with the actors. 

“It was great. [Leyva Save], he’s such a visionary,” Lopez-Castillo said. “He had such a plan and knew what each character should be like and sound like.” 

Filming took place over three consecutive days of night shoots. The process started at 6 p.m. and continued early into the morning, usually until around 3 a.m. Despite the long hours, the cast and crew still were able to enjoy themselves and work closely together.

“Because everyone was so cool and nice, it was a really great environment to be around even when it was late at night,” Moreno said.

The film will be screened at the UA School of Theatre, Film & Television's Magic Hour on May 10, along with the other films from the class.

“I think overall it’s just amazing to go and support local artists within the community, just to see short films and support students,” Moreno said.

Leyva Save encourages students and members of the community to come watch all the films, knowing how important it is to have support for young artists. 

“Especially in an industry that’s very limiting on who it allows in, the gates are very hard to break through,” Leyva Save said. “Support helps us all.”

After he graduates, Leyva Save believes he has the skills to pursue a career in the film industry.

“Now that I’m about to graduate, I feel very confident with what I learned,” Leyva Save said.

He has used this project to help develop his writing and directing skills for the future. Leyva Save also knows this film can become an important part of his portfolio as he attempts to begin his career.

“This is my culmination of film school so this is something I really wanna share and put out there,” Leyva Save said. “I put my whole heart into it.”

In the future, Leyva Save has countless interests within the area of filmmaking. He’s considering graduate school, but also would love to get experience writing, directing or producing. One thing he knows for sure is that he wants to be a part of this field in his home country.

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“I really want to get into the Mexican film industry,” Leyva Save said. “I grew up in Mexico and I was lucky enough to be able to go into this film program. But for me, Hollywood is not the way I really want to expand and grow the film industry in Mexico.” 

He hopes to bring his own unique perspective into filmmaking, having grown up along the border. Some of Leyva Save’s biggest inspirations are famous Mexican film directors like Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón. 

“If somebody from Mexico has done it, somebody like me could do that too,” Leyva Save said.

He is also interested in making music videos and will be pursuing that in his immediate future. After graduation, he has plans to work with friends in Mexico to direct two music videos.

No matter the project, Leyva Save wants to help others make films however he can. He also expressed interest in teaching in the future.

“I definitely want to help younger generations once I’m older, help them expand filmmaking as an art,” Leyva Save said.


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