By Katie Chambers
Welcome to NYWIFT, Eunice Levis! Writer and director Eunice Levis is a first-generation Dominican American from the Bronx, New York. Eunice’s work focuses on genre-bending stories that combine her love of horror, sci-fi, thriller, and fantasy, often through a diasporic lens. She seeks to disrupt and challenge dominant narratives around technology, race, gender, history, and diaspora identity by altering the stories we tell about them.
Her latest film, Ro & the Stardust, a space fantasy short was selected for inclusion in the 2021 NALIP Latino Lens Women of Color Short Film Incubator, sponsored by Netflix. The film won Best Narrative Short at the 25th Annual Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival, making it an Oscar® qualified Narrative Short Film.
Eunice spoke to us about her early inspirations, her latest work, and how genre stories offer a unique opportunity to challenge the status quo.
Tell us about yourself – give us your elevator pitch!
I am a writer and director focused on genre-bending stories often told through a diasporic lens.
What has been your favorite project to date and why?
There are two projects that I am particularly proud of. InVade, my environmental sci-fi short, and Ro & the Stardust, my space fantasy. I wrote and directed both films – they stand out because I created them without fear of how they would be received. They both represent my unfiltered creative voice.
What draws you to horror, sci-fi, and fantasy as your genres of choice?
Genre is the great equalizer when it comes to story and film. It doesn’t have to make sense, doesn’t have to have a past, present or a future that is based in reality. Genre allows me to acknowledge, rectify and heal. I love that. I love having the ability to insert unlikely characters anywhere in history or in the universe. It’s empowering and for me the ultimate way to challenge the status quo.
What TV shows and movies did you see growing up that inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Too many to list! Everything from The Goonies, Gremlins, Nightmare on Elm Street, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, Quantum Leap, The Twilight Zone, and anything Steven Spielberg created or produced I consumed at dangerous levels! Creatively I lean into that type of magic.
How do you use stories about technology and the future to explore real-life issues facing us today?
I love to mix fictional technology with real life issues. For example, in my short InVade I wanted to discuss the potential effects fracking could have in the state of Pennsylvania. I created an exaggerated outcome for a very real issue. Perhaps fracking may never affect the sedimentary rock foundation in eastern North America BUT maybe it will.
That is the usefulness of science fiction and tech horror. It is unique because there is a chance that the science can at some point become real. Science in story is essentially limitless, so creating stories within that genre is a great vehicle for starting dialogue and even modifying behavior.
What is the best advice you ever received?
The advice wasn’t directed towards me personally but earlier this year I attended a chat featuring Misha Green. She said as an artist you must “put yourself in danger.”
That’s something I’ve only recently embraced – to create and take up space in genre – in spite of my fears.
What inspired you to join NYWIFT?
I attended an event and loved the genuine camaraderie. There’s something really special about being part of an organization that acknowledges the specific challenges and hardships women face in this industry.
And what is next for you?
First up, I’m workshopping my feature script To the Moon based on my short Ro & the Stardust.
I’m also directing a female-led campy horror short Affordable Housing, in Spring 2023. That short will be produced by fellow NYWIFT member, [Board Member] Okema T. Moore.
And last but not least, I’ll be kicking off a campaign aiming to get Ro & the Stardust on the 2024 Oscar® narrative short list!
Learn more about Eunice Levis on her websites www.eunicelevis.com and www.invadethemovie.com, and connect with her on social media on Facebook at @elevis, Twitter at @ElWuel, Instagram at @eunice_e_levis, and on LinkedIn.
Welcome to NYWIFT, Candece Tarpley! Candece Tarpley, of Sissipahaw/Tuscarora/Tsalagi descent, is a World Champion Powwow dancer, an actress and a poet-storyteller-playwright who has been writing since childhood. Holding her heritage close, she's been a featured performer nationwide, weaving her crafts with the patrons of the Public Library of Boulder Colorado; Middlebury College in Vermont; Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts; the Pequot Museum in Connecticut; the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Natural History in New York City, as well as other creative venues. Candece spoke to us about how her Indigenous heritage influences her work, the response to her television series, and her next major projects.READ MORE
New York based filmmaker Melissa Morales is a first-generation Puerto Rican Latina alum from CUNY Brooklyn College with a BA in Film Production, holding a magna cum laude GPA. Melissa is an aspiring writer, director, producer and production designer, and multimedia content creator. She has written, directed, & produced four short films in 2022, with her thesis "Bigger" winning a NYWIFT Emerging Female Filmmaker Award at Brookly College and a NYIFA Best Student Director Award both in 2023! Melissa tells us about receiving the NYWIFT Emerging Female Filmmaker Award, her role as a writer, director, and producer, and more!READ MORE
Introducing NYWIFT Member Sarah Eagle Heart! Sarah is a filmmaker and social justice storyteller from the Oglala Lakota tribe on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Sarah shares her creative journey from writing a book with her twin sister about reflections of identity, to working with musical icon John Legend, to her latest feature film.READ MORE
Let’s give a warm welcome to Alisa Lomax! Based in Detroit, Alisa is an award-winning producer and director who is interested in providing a platform for characters who are in the midst of navigating hardships. Some of her most celebrated projects include Maya and Her Lover, Layla’s Girl, and the documentary When I Need to Smile, which centers on philanthropist and jazz label founder Gretchen Carhartt Valade. Alisa was one of just 13 Detroit writers to be selected as part of the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. Find out more about Alisa as we discuss her amazing 20+ year career trajectory, which includes her transition from working in corporate jobs to more artistic endeavors, and her current role in a digital arts program that aims to introduce the art of filmmaking to kids!READ MORE