“The Difference” is a short documentary about the powerful effects of meditation and positive thinking in a disadvantaged community of Baltimore, Maryland. Filmed in collaboration with the Holistic Life Foundation of Baltimore the documentary focuses on how providing underprivileged children with free and inherently accessible psychological tools helps them live and thrive, not merely struggle to survive.
The film documents the effects of a program that was implemented and operated by the Holistic Life Foundation of Baltimore. The program focuses on teaching youngsters yoga, meditation, breath-work, mindfulness, self-care techniques and music. Learning these techniques helps them to better control emotions and feel empowered to better their circumstances. “The Difference” was an official selection at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2020 and at the Cinequest Creativity & Film Festival in 2020.
BriGuel is actually a moniker for Brianne and Miguel, an artist-couple who produce music and film to harmonize humanity. Miguel hired Brianne to co-produce his short film “Fly Away” and they subsequently became both life partners and business partners. They recently discussed “The Difference” via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in becoming an artist and why did you gravitate toward music and film?
Brianne: Becoming an artist was something I was born with, truly. From the moment I could walk and talk, I was singing, dancing and performing. It was my passion and if you had asked little two-year-old Bri what she wanted to be, the reply would be: I’m an actress. Fast forward a couple of decades, and I was somewhat frustrated with the limited amount of creativity and opportunity I had as solely an actress. So, I started my own production company and began writing and producing in addition to performing. Then once serendipity struck and I met my soulmate Miguel, everything made sense; since we joined forces in 2016, we incorporated all of our skills and established BriGuel, a music-film production company and Duo – From the notes in a musical score to those given on a script or a set, we put our heart and soul into everything we do, developing and delivering powerful stories that drive emotional impact.
Miguel: I’ve been obsessed with words and calligraphy since I was three years old, and I started writing stories at seven; by ten I was writing my first songs; I was always a storyteller and I tried to find my voice through different disciplines but eventually I realized that writing was my best form of expression. My parents gave me a camera at 15 and I started to make my own movies and I’ve been a filmmaker ever since. I’ve been developing my skills both in music and film for more than two decades to a point where I can now translate what is in my mind into what I would like to hear or watch. We mainly make music and films for our own sanity, it’s our way of therapy but it also allows us to connect with the other people and send a positive and empowering message, which is our ultimate goal.
MM: How did collaborating with your life partner influence you creatively?
Brianne: It’s amazing to work with your best friend, business partner and love especially when you both appreciate the same passions and inspire each other to grow daily. Most significantly, I have expanded my abilities by working with Miguel and have become better at the skills I had, too. Essentially, I’ve become a better person, creative and artist thanks to working with Miguel. It’s truly a dream come true.
Miguel: Meeting Brianne has been literally the best thing that could ever happen to me, both in a personal but also in a professional way. She is such a positive influence and great motivator that makes me wanna keep growing and develop all of my potential. Working together makes things much easier, not only because she is able to do tasks that I find more difficult and vice versa but also because I respect her opinion and creative ideas and that helps to improve everything we do. She has turned me into a very efficient and productive person and has always a very honest perspective that helps making our work better, more profound and well thought.
MM: How did you end up in Baltimore and what was it like to work in an area with high crime rates?
BriGuel: We ended up in Baltimore because of the Holistic Life Foundation and our friends there. We always knew we wanted to showcase the incredible work Ali, Atman and Andres do there, and it was just a matter of coordinating when to go to Baltimore and film. Filming in Baltimore was admittedly a little intense. You really don’t realize how devastated the neighborhood is until you see it with your own eyes – and to think that’s a few hours from NYC! It felt post-apocalyptic in some areas – even more reason why highlighting the work of HLF was so important.
MM: What prompted you to create this documentary, and how did you get involved with the program?
BriGuel: We met HLF years ago and fell in love with their ethos, their beings, their work. We had wanted to create a song with HLF and Andres for a few years and had originally incorporated HLF into a Series we were developing that never transpired. After the 3rd deal that fell through with the Series, we thought ‘let’s just create the song, and since we’re there, produce a documentary to go alongside it.’ So, for our honeymoon – that’s how we financed the project, rather than travel for our honeymoon, we created “The Difference.”
MM: What was most memorable about the people you met via Holistic Life Foundation of Baltimore?
BriGuel: The most incredible and memorable aspect about the people of HLF is they really walk the walk and talk the talk; they are beaming with love and authenticity. You can’t help but smile being in their presence and the kids LOVE them. It’s amazing to see how the kids all flock to Ali, Atman and Andres whenever they’re around.
MM: What is your favorite story or memory from that time?
Brianne: Just being in Baltimore and seeing the guys in their element was really special.
Miguel: The entire experience was very humbling and inspiring. It was incredible to experience the kind of work they bring to the communities; all of the interviews were very special.
MM: Have you kept in contact with the people at Holistic Life Foundation of Baltimore and how affected was the program by the pandemic?
BriGuel: Yes, we are constantly in touch with the AAA team (that’s our nickname for them). Especially with Andres with whom we continue to make music. In 2020 we released an EP together – 2020 Vision – and also featured him on two songs on another EP we released, TBDEP. He is our Soul Brother and we see him often.
MM: How long did the documentary take to film?
BriGuel: We filmed the documentary over a course of about 6 weeks, but we weren’t filming every day. We filmed for about 2 weeks total, I’d say.
MM: What did it feel like to win so many awards?
BriGuel: It’s always so amazing and humbling. We’re just so thrilled that the work is appreciated and lauded.
MM: How did you get involved with Rock the Shorts and what was your experience with them like?
BriGuel: Rock the Shorts and Roxanne are fantastic. It was a truly wonderful experience and we’re very grateful to be nurtured as filmmakers the way Roxanne has created such a safe, inspiring, uplifting festival. We honestly submitted through FilmFreeway having read their mission and took a chance. And we’re very happy and appreciative we did.
MM: What was it like to produce and release a song along with the documentary?
BriGuel: It’s a dream come true. We absolutely love when we have the ability to put all of our skills together, and “The Difference” is a perfect example of that.
MM: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
BriGuel: “The Difference” has definitely been a highlight for us as we wrote, directed, produced, and edited the film and composed the music. We had the ability to work with friends and amazing collaborators – for example we worked with Alejandro Delgado on the edit, and Matt Chiaravalle on the score and music – and we had the film screen at many Festivals solely on the film’s merit – no favors pulled, no phone calls to get the project seen, just blind submission to festivals, acceptance, and in some cases awards. Otherwise, the highlight of our career is the continuation of incredible work that we’re honored and grateful to create, both personally and for-hire. And, of course, the fact that we get to work together, doing what we love with whom we love, as our career. What an absolute blessing!
MM: How do you hope your career evolves and expands from here?
BriGuel: We hope to continue growing, continue developing as filmmakers and musicians, and continue to have our work showcased and appreciated by audiences all over the world. Of course, like any filmmaker or musician, we dream of Oscars and Grammys, but in truth, the fact that we get to wake up every day and keep creating is the real gift. We’re thrilled to share our next projects and what’s coming next!!
MM: What events, projects, or exhibitions are coming up soon and is there anything else that you would like to discuss?
BriGuel: We have several amazing projects in the slate, both personal and for-hire, that are near and dear to our hearts. Our short film “Baby’s Phoney Friend” will World Premiere at Hollyshorts Film Festival in September 2021 and we’re also releasing an EP of the same name – the songs are set to the soundtrack of the Film; we’re heading to Poland at the end of September to start principal photography on a documentary; we’re filming another short-doc in NYC in the Fall; and we’re completing an incredibly compelling feature documentary for The Holocaust Museum and Center for Tolerance and Education (and that’s just our September / October haha). Also “The Difference” will screen at more Festivals this Fall, including ChangeFest, Global Peace Festival, and Morehouse Human Rights Film Festival.
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