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Taylor Teacher Honored at International Film Festival


Taylor High School Theater Arts instructor, Jason Angco-Barrera, returned from the South Texas International Film Festival with top awards for both his acting and his filmmaking. 


As an actor, Barrera was recognized for his lead role as Daniel Ortiz in Waiting for Sandoval, a full-length feature film that was shown for the first time at the festival and received a standing ovation. The film was written and directed by David Carren, who has also written or produced more than 200 films and television shows including Star Trek, The Next Generation, Stargate SG-1, and Diagnosis Murder.


“We filmed it ten years ago,” Barrera said. “There was a huge production scale, amazing camera and lights, and David Carren who did Star Trek back in Hollywood. I was excited to be cast as the lead.”


The story of how this award-winning film made it to the South Texas International Film Festival had a few plot twists of its own. The now celebrated project was almost lost forever due to water damage in a flood that occurred shortly after filming ended.


“A few months after we filmed the movie, our editor’s house flooded, and to our dismay, we thought the film was lost forever,” Barrera said. “And then ten years later, thanks to new technology, they were able to recover the footage. Our editor, Rudy Davila, was able to clean the footage with the new software and edit it within a couple of months.”


The film was then shown for the first time in a U.S. premiere, highlighted at the South Texas International Film Festival where Barrera received an acting award for Lead in a Feature.


“It was pretty epic to see myself on the big screen in the lead role,” said Barrera, who had only seen the movie’s trailer prior to the water damage. “I took my parents and my wife and my daughter and they all enjoyed it.


Barrera was also honored at the event for his work as a filmmaker, being named a finalist for Best U. S. Short Film for Paperback Delusions, a short film that he directed and also co-wrote with A. J. DeCaprio.


“The film speaks volumes because we used one location, four characters, and we told such an impactful story that it was chosen out of 60 films to be in the final five,” Barrera said. “We came up with second place. I was extremely proud.”



Barrera’s work also caught the attention of well-known celebrities Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba and Young Guns), and Valente Rodriguez (The George Lopez Show), both praising his acting and his filmmaking.


“At the awards ceremony I was able to talk to Lou Diamond Phillips and he was like, ‘I loved your film,’ because they had to judge the film – they were the judges. I was terrified because one of my favorite films of all time was LaBamba and Young Guns and he gave me a lot of good advice.”


Barrera’s journey to the big screen began back in high school with a speech teacher who also taught theater.


“When he trained me for speeches, he told me you have a really good voice, you have good projection, really good posture and eye contact. Have you ever thought about doing theater,” Barrera said. 


Although he declined that first invitation to explore acting, the same teacher became Barrera’s speech teacher in college. This time he accepted and visited a theater class.


“He put me on stage and I fell in love with it and never looked back,” Barrera said.


Barrera went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in theater and performance from Texas State, his Masters in theater from the University of Texas Pan American, and his Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in film and television. His journey took him to Georgia where he worked with Pinewood Studios and Marvel Studios and was in shows like Good Girls on Netflix and the new MacGyver.


“I acted in a few of those shows and I worked behind the scenes as a production assistant,” Barrera said. “I met a lot of celebrities, I hung out with celebrities, and I just wanted to do that for the rest of my life.”


Bringing a wealth of experience to his role as Taylor High School’s theater teacher, Barrera is also involved with the community. Most recently, he conducted a theater camp for Taylor Parks and Recreation during winter break, and he would like to see more opportunities for fine arts experiences in Taylor.


“My ultimate goal for the future is to do more theater for the community,” Barrera said. “Highlight the talent of our students and the talent of our youth, both on stage and on film. Last year we had our very first film festival with all the films that my students wrote, filmed, directed and edited. They were all shown at the event center auditorium and we had about 150 people show up. We need a hub for bringing in people from outside of Taylor to come show independent films, to show classic films, even have a monologue series or an open mic night, a storytelling venue, a slam poetry venue, novelists, and plays.”



At Taylor High School, Barrera’s drama club and film club are producing two films to submit to the UIL film festival this semester. He is also teaching students about script writing, filmmaking, and resume building for those wanting to go into the world of performing arts. He has shown his films to his students and said they are excited to see his work.


“It’s an honor to be part of this world of filmmaking,” Barrera said. “Everything I learn about film will continue to live on with my students.”