By Juan Caceres | SydneysBuzz April 16, 2014 at 9:00AM
Laura Checkoway had an idea for an article she wanted to write which took a new direction when she met Lucky Torres ( née Waleska Torres Ruiz) , a headstrong defiant girl from the Bronx who had a story to tell her. This article would set the documentary Lucky into motion. As a child, Lucky suffered years of abuse and spent her childhood in foster care before running from girlfriend to girlfriend. Laura became invested in Lucky‘s life as her world evolved like a roller coaster. Lucky is a compelling film about a powerful young woman who kept her son and sister from drowning in a sea of uncertainty despite being homeless and unemployed and with all the proud scars to show for it. BTW Checkoway also collaborated on ‘ My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep's Prodigy’ which automatically makes her a goddess.
LatinoBuzz: Your intent was never to make a documentary but to write an article. After having met Lucky and realizing the process, were you ever concerned you would not finish the film or get the full story from her?
Laura: I often wondered if we’d come out of this process with a full film. But I guess that I would’ve kept going no matter how Lucky’s life unfolded until we did her story justice.
LatinoBuzz: The film doesn't have a happy ending per se, but definitely of some hope for her as a mother and person, what were your personal hopes for Lucky?
Laura: While making the film, I hoped a lot for Lucky—most generally that she would find her way, get out of her own way, and grow. I still have high hopes for her—that she learns to love herself more and more; that she finds some sense of healing and creates the home, family, and career that she longs for.
Laura: Steve and I met at a Cinema Eye documentary filmmaker event and got into a conversation about making films about difficult people that aren’t the typically heroic protagonists we see in so many documentaries. After watching a rough cut of the film, he became an editorial advisor and mentor; then he came on as executive producer. He’s a master and gave insightful editorial advice at a time when the story needed fine-tuning.
LatinoBuzz: Do you want to ever move to narrative filmmaking?
Laura: I think I’ll stick with documentary but you never know…
LatinoBuzz: Do you think Lucky would have opened up as much had you been a male director?
Laura: Being a woman, I think Lucky felt like we were able to see eye to eye and she sensed that she could trust me. But more than gender, from what I’ve gathered at recent Q & A’s and press when Lucky has been asked about this, it’s my loyalty and open heart that helped her open up too.
LatinoBuzz: Is there anything you would've done differently as a filmmaker?
Laura: Wow, these questions are making me think. This was my first film so I was literally learning as I went. Looking at the footage and process now, there’s so much I could have done differently, but this was a very organic experience so it wouldn’t have happened any other way.
LatinoBuzz: You have some wonderful tender close up shots on Lucky where you get a sense of a person who is bursting with love inside for the people around her – do you think that the hair, tattoos, piercings are more 'armor' that she puts on everyday and not so much her “art”?
Laura: Yes, I see her tattoos as both armor and art.
LatinoBuzz: How did you go about the fundraising for the film?
Laura I self-financed the film with help from producer Neyda Martinez.
LatinoBuzz: How was Lucky received at screenings etc and how did she handle it?
Laura: The audience has a really powerful response to the film and it sparks a lot of conversation. At screenings, Lucky is applauded and admired for her strength and audiences have expressed a lot of gratitude to her for sharing her story and her pain. It’s a lot for Lucky to take in and there have been ups and downs but for the most part she’s handled it like the leader and eloquent speaker that she is… she’s so authentically herself.
LatinoBuzz: I loved the story between the two sisters (Lucky and Fantasy).
Laura: I love the bond between Lucky and Fantasy too.
LatinoBuzz: Would you ever re-visit this story in 5 years?
Follow all the news on ‘Lucky’ at luckythedocumentary.com
Written by Juan Caceres . LatinoBuzz is a weekly feature on SydneysBuzz that highlights Latino indie talent and upcoming trends in Latino film with the specific objective of presenting a broad range of Latino voices. Follow [AT]LatinoBuzz on Twitter and Facebook