When the Producers Guild of America asked him to write a story with a car in it, Alvaro Ron thought of his grandfather.
Ron’s grandfather drove actors and actresses in the ’50s, such as Ava Gardner and Charlton Heston, while they filmed in Spain. He thought of his grandfather as an unsung hero, a major theme he’d use in his short film. He then thought of superhero movies, which he said lacked female perspectives.
Ron combined these ideas and created the seven-minute “The Red Thunder,” a short film chosen by the Producers Guild for the Make Your Mark competition. The film is about a teenage girl who borrows her mom’s car for a date only to find out her mom is a superhero by night.
“I also liked the idea of parents being superheroes because we go so long never really thinking of our parents as such,” Ron said.
The creation of “The Red Thunder” started a year ago when Ron, a UCLA alumnus, attended the Produced By Conference. Ron traveled from his home in Spain to Los Angeles to learn about the Make Your Mark competition, a program designed by the Producers Guild to help young producers.
In this competition, producers sent in story ideas focused around a car, since it was sponsored by Cadillac. From these stories, the guild would select a handful of producers to turn their ideas into short films, based on what the judges thought were the best ideas.
The most valuable aspect of the program, Ron said, was that the guild matched young producers with industry veterans who served as mentors. The main role of the veterans was to critique the script in its early stages. After that, the veterans guided producers by answering questions via email or in-person during the production and post-production stages of the film.
Once the guild selected Ron’s story, he was matched up with Peter Saraf, producer of films such as “Little Miss Sunshine.”
“Working with (Saraf) made all of the hard effort worth it,” Ron said. “He must’ve edited the script five or six times. I’d email three or four times a day, and he would answer each question in a timely manner.”
For his short film, Ron said he needed UCLA alumna Rosana Tomas as his executive producer for the project. The two met in a production class during college. Tomas is also one of Ron’s closest contacts in the United States.
“Last year, I went to Spain to a produce a film and Ron helped me tremendously,” Tomas said. “So, when I got a call from him I knew I wanted to return the favor.”
Both Ron and Tomas said that the most difficult part of the project was the time constraint they felt.
For the competition, the short films had to be shot, edited and delivered within 51 hours.
Ron said that finding all the necessary elements for his short film became the biggest challenge, such as trying to find a house for the final scene.
“It was especially hard to shoot at night,” Ron said. “We basically only had one chance. We had to work all night, and I’m thankful I have a crew that devoted that type of time.”
Ron cast actress Karen Strassman, who had a reoccurring role on the TV show “Weeds,” as the mother in his film. Strassman said that Ron’s idea of a female perspective attracted her to the role.
“I’m a huge fan of mothers being portrayed as superheroes,” Strassman said. “They never get a lot of credit.”
Although Ron was a finalist in the Make Your Mark competition, his film didn’t end up winning, losing to “Symphony of Senses” by Tim Wen and Chidi Onyejuruwa. However, he said that winning wasn’t his main goal.
Working with Saraf, Ron said his resource management and writing skills improved immensely. He said he learned that in this film, a bigger cast didn’t mean a better film, so he created a version of the story with fewer characters. He hopes to take these lessons he’s learned back with him to Europe as he continues his producing career.
“Working with Saraf made me realize there’s still so much I need to get better at,” Ron said. “I need all the help I can get to become a better producer.”