By Moa Golster
Juan Aybardiaz graduated in 2013 as an undergraduate Film major. Since then, he has revisited the campus frequently, sharing his knowledge with current film students, and included them in his projects. Right now, he is in the making of a new short film, “The Answer,” which is based on his own experiences as a psychiatric technician during the Iraq War. On April 18, The Pioneer got the chance to meet with Aybardiaz to discuss the new film and his experiences of war-related mental health issues.
Juan Aybardiaz shoots original film on campus
“Usually, I end up thinking more about other people and their well-being than I am thinking about myself. By helping people, you always take the risk of being taken advantage of, but I prefer to take that risk than losing the opportunity of helping somebody,” Aybardiaz said, while setting up one of the four cameras he brought to film our inter view. Occasionally, he messed up the camera settings, only to ask me to remake them. If Aybardiaz can teach someone something and share his knowledge, he makes sure to do it.
Since graduating from LIU Post last year, he has spent a great amount of his time to help current students with their projects, and to get them involved with other projects and opportunities. “The Answer” is only the latest example of projects that has included an LIU Post crew. However, Aybardiaz assures that it is not a one-way-street of knowledge. “My friends and I here at Post are learning from each other all the time. School is definitely a good way to learn, but most of my knowledge comes from actually working with other people.”
Aybardiaz is originally from the Dominican Republic, but grew up in Puerto Rico. After studying to be a psychiatric technician in Portsmouth, Virginia, he realized that he wanted to do “something meaningful.” He therefore decided to join the U.S. navy, where he eventually stayed on active duty for six years, serving as a psychiatric technician, with two combat tours in Iraq.
During his time in the navy, he worked with hundreds of members of the armed forces that were affected by mental health issues
as a result of warfare. “It was very interesting, but at the same time it was difficult. I helped people who were struggling with everything from depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia,” Aybardiaz said. He explains that patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were especially distressful to observe. “I had to watch how all these great guys, who had done and sacrificed so much, lost their ability to function and be part of a normal society.”
Aybardiaz’s work in the navy was demanding in many ways, but he describes it as a great experience. “If I had the opportunity to live a parallel life, I would still be in the military. The people that I met and the experiences I had there were very beneficial to me,” he said.
When Aybardiaz left combat after several years, he realized that he was experiencing many of the symptoms that his patients had. He felt like it was time to leave his military career behind, and jump onto his life-long dream of working with film. This brought him to New York, and LIU Post, where he earned a bachelor degree in Film last year.
The idea of “The Answer” started to develop just before Aybardiaz left the navy. “I started to gain a deeper understanding of how the victims of PTSD felt. I had the opportunity to see, very close, how this condition actually destroys a person’s life, their relationships with other people, and their relationships with their families. I wanted to do something that shows their point of view.”
Most parts of “The Answer” have been filmed – some on the LIU Post campus – and the film is now in the editing process. “I am very happy with the opportunity to work with great people. I actually shot the movie with all my friends from LIU Post, and I also had the opportunity to work with the most talented actors: George Katt and Lance Marshall. I will be eternally grateful to both of [them] because the work they did was just incredible,” Aybardiaz said.
Since graduating from LIU Post, he has already achieved great experience in the film production field. His latest work includes being the script supervisor and a production assistant for the Investigation Discovery TV series “Redrum.” He has also been the production assistant for the 2013 short films “Tammy” and “The Other Half,” and in 2012 he wrote, directed, and produced his very first short film, “Joe,” which acted as his senior thesis.
Aybardiaz is expecting to release “The Answer” to the public by the end of May or the beginning of June. He is hoping for it to be picked up by different film festivals, and thereafter be released on the Internet.
In the future, Aybardiaz wants to make movies that make people think, and he is hoping to be able to affect society and make positive changes through his movies. In addition, he wants to contribute to improve education, particularly in Third World countries.
To learn more about “The Answer,” or to follow the process of the film, visit the Facebook page: “The Answer: a short story about life.”