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Published:February 24th, 2007 10:19 EST
Up Close and Personal with Rodrigo Diaz McVeigh, Director of God Bless America

Up Close and Personal with Rodrigo Diaz McVeigh, Director of God Bless America

By Denise Kaminsky

Tell me about yourself?

I am 19 years old, I was born in Madrid, Spain, and then at 5 years old, I moved to Florida.

Rose M. McVeigh, my mother, is an actress on stage, TV and film (as Porkey's Revenge and Miami Vice) and she was the Artistic Director of the Florida Shakespeare Festival now known as Gables Stage at the Biltmore Hotel. Manolo Diaz, my father, was a singer songwriter in the 60's and 70's, wrote music for Los Bravos, then entered the record industry and headed the Latin Grammies.

I give a lot of credit to my parents who always supported my art and creative drive. As a child, I acted in a couple HBO shorts and two features, which helped, develop my desire and curiosity in filmmaking.

Tell us about your film projects and script writing?

"God Bless America" is my first 16 mm short with cast and crew in a dramatic story. I have shot a documentary about surfers in third world countries, which is in postproduction.

I use my past experiences and observations, mixed with imagination and creativity to inspire my artwork and concepts of originality. For me, it is very important to remember that film is an industrial art where you must learn to listen, and work with others creatively and productivity.

Moving into NYC, I began working creatively with Van Alpert, (a hometown friend, an actor, fellow cinema fanatic) and I am glad to say it was worth every second. We created all types of arts, as guitar playing, canvas making, composing songs on garage band, and writing, writing, writing. We had a great time and wrote a bunch a powerful synopsis but finally went with God Bless America.

Share some insight on the film "God Bless America" and your inspiration?

I thought my first dramatic film would be an abstract on American society. The truth is I never thought I would make such a bold political statement. "God Bless America" was my attempt at creatively show the frustrations in modern America. Throughout my filmmaking course at the New York Film Academy while living in NYC, the victim of a terrorist attacks, I felt my inner calling to write "God Bless America."

Which scene in this film was the most challenging?

The deli scene was very hard since the agreement between the deli owner and I had soured during the set-up, and he gave us 15 minutes to shoot. The feeling of this scene is supposed to be disturbed and agitated, and the real life situation helped fuel the actors, which is a favorite of mine.

What do you look for in an actor/actress?

I like to have an actor in mind while writing characters. I build a strong friendly and professional relationship with them, listening to their thoughts about the story and construct a process of developing the script. Making a film is exceptional for me because of the importance of team efforts.

So, in this case, Van Alpert who portrays the young Marine, Sgt. Stanley Jefferson, in "God Bless America" was my age, my hometown friend and my creative partner.

When I approached Carson Grant, I explained that I was a film student and had a role that seemed to fit him perfect. Carson plays the character of Mr. O'Brien who is a very lonely, handicapped Vietnam veteran. Mr. O'Brien lives alone in a crime-ridden deteriorating Bronx neighborhood and recently lost his son in the Iraq war.

Carson gave the scene flavor and passion. What a real honor to work with this experienced and good-hearted guy, Carson Grant. From the powerful rehearsals to the long shooting days in the Bronx, I learned some many pointers from Carson and I believe that anyone who works with this incredible actor needs to listen to his wise advice. I thank Carson Grant for his humility and applaud him for an outstanding performance.

What is the future for "God Bless America?"

If accepted, I hope to premiere the film at the Tribeca Film Festival 2007, and I will be submitting to other festivals around the world.

Can you share some of your future projects?

Yes, I am currently working on two documentaries; one is in the postproduction stage, is titled “Havana Surf”, and is about the way Cuban youngsters who do not have access to surf boards and find inventive ways to practice their hobby in Communist Cuba.

My other piece is still in the shooting stage and will be for a while is titled "Provisional" which is about following a Cuban family, some in Miami, Havana, New York, California, China and Europe then tracing their genealogy to Arturo Valdes-Prado. Arturo was a very important Cuban contractor with 10 children during the Batista Dictatorship and then died with nothing but his mistress at his side after the Socialist Revolution.

I am also beginning to write a feature length script for "God Bless America."

How should my readers contact you?

My email is

Would you happen to have a web site?

Yes, click on our projects then on "God Bless America"

Thank you Rodrigo for the wonderful interview and I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.