By Carlen Dickerson
Miguel Ferrer graduated in 2007 with a double major in theatre and motion pictures. Three days later, he packed two bags, bought a one-way ticket to L.A. and never looked back.
“I had no business contacts, no job lined up, no apartment,” Ferrer recalled. “I couch-surfed for a couple months, until I landed a job at National Geographic Films.”
Serving as a production assistant for only two days and then quickly advancing to cameraman, to supervisor, to co-director of several documentaries, Ferrer said he worked day in and day out to outshine the competition.
“It all boils down to hard work, 17 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Ferrer said.
It wasn’t long before he caught the eye of producer, director and fellow UM alumnus Michael M. Robin. Best known for his work on popular TV series “The Closer,” “Nip/Tuck” and “Major Crimes,” Robin offered Ferrer a job as a post-production coordinator, where Ferrer helped manage the development of films from script to finished result.
“Mike was a great, great mentor,” Ferrer said of Robin. “And he still is.”
After two years under Robin, Ferrer started receiving offers to direct commercials. His first, a Mountain Dew Kickstart ad, featured a luchador, or professional wrestler. Several clever commercials later, Ferrer left his job with Robin and began directing full time.
Ferrer spent the first 13 years of his life in Caracas, Venezuela, where he was raised by a Spanish father and a Cuban mother. He said has always been interested in the arts, and wrote his first poems at the age of seven.
In 1996, he moved to Miami, where he discovered his love for films. He was originally inspired by “Jurassic Park,” he said, but his favorite movies span a wide array, from “Memento” to “Star Wars” to “Jaws.”
“I like pretty much any genre,” Ferrer said. “As long as the movie is cathartic and it takes you on a journey.”
Ferrer’s own journey into the world of film began in the University of Miami film program in 2004. His first mission was to get his hands on some equipment. He headed straight for the equipment room, only to learn that he had to be in a class in order to be eligible to rent out the equipment.
Instead of waiting a semester or two before he could enroll in the right class, he discovered that if he joined one of the University of Miami television shows he would be granted permission to rent out a camera. The next day, he auditioned to be an on-field reporter for the Spanish news show, “Unimiami.”
“I came the next day to the equipment room manager with a paper that said that I’m a reporter and that I need to take out all this equipment,” Ferrer recounted. “I didn’t need to take it out for that purpose, but I needed to take it out for the weekend to shoot my first film. I guess I was just bending the rules.”
While at the University of Miami, Ferrer said professor Jeffrey Stern taught him many of the guidelines of writing a screenplay and supported him in all of his most ambitious projects.
“He was a very energetic, proactive, self-motivated student,” Stern said. “I would have placed Miguel on the list of those students that I felt would go on to a successful career.”
As the years passed by, Ferrer continued to perfect his craft. For his senior project, he approached a local Afro-Cuban band, the Spam Allstars. He directed and produced a music video for their song “Gallo Pinto.” The video was screened at Paramount Studios in L.A. through the School of Communication’s annual Canes Film Showcase.
Since then, Ferrer’s career has taken him on many adventures all over the world. He’s directed everything from Navy Seals to a pillow puppet to a Nepalese mountain goat herder.
“Not many people can say they’ve met a Nepalese mountain goat herder,” Ferrer said with a chuckle.
It hasn’t all come to him easily, however. He’s had his fair share of struggles. He said one of the hardest things as a director is working with people who don’t share the same amount of passion as he does for a project.
“There’s something to be said about believing in a vision that only you can see,” Ferrer elaborated. “Whether it’s your career or your life or a role or a film, very few people can see it the way that you do.”
Today, when he isn’t making his world-famous arepas, Ferrer – who is 30, but thinks of himself as “19 in spirit” – directs with just as much passion for his projects as he had when he started out.
“I love what I do,” Ferrer said. “I eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”