Your script “Mikaela” appears to delve into the complexities of identity, family, and relationships. What inspired you to explore these themes, and how do you envision the story resonating with audiences?
I wanted to explore the relationship of a young traumatized person with her past because I find doing so very healing. I think exploring sad stories helps us release our own sadness. I hope the film will connect with people’s sense of loneliness and in doing so connect them to compassion, whether it is for themselves or for the experiences of trans and queer people.
As a queer Venezuelan American screenwriter and filmmaker, your unique perspective likely informs your storytelling. Could you share how your cultural background and personal experiences influence your work, particularly in the context of “Mikaela”?
Though I am not trans, I did grow up gay in Venezuela, a country where at least when I lived there, queer culture was largely dismissed or demonized in a way that sinks you into a lonely place of self loathing, one that takes a lot of years and self work to dismantle. With Mikaela I wanted to explore not only the trauma caused by a distant mother but also by broken teen love suddenly knocking back at your door. Mikaela isn’t quite equipped with the tools to deal with all of that yet, so she does the best she can to protect herself, even if her actions end up leaving her more alone.
“Mikaela” suggests a blend of introspective and emotional elements. How do you approach weaving existential themes into your stories, and what do you believe is the role of these themes in the overall narrative?
Humans are complex and contradictory, I knew I wanted to end it with a literal bang, and I worked my way back from there. Mikaela was going to make questionable choices so I wanted to make sure we liked her at the get go, giving her the opportunity to do something nice, like giving her bike away to a little girl so that as she shows her darker side we are still rooting and feeling for her. I also like that once we get to the end we can see it was coming from the moment the film starts.
My approach is finding conflicting actions or feelings and weaving them into the story so we don’t know if we are supposed to like or hate someone.
Your statement mentions a desire to leave a story ahead of the audience and to leave them wanting more. Can you elaborate on this storytelling approach and what it adds to the viewer’s experience?
Short films are hard, in a way I don’t think they need to be a whole story, and I like that feeling of swiping through channels (back when we used to do that) and finding something interesting in a movie that already started and getting hooked to the end. I want Mikaela to feel like it has a beginning you can sort of imagine but don’t fully need to know to get invested.
I also had a teacher in school who always said leave the film while you are ahead and that stuck with me. Leave before the audience is done with you, always.
I want people to be left wondering if Mikaela and Ever will or will not get together.
Can you provide insights into the character development and the nuances of the relationships in the script, and how they contribute to the story’s depth and emotional impact?
Mikaela and Ever’s back story is something I have so clear in my head. In high school, before her transition, they were best friends, and Mikaela, then Michael, fell in love with Ever. Ever ended the friendship because he got scared, claiming he wasn’t gay. When Mikaela returns during the film Ever feels immensely attracted to her and is aloof to the pain she feels when being approached in a seductive way now that she transitioned. She loves him, but is unable to see past the hurt she feels.