Local theater legend’s story earns PSJA Memorial state film title

ALAMO — State-champion filmmakers at PSJA Memorial Early College High School remember how emotional it was to cut together their project honoring the late Robert Gomez Jr.

“There were many moments when (we) would be editing, putting it all together and preview it for a little bit,” said senior Luis Garza, an editor and director. “We’d catch each other with tears going down our cheeks.”

Their short film, “For Gomez,” is an homage to the local theater legend who died in September 2016 from cancer. It earned the 2017 UIL Young Filmmakers Documentary Division II state title.

The interviews were shot last year in conjunction with a live tribute to Gomez which was coordinated by PSJA Memorial ECHS Theatre Director Gabriel Ramirez.

The team said Mr. and Mrs. Gomez thoroughly archived materials from his more than three decades of past productions with photos and video.

By the Christmas break, the team had a 15-minute draft. The goal was to cut it down to seven, which was ready by the January deadline.

Vela said the state title was “bittersweet.”

“I felt like we should have honored him when he was alive — probably several times,” said Christina Vela, the school’s assistant theater director. “He had such a profound impact on this school (and) on the theater community in the Valley.”

Both Ramirez and Vela said Gomez was a reason why they were at PSJA Memorial.

“He took the school to state with one-act plays so many times, it was nice to finally get that state championship for him,” Vela said.

It meant a lot to the team to have Gomez’s widow, his colleagues and former students in the audience when they announced the championship, Ramirez said.

“To final have a story — his story — win the ultimate prize was just icing on the cake of … his legacy,” he said. “It’s the first state championship this program has brought to his school, and his name is on it.

“It’s his state championship, too.”

Ramirez is also the editor and co-director of “Andy Paris: Bubble Gum King,” which screens Saturday and Sunday at Cine El Rey in McAllen.