Mexico’s States of Innovation, an original 32-minute documentary produced by Nearshore Americas in conjunction with MexicoIT, Prosoft, Canieti, and the Secretaria de Economia, takes viewers into the vibrant IT sector in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Queretaro and Monterrey.
Director J. Alejandro, based in Mexico City, talked to Nearshore Americas about the experience of making the film and what he hopes the documentary will reveal about Mexico and its place in the global IT market.
NSAM: How did you approach the making of this documentary? Did your vision change as the film evolved?
We had a clear idea of what we wanted going in. Kirk [Laughlin, Managing Director of Next Coast Media] and I talked about injecting some flavor into the film, so that it was not just a long slog through hearing about IT businesses, so we made sure that there is at least one cultural segment to each city. That was part of the plan.
NSAM: What challenges did you face in making Mexico’s States of Innovation?
On the whole, the challenges were minor. We had very little time to do this, but we had a pretty kick-ass team who powered through.
In terms of other challenges, it varied from city to city because in some cities we had more connections. So in Guadalajara and in Mexico City, due to the kind of connections Kirk has as the head of Nearshore Americas, we were able to utilize those to put together the interviews and the plan was a lot easier.
Whereas in Queretaro and Monterrey, a lot more of it was just pounding the pavement and reaching out to dozens of businesses and seeing who was available to talk and seeing who kind of fit into our thematic frame. So that was difficult.
I think most businesses we talked to saw this for what this was, which was an opportunity. They knew this would be screened primarily for international investors, and when they got a sense of who would see the video, they were very excited to be involved. Especially the smaller businesses that are just starting out and maybe don’t have as much international recognition.
NSAM: The documentary details not only the growing IT industry in Mexico, but also the vibrant culture and lifestyle of the different places profiled. What surprised you the most about what you discovered during your time in Mexico?
I do not have a business background at all and certainly not in the IT sector, and I was frankly amazed at seeing these thriving communities of IT businesses, these different IT ecosystems in these different cities around Mexico. As someone from the United States – I only moved to Mexico very recently, in the last half-year – I think the image of Mexico in the media is very different to what I saw up close in real life. It’s one where there is a lot of violence, everyone’s violent, everyone’s poor. There’s this idea of Mexico that it is a third world country. And seeing it up close, from this perspective from the IT industry, I think it is a very different reality – at least for some people and in some places in Mexico. It’s very different to what the international perspective of Mexico is.
NSAM: What was the highlight of the documentary filmmaking process for you?
I love food. I’m a food tourist, and so trying the different specialties in each area was great. It was easy to get all of my interviewees excited about. Prior to the interviews to put the interviewees at ease, I would always strike up a conversation about what they thought the best local food was and they were always very excited to give me their recommendations about what I should be eating while I was in town.
So being able to try burritos in Guadalajara or the seafood in Monterrey, that was really killer.
NSAM: Is there anything you would change about your experience of making this documentary?
Monterrey is a very beautiful city and we only got to shoot there one day and it was raining very heavily that day. We intended to go into the mountains to shoot in the national park around there, but we couldn’t because it was raining so heavily. So I guess if I could change anything I would go back in time and rid the city of the rain that day, like a god. I suppose that’s what I would change.
NSAM: What would you like the audience to take away from the documentary? How do you think this will impact on the way Mexico’s IT sector is seen internationally?
The one thing that I was very impressed by and that I hope comes across in the film, that I hope someone seeing this internationally would see, is how different Mexico is to what we see in the media.
Like I said there is this image abroad that Mexico is this corrupt place that is run by narco traffickers and it is very violent, and there are parts of Mexico where crime and violence is very bad, but what I would hope that someone would take away from this is that there is this other part of Mexico that’s a growing part of Mexico. That there are all these really wonderful Mexicans, who are doing great things and who are trying to make their country better and who are succeeding.
The IT industry is the face of a new Mexico, that is attempting to pull itself up by its own bootstraps and is doing so quite successfully, and creating a much brighter future for Mexico. These Mexicans are not just doing this for money, they are not just doing this for their own business interests, but they are also because they are passionate about making their own country a better place for themselves and for their kids. And they are succeeding, and that is beautiful and exciting; to talk to these people, to hear the excitement in their voices, it’s infectious and I hope some of that comes across.
Everyone was very sincere. Off camera they were equally as excited about what they were doing and about the places they were and the ecosystems they saw developing around them.