WHERE DISTINCTION MEETS PURPOSE: An Interview With Actress, Producer And Filmmaker Yadi Nieves

It took me quite a bit to get the nerve up to strike a conversation with actress, dancer, filmmaker and producer Yadi Nieves. She's beautiful, relatable, and so happens to be one of the most fiercest talents I've seen on screen, especially when it comes to screenfighting. I chalk much of this up to her dance background in accordance with her growing ability to pick up on choreography as well, something she so demonstrates in many of the shortfilms under production banner, Distinctive Light Entertainment.

Take a gander at this particular video and you'll see what I mean. Or even the one above where she goes berzerk on a bar room full of bikers and hoodlums to the tune of a Limp Bizkit track and a trippy premise capped off by a nice little open-ended surprise finish. Either one of these shortfilms among others, filmed, produced and coordinated in part with Nieves's significant other - industry stuntman and filmmaker Felix King, will have you veering in her direction to see what she can do next, and I for one am happy to have stuck to that instinct. Point in fact, her latest collaborarive effort is poised for a premiere later this year after wrapping director Lee Thongkam's newest feature film, The Last One, for which a teaser can be seen at its official website.

Nieves couldn't divulge too much about the film in our interview, but I did manage to strike a healthy rapport with her in the last few years, as well as ascertain some neat replies in an email back-and-forth over the past month or more. She shares a little bit about her background, her team, their ideals and goals and some of her favorite things in life.

Seperately, it's also worth pointing out that she laughs at my jokes when we chat, which I absolutely value. She has the world's biggest laugh and vibe of positivity to air from a person, and she's one of the most down to Earth and dedicated people I've met in my time covering independent action. I'll let her words do the talking from here, but knowing how much I pride myself on supporting people who do amazing and sharp work, I'll never grow tired of talking Nieves up, or her team for that matter.

Enjoy my interview with Yadi Nieves!

Film Combat Syndicate: Yadi, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me! How has 2017 been for you thusfar?
Yadi Nieves: Very stressful, but in a good way. Unexpected blessings have shown up just starting the year that will help me and my career gain more experience in the independent filmmaking industry. So far so good!
FCSyndicate: Well I'm glad to hear that! I'm curious about your background - I first met you online and browsed through some of your pictures initially and noticed you also have a dance background as well. That sort of drew my attention too, but I'd like you to have the floor. Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to become a performer in these capacities.
YN: Dancing has been in me since I was in my mother's belly. It's been my way of expressing my feelings with no fear of judgment. I've done ballet, jazz, modern, afro-caribbean, etc., but I've been stuck in love with Hip-Hop, Latin and Ballroom Dancing. Ever since I was little, I would get my people together and choreograph to perform for the family, school performances, singers, concerts, music videos, weddings, dances and competitions, and I mean anywhere and everywhere we could. I did pretty good in my dancing career as a choreographer and performer and I even opened dance studios until I decided to pursue full time acting and filmmaking.
FCSyndicate: How long have you been doing film? And, if you may, what moment can you pinpoint for us wherein you told yourself right then and there "¡Quiero ser una y un badass!"?

YN: [Laughs] Well, I have put together a few fun short films since I was fourteen with my mom's VHS camcorder. I would get neighbors, school friends and family to be part of it. My dancing took over faster and did filming and acting part time. Then I meet my partner Felix, who is also a dancer, actor and loves stunts, we shared our love for film and decided to grab a camera and do a little fun short called "Facebook Post". We realized that if we put our heads together, we can create our own opportunities and be seen sooner and so we did! And now we have our own company called Distinctive Light Entertainment.
FCSyndicate: That video was just a few years ago! It's incredible you guys only partnered just recently as timely as this feels. How did you and Felix meet, initially?
YN: I was an assistant manager at a dance studio in Orlando. At that moment in my life I felt the need to look into creating a well-rounded, solid dance group to perform at events and my friend Angel, who was an instructor in the studio, recommended me a dancer who worked with him at his second job. I heard he was supposedly "nasty" at Hip Hop and contemporary and one night this dancer, Felix, shows up at the studio, and I was captivated by his adorable smile. I told Felix to show me some improv and it didn't take more than three seconds to be impressed with his skills. He joined us and we became real good friends until things between him and I bloomed and fell in love. 💓 
Michael Chen Photography
FCSyndicate: Were there any challenges transitioning from dancing to becoming a screenfighter yourself? Tell us about your training regiment. I've seen you box, and you can definitely punch things hard.
YN: [laughs] Transitioning wasn't hard at all. Combat sports for me shares as much of the same space as dance, in that if you know movement, then it shouldn't be that hard; Wanting to pursue a career as an action actress at the young age of 12 and then four years after, I get the opportunity to start my combat training with boxing. It was my blood already as the males in my family all practiced boxing, and I use to spar a lot with my brother and cousin at the beach while everyone watched. I use to get whooped too! But if I get them in the ring with me now, they won't last a round! 
I then decided to join Capoeira as I was always intrigued by their reflexes, kicks, flexibility and acrobatic skills, and even the music! I knew this martial art would help me in the long run for stunts, and since then I've taken up a little bit of everything like Ju Jitsu and Muay Thai. Still though, my fortè lies princially with boxing and capoeira, so hasn't been hard at all. It's in the blood.
Behind the scenes of "The Last One" (2017)
FCSyndicate: Out of all the female screenfighters and actresses doing action in any previous period to now, who stands out to you the most? And why? ...Or is there more than one?
YN: Angelina Jolie's role in Tomb Raider was the movie that made me want to become an action actress and I will stick with her. She's still a bad ass to me...always has been and will be! I also enjoy Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez but my girl is Angelina - not only a phenomenal actress but does most of her stunts in her films, and no matter her age she still kicks asses!
FCSyndicate: I remember Jolie's Lara Croft like yesterday. Saw it the following evening after my high school prom and still the best in my opinion. 

So you and Felix have established yourselves as Distinctive Light and you've done a raft of shortfilms up to this point. Tell us what you and your company are up to nowadays?
YN: This year we have great and exciting projects to take further than just YouTube or Vimeo. We are growing as a team and expanding our vision to art in general and storytelling and are expanding our playing field for film production in ATL. In God's will, great things are coming. 
Also, we were blessed to have an unexpected start of the year by being able to collaborate and partake in a feature film premiering internationally hopefully this Spring. It has been an outstanding experience.
FCSyndicate: Awesome! Can you tell us about the movie?

YN: Yes! Its called "The Last One"  by an outstanding filmmaker named Lee Thongkham. Its a sci-fi based on hope, faith, death and the discovery of humanity last breath for survival. Check the trailer out at the official website for it which is TheLastOnemovie.com. It has been an experience working with this genius director and DLE will always be at Lee's service."
FCSyndicate: That trailer is SICK! Can you tell us about the role you play?
YN: I play Nidia, the mother of one of the main characters, and that's all I want to divulge for now. I want everyone to watch the movie and find out what happens!
FCSyndicate: For sure! What other types of roles would you like to portray on screen in the near future? I noticed you're a fan of a certain Latina comic book superhero IP.
YN: Besides action, I really enjoy comedy. I enjoy a lot of Jackie Chan's movies - it's a mix of action and comedy brilliance and is like the perfect combination...or just doing a comedy role itself like Sofia Vergara. 
As for superheroes and the like, I haven't really been much of a superhero fan until they started making movies of them, and nowadays you'll find a gentleman by the name of Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez who writes for Marvel Entertainment. He's out there making waves with a character he created called "La Borinqueña". I learned of this last year and it intrigued me, and not just because she's Puerto Rican. It was also the meaning of why she was created. And I guess you can say that's how I became a superhero fan.
Photo: NY Daily News
FCSyndicate: I look at her costume and I can see you in something like that, either on a fan film basis or something greater!

This sort of brings me to my next question when it comes to diversity and the presence of women in TV and film. An LA times report cites Ralph J. Bunche Center at UCLA and its 2017 Hollywood Diversity Report which essentially concludes that diversity and gender are still an issue, not so much for TV these days but mostly for film. What are your thoughts on this? What are some of the things you and some people in your core group have observed in these aspects? (Source)
YN: In all honesty, this is something I don't reallt worry about as much. In this world, there are problems for everything and I really don't see anything impossible through God's will. There are neither walls nor barriers that can be broken, it all comes down to how bad you want it and willing to work for it. Are you willing to work three times harder than others because of the way you are labeled? Are you going to give up because most of the population told you no? Are you giving up your dreams because only a fraction of the population in Hollywood is made up of people who share your color or gender? 
Cast and crew of "The Last One" (2017)
My team and I eat, breathe and sleep this opportunity. We are passionate with what we do and we do NOT have a Plan B. It's either that and they let us in, OR we rush up and kick that pinchè door in! [laughs] With that being said, women and minorities need to continue pushing forward and each time harder, because change is emerging little by little on TV and film but we are not all the way there just yet. At the end of the day with hard work and consistency, that barrier will be broken and I personally maintain that morale with my team. We enjoy seeing diversity in our films and love giving opportunities to everyone, first timers to experienced folks, big or small, no matter ethnicity, no matter gender and thats the way it should be.
FCSyndicate: Is there anyone in particular you and/or your team are looking forward to or otherwise hoping to work with someday? Any names worth throwing out there in the universe?
YN: Tyler Perry, Denzel Washington, Dwayne Johnson (my partner Felix already did and all I'll say is get your butts to the movies on April 14!), Quentin Tarantino, Chris Cyborg, Jackie Chan, Will Smith, Viola Davis, Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman...AND Oprah. It's a pleasure to just even name them. Yes pretty talented artists and entertainers, but it's moreso about who they are rather than talent as to why I would love to work with them. The great energy and encouragement they share to help others, to inspire. I love their work and when they speak - these all comprise reasons why I would love to work with them. Come on universe! Let's do this!
FCSyndicate: I like how you think, and you think big! I'm confident you'll land on radar for one or hopefully several of these people and I would like to thank you in advance for taking the time out of your schedule these days to talk to us. Most of all, you, Felix and your team for what you're contributing to film and the creative impact you're helping to have on action cinema today with other filmmakers. Are there any final words you would like to add before we cap things off?
YN: Yes! Please follow us!!!
FB: Distinctive Light Entertainment
IG: distinctive_light_ent
WEB: DLEfilms.com
Email: DLEFilms15@gmail.com 
...and big thanks to my great friend Lee B. Golden III. You have been an extraordinary friend, who has been nothing but good to our stunt community. Thank you for standing up for the stunt world and doing your part to help represent us as important roleplayers in this industry. My team and I believe you will make a difference in the near future.


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