EFEMiami

A Cuban-American filmmaker who has been a graffiti artist since the age of 10 is fulfilling his dream of bringing the story of these sometimes misunderstood street muralists to the big screen.

"I'm not a graffiti artist full-time now," Daniel "Jaydee" Freixas told EFE in an interview during mid-shooting at a film set in an industrial and working-class area of Miami.

"Vandal," a fictional drama film due out in early 2018, according to producer Tony Gonzalez, tells the story of a young Cuban-American graffiti artist who has lost his mentor and best friend and fallen in love with a girl who has recently got her start in that socially risky activity.

"I saw that no one was making films about this world, and I went for it," Freixas, who co-produced and co-wrote the 2011 film "Magic City Memoirs, whose other co-producers also included prominent actor Andy Garcia.

Costa Rican actor Daniel Zovatto is playing the main character in "Vandal," Nick "Damage" Cruz, while Otmara Marrero, a young local actress, is portraying his love interest.

To give the picture maximum authenticity, Freixas and Gonzalez enlisted the collaboration of famed US graffiti artists such as Atlanta's Dax "Daks" Rudnak and Los Angeles' Kelly "RISK" Graval.

The latter, who besides having a cameo role in "Vandal" also is the film's executive producer, told EFE that Freixas was filling a need by making an iconic film for the graffiti movement.

Freixas and his team have filmed in recent days in Miami's bustling arts district of Wynwood, as well as in Little Havana and Little Haiti, a shooting schedule that coincided with the city's premier art fair, Art Basel.

Zovatto, for his part, said he submerged himself in Miami's seedier side in preparing for his role as Nick Cruz.

"I went out at night in Downtown and I have a bunch of crazy stories with people I never would have met. I talked to people who are in the street after 1:00 am, homeless," the 25-year-old actor said.

Before working on this film, Zovatto said he knew very little about the world of graffiti and thought the practitioners of that illegal art form were "gangsters" but now sees them in a completely different light.