LCC alum Valdez’s story reaches HBO
By Shauna Stocken
From the Eastern High School auditorium on Sept. 21, LCC theater alumni Rudy Valdez watched one of his performing art goals come to life.
Valdez’s alma mater presented his documentary, “The Sentence,” following the Audience Choice Award at last winter’s Sundance Film Festival.
“It was very important to me that I had a hometown screening,” Lansing native Valdez said of his film, which sparked the interest of HBO. The network will air his film starting Monday, Oct. 15 at 8 p.m.
“My dream was to have it at my old high school that I went to,” Valdez said. “On that old auditorium stage where … I did my first play; where my story first started.”
“The Sentence” tells the story of Valdez’s sister Cindy Shank, a mother of three who received a 15-year mandatory sentence for conspiracy charges related to her deceased ex-boyfriend’s crimes, according to HBO.com.
Valdez graduated from Eastern High in 1998. The origin of his story dates back to his roots in the Lansing area and time spent in LCC’s theater studio program in the early 2000s.
“I think I really started to hone myself as a more creative person at LCC,” Valdez said. “I did the theater studio program there, and I had amazing teachers and professors.”
Valdez credited many LCC professors for his success while at the college, most notably theater faculty members Andy Callis and Mary Matzke.
“He was in my first semester teaching at LCC, and he was here for two years,” Callis said. “I remember him very well.”
Added Matzke: “(He is) a good actor, a brilliant comedian. He has something important to say in his documentary and his talent for storytelling will always serve him well.”
After graduating from LCC’s theater studio program, Valdez transferred to MSU, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology.
“I attribute both my time at LCC and my time just in general in Lansing to my success,” Valdez said. “I’ve lived in New York City now for 15 years, and the most powerful story I’ve told to date is the story from Lansing; a story from back home.”
According to Valdez, he “fell into filmmaking” when he was driven to tell his sister’s story following her criminal sentencing.
Callis, who viewed “The Sentence” at The Traverse City Film Festival over the summer, said the film was very moving.
“I thought it was very brave of him to document that,” Callis said. “It was very moving, not only the story, but he set it up in a way where the audience (is) watching Rudy bear witness to what is happening to his sister and her family and their family.”
Valdez said his artistic aspirations are never-ending. He said he works on as many as seven projects at one time.
“He really believes in himself,” Callis said. “I wish I had a way to teach that; the resilience that he has in himself.
Valdez said his hope for “The Sentence” is that the film will impact his viewers to promote change and highlight injustices within the legal system.
The comical and politically driven artist said he hopes to appear on “Saturday Night Live” one day. He shared that fans of his work can look forward to some comedy, commercials, feature film scripts and a documentary series for television, all in the not so distant future.