Published: May 31, 2018
Updated: Jun 01, 2018

Behind the Scenes: Meet the Winner of the SHAPE AT&T Film Awards for the Best Underrepresented Filmmaker Category

Author: Dave Okamoto

Stereotyped movie posterIn February, we called for submissions for the 2018 SHAPE edition of the AT&T Film Awards, an open competition seeking imaginative, undiscovered short films from aspiring storytellers. Filmmakers answered the call, with 1,500 outstanding entries all hoping for a chance to win their share of $60,000 in prizes. Now here’s your chance to get to know more about the winner of the Best Underrepresented Filmmaker award Andrea Vicunia for her short documentary, STEREOTYPED.

We caught up with Vicunia to discuss her short comedy, STEREOTYPED, that she shot with her Los Angeles-based team that includes:

  • Andrea Vicunia – Main actress, Director & Writer
  • Luca Nicora – Main actor and 1st AD
  • Hannah Chequer-Queiroz – Producer
  • Josua Fischer – DP
  • Javier Dampierre – Editor)
  • Marcos Cruz – Composer
  • Tricia Campbell – Hair & MakeUp
  • Cory Baker – Sound
  • Rest of the cast: Dahlia Turnbull, Tim Wardell, Isabel Wagner, Daniel Korman, Christina Marie Leonard, Ayevediri

STEREOTYPED is a parody of the entertainment industry between Extras and Entourage. It follows the story of a young Spaniard actress who arrives in the U.S. only to discover she’s a walking Latina stereotype. She will have to make amends with this new identity or give up on her dreams. Vicunia wanted to use her film to open the conversation on diversity and typecasting. It’s a picky subject that includes things she thinks we avoid talking about like racism, equal pay, and lack of representation. She believes that with the universal language of comedy and dreams we can open minds and make changes.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your short film?
The idea had been in my head for the longest time. but I didn’t know how to approach it. When I started doing stand-up comedy people would come up to me after the show and tell me that I made them realize they were being assholes or that they really thought Spain was in Mexico! No animosity, no separation when chatting about it, just laughter and I realized that was my approach: Comedy! I had some clear ideas about the storyline plus, it’s based on personal experiences so it was easy for me to write!

Andrea Vicunia
Andrea Vicunia

Q: Your film won the Best Underrepresented Filmmaker Award. What does that mean to you?
That stories like mine are meant to be told; that TV and cinema is ready to represent the reality and diversity of our society not just a segment. It’s so exciting, change is happening! This award represents opportunities and opens so many possibilities! As an artist it’s hard to have tangible success or to know if I’m on the right track—this confirms it!

Q: How did you and your team work together to create your entry?
It’s a very diverse team with representation of different minorities, I found that crucial when selecting the team. As a decision-maker in the project I wanted to give a voice to talented people who are unheard!

The excitement was contagious and the dynamic on set was really fun. We did shorter filming days to assure the quality of the piece and the happiness of the team. The editing process was a bit more hectic due to the deadline of the contest. Fun anecdote: Luca and I spent the whole night after the last day of filming selecting the right clips and then Javier did a great job editing it all together!

Q: What do you find most interesting about making short films?
I like to think of short films as proof of concept. They are effective and to the point. It’s a great practice to learn filmmaker, to synthesize and be effective by using less amount of words when expressing our stories.

Q: What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
I was overwhelmed by wearing so many hats (director, writer and main actress). I had a complete breakdown after a day of filming and doubted all I was doing. Thankfully, my partner in crime, Luca, gave me chocolate and put me to sleep. In the morning everything looked way better! Advice: After filming, rest and disconnect, look at the footage with rested and positive eyes!

Q: Is this the first time you’ve entered your work in a contest?
No, I’ve presented my work before, but this is my baby piece and it means the world to me to be considered as a finalist!

Q: How did you first get interested in filmmaking?
I got interested in writing when I couldn’t identify to any of the “Latina” roles that I was offered and decided to write scenes for me and my other complaining actor friends. I’m a movie buff and own a MoviePass so I’m crazy about storytelling and how each director approaches it differently! Being typecast was a blessing in disguise as I was so focused on acting that I wouldn’t have realized I was good at writing if I didn’t need to!

Q: What does AT&T SHAPE and contests like this mean to you?
Being stereotyped feels like being put into a small box and not too many people give you chances outside it. Contests like these take the lid off my head so I can just be another creator, a talented one. It’s a beautiful cause and I’m so glad new talent is given a chance and resources!

Q: Who have been your biggest influencers in the film industry (directors, writers, teachers, etc.) and what have you learned from them?
DIRECTORS: Edgar Wright/Wes Anderson – Some of the shots were inspired by Wright’s film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Anderson’s staging and pans.

WRITERS: Tina Fey/Mindy Kaling/Amy Schumer – Mean Girls, The Mindy Project, and Inside Amy Schumer (respectively) are like bibles to me. So smart!

TEACHERS: My parents – In the oddest way, I just realized that they taught me this passion. My dad was always filming us when we were kids and my mom has religiously taken me to see indie movies.

STAND UP: Ali Wong/Bill Burr – I love how Wong addresses feminism from the unpopular point of view “we had it right, we could stay at home when they go to work.” Burr’s cupcake punching bit makes me cry laughing.

Q: What advice do you have for new filmmakers just getting started in the field?
START FILMING. Make mistakes, learn from them, collaborate with others. Be on the constant search of opportunities because they do show up, but we are too busy focusing on our problems! If you want to direct movies: start directing yours, read about directing, watch great movies, and dive deeply!

Q: What video technologies do you see shaping the future of film and content creation?
I find virtual reality (VR) incredibly exciting. I still can’t figure out how they do it technically but I do feel like a kid when I’m investigating the room/setting of the scenes. It feels magical! It allows the audience member to become a character in the film and have a POV experience!

Q: What do you think of using different filming mediums and technologies (AR, VR, Drones, AI, etc.) to create films in the future?
Our way of interacting with our phones interests me: the attention span, the constant communication and social media. In my last short film Something Is Off, the whole story was told through two phone screens. It was really fun to explore another narrative and experiment.  Plus, the short won the best movie shot with a mobile device award at an AT&T Create-a-thon!

Q: What are your future plans for your project?
The script got selected by Women in Comedy and I relocated to Chicago to be part of their cohort to develop and film my complete pilot episode. The plan is to make STEREOTYPED a series!

Q: What do you plan to do with the prize money?
PAY. MY. CREW. They all trusted me and my story enough to work for free and that means so much to me! I would pay them all and then invest the rest in the filming of the pilot!

Want to explore more stereotyped stories? Follow hashtag #stereotypedsundays on Instagram where people share their personal struggle with stereotypes.

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