Inspired by the santos woodcarving tradition from Spain that flourished in Puerto Rico during the 16th century, I began forming the concept for Heart of the Imaginero in January of 1996, six months after completing Taíno: Guanín’s Story. In preparation, I read numerous books and publications on the subject, researching information on the woodcarving traditions of Spain, Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, New Mexico, and Puerto Rico. I also interviewed Puerto Rico’s internationally known santero Pedro P. Rinaldi and historian Dr. Ricardo Alegría. During my research for the video, I had the opportunity to look once more into what I consider one of Puerto Rico’s most fascinating traditions. It is one that is charged with spirituality, while holding its own as an art form. It was especially satisfying to discover the similarities between the tradition and history of Puerto Rican santeros and those of other regions such as Guatemala and New Mexico. The tradition of wood carving still survives in these places by reinventing itself while holding onto basic concepts and execution.
In order to experience the creative process and techniques of the craft, I taught myself to carve, creating several icons used in the video. I also later applied these carving techniques to the illustrations created to tell this story.
After six months of research and preparation, production began on Heart of the Imaginero: Little Wood Carver. In keeping with the feel of woodcarving, more than 65 illustrations were painted in oil on wood. It took approximately two years to complete the paintings.
In order to create a unique visual feel to the project, I decided to mix mediums. So plans were made to shoot video footage on location in Puerto Rico that would later be blended with the illustrations.
The live scenes were filmed in Puerto Rico during one hot week in July of 1998. The actors were not professionals but immersed themselves in their characters. Locations were scouted in Old San Juan, in the countryside around the central mountain town of Corozal, along the beaches on the northern coast, in the southern town of Ponce, and in San Germán, where the story is set. The five-day shoot faced many obstacles from bad weather to locating props, but by the end, all the scenes were successfully captured.
Back at Exit Studio in Arlington, Virginia, I began to teach myself to edit on a Mac G3 using Adobe Premiere and Boris F/X software. An additional 260 Photoshop illustrations were created from the paintings and video footage to flesh out the story. Dream scenes required special effect shots, created using stand-ins in the 10′ x 10′ studio.
The story was narrated by Melissa Leebaert, also the voice talent on Taíno. The voice track, mixed with a musical score and sound effects, soon brought a beautiful and powerful dimension to the story of Eduardito. The resulting film is a magical experience, told through image, color, sound, and motion, that captures the inner journey of a young boy.
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