Stacy Pascal Gaspard

Stacy Pascal Gaspard

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1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
While in school, I was selected for season 1 of Rising Voices. With the support of Indeed, Hillman Grad, 271 and Ventureland, I got the resources and support to make my short film Soñadora, which premiered at Tribeca in 2021. It was the first time I got to tap in and see my full potential with a bigger budget. Soñadora was inspired by my grandmother’s story of migrating to America and pursuing her dream, while staying afloat financially and working to connect to her family back home. Post-AFI, I received my first offer to guest direct an episode of television. I was in the middle of prep when the WGA strike came into effect.

2) How did you get into directing?
Directing has always been this little secret dream that I had. I was always afraid to admit it, even to myself, because my idea of what Directors were made the profession seem so far-fetched.

When I moved to LA, my first job was as a part-time tour guide at AFI, which later moved into a full-time job. Every week, I would give prospective Fellows a tour of the campus and encourage these burgeoning filmmakers to take a chance on their dreams. Meanwhile, I lived in fear of taking a chance on myself. At the same time, I was pursuing a career as an actress and was very conscious of the stigma surrounding actors-turned-directors. Regardless, I started to recognize my gift as a storyteller and realized that having experience in front of the camera was a strength rather than a detriment. Being a performer makes it easier for me to emotionally connect to the work I direct.

In 2018, while assisting Lianne Halfone, someone asked me for the first time, “Why aren’t you directing?” It was then that I started seeing myself as a director and was encouraged to apply to AFI. I applied to both directing and producing and got into both programs. Choosing between the two, I finally spoke my truth into existence. I raised my voice

3) What is your most recent project?
My AFI thesis Ritmo, a coming-of-age story exploring Black love between two Afro-Latinxs teens, set in Miami. Think Romeo and Juliet, but add Black Caribbeans, and remove the death. We shot in California, between Los Angeles and Long Beach, during the pandemic, navigating a cast of seven actors and twenty dancers, all in the span of four days.

4) What is the best part of being a director?
As a director, I love how you can tell who directed something before seeing the name go across the screen. We all have a unique fingerprint that dictates the way a project comes to life. One of the best parts of this field is exercising that muscle and working on honing my style. Whether I’m working on a commercial or a film you can see a glimpse and think, “Wait, is this Stacy?”

5) What is the worst part of being a director?
Every project you’re on, whether big or small, has its challenges. I have realized how important it is to have allies and a community of creatives who are trustworthy, and trust you in turn. I would say the largest challenge is finding the collaborators and creatives you desire strongly to continue working with. Working as a crew member you can feel on a production when a team is not working together or see eye to eye. As a newcomer, I am still finding these key people, but I know that with enough perseverance and passion, my team will come together.

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.?
Not too long ago, I was an actress who occasionally booked commercials as I worked as a staff member at AFI, giving tours to prospective students at a school that felt like a pipe dream to attend. Cut to three years later, I’ve graduated from AFI as a Directing Fellow. This experience has shown me how it’s okay to dream big, and sometimes you might have to build the road ahead to make your dreams a reality.

In my work, I explore themes for the dreamers, creating worlds that we can escape into and be able to see ourselves in, with a dash of magic for good measure. I see myself creating content for film and television, commercials, music video and even Broadway. I want to keep exploring the mediums I can use to tell the stories, and become a household name among the other trailblazers of Hollywood today.

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?
One of my mentors that I am grateful for is Gina Prince-Bythewood. To have a Black woman writer-director that has not only gone down the path that you are navigating but genuinely sees you and your potential is something special. Gina is always reminding me of two things: “There is no crying in Directing,” and “State your Why.” These two sayings are pillars of my confidence both on-set and off, and a constant reminder to hold my head high, take up space, and speak my truth with my full chest.

8) Who is your favorite director and why?
Taika Waititi is one of my favorite directors. I’ve adored his work since his initial short films and his first film Boy, which he wrote, directed and also starred in. I appreciate the way he can infuse levity, humor and empathy into a heavy topic and take the audience on a journey where you feel a wide spectrum of emotions and leave with something special in your heart and mind.

9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
I have so many favorite movies, but a few that come to mind are Clueless and In the Mood for Love. For television, I really enjoyed Industry, Normal People, Atlanta and The Bear. As far as commercials go, I am a sucker for a tear-jerker and really loved the Extra Gum commercial, and anything that includes a dog.

10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
As a young girl in Haiti, I remember when the power in our house would go out. On those peaceful nights in Port-au-Prince, with the stars and moon as our light, I’d sit with my grandmother on the patio. We would make paper hand fans, and as the breeze ruffled through my curls and gently rocked me to sleep, she would tell me stories of our family. At a very young age I was enraptured by these stories, and growing up with a rich culture where I heard stories and folktales that showed how vast the world is informed how I look at the world.

Like many children of immigrants, I grew up with constant reminders of the sacrifices that were made for me to be where I was. The weight of my family’s dreams pressed firmly upon my shoulders as I worked to blaze a path in this uncharted territory.

Movies were my escape and where I could dream. As a child, my attention clung to the screen, waiting and wishing to be able to see someone like myself. I hungered for someone who spoke the languages I spoke and looked like me, to show me all that could be possible for a girl from the Island.

11) Have you had occasion to bring your storytelling/directorial talent to bear in the Metaverse, tapping into the potential of AR, VR, AI, NFTs and/or experiential fare? If so, tell us about that work and what lessons you have taken away from the experience.
I have not yet crafted a story in the Metaverse, but I have always been interested in directing for Virtual Reality and exploring my potential in the experiential space.

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