Juan Carlos’s first video camera was a rejected Christmas gift. His mom, instead of taking it back to the store, gave it to him, and he never gave it a rest. In 1988, at seven years old, lensing on his first motion picture began; an action packed crossover between the X-men and Avengers. He was way ahead of his time. Over the next ten years he managed to fill up a blue wooden box with VHS tapes, Hi-8 tapes, Digital8 tapes, mini-DV tapes, and in 1999 graduated to hard drives — Juan Carlos was hooked.
In high school he’d lock himself in the only editing bay, a cutting edge Casablanca non-linear system, skipping class to cut films. During college he started shooting black and white films on real celluloid with a 16mm Arriflex, editing productions at NYU on a noisy Steenbeck flatbed deep into the night.
He loved the spectacle of American big budget popcorn flicks, the intelligence of independents, the intimacy of foreign films, and the honesty of documentaries. All cinema, great and small. But his single favorite thing to do was watch TV morning and night. Two hours before school, two hours after, two during prime time, and any time he could steal in between: Disney afternoon to Dawson’s Creek, Silverhawks to Simpsons, Gilligan’s Island to General Hospital, Fat Albert to Fresh Prince. You name it, he watched it.
Upon graduating he got a gig as an Assistant Camera on the Apprentice, riding around in limos with Donald Trump. He became disillusioned with the contestants’ hunt for fame and fortune, and started seeing the potential to do good and be good as the only worthwhile pursuits. That thinking laid the foundation for his own company, Pure West Documentaries. The fledgling organization focused on producing content for non-profit clients, and went on to win multiple Silver Telly Awards.
It wasn’t enough though. He wanted his own films on the silver screen, and decided to fund his first feature on credit cards. “Second Skin”, a documentary about online role-playing games, had its world premiere on opening night of SXSW in 2008, and was released in theaters and on Hulu in 2009.
It led to directing a web series on game developers for Vice magazine, and producing the flagship documentary for their new channel “Motherboard”. The speed and intensity of building those short form pieces, between 15-22 minutes, was exhilarating. The storytelling and space that length afforded him was structurally freeing, and producing episodic content again felt natural.
Soon after he signed on to direct a hybrid feature called “Know How”, a musical written and acted by foster care youth about their real lives. Its mission: to change the defunct system that hardly serves its children. The film is a focal point for dialogue and action, it premiered at Cinequest in 2014, has since gone on to win eight awards, play at sixteen film festivals, was released in theaters on May 15, 2015, and on Netflix June 15, 2015.
He moved out west to tell bigger stories on larger canvases.