U.S. Embassy Celebrated American Heritage Month in Ecuador with DreamTown Screenings

My recent trip to Ecuador….

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This past February, I had the pleasure of traveling to Ecuador, courtesy of the U.S. Embassy and by invitation of Ambassador Todd C. Chapman, for screenings of DreamTown in celebration of African American Heritage Month and Afro-Ecuadorian culture.

As the producer representing our team, Director Betty Bastidas (Maracuya Productions) and Producer Christian Mejía Acosta (Retrogusto Films), I was incredibly touched to participate in an event honoring African culture through a film showing the struggles that three soccer players from the impoverished community of Chota Valley — Anibal Chala, Carlos Maldonado and World Cup player Ulises de la Cruz — face on their path to a better future through the sport.

Traveling to Quito, my birthplace, with a project that has been so close to me for the past few years was truly inspirational and a dream come true. DreamTown was not an easy production to complete, between following three distinct stories from the U.S. and then raising funds to ensure the film would be completed (2 successful Kickstarter campaigns and many grants), the experience was one of personal and professional growth.

Throughout these years, I have met so many people from various communities — storytellers, filmmakers, soccer aficionados, high school and college students, business, civic and community leaders, mother and fathers, brothers and sisters and families — who shared how they were impacted by a story that underscores the reality that “the other” in society confronts while reaching for a dream. For some, that dream is accomplished with hard work and unwavering consistency, for others that dream may transform itself into a more attainable goal while remaining noble in its cause. After all, we all are looking for belonging and a purpose in life.

DreamTown has been a long and winding journey for each of us on the production team. What is interesting is that while we, independent filmmakers and storytellers, work on our passion projects, we too experience the same forms of struggle in completing our projects. So much goes into a production and so much more goes into getting the word out and building our audiences.

Showing our film in Ecuador, where DreamTown was shot and where the heart of the story is, during its final stage of the film festival circuit before acquisition and distribution, was one of the highlights of my career. Seeing engaged audiences, watching them react to specific scenes, hearing them laugh during lighter moments, and answering questions from the audience, was a profound personal experience. This is the reason why I love being a filmmaker. For me it’s simple, my commitment is to share stories that give voice to underserved communities with the goal to inspire compassion and motivate others to connect to universal themes celebrating the human spirit.

Again, I’d like to thank the incredible support DreamTown and I received from the U.S. Embassy, Ambassador Todd. C. Chapman and the following: Program Officers (Quito) Nazanin Berarpour, PDO; Alexandra Anda, Outreach Coord; Program Officers (Guayaquil) Erin Markley, PDO; Carlos Coello, Cultural Affairs Asst.

Also, a BIG Thank you to Diego Arcos (TC Television), Lucciola Gonzales, Director of Fundación Afroamerica XXI, Jorge León (Duran Mayor’s Assistant), Juan Martin Cueva, Director of the School of Film at the Universidad de las Artes, Dr. Carlos de la Torre (FLACSO), Victoria Proaño (UTN), Helene Sikos/Juan Fernando Verdesoto/Michelle Dávila (Yachay University), Jorge Luis Narváez (at Centro Cultural Ibarra del Ministerio de Cultura). If I have inadvertently left someone out, I apologize.

Diario El Norte, El Comercio, Ecuador TV, UTN TV Station, Radio Publica del Ecuador, El Telégrafo

The U.S. Embassy Organized the following screenings of DreamTown in Ecuador at:

· El Nacional with youth soccer players (Tumbaco)

· Centro Cultural Ibarra del Ministerio de Cultura

· Yachay University (Urcuquí)

· Universidad Técnica del Norte (Ibarra)

· FLACSO (Quito)

· Public Screening at Super Cines (Quito)

· Defensoría del Pueblo (Guayaquil)

· Centro de Convenciones (Duran)

· Universidad de las Artes (Guayaquil)

· CEN Centro (Guayaquil)

Interview with Top NJ-NY Personal Injury Attorney Rosemarie Arnold

On January 24, 2018, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor. That same week I sat with another Rosemarie and who has been on the SuperLawyers List in NJ and NY for over a decade.

Meet Rosemarie Arnold, a personal injury civil attorney who has been a powerful advocate for victims of sexual harassment and assault. For the majority of victims whose cases don’t make it to criminal court, there is the civil personal injury option, and this informative interview will help shed light on the process.

This interview is part of the transmedia initiative WeToo that is in development with a group of impassioned artists located around the world (scheduled for release Summer 2018).

Thank you for tuning in.

WeToo Transmedia Initiative In Development  to Launch Summer 2018

The #MeToo Movement has been a catalyst for many of us who have had direct experience with sexual abuse, harassment and assault. Whether we were direct victims who became empowered survivors after climbing the mountain of individual or group therapy, or perhaps we were the ones offering needed compassion and support to a friend or family member, the reality is that we, men and women, need to come together to promote healing and understanding.

As storytellers and survivors, we feel a responsibility to share stories through WeToo that can help others feel connected to our experiences and that healing is possible, as well as empowerment. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks.


I’d like to thank Rosemarie Arnold and her team at her law firm for all the support. Director Photography Claudio Flaygolz, Editor Roman Rojas, and also Jen Begeal and Ellen Mendlow of Storyforward.

When We Were Apollo Documentary – Countdown to Kickstarter Campaign



John Filson
Producer | Campaign Manager

Giovanna Aguilar
Producer | Media Relations

When We Were Apollo, a New Documentary Film about Apollo’s Undiscovered Heroes Launches Crowdfunding Campaign on Kickstarter, September 26, 2017 

Doing the big, impossible things brings out the best of ourselves.

Los Angeles, California, September 13, 2017 — Contact Light Films announced today the first phase of funding for its feature-length documentary film When We Were Apollo (W3A), currently in pre-production, to launch via the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter on September 26, 2017.

Space exploration, physics, technology and the pure spirit of innovation owe an eternal debt to the astronauts and NASA figureheads who took us to the moon.

But what about Apollo’s lesser-known heroes —the builders, technicians and engineers who also committed themselves to the mission? What was that intangible spirit of tackling the impossible that made them succeed? Where is that spirit today?

Stories of local heroes are resonating with diverse audiences, from the history buff to the space aficionado, from Baby Boomers to Generation Y, and with people in the United States and around the world. When We Were Apollo is uniquely positioned to capture, engage and grow audiences with the real-life accounts of local heroeswhose stories are yet to be shared.

Watch Preview

“In When We Were Apollo, and in your team’s vision, we see a compelling and timely aspirational narrative in humanity’s reach toward new frontiers, one that transcends the boundaries of race and class, and the differences of individuals in America.”
–  Jeff Gomez, CEO and Founder of Starlight Runner Entertainment.

“We appreciate all the ways that heroes of yesterday and today embody the spirit of Apollo in their daily lives—that conviction that dreaming big and tackling the impossible is really, really important,”      –  Zack Weil, Director of When We Were Apollo

About the project:

When We Were Apollo introduces audiences to several unknown heroes from Apollo’s workforce, and reveals what putting a human being on the moon meant to them. It will also feature young people from the newest generation focused on the next giant leaps for mankind, and what wisdom Apollo’s heroes offer for their journey.

When We Were Apollo aims for impact beyond the film:

  • A participatory effort to capture part of our history we would otherwise lose as the Apollo generation begins to exit the world’s stage
  • Online engagement and partnerships with popular organizations before and after the film help uncover Apollo stories no one has heard before
  • To create a compilation of new full-length interviews with Apollo heroes beyond the segments that appear in the film.

Production will begin in Dec. 2017 and slated to shoot on location in Huntsville, Alabama; Houston, Texas; and Cape Canaveral, Florida. The film will premiere in 2019, in time for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo XI moon landing in 1969.

About the W3A Kickstarter Campaign:

The Kickstarter campaign launches Sept. 26th and wraps on Oct. 31. It will fund the first phase of filming, which includes the main interviews with several undiscovered Apollo heroes. Backing this campaign means helping to preserve a piece of our history we will otherwise lose. It also sends the message that people still believe in the spirit that Apollo’s heroes embodied: a community coming together to tackle the huge, “impossible” things facing humankind. (Media teams: Click here to privately preview the Kickstarter campaign page.)

In addition to a special advanced release of the film, backers can receive:

  • an Apollo Oral History—a compilation of full-length interviews not seen in the film
  • a hardcover photobook and behind-the-scenes video of the production process, and
  • plenty of When We Were Apollo memorabilia and other incentives.


Director Zack Weil, at Contact Light Films

Producers Giovanna Aguilar and John Filson

Director of Photography Kyle McConaghy

Co-Producer Sterling Macer

Post-Production Company

Park Avenue Post

Attached to the W3A production is world-renowned transmedia expert Jeff Gomez, CEO and Founder of Starlight Runner Entertainment.

For more information:







John Filson
Producer | Campaign Manager

Giovanna Aguilar
Producer | Media Relations








Movie Fans of the Apollo Space Program – Join Our Mission

Check out the latest video of the documentary When We Were Apollo by Director Zach Weil.

Have you ever wondered what it was like to work on the Apollo missions? When We Were Apollo will take you back to a time when hundreds of thousands of people, from all parts of the USA, came together to put a man on the moon.

Follow our journey as we – the filmmakers – bring you stories about “the spirit of Apollo – that belief that we can do big things regardless of what stands in our way is still with us. And we want to make sure it continues on, as we chart a course forward. It’s our deepest hope through this film, and beyond that, we will always endeavor to do the big things, especially when times are hard, because they push us to become the best versions of ourselves. On behalf of the production team, Thank You for support this film and for all the ways you embody the spirit of Apollo in your daily life. See you out there.” – Zach Weil

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When We Were Apollo Documentary Directed by Zach Weil

Giovanna Aguilar Joins Producing Team of When We Were Apollo



When we work together, we can make the impossible dream a reality.

When we believe in our unlimited potential, we can accomplish the unimaginable.

The “When” is now, and it begins with a tribute taking us back to an era that has inspired dozens of films, generated numerous industries, and influenced the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans, and empowered communities around the earth to reach for the stars.

It’s time to remember the Apollo Space Program Era, and I am excited to share that I recently joined the producing team of When We Were Apollo (W3A), a feature-length documentary in pre-production (slated for 2019 release), written and directed by Zach Weil.

W3A takes us back to when individuals, working collaboratively in communities, were the real-life heroes working quietly and diligently, behind the scenes, making the improbable mission to the moon an attainable journey and collecive reach beyond the stars.

I join fellow producer John Filson in bringing Zach’s vision to reality. Currently, we are connecting with communities throughout the country in Alabama, Texas, and Florida, learning about inspiring persons who were part of the Apollo missions. Production is set to begin fall 2017.

If you have a story to share, feel free to reach out to me.


We will be launching a Kick Starter campaign in late August, and look forward to your contributions and feedback. For more information, contact us at


When We Were Apollo is a feature-length documentary film exploring the enduring impact of the Apollo Space Program through the eyes of five extraordinary behind-the-scenes heroes who helped put a human being on the moon.

The film is scheduled for completion in time for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2019.


When We Were Apollo is scheduled for completion in time for the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing in 2019. But just like Apollo, the journey to making it happen is just as important as the “landing” itself: JOIN OUR MAILING LIST.










Vivir Del Cuento, a Transmedia Project on Ecuador’s Oral Storytelling Tradition

Stop Motion Workshops | Cultural Animation Series | Documentary

by Giovanna Aguilar

I am excited to announce that I have signed on as an Executive Producer of Vivir Del Cuento, both the name of the transmedia project and the production company whose members are an incredibly talented team of storytellers based in Quito, Ecuador.

It found me through the light and talents of Bernarda Cornejo. With the utmost respect for the work that has begun with so much spirit during a tragic time in Ecuador’s history, I am honored and humbled to be included in this venture honoring cultural diversity and oral tradition.

In recognition of Vivir del Cuento’s invaluable impact as a storytelling project highlighting the narratives of Ecuadorians displaced by the 2016 earthquake, the United States Embassy in Quito, Ecuador awarded this project a Federal Assistance grant of $23,000.

How a Tragic Earthquatke Inspired Vivir Del Cuento

On April 16, 2016, Ecuador was devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that directly affected two provinces: Manabi and Esmeraldas.

In response to the catastrophe, a team of talented media professionals set off on a journey to preserve the oral traditions of Manabi and Esmeraldas. In the process, Felipe Lemarie, Juan Suárez, Olivia Garzón, Miguel Mateo Cármenes, Bernarda Cornejo and Paula Jácome formed their production company Vivir Del Cuento in collaboration with the animation and design studio ANANAY, which in Quichua means something beautiful or cool.

They began their venture by producing workshops to teach children how to create short videos and develop their storytelling skills with stop motion animation. Together, the production team and the children, have been capturing the cultural traditions handed down by respected elders in their local communities.

ANANAY’s goal with Vivir del Cuento is to safeguard the cultural integrity and diversity of these regions by igniting youth’s interest in their ancestry, empowering youth’s storytelling skills, and capturing all of this process in a documentary format for educational purposes at all levels.

Check back for updates on this project in July 2017, including information on how you can be part of and help broaden the reach and impact of Vivir del Cuento’s mission.

Creditos Vivir del Cuento

En Colaboración con:

Dumas Mora
María Mercedes Zambrano
Línver Nazareno
Rosa Wila

Productora Ejecutiva
Candesco Productions
Giovanna Aguilar

Felipe Lemarie
Juan Suárez

Olivia Garzón
Miguel Mateo Cármenes

Bernarda Cornejo y Paula Jácome





























Empanada Fork Inventor Hipatia Lopez Would Like You to Know You Are Not Alone

Empanada Fork Inventor Hipatia Lopez Would Like You to Know You Are Not Alone —HSN Project American Dreams Empowers Latino Entrepreneurs to Reach 90+ Million Households

by Giovanna Aguilar

“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity.” — Seneca

Inspiring. Driven. Made of Steel and Ignited on Full Blast by the American dream.

That is the Latina entrepreneur, inventor Hipatia Lopez who is in good company too. She is part of the demographic that represents the highest increase in female business ownership of any race or ethnic group between 2017 to 2012 when businesses owned by Hispanic women grew 87 percent, from 800,000 to 1.5 million, according to data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners. She holds a design patent for a handy stainless steel kitchen utensil — The Empanada Fork — from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, placing her within an elite group of Hispanic women inventors who are fewer than 1 percent of U.S. patent holders.

Last month I interviewed Lopez at Home Shopping Network’s NYC office where she and four other winners of HSN Project American Dreams participated in an intense boot camp to prepare for the opportunity to pitch their products live, on March 13, 2017, to over 90 million households. HSN Project American Dreams provides “the tools and resources to build brand awareness and keep team members on board with what the product is, why it was created, and who would benefit fro using it.”


As a foodie, I confess that I love empanadas and with all sorts of fillings. In Ecuador, where my family is from, empanadas are usually fried, filled with cheese and served with sprinkled sugar on top for a little added crunchy sweetness to the savory experience. But, if you are like me, you opt out of making them. Why? Because they can be a pain to make by the dozens. Getting the pastry dough to close tightly with our fingers or the kitchen fork is time-consuming and thumb-numbing.

Hipatia’s journey to invention began while making about 100 empanadas for her family’s holiday party. As part of the Lopez family tradition, she and her husband give out bottled water and empanadas to guests as they leave. Frustrated by the empanada-making dilemma, she took on the challenge to figure out a way to make the process easier and convenient.

Lopez, an accountant whose parents are immigrants from Quito, Ecuador, tapped into her company Christmas bonus and the support of her family. Initially, she had mixed feelings. “As a mom, you feel guilty spending money on yourself. I basically held a little family meeting at my house, my kids were a lot younger then, but to my surprise, they were all like ‘that would be so cool, mom being an inventor,’” she shares.

While initially, she felt alone, she quickly realized that there was a whole community sharing her passion for the American dream of business ownership and success. She was proactive and connected with like-minded visionaries and joined organizations such as the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, recognized in 2016 as the best chamber in the USA by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “You’re really not by yourself even though you feel like you are because sometimes you feel like you can’t turn to someone because you are afraid of what they think of your failures. I had a lot of bumps in the road and shed a lot of tears. But you have to realize the whole human aspect of it.”

Lopez is extremely grateful that HSN Project American Dreams helps Hispanic entrepreneurs like her make their dreams a reality.

“With HSN you hit so many people from different avenues and nationalities. I mean it is television and that by itself is a dream come true.”

Her vision is to see her invention used across restaurants and stamped with their logos.

However, Hipatia underscores that the opportunity to sell on HSN, every entrepreneur’s dream, was not reached overnight. It took her about four years of a lot of hard work, from concept to design to production to networking. Her first prototype of the Empanada Fork was made of plastic and did not work well, so the final version was made with stainless steel to make it sturdy. Thanks to the ease of the hand press, empanadas can be made by the dozens conveniently and without any frustration. She highlights the benefit of her handy and reliable kitchen utensil is that it is ideal for all types of stuffed-type dough foods such as calzones, apple turnovers, pierogies and more.

Yet not only does HSN provide an unparalleled platform for inventors like Lopez to reach millions of eager consumers but they also provide winners of Project American Dreams with a boot camp where they learn the tools to succeed as the voice of their brands from industry experts and mentors — Multicultural expert, CEO and co-founder of Cien + Lili Gil Valletta and “The Billion Dollar Man” and TV’s ORIGINAL Home Shopping host Bob Circosta, and U.S. Bank representatives.

To help “get their voice right,” Valletta prompts mentees with questions about the features and benefits of their merchandise and reminds them that consumers buy “WHY” you sell what you sell, not the “WHAT” of your product. In other words, entrepreneurs need to target their prospective consumers with why their product is going to make a buyer’s task or life easier.

Lopez who also won the HSN Project American Dreams $5,000 Social Media Award from U.S. Bank, for strategically tapping into her fast-growing online community, adds that the support she receives from her family, friends, industry peers and now as one of the winners of HSN Project American Dreams, has empowered her on a personal mission to rally behind other women to tell them they can be inventors too, because ‘women need to put their name down in history.”

She ends our interview with the self-realization that she is a fact a feminist whose “spark is ignited on full blast!”

Hipatia’s Tips on Keeping the Spark:

  • Build your online presence. Check out a recent article by Karen Gutierrez, “Social media success: Just stick a fork in it”
  • Let Google be your best friend. Hipatia’s reliable go-to- search engine helped her locate the manufacturing companies she needed and connect with like-minded networks and industry organizations such as the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.
  • Encourage others. Your success relies on others success too. Be generous with your contacts and provide guidance to those starting out.
  • Don’t be intimidated. You are not alone in your quest for the American dream. Turn your fear into energy and connect with others who share your drive and vision.
  • If at fail at first try, try again. Remember the prototype of her Empanada Fork did not work yet she did not throw in the towel
  • Don’t say “No.” The sooner you eliminate the word “no” from your vocabulary the sooner you will be able to nurture much-needed positive reinforcement for the long haul.
  • Love what you do. You find your spark when you have the passion for what you do and if it’s making empanadas for your family and friends then that’s a great way to build a business around love.








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