We Do Not Live Here
1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
My first time directing was in 2019, when I directed a short film titled We Do Not Live Here at the migrant camps in Tijuana. The piece won the audience choice award at its world premier at Matador Film Festival and received a culture feature in Rolling Stone Magazine.
2) How did you get into directing?
I started my career as a documentary photographer focusing on humanitarian issues around the globe; including work with UNICEF, Operation Smile, and UNHCR. I began directing in 2019 when I was working in Tijuana at the Migrant Caravan camps. I wanted my audience to not only see the people I was working with but hear their stories. I realized how effective and impactful filmmaking could be if I used it as a way to give a voice to the migrants and let them tell their stories.
3) What is your most recent project?
Right now I am directing my first feature film titled Seeking Asylum. Seeking Asylum is a feature-length documentary that spotlights the current struggle migrants face when seeking asylum in the United States. The film follows a woman and her family fleeing from death threats and abject poverty in Honduras. Her journey, like most asylum seekers, is tumultuous and deeply affected by the continuous restrictions to asylum policy enacted by the U.S. government.
4) What is the best part of being a director?
My crew. I get the opportunity to hire and work with incredible women who have supported and elevated my work to places I didn’t know it could go.
5) What is the worst part of being a director?
Funding. Particularly right now because of COVID-19 finding funding has been difficult. Several grants have disappeared and donations have almost stopped. The hardest part about being a director is watching my crew work so hard every day and not being able to financially give them everything they deserve. I am lucky to have found a solid group of women who have the same vision and believe in the work we are doing.
6) What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, television, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre–comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
Documentary filmmaking and creating impactful creative content for brands. There are so many companies and organizations that have committed to doing their part to make the world a better place and those are who we should be supporting as consumers. That is the message I have aligned my company with; we work with ethically responsible brands to create content that not only focuses on their products but also on their impact.
7) Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you?
I have an incredible partner and producer at Honeypot Productions, Kelly Scott. When you are a director you need people around you that are constantly challenging and simultaneously supporting you. I have learned so much about teamwork, patience, and creating a shared vision.
8) Who is your favorite director and why?
I was raised watching Hayao Miyazaki movies before they had English subtitles. At the age of five and six my sister and I had complete storylines in our heads without ever understanding a word. The beauty and imagination of his work captivated us. You see the love, sensitivity, and humanity so vividly in his work and even with a language barrier we somehow understood it all, his work is truly universal.
9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Picking just one is difficult, but I do love to support other female documentary filmmakers. I recently watched Father Soldier Son and was blown away by the depth of their storytelling. The directors Catrin Einhorn and Leslye Davis brought a unique sensitivity and beauty to this otherwise extremely male-centric storyline.
10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I am a documentary photographer and filmmaker with a focus on women, children, and human rights. At the age of 15, I moved to Serbia to complete my first documentary short based around the 1999 NATO bombings and death of former Yugoslavian dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Following the completion of the film, I graduated with honors from New York University.
I have spent the majority of my career as a documentary photographer focusing on supporting vulnerable communities around the globe. I have collaborated and created work for some of the biggest names in the nonprofit, business and entertainment world including; UNICEF, Operation Smile, UNHCR, Rolling Stone Magazine, CBS, and Red Bull Media House.
In 2020 I co-founded an all female production company, Honeypot Productions. I am currently directing my first feature length documentary, Seeking Asylum, which spotlights the current struggle migrants face when seeking asylum in the United States.
11) How has the pandemic impacted your career, art, craft, shaped your attitudes and reflections on life which in turn may influence your work, approach, spirit, mindset?
The pandemic has had a huge impact on my career and the work I am making. I wouldn’t be making the documentary I am working on now if it weren’t for COVID-19. Until this year, all of my work has been away from home in other countries around the globe and the pandemic quickly brought that to a halt. I feel extremely lucky that a local story materialized for me in the midst of this crisis and it has been an exciting challenge to document without being isolated and completely immersed in another country.
Additionally, I have had to implement many creative and innovative techniques into my filmmaking process as a result of COVID-19 restrictions: including utilizing zoom calls, cell phone footage, home videos, and drop kits. It has been challenging, but I have tried to embrace these non-traditional mediums, as they serve as a visual representation of the shared global experience of living through COVID-19.