Today we’d like to introduce you to Irais Cardenas.
Irais, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
The human experience has always fascinated me and in the 25 years of life that have been gifted to me, at every curve, corner, and wall I’ve hit, an abyss of curiosity has lifted me and uniquely crafted a kaleidoscope kind of perspective for me to learn through. It has been my guide into the unknown, the fear, the discomfort, the wonder, the awe of what if— it gives me life and shines light to the creative places I get to explore. I walk with eyes wide open, seeking every opportunity to grow, to nurture the human that I am becoming, the artist that I aspire to be, and the student that will never cease to learn. In short my existence has been my art, and every stroke I’ve painted in every space I’ve occupied has led me to the next canvas of where I get to share my magic whether it be as an actor, filmmaker, writer, director, photographer/videographer, and or production designer/set dresser.
But I didn’t always stand firm in my shoes… In fact, I don’t think I even knew I owned a pair. Instead at a very young age, I began to stay confined to these three words of who the world said I was: nice, shy, and smart. I clung real tight to this idea of myself and I was terrified to let go and show any part of me that countered this because then I would really be seen. And the more I held on to this idea of who I was, the more I denied any possibility to really celebrate and honor who I was becoming.
What I didn’t know then was that it took courage to create. All my life I had scraps of materials, glue, paint… little worlds under my bed, in notebooks, and in my mind. I used anything and everything to create. And I sought it out relentlessly all while never really appreciating the risks I was taking every time I brought an idea to life. The risks I valued were the ones that were deemed of scholarly excellence. To me education was far more important than anything, and while I had no clue how college actually worked, I knew I was going there and that I would get a degree and maybe be a doctor.
Cut to my first year of college at UC Riverside, I had received essentially a full scholarship to attend and was accepted into the College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences. Before ever taking my first science class, I was kicked out of the college. It was one of the shortest conversations of my life, and perhaps the most humiliating. I left my advisor feeling so small, so ashamed, and so confused. But above all I felt I had to prove that I was still smart, that this was only a small hiccup in my life. I schemed and decided I would go to community college, apply to a nursing program, get into a post-bacc, and then go to med school. These short-fused and desperate attempts to reclaim a part of my identity I felt I had lost, were finally put to rest when an advisor from a community college I was looking into really sat me down and asked me what I wanted. I don’t think I had ever really asked myself, “what do YOU want?” And I spent most of my second year avoiding, not really knowing how to answer that question.
I made my decision finally, one random day as I walked on campus. After avoiding the question for so long, I just knew I wanted to do film. There was no real reason for me wanting to do it, I actually had no idea how a film was made, or what a career in this field entailed, all I knew was that I just wanted to do it. The truth is the convoluted nature of life and our perception of it requires us to pause and if you don’t well sometimes life makes you pause. And if you’re courageous, you just might receive a gift that was always yours from the start. The zigzags of my life were always there for me to see that perhaps there was a possibility waiting to be discovered. I had been creating this possibility even before I knew I would want it. And it was only when I dared to step into the unknown, that the greatest gift of life would be mine— freedom, to chase and create something bigger than me.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It definitely has not been a smooth road and through every struggle, perhaps one of the biggest lessons I have learned has been being okay with being a beginner. Graduating, moving back home, just finding your rhythm again out in the real world, it’s humbling. It’s easy to get caught up in your own expectations, and in the expectations of others and loosening that grip on them requires kindness to self. It’s a kind of acceptance that begins to nurture the artist you are becoming and shifting that mentality from needing to be this or that, well it’s a practice. And it begins with honoring every baby step you take in these new spaces you get to occupy. Any time I am taking on a project or role that’s new or bigger than the last, I just remind myself that my heroes, and all the people I admire, were here once. They all didn’t know what they were doing at one point but they did it. To give yourself permission to fail, to ask questions, to just fall headfirst, and give it your best shot… that’s where the magic really happens!
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am my own walking and breathing company, and I work in many creative realms to say the least. And I’d say I thrive the most when I am given the opportunity to capture the magic of the individual with my camera. I just have a knack for really seeing people, and I live to capture that raw human essence. More recently, my focus has begun to shift from portraits to creative possibilities within fashion shoots, but behind the scenes photography is perhaps my favorite of all. Getting to work as a BTS photographer is the biggest playground to learn about film and I love it. Because my job is to truly to capture the small collective details that bring a production to life. I absorb these moments like a sponge and click away. And specifically my extensive experience working in art department has given me a very keen eye that knows appreciates the craftsmanship behind each production.
While I pick up freelance work in almost every facet of filmmaking what sets me apart as an artist and makes me the phenomenal photographer, actor, director, grip, set dresser, production designer, etc… is my hunger to learn. And I let that become a part of my creative process. It all intersects, and I love it when it does. As I learn to be an honest and vulnerable actor, it continuously informs my ability to communicate with clients/models I photograph and other actors I get to direct. As a grip, I get to ask the Cinematographer and Gaffer more technical questions that have deepened my understanding of the collaborative conversations that get to happen with your camera team. And it really goes on because every opportunity I take on is abundantly rich with little nuggets of knowledge. I am most proud that I get to be remembered as an artist that takes every opportunity to work creatively as a gift, which I unwrap with my unyielding curiosity.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite memories have always been the ones with my family — I just adore them. It’s impossible to choose just one, but I loved going camping with them as a kid. Being there with my family, engulfed by the mountains and trees, it was always a real-life dream getting to experience nature. And I always loved the moment we’d all be packed up, in our car ready to go back home. As my dad would drive away, he would always tell us to say goodbye and say thank you to whatever park we were at. And the three of us would.
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @irais.marleny