By Ozzi Ramirez
Let’s give a warm NYWIFT welcome to new member Myra Velasquez!
Myra Velasquez is an indie filmmaker and playwright whose films have been screened across the country and abroad. Some of her awards include the Lawrence Kasdan Narrative Film Award, the Grand Prize Chicks with Flicks, the BIFF Golden Honu Audience Choice for Best Short, the HIFF Gold Kahuna, and the BIFF Family Favorites.
She has also been a finalist for the Sundance Lab, the BlueCat Feature Screenplay Award, the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference, the Big Apple Screenplay Competition, and a Cinequest Short Screenplay semi-finalist, among other notable mentions. Myra resides in New York.
Myra spoke to us about her latest audio drama, the best (and worst) advice she’s received, and what she hopes audiences will take away from her work.
Describe yourself. Give us your elevator pitch!
Hello! My name is Myra and I’m a Tokyo-born storyteller of Chinese, German and Mexican heritage. My most recent project, The Forks, which is the recipient of New Jersey Webfast’s Best Family Friendly Podcast, is my first audio drama and was produced by fellow NYWIFT member Nicole Franklin. It’s currently streaming on Dramafy, “the one stop shop for the best in audio dramas.”
Both your debut film Mother’s Blood and the subsequent Kung Fu Granny were recognized with awards at various film festivals and the latter received worldwide distribution. What was is it about these films that you believe connected with viewers? How are they reflections of your identity?
This is an interesting question because Mother’s Blood and Kung Fu Granny are as much different in content and tone as the format in which they were shot, the former in 16mm black & white (Yes, 16mm film!) and the latter in HD color. Based on my family, Mother’s Blood is a deep dive into the relationship between a mother and her daughters, and Kung Fu Granny is an action comedy. Having said that, I hatched my superhero Granny out of my dismay with the shabby treatment of our elders.
But whether it’s a comedy, drama, or anything in between, I always strive to be deeply honest and from the heart. Hopefully, viewers can resonate with these core elements.
Once you’ve decided that you want to pursue an idea for a narrative, what factors determine whether you develop the story as a play or film?
As far as the medium goes, such as with Mother’s Blood and Kung Fu Granny, some works are a no-brainer for me. Also, they’re short films, which makes the process budget-friendly. But I’ve written scripts that I can envision in more than one art form.
For example, The Forks had been written as a short play, but then it was suggested that the piece could be fun as a radio play / audio drama, and I proceeded to morph it as such. There are folks who still ask when the animated version is coming out.
Whether it’s been through your work in film or theater, your artistry has consistently required a vivid imagination. How do you conquer writer’s block and other obstacles that can sometimes hinder the creative process?
I don’t know how to conquer writer’s block. However, I no longer beat myself up when I have a dry spell. Instead, I simply let it be and relax. This has made a world of a difference!
What brings you to NYWIFT?
I was a longtime CineWomenNY member and subsequently became an NYWIFT member. I took some time off to work on my audio and theater projects. But I’m delighted to be back with the vital and creative NYWIFT community.
What is the best and worst advice that you’ve received?
Best Advice: “Go for It!”
Worst advice: “It’s very important where your short film premieres!” There may be NYWIFT members who can adhere to this, and I would love to know their point of view. But while this might be the case for feature films, I don’t think it applies to shorts.
To this day, I sorely regret giving my word to “premiere” my short film The Lovers at a certain film festival. As a result, I had to turn down another great festival where my film was selected to compete for Best Short Film! The fact is that I could’ve premiered at either festival. When I attended, I gleaned right away that it wouldn’t have mattered two cents.
How did the pandemic influence your work life?
Since I was not in the middle of any project that involved lots of folks on site and was hunkering upstate, the pandemic affected me very little. During the second year of the pandemic, I had to sit down to do some editing and the quietude was great.
Do you have any upcoming projects in the works?
Yes. I’m working on a short film that’s in a genre I’ve never done before. I’m going for it!
Connect with Myra on her website www.myravee.com.
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