How I Became A Filmmaker

As long as I can remember, storytelling has always been my calling. I remember as a young child, lining up all my toys together and perfectly positioning them to the natural lighting from my living room window. I remember taking my dad’s video camera and shooting a small film videotaping my toys, talking and dancing, as I would tell my brother in what direction to move them and what to do next.

At the time, I had no idea how movies were made. I had no idea what the people who write, direct, light or act in movies were even called.

As a 5-year-old watching movies, I just assumed the people I saw on screen just made up a story and went along with it. At around 8, I began organizing plays around my neighborhood and cast my friends as actors. Again, I would film them or often get my dad to be my cinematographer. At that time, I still never thought that what I had been doing for so many years was actually a career. Some kids like to play ball, others like to draw, some like to dance or sign or play videogames. On the other hand, I liked to create stories and put them to life in anticipation for a show when a big crowd of all my neighbors in the park behind my house would come to watch.

I remember being grounded one night and sitting at my desk writing my story ideas on a paper napkin. Now that I think of it, it was my very first script. I was 9 and still remember the genre of this story. It sure hasn’t changed much to this day. I was always into dark, mysterious and sort of twisted phycological stories.

By the time I turned 13, I was an avid storyteller. I had a plethora of stories written down and decided it was time I took them to the next level. I asked my dad for Final Draft, a program that’s the gold standard for screenplay formats. I then began to write my first screenplay, Faded Memories, at the age of 14. When all my peers were out at the mall (typical weekend middle school thing at the time) I was at home writing what would be my very first feature film. I couldn’t get away, I needed to finish it, it was like the more I wrote, the more obsessive I got. When I wasn’t writing, I felt lost, as if I was sort of getting separation anxiety from it. Sounds super strange but that’s the deep relationship I always develop with my movies. 

Flash forward a year later, my 15-year-old self was on the backlot at Universal Studios on the Little Italy set -- where they made iconic movies like Frankenstein -- shooting my very first short film. I wrote and directed this piece for my final project for a film class I was taking. Directing real actors for the first time and finding myself on such an iconic set with so much history was a dream come true. It felt like second nature for me and that’s when everything clicked. I had been doing this my whole life without even realizing it. No wonder it felt so natural! Once my movie was done, I needed to take it one step further and decided I needed to submit it to film festivals. Long story short, it went around the world and I won my very first award in Europe.

After countless negative meetings, a tone of rejection letters and SO much age and gender discrimination (I was 16), my perseverance paid off and I was able to turn my first screenplay ever "Faded Memories" into a feature film that I was going to direct.

That was truly the stepping stone and magical moment that would set my career path and passion for the rest of my life.

Since then I made 5 other feature films. In between, I went through rough life patches and needed to disappear for a while. I felt broken and my sense of wonder seemed to have vanished somewhere I thought I could never recover from. This pain I was feeling became unbearable physically and emotionally.  I decided I needed to pick myself back up and travel. I needed to just be. I needed to try to find a small sliver of myself again.  I had this need to truly find my voice again underneath all this brokenness and connect back to the deeper part of me. I needed to connect back to that 5-year-old girl in me who was fearless and ready to take down giants.

At one point in my journey, sitting on a bench eating ice cream in Tokyo,  I began to feel a deep sense of peace. I began to feel inspired. My wounds gave me a deep sense of understanding, depth, wisdom and strength. Looking back, the road has not always been easy and on some days, it seemed like the battles I faced were never ending. I can say the universe had a grand purpose for it all and the adversities that can my way shaped me from the depth of my core. I know these experiences happen for a reason at the exact right time in my life. I can say now that sometimes you don’t know how incredibly strong you are till it’s your only option.

Throughout this journey so far, I have learned that having a positive outlook on life is what keeps me going. It’s not always easy, trust me! We are humans, we have emotions, and sometimes we feel a sense of happiness and euphoria, while other times it’s all doom and gloom. How I see it is -- positive or negative -- emotions are meant to be felt and that in itself is a beautiful thing. Our experience is what shapes us all, what makes us unique, what connects us all together and yet what makes us stand out from the crowd. If we can in the end look at what life brings us with a positive outlook (easier said than done!) I know, we will be able to look back later on and realize it was all a blessing in disguise.

The journey is truly where the treasures lies. 

I am currently finishing my 6th feature film, Ballet Blanc, that will be released later this year. I’m so happy to be back doing what I love and what I was put on this earth to do. To everyone out there reading this, keep pushing forward! Sometimes the road might get tough but know that life never sends you something you can’t handle. 

You will go farther than you could have ever anticipated, because life if full of surprises and your destiny will always overpower any challenges you may face along the way. Know that there are people out there rooting for you! If you have a dream that you just can’t seem to get out of your system, no matter how much you try to shove it off and how crazy it might seem, follow it because in the end it will all be worth it because life’s treasures are all yours to be harvested.