Monday, March 25, 2013

Miami, Florida Filmmaker Jorge 'Jokes' Yanes, from Graffiti Artist to Movie Premieres

Jorge "Jokes" Yanes
By Davy V.

Although I make my home in Rochester, NY, also known as the 'ROC' or the '585', Miami, Florida holds alot of special memories for me.

My family moved to Miami from the ROC, shortly after I was born.

Miami is where I said my first words, and took my first steps.

It's where I lived until I was 9 years old, when my dad had the crazy idea of moving back to Upstate, NY.

But I miss Miami.

Coral Way, 32nd Ave., Calle Ocho, Miracle Mile, Westchester.

I miss the palm trees, the beach, the Cuban food.

Like the pasteles at El Brazo Fuerte bakery, Media Noche sandwiches at Sergio's, Cuban Sandwiches at Versailles, and the best Flan I've ever had at La Virjen de la Caridad on 17th Ave.

But most of all I miss my Cuban roots.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Miami, Florida's extremely talented Cuban-American filmmaker Jorge 'Jokes' Yanes, one of the 305's up and coming stars.

The multi-talented Jokes is also a director, screenwriter, producer, and editor who is completely and passionately dedicated to his craft.

His film, Eenie Meenie Miney Moe, which recently premiered at the Miami International Film Festival, stars Oscar Torre, whom I recently also had the pleasure of interviewing here on my blog.

Jokes talks about Miami, his work and much more.


First off, thank you for taking time out Jokes, I read that as a child you used to be into graffiti. How did art influence your work as a filmmaker?

Graffiti was a big influence in the sense that it was important to have a style of your own. That hip hop original ethics of not trying to bite and to reach for fame, you could say going bombing shares a lot of traits with doing a production especially a guerilla one. You pack all your supplies and go on a journey to make a piece of art.

Where does the name 'Jokes' come from?

That was my graffiti tag, that was the last name I used when I used to graff, and it stuck, so I kept using it.

How did you become interested in filmmaking?

When I was in middle school I would write and act in little home movies with some of my best friends. I remember we would shoot to edit and the final tape would circulate around school like a primitive Youtube. Once I was in high school all that filming stopped and I didn’t get back into it for many years.

What were some of your first filmmaking projects?

Many of my first projects were writing or script doctoring for these little hood movies that were popping up in the late 90’s and early turn of the century, directing-wise, besides film school projects, I just kept busy doing what ever came my way in order to get on a set.

In 2001 you were hired by MUN2 to produce the TV show 'Upbeat', later know as 'The Roof', how did that come about and how was that experience for you?

I got hired freelance to direct and edit a mexican regional music video and when I turned in the project early and under budget, they asked me to jump on the production team. They gave me the Upbeat show because I knew about hip hop and dance music, and at that time, no one else there cared about that. The experience was amazing. When I first started doing the shows I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, I was just following the directions they gave me, but the shows were turning out awful and rumor was circulating that I was gonna get fired. So realizing I had nothing to lose, I figured I should save face and at least make a show I could show off to my friends. Once I did that surprising everyone including myself, the show was number one on the network and everything just fell into place after that.

Jokes, after the success of 'The Roof' you tried your hand at directing your own music videos, tell me about that.

I actually started doing the music videos on Upbeat. It took me like four attempts until I was confident with them. By sheer coincidence, before The Roof aired, I had made a hit video and demand for me to direct music videos grew, then the show hit and I couldn't keep the phone from ringing. It was pretty exciting times.

You've worked with artists such as T-Pain, how did that come about?

I met T-Pain through the record label he was associated with and we got along well. We shared some of the same passions and we did a music video together. That led to the little comedy movie intro for his tour. He is a musical monster with non-stop energy and a quick wit. It's no question why he is where he is in the industry. Knowing his music is like only knowing 10% of his capabilities. T-Pain is a real genuine, nice person.

Oscar Torre plays 'Jimmy' and Joanna Galis Menendez plays
''Monique' in Eenie Meenie Miney Moe.
Photo by Eduardo Valdes OTB
Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing actor Oscar Torre, who plays 'Jimmy' in your film 'Eenie Meenie Miney Moe, tell us about EMMM.

Eenie Meenie Miney Moe is a raw stylized portrayal of Miami life personified by a tow truck driver and the small time criminal network he utilizes. It's a movie that is dark but also has a comedic edge to it and deals with the everyday right now struggles of the 305 with a sort of satirical point of view. It's a real genre-bending film that just had a smashing, fully packed world premiere at the Miami International Film Festival.

Andres Dominguez plays 'Raul'

How did the idea from Eenie Meenie Miney Moe come to you?

I met a tow truck driver on a video set, and he started telling me some wonderfully crooked stories about the dark side of the biz, this is back in 2004 before any of the so-called reality TV shows, something lit up and it kind of fit perfect with some ideas I had already been developing and a few months later an outline was made.

Speaking of ideas coming to you, I imagine living in a beautiful city like Miami, there is plenty to draw from, what inspires you, and gets you in the 'zone'?

Line outside Miami's Olympia Theater for the premiere of
Eenie Meenie Miney Moe
at the 2013 Miami International Film Festival
Photo courtesy of MIFF.
I'm inspired most by the chance to do something different and unique, Miami can offer that if you look for it. Good talent to collaborate with gets me in the zone.

What are you working on now?

Right now we are just setting up worldwide distribution for Eenie Meenie Miney Moe, and me and my team have two, possibly three new projects slated for next year. All in different genres, and all representing a wider gamut of the American Latino experience with a South Florida slant.

Jokes, as a filmmaker and director, what are your thoughts when it comes to Latinos in film?

Eenie Meenie Miney Moe Red Carpet Premiere.
Photo courtesy of
My philosophy is simple. Don't be scared of telling the truth. As Latinos in America we are more than just a demographic. We are Americans, and it is up to us to expose what we see everyday, even if it stings to see it. It is up to us to tell and support stories that are made by us and that inspire us.

Jokes, what advice can you give to anyone interested in pursuing filmmaking?

Make product and don’t quit. The entertainment industry is like Survivor, the island. There are all kinds of obstacles, critics and cliques that will make themselves splinters in your palm. Just always know that when you treat people right, show your peers respect , and work hard, and I mean really work hard, and smart, and have real ethics, eventually it will be undeniable.

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