In the heart of the Bronx, a story unfolded that would defy the odds, a tale of pain and tragedy metamorphosing into hope and success. Charlie Chase Torres, a Puerto Rican descendant from the Bronx, now residing in Riverdale New York, is the embodiment of resilience and determination. His life’s narrative is a testament to the enduring spirit of an individual who refused to be defined by the darkest moments of his past.
Chase’s journey begins in the Bronx, a place steeped in the rhythm of salsa music, thanks to the influence of his father, Carlos Torres, who was once a member of a renowned salsa orchestra. Music was the lifeblood of their home, with the vibrant notes of salsa filling the air.
“Salsa music was everything that revolved around my dad, and disco music revolved around my mom, so maybe that’s why they didn’t get along,” he reminisces.
The harmony in his life was disrupted when his parents divorced when he was just three years old. The seeds of anxiety had already taken root in young Chase’s heart. By the time he reached the fourth grade, the mere thought of standing on the auditorium stage sent him into a whirlwind of panic.
It was during these early years that his grandmother, Ms. Gonzales, the first Latina to work at his school, became his guiding light. Her presence allowed him to forge relationships that opened doors to opportunities beyond his wildest dreams.
This is why Chase was able to get away from the auditorium by finding solace in an audiovisual class in the fifth grade, where he could be behind the camera rather than under its unrelenting gaze.
This is where it all started, where filming left a perpetual mark on his heart.
But the storm clouds of adversity were gathering. His parents’ divorce, though early, left an indelible mark on his psyche. The serenity of a normal childhood seemed forever lost. Anxiety attacks continued to plague him, as did the escalating challenges at home.
In fact, during his tender years, the sanctity of sleepovers at Chase’s domicile remained a forbidden prospect, for the vigilant gaze of his friends’ mothers discerned the turbulent tempest that swirled within the confines of his home, where the shadows of his mother’s tumultuous struggles cast a pallor over the ordinary joys of childhood.
His mother, once the cornerstone of his life, became entangled in a relationship with a drug dealer, setting in motion a chain of events that would shatter their world. At the tender age of 10, Chase had to step into the role of a parent for his two younger sisters, aged 9 and 2. The lights went out, the rent went unpaid, and homelessness became their stark reality.
“At 12, still homeless two years later, I turn to drugs myself, sleeping on subways, looking for drugs every night, because I was trying to medicate my traumas. I just couldn’t believe that I was in the street and my mom just created this whole whirlwind. So, one of my sisters goes to live with my aunt, the little one goes to live with my stepfather’s mother, and I decided to stay with my mom in the hallway, I just didn’t want to leave her by herself, and that’s why I said she’s my inspiration, because of her endurance.”
Sleeping on subways, searching for drugs each night, and battling addiction became his daily existence. The streets of New York, once his playground, had turned into a relentless enemy.
The turning point came at 17 when he found himself arrested alongside his mother, becoming codefendants in their shared legal battle. Witnessing his mother in handcuffs, mirroring the life he had once witnessed from the sidelines, was a brutal awakening. It was a moment of reckoning.
“Fast forward, I’ve been in the street another like 5 years, using drugs, crack cocaine, and at the age of 17 I was arrested with my mom, and nobody knows that to this day, and I went to jail with my mom, and I had to see my mom in handcuffs because now I was doing the things that I was watching.
“So, I went to jail with my mom, we did two years together as codefendants, we were handcuffed together, went to jail together. If she went to Rikers Island, I went to Rikers Island, she went upstate, I went upstate. I never used drugs again ever since then. Since the time I went to jail with my mom, I never touched drugs again. I was ridiculed, I went through shame because going into a courtroom with her, that was it for me, just having to go through figuring out what I was gonna do and what she was gonna do,” Chase Torres recounted.
The year 2010 marked a new chapter in Chase’s life, now in his thirties. Filmmaking, which had once saved him from the auditorium stage, reemerged as his savior. He simply “didn’t want to live that again.” It was the spark of creativity, a lifeline that pulled him from the abyss.
As the years rolled on, Chase’s life took yet another unexpected turn. His mother found her way to sobriety, offering a renewed sense of purpose and inspiration. Her words of encouragement, “you were born for this, papi, you make me so proud of you,” became a constant reminder of his resilience.
Chase’s journey into the business world, as the owner of a deli, allowed him to indulge in another passion – raising pigeons on the roof of his establishment.
“It took me away from the Deli struggles and living in New York City,” he reminisces.
This childhood hobby became a vehicle for him to document the rich pigeon culture of New York. A hobby that was a big part of all New Yorkers, really, for a long time, and Chase, like the filmmaker that he is, found a way to document that big part of New York.
His innovative approach gave birth to a groundbreaking TV series about pigeons, a true representation of the city’s unique history.
“I go full throttle with that,” Chase affirms. He sold his deli, invested the money in film equipment, and produced “Pigeon Nation NYC,” a reality TV show that showcased the best pigeon flyers from each of the five boroughs. The best pigeon flyers from Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Rochelle were a part of his TV show, an innovative show that resonated deeply with New Yorkers.
“Now I have a team of writers, I have a team of producers, and I have a team of directors, and all of these guys, they’ve worked with the best” he mentions, because while he’s got help now, he originally had to manage a whole production by himself, which Latin casting director Ulysses Terrero gives him props for.
Chase’s dedication to authenticity and storytelling eventually led him to pitch his work to Roc Nation in 2016. The show found an unexpected fan in Juan OG Perez — a close friend of his and Jay-Z’s partner — who was deeply moved by Chase’s passion for pigeons, a shared interest.
Bolstered by the success of “Pigeon Nation NYC,” Chase embarked on an even more personal project, “La Calle.” The TV series, based on his own life experiences, revolved around a Dominican family from Washington Heights. The story explored themes of family, success, and the choices one makes in life, with a stark realism that captivated audiences.
“La Calle,” a poignant series set amidst the labyrinthine streets of Washington Heights, New York, unravels a tale of three siblings who tragically lost their parents. As fate dealt them a cruel hand, these siblings clung to each other with unwavering devotion, their souls intertwined in a tapestry of love and survival.
Despite the weight of their shared loss, each sibling harbored unique dreams and aspirations, carving their individual paths amidst the urban jungle that is modern-day New York. Yet, the unforgiving streets cast a shadow over their pursuits, a relentless reminder of the perilous world they navigated.
“It’s about music, and it’s about the streets, and it’s got a lot of political culture in it,” which is all Chase had to say to get my attention.
Chase Torres, the creative force behind “La Calle,” envisioned a narrative that would not shy away from the harsh realities of life.
He boldly declared, “The first 15 minutes, somebody’s gotta get shot in the head.” In this unconventional approach, he sought to harness the raw essence of history and his own turbulent past to craft something extraordinary.
During the interview, he reveals the message he wanted the TV show to instill: “If you wanna be successful, you gotta go the right way, and I’m one that, I can tell you, I went about it the wrong way,” he asserts.
With Ulysses Terrero as his casting director, Chase forged ahead with the project. High praise from Terrero affirmed the impact of “La Calle.” “Chase, you did what me and my brother have not done in 30 years, you went out there, you shot something, with your own budget, and you made it happen,” declared Terrero.
The validation from someone with 33 years of film industry experience fueled Chase’s determination, proving that redemption was within reach.
Chase’s vision now extends to shining a spotlight on Latino culture through his work. He recognizes the need for greater representation in Hollywood and is committed to breaking down barriers within the Latino community. His dedication to unity and collaboration is evident as he extends opportunities to those who once stood by his side during his journey.
“I just love filming about Latinos, my main thing right now is Latino content. Because I believe that in Hollywood we’re lacking as TV film producers, directors, and writers when we’re a majority in music,” he expressed.
There are a lot of Latin musicians soaring through the music industry, but not enough Latin film producers and writers to document it accurately, and that’s what Chase Torres is trying to fix.
His time as a production assistant served as his film school, where he absorbed knowledge about various departments. He was even entrusted with sound control during the filming of “Sin Pijamas” with Natti and Becky G. This experience laid the foundation for his own creative endeavors.
Chase’s ultimate goal is to share his work with Lin Manuel Miranda, a Puerto Rican icon who has significantly influenced his life. He carries forward the torch of Puerto Rican culture in his personal and professional life.
Despite his ascent in the world of film, Chase Torres remains deeply connected to his roots. Having experienced homelessness himself, he is committed to giving back to his community, offering a glimmer of hope to those who still face the shadows of adversity.
Chase Torres, the filmmaker from the Bronx, stands as a testament to the human spirit’s capacity for redemption and the relentless pursuit of dreams against all odds.
As the curtains rise on Chase Torres’ cinematic journey, it becomes abundantly clear that he is destined to emerge as the next luminary in the world of film production. With an inspiring life story that traverses the depths of despair and the heights of redemption, Chase’s unwavering dedication to his craft fuels the fires of his ambition. His innate ability to authentically document the rich tapestry of Latin life, capturing its vibrancy and complexity with unerring precision, serves as a testament to his artistry. In the boundless realm of filmmaking, Chase Torres is poised to take the world by storm, igniting the silver screen with tales that resonate with the human spirit and casting a spotlight on the resplendent mosaic of Latin culture for all to behold.