A Walk in Her Shoes

Marcelina Robledo: local filmmaker, educator and much more

May 6, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Marcelina Robledo is a woman of many hats. Or, perhaps more accurately, many shoes.
Robledo, 38, has walked the road less traveled, a collection of winding paths that has led her to her present place in life. She is a self-starter who is constantly reinventing herself, rolling with life’s punches and taking risks. Currently, Robledo is an independent filmmaker and founder/owner of Spunky Jump, a local video production company that recently celebrated its first birthday.

Robledo’s shoes have led her down many paths, from fond childhood memories at the drive-in to training as a makeup artist to just about every type of odd job she could find. But with the inception of Spunky Jump, Robledo has found her place, her voice and has created a platform to put her passion into practice. Her message is simple: “If you have a passion for film, support your local filmmaker.”

The name of Spunky Jump was inspired by a friend’s story and represents the adventurous spirit with which Robledo approaches her own life. Spunky Jump’s Web site describes the story of a friend who found himself in a dangerous situation while scaling out of a canyon during a hard rain.

“He was 30 feet up off the ground, the next ledge was out of his reach, and a foot slipped,” the site says. “Now he is hanging on by one hand and one foot. All of his options were pretty much gone. Instinct took over and he simply jumped up. By doing so, he found the next ledge and was able to pull himself up and climb out of the canyon.”

The story resonated with Robledo, who, after dabbling in everything from salon work to grant writing, decided to take her own plunge. She had always dreamed of starting her own production company and figured that if she was going to make the jump, she might as well do so with chutzpah. The shoe symbolism is evident — besides the jump reference, her company branding is a pair of weathered but well-loved sneakers.

“My logo is a pair of my old black Chucks,” Robledo says. “I just took a picture of my shoes, and that became my logo. We all have our own journeys to go through and shoes kind of represent that.”

Robledo’s path began to take unexpected turns from the get-go, two years into her music education studies at Morehead State. She had started the program intending to become a high school band director but changed her mind halfway through.

“I love music and I love teaching,” she says. “I don’t know if it was the school itself or the area, but something just didn’t feel right.”

Robledo spent about a year trying to figure out what to do next. One day, she opened up the phone book and saw a listing for beauty school and decided to sign up.

“The next thing I know, I’m cutting hair,” she says. “Beauty school was so valuable to me because I was kind of on the shy side and having that experience really brought me out of my shell.”

A salon career was not in Robledo’s cards, however, because the chemicals used in some of the treatments irritated her skin. She graduated beauty school in 1993 with an idea of becoming a makeup artist for film — an inkling of the field that would eventually draw her in.

It took a while for Robledo to find her niche. For the next nine years, she racked up an impressive resume in odd jobs — everything from Kinkos to retail to administrative work to waitressing. Her love of music attracted her to a sales job at the Cincinnati Symphony, and she found a home working in the arts. After the Symphony, she did a stint at Playhouse in the Park, finished up a filmmaking degree at Union Institute and an internship at Bright Light Visual Communications.

The next step was for Robledo to do what one does with a bachelor’s degree in media studies: freelance. In 2007, she worked for documentarian Melissa Godoy on the film A Lion in the House and then worked as line producer for Joy, an independent film shot in Cincinnati. In April 2008, she decided to start her own production company, Spunky Jump.

Robledo’s leap of faith is reminiscent of the cliff-jumping story. “I was completely broke, unemployed,” she says.

Though the company’s first client, the Cincinnati Art Museum, was promising and the shoot a success, demand for commercial videos was low because of the economy and the existence of more established production companies in town. Robledo took up part-time work as marketing manager of Culinart Inc., and shifted the focus of Spunky Jump back to its original concept — independent filmmaking that employs the “B’s” method of financing: beg, barter, borrow and, occasionally, throw a bakesale.

Robledo’s current project is Art House Essentials, which has a goal of supporting independent films made by independent filmmakers.

“It’s in its infancy,” she says. “I have a partnership with University of Cincinnati’s MainStreet Cinema. The last Tuesday of every month during the school year I can feature an independent filmmaker, which is really pretty exciting. The film is then in rotation for three weeks.”

MainStreet Cinema is located in the Tangeman Center at UC and screens second-run films. Admission is priced for student and artist budgets, at $2-$4.

Regarding the concept of women in film, Robledo says, “The film industry is definitely male-dominated, which isn’t necessarily all that bad … (but) I would definitely like to see more women tell more women stories. My next project is to try and start a chapter of Women in Film here.”

She mentions a great local resource for filmmakers, the Southern Ohio Film Association.

“I encourage people who want to support independent filmmakers to look at SOFA as a starting place,” she says. “There is such opportunity to make incredible films here because there is such great talent and crew. There are Academy Award-winning filmmakers in the city and most people don’t even recognize it. I can’t say enough about the phenomenal talent that is here.”

For more information on Spunky Jump or Art House Essentials, visit www.spunkyjump.com.