After the glory of Monté Alban I had the privilege of sighting Humpback whales for the first time in my life! The state of Oaxaca truly has so much to offer geographically and culturally. I enjoyed at least four varieties of mole, discovered lush desert gardens with immense biodiversity, and witnessed some of the classic artesenias that the region is famous for! 

At this point in the trip I was lined up to make IRP's Roots and Pre-Production highlight trip: traveling to our project partners' home communities. An initial plan to reach Iguala, Guerrero via Acapulco thankfully changed and brought me back to CDMX. Here I was able to take a few days preparing for the upcoming scouting mission to our community partner villages of San Miguel Tecuiciapan and San Agustín Oapan. I didn't really know what to expect except that we were welcome and that I would have WiFi in order to work. Project Executive Producer, Lizette Casas, met me in CDMX early in the morning March 18th to begin our travel towards these fairly remote Náhuatl villages.

Upon arriving, Erika Kostik Aguilar greeted us and immediately offered ice water and fresh quesadillas. Lizette and I were delighted to rest after strenuous travel which lasted over 14 hours for her. As we met our project translator (Erika) and her family for the first time, our focus centered on building trust and mutual understanding. We listened about the hot weather and walked through town to Erika's cousin's house which we would stay in for the week.

....As our visit continued, we participated in community events like a school Spring parade, a religious procession for the town's patron Saint Miguel Archangel, and we visited el Río Las Balsas on numerous occasions.  Meeting families over dinner in the square and departing from the village church after the collective procession brought Lizette and I joy to see how welcome we were and that we had begun to make a positive impression with the general public of our community partners.

By the end of the week Liz and I gained permission and the necessary support to present the film Lorena: Light-footed Woman to each village since it is somewhat similar to how we will produce our films with our Náhuatl partners.  We also had the opportunity to demonstrate Virtual Reality for our San Agustín representatives, Jesús and Lucero, as well as Erika and the youth of San Miguel Tecuiciapan. They all really enjoyed experiencing the VR headset and considering how our project employs this technology for cultural preservation.

Through all of this activity we truly built strong roots with Erika and other community members. Erika invited us to record the testimonials of family friends Román, Maria Elena, and their son Samuel. Highlights from the interviews and other shots of our partner villages can be viewed in our sample short: Espíritu - Preludio. Of course, this piece was received well by our partners but that is no surprise considering that Erika was involved throughout the process as we sought her approval for accuracy and, of course, required her translation services.

The main highlight of this trip from IRP's perspective was the completion of Oral History Consent Forms. Our community leaders representing each town sat down with me as we discussed the purpose of the consent form, its details, and any ethical concerns we may have missed in our Pre-Agreement Package. These forms are what ensure comprehensive, narrator-centered, and ethically-founded research projects with our partners. Indeed, much of the information that Erika included in our Language Agreement Form was not previously known by our team and yet is vital to a successful production in the Fall

Of course I have barely begun to mention the tasty tortillas, the majestic sunrises and sunsets behind the river, and the pride emanating as our local partners and new friends shared about their village and heritage.  However reluctantly, Lizette and I made our exit nine days after arriving having been completely transformed by our experience of just some of the Náhuatl lifestyles bringing life to Guerrero, Mexico. We collected the last of our scouting trip's photos and video footage just before taking an early morning bus back to Iguala and then back to Mexico City. We were on our way back to Guadalajara to complete the overarching goal of this Pre-Production Trip: a robust National Geographic Explorer Grant Application...

It's almost certain that you've heard about National Geographic. Becoming a Nat Geo Explorer is a dream for countless young scientists, storytellers, and conservationists. I believe that IRP falls well in line with the Explorer attitude and purpose which is why I knew with project partners and a clear design, I would be a strong candidate for the grant. The applications included our completed Oral History Consent Forms, project details and visual storyboards, a comprehensive budget, and our plans for premiering and distributing the work. 

This grant application took about two weeks to transfer the adventures of our pre-production trip into an organized, written format. Once I reviewed the grant an exhaustive number of times, IRP submitted our first major funding application on April 11, 2024! 

Less than a week later I returned to CDMX and from there back home to Little Rock, AR. Taking just a few moments to see family and unpack the journey's gear, I immediately dug in to building a Nonfiction Core Proposal and submitted a version of this format for another grant from Firelight Media. Their DocLab Fellowship offers a financial award to help our project but also provides three major conference opportunities and 18 months of networking support from other documentary filmmakers. 

This grant required a sample of our work which catalyzed the completion of Espíritu - Preludio. With Preludio complete and the applications well-prepared I am now focusing the next few months purely on fundraising and financial support. Our project details for Watering Seeds in México can be found here.

If you are reading this newsletter, aside from donating, the best way to help IRP is spread the word as much as possible to all those who you think may find interest in a cultural and environmental preservation project using new technology to amplify our storytelling into the educational sphere. Share our social media as the posts come up and watch all the content we have available to demonstrate the success of our pre-production journey!

Thank you for being a part of IRP's journey. Exciting adventures are coming!