Conversations | Flavio Alves and Roy Wol’s “The Garden Left Behind” Premieres at SXSW

Conversations | Flavio Alves and Roy Wol’s “The Garden Left Behind” Premieres at SXSW

“We respect each other’s positions and collaborate on almost every decision…Instead of putting each other into boxes, we work as a family.” – Roy Wol

This month, The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) will celebrate the world premiere of NYFA Fiscally Sponsored film The Garden Left Behind at SXSW. This trailblazing film traces the relationship between young Latina trans woman Tina and her grandmother Eliana as they navigate Tina’s transition and struggle to build a life for themselves as undocumented immigrants in New York City. In advance of the premiere, Writer/Director Flavio Alves and Producer Roy Wol spoke with NYFA about their collaborative approach to filmmaking. NYFA also Fiscally Sponsored their 2014 film Tom in America.

Public screenings of The Garden Left Behind will begin on March 9; tickets and passes are available on

NYFA: Talk to us about the producer/director relationship. Who does what and do you ever trade roles?

Flavio Alves: Roy and I have been working together for almost 10 years, so we pretty much know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. He has so much to offer and it would be foolish of me to be autocratic. I can’t see myself making any directorial decisions without consulting Roy.

Roy Wol: Flavio is the best partner I could ever have. The result of our partnership gave birth to many projects including the latest (and the best) The Garden Left Behind, which will soon have its world premiere at SXSW! I see the director/producer partnership as a holy thing. Perhaps I’m an idealist, but I believe that deep human connection intuitively inspires us to reach our own unique potential. Flavio is a force of nature. He not only inspires me but also everyone else around him. We respect each other’s positions and collaborate on almost every decision, while also understanding that both of us have talents in different aspects of the work. Instead of putting each other into boxes, we work as a family.


NYFA: Why premiere at SXSW? What attracted you to an interdisciplinary festival?

FA: SXSW is a prestigious festival and it’s every filmmaker’s dream to play there. Additionally, SXSW is a forum where both major studios debut their films as well as smaller independent films screen. This mix is inspiring.

RW: SXSW is about creating conversations around social matters as well as promoting innovative ideas. Our film checks both of these boxes as it has the potential to spark extensive, meaningful conversation. It’s also unique since it was funded through a brand new fundraising methodology we developed where we used eBay as a crowdfunding platform to raise over $100,000 by selling donated items. Most importantly, there is something in the air in SXSW and Austin. It’s a place for discovery. 

NYFA: You started production in 2014. How have recent world events infiltrated the film? Did the film stray from your original vision?

FA: Once you start your research about a specific subject, you don’t know how the story will evolve. To me, it’s an organic process and you have to be willing to follow the curve wherever it takes you. And, as a storyteller, you will be doing a disservice if after your research, your project is still the same as your original version.

RW: If five years ago you told me the world would be this divided, I wouldn’t have believed you. Recent world events have had a major impact on the film. The main impact will be in the conversations that follow the film’s premiere – undoubtedly our film is incredibly timely.


NYFA: Roy, what prompted you to start your own production company? What challenges do independent producers face?

RW: The list of challenges indie producers face is very long! First, producing is not for everyone. It requires a 24/7 approach. Or at least it does at this level. So time and work/life balance is a constant struggle. Producing a film can take a long time so you need to build an income system for yourself in order to continue doing it. An indie producer’s best weapon is their individual taste. What makes an independent producer is their taste, connections, ability to fundraise, and foresight. All of which I am still working on further developing in myself.

NYFA: What’s your advice for emerging filmmakers?  

FA: Make at least three successful short films before moving to a feature length film. The people who stay with you after that are the ones who will help you to make your first feature film. Gather resources, make connections, and shape your filmmaking skills. The ones who can play the long game have more chances to survive in this business.

RW: Create a strong core team. Work very hard. Develop your taste. Do not depend on others for fundraising and marketing—learn these skills. Do not finish your film until there is absolutely no doubt in your and your partners’ minds that the film has reached its full potential. Whenever you get burnt out know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Never give up on your “child" or film. Be resilient.


NYFA: You’ve worked together on three films. Will you team up again?

FA: Our work as director/producer is like a marriage. We keep working together because we are storytellers and we have tremendous respect for each other. So yes, we have several projects in the pipeline.

RW: Together, Flavio and I have continuously excelled. Each day we surprise each other with each other’s wisdom in different aspects of this work. Hell yeah, we are teaming up again!

– Interview conducted by Madeline Scholl, Program Officer, NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship

Are you an artist or a new organization interested in expanding your fundraising capacity through NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship? We accept out-of-cycle reviews year-round. No-fee applications are accepted on a quarterly basis, and our next deadline is March 31. Click here to learn more about the program and to apply. Sign up for our free bi-weekly newsletter, NYFA News, for the latest updates and news about Sponsored Projects and Emerging Organizations.

Images: film stills, The Garden Left Behind; world premiere poster, 2019; and Roy Wol and Flavio Alves, Photo Credit: Emre Baser; all images courtesy of Flavio Alves and Roy Wol

Amy Aronoff
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