I love boldness, otherness, and a full spectrum of “sexy”… so, in a word, I love Miguel Zarate. In this episode, Miguel and I go from zero to 100 in 1.5 seconds. We talk pronouns, sexuality, our own artistic identities, and we go IN on what it means to be “sexy” in an industry where sex sells. So… grab a glass of wine and some ear muffs for the little ones, and ENJOY!
Quick Links: Miguel’s Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/mzarate
The artist in me was that a point where it was either create your art or go nuts.
I think putting yourself in that world as a human before you put yourself in the world as an artist,
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
My friends, My friend, this is Dana. Welcome to Words That Move Me. I have a treat for you today. I cannot wait to share this conversation with my very special guest. The one and only Miguel Zarate, And I mean, holy smokes, I really, I kind of want to jump right into it, but I also want to honor the format. So I will start with wins. And I’m also excited about my win this week. My win this week. Well, my win today actually is that I went to the nursery and I don’t mean human babies. I mean, plant babies. I bought some new cactus/succulent soil, and all of my little succulents will be getting repotted this week. I bought new pots for my spider plants, which were they spider plants kind of like to be root bound. But I mean, the roots have been like springing out the top of the soil now for months. So they are getting an upgrade. I got a couple of new friends because I couldn’t help myself. And really I went in and I feel great about it. So I’m celebrating my plant mommess today. Um, and I am, that is like absolutely top win of the week. My house is becoming a plant house and I am becoming a plant person, a person with a green thumb and a person with a lot of ceramic pots. By the way, if you are in the Los Angeles or Sherman Oaks area and you need some pots, I think I will have too many after this trip because my papers are growing. Okay. That’s my win. Now you go, it’s gone.
Well, congratulations, keep winning. I’m so jazzed for you. Okay. Now, speaking of jazz, you know, me, I love a segue. I am jazzed about my guests today. Miguel has been a friend of mine for a very, very long time. We could talk for a very, very long time. And in this very short conversation, relative to past conversations of ours, we go pretty deep. Um, we talk a lot about our roles in this industry. As we perceive them, we talk a lot about our experience with sexuality, otherness, the colors of the sexual spectrum when it comes to being sexy and attractive and sensual, and the difference between all of those things. Um, we talk about owning our work, producing our work, any harm in not paying dancers and as if that weren’t enough, the notion of art being the highest luxury that there is. So, uh, buckle up and get ready for the flame, the fire, the volume, the spice. The wonder that is Miguel Zarate, Enjoy.
Dana: I know this is exciting. This is really freaking exciting, Miguel Zarate welcome to words that move me. Thank you so much for being here. I’m really excited.
Miguel: I’m more excited. Thank you for having me. I was feeling a certain way that I hadn’t been asked yet.
You know what? This is kind of a sidebar, but a sidebar before the pre bar, before the post bar, before we’d go to the far bar, which is actually the Far Bar, oh God, this is confusing. Sorry. Y’all, we’re really jumping into the deep end. Miguel and I met at a bar in Los Angeles called the Far Bar years and years and years ago. And we had a conversation that went far. Like we covered religion, sexuality, the industry, our childhoods, like we went really deep. And so ever since I started a podcast, I’ve been thinking about you and I’m so glad it is happening now more than ever, because I have some things that I want to talk about and I have things that I want to congratulate you on. And before we do any of that, because it is tradition here on the podcast, I would love for you to simply simple, sometimes not so simple. Introduce yourself and tell us whatever it is you would like us to know about you.
Miguel: Okay. Well, my name is Miguel Zarate and um, I consider myself before anything else, um, a gay Mexican man and an artist. I used to identify more so as a choreographer, uh, or as a dancer. But, uh, I feel like that’s that, isn’t who I am and that, that really narrows what I do. And, um, I think I truly am an artist living an artist’s life and I have different mediums. I believe that’s the word. And, and whenever they come into my spectrum or my mind, I therefore create the art based on that. And sometimes it’s movement. Sometimes it’s film, sometimes it’s my clothing. Sometimes it’s my hair. So I Miguel Zarate and I am a gay Mexican man. Who’s also an artist.
Uh, love that introduction. Thank you for that. And I’m, I’m glad that you started there because where I wanted to start is by kind of telling you, which I think you already know, but I love to just say it outright. Um, I know that you’ve danced for big artists, and I know that you’ve choreographed for big shows. I don’t see you as fitting the classic description of dancer or choreographer. And I do see that as a strength. Um, and I think that a lot of my listeners identify with that and agree with that. I really think my listeners are the uniquest snowflakes and I think that you are too. Um, so what I, where I sort of wanted to start is ask you if you see it that way, do you see yourself as fitting in? Do you see yourself as standing out? How do you perceive your role in, in this whole life thing?
I love that question to be honest. And, um, it’s changed. It’s changed throughout the years, as I would hope I would hope so for most people it would change, you know, but the industry, when I came into it, which was in 2006 was very narrow minded and they reminded me of it every single day. I was reminded and constantly told at the beginning of my career that I was not the mold. And I did not look like a dancer. I did not dance like the dancer that they perceived me to be. And that honestly, it just, it felt very closed doors and it wasn’t even like, it felt like I took upon those feelings. They, the doors were closed on me for a really long time. And I was not allowed to be who I am now professionally for a long time. I say this respectfully, but I, I had though I could dance like “a man” And I say that with quotations. Um, I never wanted to, but if I wanted to work, which I did because I loved dance and I had a big ego that needed to prove that I could be a working dancer.
And also you wanted to survive with money and buy food and pay rent,
Literally live the dream. Um, I had to learn how to dance like that. And I had to not even learn, learn as something I didn’t have to learn. I had to decide that I was going to dance like that slowly but surely within the jobs and within people who started picking up on my magic, uh, in, in the rehearsal process, people like Jamal Sims early on, uh, really were like, what are you doing? Like, you’re, you’re stifling yourself by not being you like, just be you and the jobs will come for you. Um, but, but you’re, you’re the same way. I feel like you’re extremely talented. Like you’re you’re next year and I’m going to narrow it down. You’re an extremely talented dancer. So when you have the gift of dance, you can really do it all when you’re not working based on the talent that you possess, it hurts, it hurts and it gets into your head and you start, you start questioning yourself because you see these jobs and you’re like, but I’m that talented. And it doesn’t stem from ego. It stems from fact, I’m that talented, Why aren’t I working?
How did you answer that question for yourself? Why am I not working?
I, I, I finally had to accept that I was different. I didn’t want to be different. And that stems from childhood. A lot of people see a big personality when it comes to me, but I never wanted this from a young point in my life. I knew I had a big flame and I wanted to dim it down all the ***ing time because I just wanted to fit in and be normal. So it was hard. It’s been something that, that I just had as a dancer, had to be like, okay, I know your Latin Miguel you’re not a leading man. You are not the heartthrob, which was a hard pill to swallow.
You know, what’s funny about that pill that you’ll never be the leading man is that add a couple years, add a couple of probably hugely transformative experiences. You know, getting to know you moments and what I see now, as you’ve evolved as a creator is you placing yourself in leading roles in your work. I see you as a leading man. You’ve made way for yourself to be that for yourself, without waiting for the industry to say, ‘we’re looking for a big flame as the leading man, we’re looking for a gay Mexican man to be a leading man.’ This is, this falls under the heading. Um, I like to call it anyways, instead of fake it til you make it, you make it till you make it. You just make the work that you want to be doing.
Yes. And it came out of default.
I was annoyed that I wasn’t getting cast it. I was annoyed that I wasn’t being put in the roles that I should have been put in. So like you said, I had to put in, I have to put myself in them, but it felt it wasn’t as glorious of a feeling at first it felt like a, like a bootleg version of what I really wanted, which was the Janet video and me next to her, or which was the Brittany video and me next to her, you know, but what the ***k was I supposed to do? Wait, I couldn’t, I couldn’t anymore. The artist in me was that a point where it was either create your art or go nuts.
Wow. I, you know, that might have, that might be the title of this episode, create your art or go nuts with Miguel Zarate.
I love that, check it.
I do too. And you know, what awesome is that I perceive your style is having an element of urgency, but you are so cool. So I want to talk a little bit about that. Um, I want to talk about in, in my experience of the commercial industry, we’ll talk specifically about the music industry. A lot of my earlier work was dancing for pop stars and I perceived the king and queen of that world were cool and sexy. If you were a male, you needed to be cool. And if you were a woman you needed to be sexy. And the pallets that painted both of those two worlds, the cool and the sexy were very limited.
It was no spectrum in there, black and white.
And it’s, it’s, it’s getting quite a bit more colorful now, but I really felt that I had to flick my hair a certain way or boost my boobs a certain way or cinch my waist a certain way. And I had, you know, I talk about him a lot on this podcast. I had an acting teacher, I was in an acting class and I was, did a scene where I maybe I was playing. I think I was playing a hooker in the scene, which is like me being a hooker is about as believable as Julia Roberts being a hooker, which worked for her. So
Yeah it did, I look at it now and I was like, that was so Disney, but I love Disney, but that’s your real hooker.
But that’s pop right. That’s pop. She was the digestible bite. Anyways, I was sitting in that chair and we somehow we became talking about woman-ness and things. And, um, I, I opened up about my experience on tour, which was feeling less woman than the other girls, because of, you know, how much attention they got or how good they were in their heels, or how small their waste was, or how big their boobs were. And my acting teacher, Gary Imhoff. Thank you so much for reminding me of this. He said, boobs are boobs. Elbows are elbows. Skin is skin, hair is hair. They don’t have anything that you don’t have. You don’t have anything that they don’t have when it comes to the physical anatomy between you and this woman standing next to you. Those are the same parts. I’m again, I’m still very much learning. My identity is woman. It happens to be how I was born and I’ve wrestled and embraced it differently throughout my career as a commercial industry dancer. But that was a hugely pivotal moment for me. When I realized there’s no like difference between sexy hair and my hair, like hair is hair. Hair is hair. And my skin is my skin, my loving myself, and my enjoying myself is what makes something sensual or sexual. So I want to talk about sexuality. That’s where we’re going. That is what’s up. Okay. Um, number one, I just kind of a broad and baseline question. Do you consider your work sexual
A hundred percent. I, I am driven by sex, ever since I was little. That is insane. My work, my identity, even my movement from a young age was always sexually based, which is why I gravitated towards Madonna and Janet early on because their work was too. So I felt seen, I was like, oh, I want to do that. I want to express that. Um, for a lot of people, sex is shocking. And for me it’s refreshing. So it inspires me. It doesn’t shock. It inspires me. So, yes, to answer your question, bluntly, all of my work is inspired by sex.
That makes total sense. Um, now the question that I, that I wanted to ask on this same subject is around this notion that if you haven’t had sex, you don’t know how to be sexy. And I think a lot of teachers will say the opposite. They’ll say you don’t have to have sex to be sexy. And there’s a lot of confusion. Like there’s a lot, there’s mixed messaging around this. I would love to get your take on sensuality and sexuality and how that manifests in movement.
I do believe that, uh, dance is, is movement. So I don’t necessarily believe that you need to have sex to move your body in a sensual way. I think that should be taught through your dance teacher, um, through moving your hips through your culture. What I will say is that once I had sex, my movement did grow. It did, it did take on a whole other spectrum of a feeling and the way I emoted it. And I think it’s because it stemmed from a personal experience. It was no longer me mimicking a move or mimicking a feeling. It was me now actually touching base with something I had experienced and felt firsthand, and now implementing it into the movement or into the phrase.
I think I agree to me, the biggest difference is that sensual and sexual are different. I think sensual is feeling yes. And I think from a dancer, that is what I’m really asking when most people say I want it to be more sexy. I think what they mean is I want it to feel different or I want it to feel something else. So I think maybe as educators, myself included something I’d like to change my language around is this notion of dancing sexy with the idea of sex in mind, or being a sexual object or being even a sexual person. Think we can just be people that feel ourselves.
Absolutely. I, I want to be, I want to be honest. I always use sensual the word sensual, rarely do I use the word sexual, unless it stems into sexuality, but when I’m teaching and I’m doing a move, I always say it needs to be central because I believe that sensuality is inviting and it’s not.. Though dances for us, it’s for an audience. So you want to invite your audience into what you’re doing. So if it’s a sense, if it’s, if it’s sexy, it needs to be sensual in order for it to read and come off sexy. But I use the word sensual or hot, like make it hot, you know, like not spicy enough, hotter. I want you to be hot, like take the leg out in Tendu and really take the leg out. Cool.
So I, we talked a little bit about the spectrum and the palette that we use to paint sexy or sexual or sensual. Um, I prefer otherness and this is because I got bored of the palette that was offered and that I was painting with. Um, and I started really enjoying otherness and I, and, and boldness. And I see you as representing both of those. Um, how do you paint, like how the colors that you have are bright, bold, and it sounds like they’re coming from they’re deep in you. You said that, that you’ve been this way since you were a kid. So how might you encourage someone who hasn’t felt in touch or driven by sexuality to paint with a broader spectrum?
I think you have to be honest with yourself first. Like if you’re not, if you don’t enjoy painting sexually, then you don’t have to, your work can stem from something else. You know, it doesn’t have to be sexy in any sense of the way I could look at your work and think it’s harsh or think its silly or fun or charismatic or unique. Um, but I make a conscious effort to paint with sexual brushes because that’s what inspires me. Now, if you feel like there’s a sexual being inside of you that you want to release, I do think, and this might sound like well, but I do think you have to dive into the world of sex. So I think allowing yourself to have the type of sex that you want to be inspired by in real life helps. I am a gay man and I have great gay sex. And I have it because it fuels a lot of my scenery in, in my films. I want to, I know the sex isn’t real on camera, but I want to try to produce as real of sex gay sex that is, um, that I experienced in real life on film. So for me, it’s like, I think putting yourself in that world as a human before you put yourself in the world as an artist,
Yo, I’m so glad you said that. Um, I’ve been working lately, uh, just over the last two years, I’ve designed and created programs for graduating seniors only. So the, they may be graduating from college or from high school, either one at that point in your life. I think the next steps, even if you’re crystal clear on what you want to do in the long run, you don’t, you’re not crystal clear on where you put your foot next. I love working with this demographic. And one of the things that comes up a lot when we discuss auditioning or mock auditions, is that if these dancers are interested in a career in entertainment or the industry as we’ll call it. Because sex sells, it will almost certainly come up once or twice. And you’re right. I love that. I love that. You just brought up that there is other than sex. Like we talked about the range of the spectrum of sexy colors, but in work, there is also, there’s plenty else to paint with, right? There’s as you mentioned, there’s silly. There’s fun. There’s scary. There’s grit. There’s you know, all the colors, but if you are engaging with the entertainment industry, it is likely that you will need to be attractive at some point. And I’ll say attractive, not sexy, um,
A hundred percent and you can’t be ugly and be on film unless it calls for that. And when I’m saying ugly, I don’t mean like, I don’t find, it’s not a taste. It’s not a, oh, she’s the ugly, like a four equals ugly, a 10 equals hot. It’s not that. It’s finding yourself hot when I dance. I’m not, if I go to a gay bar, I’m not the cutest. Like I’m not stereotypically cute. I have really hot friends. So when we all go to a gay bar, they get picked up on more. Cool. I understand why, I’m not taking it I’m not taking it to heart. Like, but when I dance, I’m the sexiest mother ***ker ever, because I believe it because when I dance, I ooze it. It is real. Yeah. Yeah.
Yes. I get it. I get it. And I’m so glad that you said that and there’s something I do want to ask this question. I think what you’re touching on is paramount. The thought I am hot comes before feeling attractive and comes before anyone else will find you that way. 99% of the time. I can’t, I try not to talk in absolutes because I’m sure there are examples of the, of alternative, Right? But I think specifically for young people who are finding themselves in their sexuality and finding, they’re finding their palette, that they want to paint with the, they feel, and they’re not making this up. I mean, I remember my agent telling me that I needed a sexier headshot.
Like I, that that was required yet, yet. Oh gosh. Yet when I, when I tried to be the color of sexy that they were asking for, I looked miserable. I looked so unconfident. I looked so insecure. I looked afraid. And to me, fear is like the kiss of death in an audition. It is not an attractive quality other than sometimes like a scared dog I want to care for. But I do not want to hire and put on stage behind Justin Timberlake. Fear is not the color that you want to paint with at the audition or in your headshot, like the way you’re putting yourself forward. And I love the notion of finding yourself attractive and knowing where that comes from for you. It comes from movement or dress or styling. Um,
Well for wearing an outfit to auditions, because when I used to audition, you would wear like rehearsal clothes, like, like baggy ass sweats, t-shirts. And I would come and full on denims with no stretch. Cause there was no stretch in a denim in 2006, I would like, let’s keep it real. And there was no urban Outfitters also in 2006. So I would go to thrift stores and find really unique individual pieces. And I would wear them specifically to these auditions because I felt the most me. And when you feel the most, you, you present your best self and I needed to present the entire fantasy because I was trying to get hired. You know what, for the most part, people behind the people behind the table don’t have an imagination. Very rarely do they have, if you don’t feed them your product, they’re not going to think, oh, we can shave his head in wardrobe, he’ll look the part. No, you got to come as the part because they don’t have a lick of imagination. So I would come in these ***king clothes, sorry, I’m cursing too much. I would come in these clothes full on outfits. And people would look at me nuts. Like, what is he doing? But once they saw me dance, they were like, oh, actually he dances like what he dresses like. Now, now whether I was right for that job or not, I presented who Miguel was. And hopefully that led to another job that suited me, but I wasn’t willing to dress like everyone else was dressing and not to rebel, but because I needed to put my best foot forward. And that was my best foot forward was to present as close of an image of who I was.
Thank you for that. Thank you for being an example of that. Yeah. It’s very encouraging and it’s, it’s contrary to a lot of people are taught and told, which is fit in, fit in, fit in. Um, there, there are many instances where, as you mentioned as your little boy self that’s, all you want in the world is to just fit, to fit in with the cool kids or to fit in with the booking kids or to fit in with. And you want to do all the things you want to get your head shot by the person who did their headshot. You want to, and I, I get strategy, I get strategy, but I feel singularly. I feel like one, one special snowflake. And so, you know, it’s amazing too, when I watch your work, I see someone doing that and it makes me not want to do that. Not what to fit into your world, but to go create my own.
Thats the only thing I want people to receive from my work is the, uh, yeah. Is the permission to do them, not the permission or the desire to want to be part of my world, unless you really do. Right. And if you fit in great, awesome. Let’s connect. But all I want people to see is like, damn he is so himself. That is so inspiring. I want to be, myself. That’s all I truly want from, from my audience when they look at my work.
So then I think based on that, I think I know the answer to this next question, but it seems like you work with the same group of people a lot. Like you have your tried and true. What is it that you look for in, you know, your team?
Okay. I’m very specific on that. Let’s go let’s here. Okay. First of all, I stole this idea from Andy Warhol. I’m obsessed with Andy Warhol from a young age, like early, early high school. I was introduced to Andy Warhol and it changed my world and he had superstars. So, so I was like, Hmm. If I, if I have personalities around me, that people get accustomed to, they become famous as I become famous. So it’s like a brand you’re branding yourself. I’m big on branding too. What I’d look for in a dancer is an individual. I don’t need you to be clean. You’re obviously going to be clean because you’re an amazing, okay, let’s be, hold on. Okay. You have to be a phenomenal dancer. Number one, number one, because I pride myself in the art form. I love dance and I will not back down from that. I love movement and I love dance. And there is a bar and there’s a bar because we’re calling, we’re calling ourselves professional dancers. It’s not dancer. It’s not fun. It’s no, no girl professional dancers. So there’s a bar. So first and foremost, you have to be at my bar at my level of dancing, period, period. Second, you have to have a look. If you can’t stand alone, if we can’t walk into a party and the attention goes to you and not just to me, I don’t need you next to me. You need to be a star. You need to be able to pull focus. Because ****h when I walk into a room, I pull focus and I’m not trying to have an entourage. I’m trying to have a group. I’m trying to have the spice girls. I need everyone to play their part. So I don’t need you next to me. If you’re not going to be something else besides me, because I’m the only Miguel. So you need to be the only Brooke or you need to be the only Boi Boi, you need to be the only Denzel. You are no use of me creatively. If you’re not going to bring you. So that’s the second thing. Third thing. I need you to have a fully established look. I need you to be someone. If you’re the hot blonde bimbo, I need you to be the hottest bimbo ever if you’re the most emo kid in the planet who only wears black and has the heaviest eye makeup. I need you to be that person all the time. Like I need you to know who you are and what, and like, you need to have a look. You need to have an identity. I’m not the best at building dancers. I need self already. The the self of the dancer needs to be already fully established.
It’s funny. Um, I’m going to call you on this. This is a perfect remodeling of this audition scenario that you just created. The person on the other side of the table. A. might not have any imagination at all, but what’s likely is that they don’t have time or budget to turn you into whatever it is that’s the world they want to create. They’re waiting for someone to say, I’m the world. Your spaceship wants to stop us on this planet. Yes. So are you, you’re not interested in building a world. You’re looking for aliens from other planets to come like, take a space ride with you.
Yes. The only counter argument to that is that at my age, till this day, I still teach a weekly class. So if you really want to be a part of my planet, I will train your ass fully. So if you come every week to my class and I see that you really want it, I’ll, I’ll start laying in on you like change. That that should not be your hair. Do this. Like don’t ever make that choice. That’s not who you want to be because that’s not what you’re presenting. It sounds harsh what I’m saying. Like, I look for this and if you’re not already made up, then I’m not going to work with you, but I’m also holding an audition every week in my class. So if you really want to work for me, I’m giving you the opportunity. It took me three years of religiously taking Tovaris’s class three times a week at Edge to dance for him. I was unwilling to not dance for him. And it was at a time where he was not working like that. There was no jobs. And the first time he asked me to dance for him, I had gone to his class religiously three years, and there was like a little, a little rinky-dink mustache, Mondays performance. It wasn’t even real. Wasn’t even for a real artist. And I had a teaching gig that weekend for four grand and I lied and canceled it. I lost that a $4,000 to dance on a little rinky-dink stage with Tovaris, because that was my goal was to finally dance for that man.
What I love about what you’re talking about now is like, you started this call saying that you have many different mediums. And then we start talking about paint, brushes, and all the things. And what I am hearing from you is that you fully do things differently. You direct differently than you teach. Like when you’re assembling a team around you, you’re looking for fully embodied characters, a cast and crew of wild and outrageous talent. Yet when you’re a teacher you’re shaping, you’re guiding you’re mentoring. You’re maybe even like parenting in some situations like in that tough love type of type of way, or styling even like beyond. And when you’re a dancer, you also are different. Yes. It, and I love multi. I think it’s true that we can be different in different places. Yeah.
We should be, or else life would be is so boring. And that’s, what’s weird too, is that I feel like lately, especially during the pandemic, like people hold you to a certain standard and like, no, Miguel, Miguel does this. No, no girl, Miguel gets to decide who, what Miguel does. And Miguel does a lot of different things at different times around different people. And like Dana, like, you’re my real friend. So you get the best side of me. And I don’t own, I don’t, own the best side of me to everybody. So I don’t need to be the Miguel that I am with Dana. Who’s my real friend who, who goes back 10, 10 years deep. When I meet the girl who’s in my class the first, first time, you know, it’s like, people feel like you need to be Miguel consistently. No, I don’t need to be Miguel consistently. I need to be honest with Miguel and the Miguel around
This is nice. Here’s one of my favorite things that I’m learning right now is the, this idea of a false dichotomy, which means like a or B, like you can either be consistent or not be consistent. And I think that’s a lie number one, which let me give me a moment to back this up. Like I decide what the values are in which I think consistency is important. I think responsibility, it’s important to be consistently responsible. I think it’s important to be consistently honest. I don’t think it’s important to be consistently happy. I don’t think it’s important to be consistently kind to you actually, because I do, I love kindness. I like try to lead with kindness, but I don’t need to oblige consistently. And I think it’s, it’s important to say like, oh no, I can value consistency without always being something.
Yeah. Yes. A hundred. There’s no argument against that. I feel the same way.
Sweet. I love this. Um, okay. Well, I want to dive into, um, kind of, we’ve talked about your films and your way of creating worlds and creating art, which is in many different modes, right? Sometimes it’s as a dancer, sometimes it’s as a dancer in a piece that you choreograph that you also directed. Um, and I marvel at your video work. I’m marvel at it. It is all of the things that I love. It’s bright, it’s bold. It moves quick. It’s got exquisite talent. Um, and I’m just Curious Carol, over here, wanting to know how in the heck do you pay for all of your productions? Because I’m looking at this like holy smokes, this is like cinema scale work and you produce often do, how often would you say you, you make,
Depending on the year I make about between two to five films a year, depending on how I’m feeling.
Okay. And do you self, are they self-funded, is there a grant somewhere? Do you like kickstart them all?
No, no, no. I have too much ego to do any of that. Um, I’ll pay for it a hundred percent. It comes out of my pocket and I learned early on that if you pay for it, you can, you can be a ***ch about it are going to be like, no, that’s the wrong edit. No, that’s not what we agreed on. I paid for it. You can’t, there’s no arguing for it. This was the agreement. You do it so early on. I, um, I learned that, but no, I self produce and fund everything, but I’m going to keep it real too. Like I’m Mexican, I’ll find a bargain right away or I’ll make ***t work that should not be working. I’ll make it work. It’s, I’m an artist. It’s part of the artist is life until I get fully funded, which is always the dream it’s, it’s still, I’m pushing 40 and it’s still the dream to get funded. Right. And of course there’s ways there’s grants, but then there’s so much, you have to give so much to that grant and so much those people.
Yeah. And they, they, they come with their own requirements, you know, fulfilling, you’re fulfilling your responsibility in that role is similar to fulfilling the responsibility to target. If you’re choreographing a target commercial you’re you’re, you’re answering to someone.
Yes. and I learned early on that. I just don’t do well with that. Unless it’s a real job when it’s a real job, I’m the best team player on a real job. But honey, this is not a real job. This is Miguel’s world.
So not a real job. Miguel’s world alternative title to that episode. Um, okay. So that answers a lot of my questions. It sounds like you come from a place of like, better to ask forgiveness than permission.
You know, that’s my motto
Is that really?
Act now, Apologize later.
Okay. So that makes sense. That comes across. Um, and you pay for your work, which means you pay your people. Yes. Have you come to find that like you get what you pay for? Are there instances where you’re like, damn, that looks like crap. I wish I had X or
There’s videos that I’ve never released because they’re not up to par and that money on them and they’re not up to par, so I won’t release them. I’m going to be blatantly honest too. Um, because I feel like there’s no shame in this, but I never, I never pay my dancers, but I, I, provide for them deeply, um, in every way I provide for them creatively, I provide for them like with food and housing and for traveling somewhere, I provide for them in many other ways. And I get many phone calls and or text messages from, from people in this business who are way higher than me. I’m not gonna mention any names, but they always ask me, how did you get that person to dance for you? I just had a real job and they, and they turned it down or how to get this person on, on your film. And without sounding like an egotistical maniac, it’s because it’s me it’s because the product is right every time. And I don’t just come with like horrible wardrobe and horrible steps. It’s like, it’s all elevated. It’s all lifted. They’re in full-on costumes, which I pay for. I’m not like, well, what’s in your closet. I’ll make it work. No, if I want everybody in chaps, I have to figure out how to put all eight boys in chaps. I guess what I’m trying to say is, is that I don’t pay that part. So I want to be honest with everybody because I’m not one to be like, I pay everyone. I don’t pay everyone. I don’t pay my dancers. Okay.
I so appreciate transparency.
Of course you have to be.
So my, my question is as somebody who’s come up through ranks and chunks of working for free. Which I think is common, but not critical. Like I don’t think our world has to function that way. Um, my question is, do you see any harm in doing it that way? It sounds like you’re confident in your decision to do it this way. You think that the people who are working for you come in, are coming out on top when they engage in this transaction with you, do you see any harm in it? Or do you see that like, oh no, this is it. This is the way,
No, because I’m asking a question and they have the right to say yes or no. I’m not forcing them to dance for me. I’m posing the question, I’m doing a new film. Um, I would love for you to be a part of it. This is what’s happening. I send them the treatment of the film. Like, do you want to be in this yay or nay? And they could respectfully say Nate, and I’m not going to be holding a grudge about it. You know? And my dancers who I want to use have a real job, I understand it. And when I work around their schedule and I don’t take it personally, if they can’t commit to my project. But because of the longevity of my work, I have built a family. And once you’ve created that relationship with them, look, we do stuff and we get paid and we get no camera time and camera time matters. As a dancer, you’re putting so much work in. And literally you just see like a flash of my head after I busted my *** in a week of rehearsals, eight hour rehearsal, then there’s no shot of the dancing. So there has to be a legacy for you as a dancer and as a performer. And I provide that with my work. I give full-on shots to my dancers of them dancing. And I celebrate them as individual artists, not as Miguel’s backup dancers, as artists, there is integral to the, to the, to the film as I am. There is not, I was just my name. My name comes first because I’m the one producing, creating, directing choreographing. But that is not, that is not there. They matter. They matter a lot without them it’d be a bunch of solos. So I remind them every day, how important they are to me.
I don’t like the future promise of like, you’ll be paid someday. I think that that is sneaky and conniving and terrifying. But I also, here’s what I’ll say about that. Yeah. I, I think that art, is like the highest luxury that there is. I mean, sure. There are vehicles and shoes and purses, but to make and to own art, you have to have money. Yes. And I think that that’s the difference in some ways between art and dance, because I think that to dance is human. I don’t even need music to do it. I just need my body and some, a space larger than a coffin. Maybe, although I have a very animated face. I could get, I could, my face could get down. Um, but I, I want dancers to be among the highest paid artists that there are, that’s the world that I would love to live in. And then of course I would also love while we’re at it while we’re like rubbing the lamp for wishes. I would love like across the board, if you are a professional dancer dancing in a professional work, which does suggest that that work will be making money, that you are absolutely paid undeniably. Yes. Um, do these films of yours make money?
They do not. There’s no monetization on them. And you know, I don’t really get work from them either. It’s all just great.
So you think.. those puppies are money in the bank.
People see them. people I’m not girl let’s keep it so real. For the most part, all my videos are within like 5,000 to 30 or 40,000 views. That is not a lot of use in the world we live in today. People are, people are in the, I’ve never had a video that’s ever gone viral ever, but I’m not making the video to go viral. I’m not making the video to make money. I’m making the video so that when I die, I have an honest legacy behind me and not one where they’re like he was in that music video. Did you see his forehead? No girl, that’s a Miguel production. That’s Miguel.
And how does that feel? How does that feel?
Amazing because I could die peacefully knowing that because I did the best that I could with the money that I had under the circumstances that I lived in. And that’s your responsibility as an artist to do the best work that you can do with the circumstances that you’ve been given and I’m doing the best I can do. And until then, this is what’s going to keep happening. Now, the second I get even $10,000 to make a film, you’ll see, you’ll see a $10,000 worthy film. And I know they look like they’re like 25, 35, 45, $50,000 films, but they’re not,
This is one of the things I love about a budget is that in my opinion, anyways, that type of restraint really enhances creativity. Yes. As soon as you have all the money in the world, you start getting lazy with the choices you start like, okay. Yeah, sure. We can do that. We can do it like that.
You know, what’s funny. And, uh, and I, I mean, I don’t know how to not keep it real and you’re my real friend. So we’re just literally just talking. Yeah. Um, the second I get a budget, guess who’s getting it. The dancers who have never been paid for me, you know, like my, the second I get a budget to do a real Miguel film, not a job that Miguel is working on as a choreographer, but a real Miguel film. And there’s legit budget. They get paid immediately. I’ve always known that. And the second I could put them on a real job, they’re the first people I call. But if the spec doesn’t call for them, then I can’t use them. Um, but they’re always my, my top priority is my friends.
Okay so what, this might be a tough question to answer. What makes it legit? Is it a certain number? Is it a, is it that the number is coming from Lion’s gate or Warner Brothers? Like in your mind, when you say, as soon as it’s legit, the money’s going to them, what, what is that?
As soon as someone’s like, here’s a hundred million dollars, do whatever you want with that
A Hundred Million is your legit marker.
No, but even 10, I’ve never spent more than five grand on a film. So if someone, if Dana Wilson was like, here’s a check for $10,000, no strings attached. All I want is for you to create a film with this money. I’d be like, amazing. They’re getting paid. That’d be the first where the money goes. And I would still use, I would probably match your 10 grand of my money. Do you know what I mean? So that everything gets taken care of, but they would be getting paid.
Okay. I wanted to jump out here to invite you to answer this question as well. If you are a person who’s producing your own video work and telling yourself that you’ll pay your team once the money’s legit, I hope that you’re asking yourself what makes it legit? When will it be legit? Because legit is so subjective, right? Some of you may be listening to this dang 5k for a personal project that is legit. So when is the money enough to pay your team, your crew, your dancers, your camera. Is it a dollar amount? Is it where the money is coming from? Like a source outside of yourself? What makes it legit to you? Take a second and roll around with that. Uh, as we roll on out with Miguel,
Well, I appreciate your fire. Thank you so much for sharing it with us today. I, I really could talk to you forever. Um, I would also love to like honor and create a space for us to do that off the air. So for now I will wrap this up with a little bow and say, thank you so much for being here and for sharing. I simply adore you.
You’re welcome so much. I’m your biggest cheerleader. And you’ve inspired me more than, you know, uh, from a, from an early beginning in our careers. And I applaud you. I applaud your work. I applaud the way that you’ve paved your way. I’ve, I’ve seen you for a long time. And to finally get to see you on stage with Justin being you was, was remarkable. It truly, it truly was
Thank You. I appreciate that. Big, big love, big love to you. Virtual hugs and someday real ones. Yes. Oh, so-so okay. Love you. Bye bye.
Well, my friends, where do you think where you challenged, where you stoked? Did you catch fire? Did you feel hot? I know that I did. I loved being reminded of my sensuality, my ownership of feeling and feeling good about myself. So I hope that you take that feeling all of that heat and get out into the world and keep it very, very funky. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye
Me again. Wondering if you ever noticed that one more time, almost never means one more time? Well, here on the podcast, one more thing actually means two more things. Number one thing. If you’re digging the pod, if these words are moving you, please don’t forget to download, subscribe and leave a rating or review your words move me too. Number two thing. I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye.