The "33 and Me" Film Project - November 2018 to present
At the age of 33, I am not so young anymore, nor do I feel very old. I have significant creative and professional accomplishments under my belt, yet I still have my entire life ahead of me; a lot of aspirations in my career as a filmmaker; and hopefully, many more exciting adventures ahead.
As I continue my journey as a filmmaker, I realize that I am coming from a very specific perspective: I am a single, millennial, American, woman who has managed to produce works of theatre and film since I was in my teens.
I am engulfed by a strange and surreal world, where we are bombarded by messages to “fear the other” and encouraged to isolate ourselves into our own increasingly nationalistic societies. As a result, the idea of a free press in many places around the world is being unravelled.
However, I feel fortunate to have been raised in an American democracy under the freedoms and ideals that were fostered, and I value the notions of “freedom of speech,” “freedom of religion,” and the “pursuit of happiness.” I realize that I may not be the same type of filmmaker I am today without the influences of these powerful and liberating ideals.
Also, I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to live and work abroad. I have lived in countries that do not extend these same ideals to their citizens. These experiences living abroad, in places which censor its artists, have taught me to not take “freedom of expression” for granted. This is one reason why I am compelled to embark upon the “33 And Me” journey.
I truly believe that we as individuals need to connect with others around the world to better understand ourselves and our place within it, and for our societies to survive.
Much of the world appears to be embracing extremism and choosing isolationism over globalism. I choose globalism, and I feel very strongly about this.
Thus, through “33 and Me,” I endeavor to cross borders and discover what other 33-year-old filmmakers around the world, who are at similar stages in their lives, are experiencing creatively, professionally, and personally. What types of films are they making? What stories and themes are they exploring? What genres and visual styles are they drawn to making films? How do they perceive themselves in their lives and careers? What are their hopes, dreams, and desires?
I wish to seek out creative individuals who innovate, inspire and challenge the status quo. In this process, I plan to foster connections around the world among talented, intelligent, and creative individuals; to form life-long friendships and future collaborators; and to help promote the empowering expression of cinematic arts.
A large part of why I make films is to connect with and connect to other human beings. This is why I am compelled to make “global films,” so as to connect across cultures around the globe in a shared experience. I believe that communicating with others around the world, in expression, in thought, and in shared empathy is incredibly important to a happy, healthy, peaceful society.
The art of cinema is my love and passion. Travel is how I find knowledge, inspiration, and connection. Combining these two endeavors will lead to magical, meaningful, inspirational moments. Perhaps, through “33 And Me,” I will learn a bit about life, love, cinema, history, others, and me.
"33 and Me" THE SERIES
Para Todo Mal...Para Todo Bien: The Mezcal Trilogy - 15 July 2017
"The Mezcal Trilogy" was created to explore themes of mishaps that occur as a result of language barriers and cultural misunderstandings. The use of language in this film is very important to me, and I wanted to use the languages spoken (at times Spanish, at times English) as an integral part of the plot. The use of language moves the story forward, as it begins with Abigail’s assuming (and Tómas allowing her to) that Tómas does not speak or understand any English. While Abigail can get by in Spanish, her Spanish is not very good, and therefore it creates some miscommunication between the two that will influence their action throughout the entire film.
Instead of having two separate versions of the film, the same film is subtitled for both Spanish and English audiences, so that together, the audience will experience the miscommunications as the characters in the film experience it. This tactic emphasizes the themes of the film: that language is important, words are important, but communication can also transcend language barriers when done with love and care and respect for one another.
"Parte I" of "The Mezcal Trilogy" is a memory play set in a surreal world. We wanted to create a feeling that you weren’t entirely rooted in reality. In a sense, you’re only seeing Abigail’s memory of the events that happened (or sometimes her fantasy of what happened). We wanted it to feel like the characters are sometimes trapped in a René Magritte painting, and sometimes trapped in a Tennessee Williams play.
Visiting Cuba often feels like you’re in a time warp to the 1950s, and so there’s an element here of 1950's Cuban colors mixed with 1950s American cinema to emphasize this idea of being trapped in a given time and place while adding to the “memory play” element.
And for me as the writer/director, this film is a further exploration of a memory that continues to haunt me. Many years ago I went to Cuba in secret and experienced a wide range of emotions and observations while there. The trip opened my eyes to a world that is at once, far removed from my own, and yet, similar in many ways. I met a young man, Leo, who quit his government sponsored T-shirt factory job and taught himself how to make tattoos. I was drawn by the fact that he found a way to survive and support his family, which allowed himself a tiny bit of freedom which wasn’t otherwise allotted to him. Like many Cubans, all Leo dreamed of was to leave Cuba, but even if he could find a way out (which he presumed impossible), he would have his family to think about, too. Meeting Leo and hearing his story, and others like it, had such a profound impact on me, I wanted to find a way to communicate some of the many layers of, not only his story, but how it both conflicts and coincides with the many tourists that come to Cuba and see a country very different than what Leo sees as his homeland.
Para Todo Mal...Para Todo Bien: The Mezcal Trilogy
If I Had A Piano (I'd Play You The Blues) - February 2015 - Emmaus, PA
If I Had A Piano (I'd Play You The Blues) is an explorative romance in five movements. This cinematic art piece has a final cut under six minutes. It's crazy how much effort we put into such short pieces, but I view this piece as a reflection of love and romance: sometimes the best moments in life are fleeting.
The reason I keep coming back to romantically themed pieces, is because it is such a universal concept. Love and sex This language is spoken and understood all across the world, no matter what your origin is. And if we can speak a common language, we can tap into so much more in terms of understanding others; their culture, their beliefs.
The cross-over between reality and fantasy is a common theme in my work. Every artist has an obsession and I guess you could say this one is mine. It is a theme I constantly return to, and If I Had A PIano is the most recent attempt to capture this. One day, a thought popped into my head that, “50% of life is lived for the fantasy,” and I sought to bring this idea to life in the form of an experimental short film. That is, desire drives us: all humans, on all levels of society have desires (some healthy, some not) and it is the fantasies that often keep us going through life, or bring a smile to our face when we escape into the fantasies of our mind. Cinema, for some, is a form of escape, and it can be a beautiful way to temporarily live out fantasies and see desires erupt on screen in a nondestructive way.
Instead of being focused on story and characters, I decided to focus If I Had A Piano on mood and sensuality, in hopes that, the film provides you with a brief escape and leave you with deep feeling. I believe if a film can stir up some questions and conflicting emotions, perhaps it will open a portal into the heart and mind , open up questions you never knew you wanted to ask yourself. After all, filmmaking is about the journey, and it's one meant to be shared between auteur and audience.
This text was originally part of an interview given by Stephanie to The George Washington University English Department Alumni On The Move Blog. You can read the rest of the interview, by clicking HERE.
Watch If I Had A Piano (I'd Play You The Blues):
The Day After MLK - April 2014 - NuyoRican Poets Cafe, NYC
Produced by Unexpected Artistry
Welcome to the workshop production of The Day After MLK, which we are calling an interactive performance art exhibit. This is not a traditional stage play. We have conjoined realism with the abstract. Theater meets filmmaking meets sound engineering meets still photography.
The Day After MLK is a form of expression.
This show is not supposed to be easy.
It is not supposed to be obvious.
You may not understand it.
You may not even like it.
But we will take you on a journey unlike any you've ever experienced.
Antonin Artaud says, "In the true theater, a play disturbs the senses response, frees the repressed unconscious, incites a kind of virtual revolt and imposes on the assembled collectivity an attitude that is both difficult and heroic." This has inspired my thinking on The Day After MLK.
We are not going to hold your hand and spoon feed you plot points or dictate a history.
What we are going to do is create a visceral experience.
One that leaves you infused with feeling:
It has been an honor for me to work with Unexpected Artistry on this compelling piece. The three young men you see on stage are some of the most courageous and inspiring actors I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Through a series of improvisational exercises, discussions, and reflections, these three men have undertaken a journey; as characters, as individuals; and as writers. You will see their growth manifest on stage as Brother Bashir, Brother Solomon, and Brother Joshua.
What you are also witnessing is the collaboration of over twenty-two artistic talents who have come together through their love and passion for this piece in hopes to inspire and spark something within each and ever one of you.
It may not hit you today.
It might not sink in tomorrow.
But one day soon, you will walk down the street and see something that reminds you of what was presented here tonight. My only wish is that it inspires you to continue to question and explore some of the thoughts and feelings that are evoked.
It's 2014 and there is a lot happening in America and the world. In the words of Brother Solomon, "a fight is not always won on the battlefield."
We are artists. This is our revolution.
Links to The Day After MLK Workshop Production Diary: http://dayaftermlk.tumblr.com
And If I Stay - March 2013 - Montreal, Canada
And If I Stay was my first serious dive into filmmaking. Having conceived the idea while living in Asia and traveling abroad through Europe, it took me several years before I could endeavor to shoot this film, as I first needed to teach myself some filmmaking chops. Coming from a theater background (playwright and director), my only training in filmmaking had been in screenwriting, and I was still relatively new to the craft. As I was refining the story and characters for And If I Stay (formally titled Paris In Winter), I endeavored to “take myself to film school” by making a film a month for ten months; a series of short exercises I called, Ten to One Films. The tenth and final film in this series, Dance of the Hanged Man, served as a character study/treatment for And If I Stay.
I cast Dance of the Hanged Man with the intention of using the same actors in And If I Stay, and together, we embarked on a journey with these characters – Mary and Mark – played by Gina Buck and Bobby Lamont – (Malcolm Madera in And If I Stay). Over time, the then Paris In Winter morphed into many things as the actors brought wonderful insight to the script through the improvisational rehearsal exercises we did together to workshop the script.
At the root of And If I Stay lies a deeply personal film: personal for me; for the people who inspired the initial script; for the actors and crew who donated their blood sweat tears time and talents to create the emotions and intentions that manifest on screen. It represents an intimacy which terrifies me; a vulnerability that confounds.
Started on a train.
With a verse.
Copious amounts of
This is film is made up but every beat is truth. This film is truth but every beat is made up.
The truth is, I can’t tell the difference any more – The film is as real as the memory it rests on; and I no longer know which is which.
And If I Stay captures the idea of two isolated, lonely people, who find each other in a moment in their lives when they most need to feel they are not alone; to feel a connection with another human being; to escape, to belong.
Come take a journey with Mary and Mark. Come take a journey with Gina and Malcolm. Come take a journey with me.