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Community Film Studio Santa Barbara

Phebe Mansur Talks Community Engagement and ‘Salsipuedes Street’

The headquarters of Community Film Studio Santa Barbara doubles as CopyRight Printing, a book- and print shop owned by Phebe Mansur, the studio’s president. CopyRight reflects Mansur’s independent approach to business, which is also what prompted her involvement in the Film Studio, along with her excitement at the prospect of creating opportunities for aspiring area filmmakers. With romantic comedy The Bet already finished, CFSSB has eyes set on their next full-length feature, Salsipuedes Street. It’s a story about the resilience of two Mexican-American children whose parents are deported for a few unpaid traffic violations.

What is the film studio’s mission? The studio gives people in the community a chance to get involved in the filmmaking process. For example, I have a friend who’s a retired Delco guy, and he decided he wanted to be an actor. We’re going to give him that chance. He can participate in any of the productions, he can audition, and there are others. The gentlemen who is our locations manager is a retired firefighter. One of the actors is a sheriff. So, we’re bringing filmmaking to the community, so anyone can participate. That young man who was here earlier just graduated from USC, and he wants to have a career in film, so we are giving him and other emerging filmmakers an opportunity to show their skills.

What inspired the film Salsipuedes Street? A friend of mine who was running a nonprofit had been a gunrunner and when he was arrested a second time, they tried to get him to reveal his contacts. He said, “No way,” because then he’d be a target. So he decided he was just going to plead guilty. He went in and they were expecting him to reveal his contacts and he was like, “No, I’m pleading guilty.” They were really surprised when he said to the judge, “No, I did it. No one forced me to do what I did. I did it. I have to be responsible.”

That’s the story we had been working on, but when Toby Campion came on as the writer, he said, “No, no, no. All films portray Mexicans as criminals.” So this script became his way of showing another side of that culture. Salsipuedes Street is a response to show that Mexicans are good, kind people, and hardworking. It’s good he shows the arc, the range of people. There are good people; there are bad people.

How does CFSSB decide to work on a movie idea? It ties in with what’s going on politically. The parents are deported because the dad broke the law. He had unpaid parking tickets that went into a warrant. My understanding is that, when it goes into a warrant, then it becomes a felony. When he is deported, he doesn’t get to come back. Ever. But because she processes her paperwork legally, the mother gets to return.

And then the story proceeds from the mother coming back to Santa Barbara? No, that’s the end of the movie. The story is really about the three kids. Within the first 10 minutes the parents are gone, so the rest of the movie is really about these three kids and how they adjust their lives to survive, because now the boy, he’s 19 or 20, he has to get a job. He has to choose between staying in the cadet program or getting a job to earn money to pay the rent and buy food.

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