As a young child growing up in Watsonville, Pedro Gonzalez-Renteria dreamed of being a filmmaker.
That dream was fomented when his father got a video camera, and he and his friends and siblings would use it to make their own versions of skit comedy shows as Saturday Night Live and “Bienvenidos” out of Venezuela.
They would also use toy helicopters and other props to create “news” stories about floods and other incidents.
As a high schooler, he helped his friends who were enrolled in Watsonville High School’s Video Academy.
When he graduated in 2006, he was accepted to CSU Long Beach and Fresno, which many young people would celebrate.
But Gonzalez-Renteria, 35, who was born in Mexico, knew a hard truth that many undocumented immigrants face: his immigration status precluded him from getting financial aid.
“I am a pretty chill person, but that was the moment when I had the most depression,” he said. “That was my lowest point.”
Undeterred, Gonzalez-Renteria took a different route, and after attending Cabrillo College, working a series of jobs and finding a backdoor to the film industry, is now part of Pie Town Productions, a small television production company in Hollywood.
He is now in Watsonville looking for cast and crew for a short film.
“La Raiz” —“The Roots”—tells the story of a girl who emigrates from Oaxaca with her family. As her Mixtec-speaking parents struggle to find their place in Watsonville—where they speak neither Spanish nor English—she finds the magic in her new home, seeing herself as a classical princess intermixed with imagery from the Dia de los Muertos of her native culture.
She does not, however, feel the struggles of her parents. Instead, she feels the strong bond of the family, which Gonzalez-Renteria says mirrors his own life.
This includes sleeping on the floor with his family for years, as they worked the agricultural fields.
“Everybody was working together, everybody was enjoying each other’s company,” he said. “For me, that was the most important thing.”
Gonzalez-Renteria met another Watsonville filmmaker—Gabriel Medina—at a Watsonville Film Festival fellowship. The two have since formed a group who most recently worked on “They Know Not What They Do.” That film recently finished shooting in Watsonville.
Gonzalez-Renteria has also worked for a show called “Dropping Cash,” and with Fox for a show about Shaquille O’Neal. His current company, Pie Town Productions, makes such shows as “House Hunters.”
“I want people to be excited about a story told here in Watsonville,” he said. “I want them to see that Watsonville is part of the plot.”
In addition to a cast—including the main family characters—Gonzalez-Renteria is also looking for funding for “La Raiz.”
For information, contact Gonzalez-Renteria on Instagram at @heytherepete, email [email protected] or call 840.9439.