Filmmaker Clifton Archuleta finds room to Breathe in Pueblo


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Director Clifton Archuleta with the main characters of Breathe.
After eight years in the Army, Clifton Archuleta moved back to Colorado to attend Colorado Film School and get his BFA from Regis University. His thesis piece, Broken Cycle, has earned him recognition at film festivals; he just finished making a short film called Breathe in his home town of Pueblo...without benefit of the incentives that Colorado recently authorized for filmmakers, a rebate of between 10 and 20 percent as long as they spend $1 million or more here and hire at least 50 percent of the crew from Colorado.

Westword recently talked with Archuleta about his film career -- and about whether that incentive package will encourage the film industry in this state.

See also:

- Film incentives bill signed
- $3 million approved to fund moviemaking in Colorado
- Movies filmed in Colorado

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Westword: What is your history in filmmaking?

Clifton Archuleta: Filmmaking for me started in school. I'm originally from Colorado, and I moved back after serving eight years in the Army to study film at the Colorado Film School in Lowry. I graduated about a year and a half ago. In the third year, I sent my thesis, Broken Cycles, to a number of film festivals. Another film called Breakaway also screened at a bunch of festivals. That was really my real push into establishing myself as a filmmaker. In school it's just such an academic setting, but going out into the real world and having the film represent yourself but then also having it help your career -- that's really when it started.

What sort of films do you produce? Do you have a specific genre?

I have types of films that I'm interested in. The type of filmmaking that I'm concerned with are films that make you think. I'm interested in social justice issues. [Broken Cycle] was about a bullied Arab teenager, and the last piece we just did is about a teenager who's a latchkey kid. She's basically raising her younger, asthmatic sister. So I look at films that are complex situations and also about youth and how they're faced with adult circumstances. We forget that we put these kids in these circumstances, because it's more common than we believe. It's not just kids in Africa (that's really generic) or a twelve-year-old war child; we have issues in our own back yard. Those tend to be dramas and very focused on realism.

How do you want your audience to react to your films?

I don't like spoon-feeding the audience. I would say they're less entertaining and more intellectual, but I try to find a balance in there.... Films that resonate with me most are films that I may not have thought about for a week, but one week later I'm thinking about it and it profoundly affects me. My interest in making films is that I can give that to someone else. I try to make it less like clobbering someone over the head. I leave that interpretation to some degree up to you, to provoke thought on whatever the subject is. Or even that as just a starting point.

I've heard you do documentaries for veterans. How did you get involved with those?

Last summer I started working with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C. It started with some freelance writing I was doing for them on some internal educational projects. One of the projects I wrote did very well for them, so they brought me out to do some producing of short documentaries. I worked for a show called "The American Veteran", which airs on a number of government-related channels. They put stuff online and iTunes as well.

It's a thirty-minute show that's composed of five usually short documentaries. I initially just shot a bunch of content. I was there to try to repair content that the executive producer had just inherited. That led to producing a few pieces of my own that are still in post-production. They were freelancing a lot of stuff out, but the quality went down. When I was brought out, they were specifically trying to repair content and then produce new content but change the face of the show to a more current level. It was more news-based, so I was brought out with my storytelling background to start shifting toward a more documentary style.

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Regis University

3333 Regis University Drive, Denver, CO

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