Good afternoon, YouthMundees! At YouthMundus, we aim to not only be a platform for music, film and global change, but for the artists and global changemakers who create them. Our Artist Spotlight series aims to create a space for discovery of new, budding global talent, while simultaneously offering you an exclusive glimpse into their creative process. In this week’s edition, we’re extremely excited to feature Mariano Flores, an emerging international filmmaker and musician based out of New York City!
Raised in Guatemala City by a mother and grandparents, who he affectionately credits for making him the man and artist he is now, Mariano Flores has wanted to be involved in the music and filmmaking industry for as long as he could remember: “Music and filmmaking have been apart of my life since I was a kid. There’s nothing I’d rather be than an artist… although, I think being a scientist would be pretty cool.”
After studying filmmaking at NYU since 2015, Mariano plans on complementing and expanding his artistic arsenal by pursuing a Master’s degree in Music Technology at the same university.
What inspires you and your creative process?
The first thing I can think of as an inspiration is people. Everyone is living a completely different life, and maybe that statement seems bland but the more I think about it, it just messes with my head so much. There’s a whole world of strong feelings, experiences, conflicts, wonders, horrors, contradictions, faces, smiles and perspectives, and it’s so overwhelming and I want to feel it all. And while that has driven me to make art about events or other people’s lives, it doesn’t seem like I’m capturing or saying anything. The next logical step was to start looking inside myself. I attempt to go on a journey of introspection that starts bringing out the truth and reality of me, whether it be contempt, numbness, happiness, confusion, or feelings I can’t understand yet. It’s that uncomfortable journey of being honest with myself that makes me feel alive, and more inspired, and somehow closer to the people around me. So I write all of this down either in lyrics, melodies or screenplays. And the hope is that just like I manage to connect deeply with people’s art, people can connect with my art. It’s like a full circle inspiration, sort of. The last three things I can think of that inspire me, that I can’t really explain, are: loud concerts, driving with my friends, and empty fields.
What is the connection between your art and social justice?.
It has always been a dream to make a film that helps bring about change to the situation back home. I don’t think I want to make a big statement that just blatantly calls out the government, corruption, and general mindset of the people. One reason is because every time an activist tries to do that they end up dead. Another reason is I feel like making something more personal and striving for that specific connection with an audience can make a bigger difference. I don’t really want to be preaching what I think is right, and again it just comes back to understanding people and why some might be doing the harm that they are doing. But sometimes it feels like what the world needs is artists to play the game smartly and slowly change the mind of the right people. That sounds manipulative, but that’s what the people in positions of power do all the time. Clearly I’m angry about things, and even angrier that I haven’t really done my part in to help these issues as of now. Anyways. I know for a fact that art is an extremely powerful tool. I’m just still figuring out how to use it and help out.
What inspired you to music and filmmaking? What were the challenges you overcame in this?
Even though my mom is an accountant, she always had a creative side. She always told me that she wanted to be an actress ever since growing up. From a young age she started taking me to live shows, dances, and flea markets. I think art always surrounded me, especially in a country which such a rich cultural and artistic history and with landscapes and scenery that give you the same feeling as any powerful painting, song or film.
I think the moment I started to lean in more seriously towards the arts was when I was about 12 and discovered rock music on my mom’s old computer. This 2000’s corny pop punk somehow made me feel complete and like I had a purpose. I started discovering new bands, getting involved with the local scene, and naturally started a horrible cover band with my friends from school. After several failed performances I started writing my own songs, and being very proud of them, I told my mom that I wanted to move to the U.S and start a band. Naturally, she gave me a hard no, and that I needed a more stable career path. The dream started to die out a little bit, but music was still my whole life.
In 9th grade I started getting projects where I had to film videos. I really enjoyed filming goofy parodies and class projects with my friends, so every opportunity I got, I did a video for my class projects. The videos started getting better and better and I started getting more and more passionate about it. As a little kid, I had such an insane energy that I would wreak havoc if I spent more than 4 hours awake at home on the weekends, so my mom always kept taking me to see movies, sometimes even 4 a weekend. I loved movies, so it seemed like a good career path to start following now that I was in high school. My mom approved of my choice after she saw some of the films that I was doing. Film became a new passion.
The challenges regarding art started in university. I started feeling that my art was pointless, worthless, and that no one was going to see it. But then I played my favorite record or my favorite movie and told myself that “This work I’m watching/hearing is not pointless or worthless to me”, and then I kept making art like nothing. Can’t explain the logic there but it works.
What’s been the most rewarding part of being an artist for you? Do you have any advice for future artists?
As for now, the most rewarding part of being an artist is the feeling you get when creating it, especially when you share it with someone you’re working with. If you have felt the same joy when creating something (it doesn’t have to be all of the time), you are definitely that artist. For some reason there’s just so much meaning and love into creating something out of nothing. I’m pretty sure there are new feelings of accomplishment and purpose to be found, but I’m very sure that this initial joy will never stop being.
A few pieces of advice for emerging artists:
The moment you feel inspired, leave everything and for 5 minutes do what you gotta do. If you don’t have any commitments soon, make it a couple hours.
Don’t doubt yourself. While you’re making your art, dive into that joy and stop worrying about what anyone one think, because for those moments, you’re the best artist that’s ever been. After you’re done, then you can start looking at your art objectively. Ask friends what they think. Take their comments to heart…or not, but at least for me, feedback and criticism are a way to get better.
Go live your life. If art is all you do you’re gonna run out of things to make and will end up stuck. Learn about the world, take risks, get your heart broken, look inside yourself and once you find that something show it to the rest of us so that we can feel it too and learn a thing or two.
You’re not alone. Collaborate with your friends. Not only is it going to be so so fun but you will come out with something unexpected and unique!
Do you have any advice on how we can do our part in supporting emerging international artists like you? The main thing to know is that we artists are here because we came from a place that won’t let us grow into the people who we want to be. If there were opportunities for me back home, I would probably have stayed there because I’m sure they need me more there than here! Nevertheless, and I'm speaking in the collective "we" here, we, as international artists, are here now and we want to make the best out of it and get to know you. Coming from different backgrounds, we are very different people so you can learn a lot from what we do, just as we can learn from what you do. So let’s support and help each other to get us where we want to be. In fact, if you'd like to collaborate and work with me, please contact me on my Instagram. Let's make some stuff.