SXSW Film News: Switch Up Shot in Brownsville TX World Premieres, Interview with Sal Velez Jr.

Director/producer Tara Pirnia (King Charles III: The New Monarchy, “Eva Longoria’s Versus” TV Miniseries) has her new feature film, Switch Up, world premiere at the SXSW Film & Television Festival in Austin on Sunday, March 10, 2024 -11:00 am at the Paramount Theater. Elizabeth Avellan serves as one of six producers, and Sal Velez Jr., who stars as Ty in the film, is one of several Executive Producers.

Cast: Cristián de la Fuente (“Dra. Lucía: Un Don Extraordinario” TV series), Julieth Restrepo (Deadland, Loving Pablo, Netflix limited series “Griselda”), Jeff Fahey (Alita: Battle Angel, “Lost” TV series), Manuel Uriza (Deadland, “Narcos: Mexico” TV series), Sal Velez Jr. (The Way Back, Netflix’s “Black Summer”) among many others.

Logline: One of the nation’s top talk show hosts finds himself stranded at a homeless shelter, where he meets a young widow. He falls in love and realizes the path to happiness lies in helping others.

Interview with Sal Velez Jr. – Netflix’s “Black Summer” is only one of the many credits for this filmmaker, who formerly lived in Houston, TX. He was considered for a 2021 Daytime Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in the feature Rekindling Christmas, directed by James Ganiere. He was also in The Way Back (2020), starring Ben Affleck. He is heading to Austin for the premiere of his latest feature, Switch Up, at SXSW, and it is his first time at the festival, although he has attended Sundance and other festivals. I was able to talk to him pre-festival. Regarding the film, he stated, “The movie will move (people) as it has a lot of heart and comedy to support it.”

In Switch Up, Velez plays the character of Ty, the brother of Cassandra (portrayed by Julieth Restrepo). Velez spoke of them as siblings – “We run a shelter.” “I took this (work) on because of my work in shelters for many years. I came from a broken system. I share knowledge and try to inspire (when he visits/works in the shelters).” He added, “Ty is trying to bring balance – happiness, feed the hungry – and for himself, to discover where he is in his life.”

As a dedicated actor and storyteller, Velez utilizes his talents to raise awareness of poverty, homelessness, and equality in America. Recognized for his impactful work, he was honored with the Chrysalis Award in 2013 from the San Jose Obrero Mission for his unwavering commitment to family shelters, abused families, schools, and youth.

Marking his fourth feature film shot in Texas, Velez’s role in this film (entirely in Brownsville, TX) is dear to him. Velez expressed his deep connection to Texas, especially Brownsville, stating, “Brownsville will always hold a special place in my heart, a city filled with cultured dignity and pride.” Velez added, “Texas is a big part of my life.” He lived most of his years in Chicago and “was a kid with a Southern twang sound in Chicago.”

I asked him to share anything he considered a challenge, and without hesitation, he stated, “The biggest was COVID during the middle of the shooting. There were pandemic regulations, and the SAG Association had some too, all with protocols of quarantine and testing once or twice a day.” Expanding on all the requirements, he added this all impacted extending the shooting days and the budget – “if anyone got sick – shutdown.” He explained: “I stayed three months in Brownsville to get the most out of filming. It was originally 24 days and became 90 days.”

Beyond his accomplishments in film, Velez has captivated audiences with his roles in the hit series “Gentefied” and “On The Verge.” His versatility shines through in acclaimed shows such as “Mayans MC,” “Ten Days in the Valley,” and “Black Summer.”

Audiences can anticipate Velez’s forthcoming projects, including “Comedy House of Tragedy” by Director Corbin Timbrook, “No More Goodbyes” directed by James Ganiere, and “Brooklyn All American” by Melanie Mayron.

An official selection of the SXSW 2024 Film and Television Festival, badge, and wristband holders will line up to attend on Sunday morning. Single tickets may become available, and for additional information, visit

Source: SXSW, IMDb, Future Sight Entertainment

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