Some live lives of unfulfilled promise; lives that could have been, but that didn’t happen. Sometimes because the individuals are too dull-witted to even conceive of their own possibilities, overwhelmed and paralyzed by too many possibilities, too risk averse to take a chance, or lacking the industry and persistence to pursue their dreams with focus and stamina. None of this describes Estefania Gulina, a 32-year-old first-time Executive Producer of a movie to be filmed in Cordoba, Argentina, and a recent guest at Puerto Limon Hostel here in Buenos Aires. Her motto is “The way traveled was not wasted time if it has really been lived.”
Estefania is passionate about everything she does; she has little tolerance for a monochromatic existence, and if she is going to do something, she will hold back nothing as if subconsciously preparing for failure. She says her broad interests and passion for making things happen are the reason she has gotten involved and stayed with projects for years. But she is no fool either.
She says there are three important people on her team, the director, the script writer, and herself as the executive producer. She says it is a team project and each of the three know what their responsibilities are, but she became the producer because organizing is part of her DNA. Her role is to manage the funds, control expenses, daily budget, generate contacts, secure financing; keeping production on schedule and on budget.
Getting started in the Argentine film industry
Her relationship with cinema began in 2003, with a specific interest in scenography, but with a low boredom threshold, she wanted to learn as much as she could about all parts of the industry, and since then she has gained experience as an arranger, location finder, and other aspects of production. Estefania worked for years in production of musical shows and rock festivals. She participated in making a 16mm film in 2010, and in 2012 she produced a TV show, and now she is heavily involved in her first commercial film. She has worked as a member of the faculty of INCAA (Argentina’s film institute) and also freelance.
According to Estefania, INCAA is the entity that regulates the cinema and the audiovisual arts in the whole country; it grants (through contests of scripts and projects) credits, subsidies, and many possibilities to enrich each work. In Argentina absolutely all the commercial films are realized with the support of the INCAA. The Hollywood of Argentina is government run. Estefania says her current project has a budget of US$500,000, but the budget gets raised every three months due to inflation and higher salaries. Besides the three-member team of producer, director, and screenwriter, there will be about 25 technicians, 6 actors, and about 200 extras.
A slow start
It took Estefania six years to complete a two-year study program, because she struggled to find work and support herself at the same time. She was, by turns, working in clothing stores, call centers, as a secretary or administrative assistant, but she was never comfortable in any of these positions, which usually lasted less than six months. By the time she graduated in 2009 most of her former colleagues were already traveling, filming, and advancing their careers. She felt left behind. She also blamed herself for permitting some unnecessary distractions during those six years, at times seeming to lose her focus, even though she learned through work experiences and periodic special courses. Eventually she decided none of this was to be regretted, that every experience had its value, and through it all she had matured, grown up, and that there are things to be learned if we are ready for them. She says ‘the trip is not a competition with others to be first to a destination, the trip is an internal one, and the passage of time should not frighten us; that the days that have passed us by did not really go anywhere; they remain in us, in every experience taken.’
Her experience has been that when she was ready, clear objectives and focus became possible, and after that every problem was nothing more than a distraction to be resolved. She saw every obstacle as a learning experience on the journey from the Ideal to Reality. Therefore, she concludes, problems do not separate you from your goal, and desired objectives can really happen if you are open to them, attract them and work for them … nothing is lost, everything is transformed.
Failure? “There is no failure, I think it is simply a mathematical question, about how many times you have to try it until it goes well, as if it were something per cent, just like disappointment … it is only the connection between an ideal and the reality itself.” Every choice we make moves us closer or farther away from our goal, assuming of course that we have one.
Today, when she is not actively involved in her filming career, Estefania pays the bills as an instructor in aerial acrobatics for several hours a week in a gym.
Is there risk in Estefania’s career choice? Financially, as far as I can tell, the risk will be taken by private investors, or failing that, the tab will be picked up by tax payers through subsidies by the INCAA. Estefania’s risk is the problem of foregone opportunities; what could she have done better with her time if the movie fails? I don’t know how success or failure are defined in the Argentine film industry, or how they are measured. Do ticket sales exceed the costs of production? No matter what happens with the film, I have no doubt that it will prove to be an invaluable growth experience for a very charming and resourceful Argentinian with an entrepreneurial spirit. For Estefania, there may be disappointment but no failure, it’s just a mathematical question of how many times does it take to get it right.
The currency of time
The currency all of us speculate in is our time. None of us know how much we have, but we know it is finite for each of us. How we spend it defines our investment strategy and our relationship with risk even more so than how we handle our money. Estefania is an investor but not a wild speculator with the currency of her time and opportunities, and she has accepted disappointments as the price of learning. Humans typically become more conservative with their risk taking as the time left to them shrinks. But what is the value of unfulfulled promise, the potential we left wasted on the table of life if we fear to try? How good could we really have been, if we could have taken our foot off the brakes?
Estefania intends to find her own answers to some of life’s most important questions .
You “herd” it here, at Puerto Limon Hostel, where we try to cull the unusual, the special, the everyday heroes from the madding crowd that passes through here and everywhere. Thank you for reading. Have a story? Share the wealth. Write a comment. We are all travelers. Subscribe by entering your email address at the very top or bottom of this page, depending on your viewing instrument. John Bechtel, freelance culture and travel writer, Buenos Aires, Argentina . www.johnbechtelwriter.com