Rick Castaneda is flying high these days after his film, Cement Suitcase, took the directors' choice award at the Gig Harbor Film Festival earlier this month.
It's the second award the film has earned since Castaneda started entering it into large film festivals up and down the West Coast.
The movie also won the people's choice award in June at the Dances With Films Festival in Los Angeles.
"So much has been going on with Cement Suitcase, I can't even talk," Castaneda told the Herald.
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When Cement Suitcase made a showing at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival on Oct. 12 he met actor/activist Edward James Olmos.
"I'm a huge fan of all his roles, both in film and as an activist. He's my (filmmaking) idol," Castaneda said. "There aren't many people in the world who can claim to have done more than he has to improve the image of Latinos. Other films seem to portray Latinos as either gangbangers or maids, but Olmos' films have always shown we're capable of much more than that."
Next stop on the film festival tour for the movie will be the Santa Cruz Film Festival on Nov. 7-10.
Cement Suitcase was shot entirely on location in the Lower Yakima Valley wine country, where Castaneda grew up.
It follows a guy named Franklin who might be the best wine salesman in the Yakima Valley, but he hates his life. His girlfriend is cheating on him, but she doesn't know he knows. Then Franklin meets the other guy and decides he likes him. That realization gives Franklin courage to stop being a putz and find some happiness in life.
Castaneda, 32, grew up in Granger and took off for the footlights of Hollywood after graduation. He studied filmmaking at the University of Southern California for a while, then started his own production company in 2005 with three of his college buddies.
The company, Psychic Bunny, creates projects as varied as video games, training systems, infographics, corporate promotions and TV commercials, as well as films.
Castaneda's next venture in filmmaking will be another movie, Modern Living, for which he also wrote the screenplay and will direct.
He plans to bring Cement Suitcase to the Tri-Cities for a screening, but that will have to wait until the film festival tours are done.
"We're hoping in late January," he said.