Amalia Santa Maria is a native Colombian filmmaker based in Los Angeles, California. Her work explores female narratives, folklore, and the human condition. Most recently, she directed an experimental short film that will stream on Nowness, an Instagram platform with over 1 million followers. In the fall, she will direct a sci-fi short she wrote and will star in. As a filmmaker, she’s had the opportunity to work on several international projects including Discovery Channel’s “Naked and Afraid XL”, a top-rated original cable show among adults 18-49 and 1.69 million viewers. Her work has mainly been in features such as “The Errand Boy”, an indie feature in which she worked as one of the main cast members as well as 1st assistant director, and “The Boy,” an Elijah Wood production as a featured character and 3rd assistant director. Among other projects, she worked as a producer in the Colombian production company Studio Mindset. When she not making movies, you can find her dancing through forests in the form of a pre-raphaelite changeling.
Her new film, Alphabeticvs, is an official selection of Venice Shorts in California. It it was our pleasure to interview Amalia Santa Maria for L.A. Indies about her work.
What was the inspiration behind the making of Alphabeticvs?
I wrote "Alphabeticvs" at the beginning of lockdown in L.A. After the first month or so of this new way of life, I was talking to some of my friends and realized that a lot of people were having these very vivid dreams, including myself. I'm no stranger to bizarre dreams, there's usually an entire plot to each one of mine. I try to remember them as much as I can and write them so I can eventually come back to them if I have writer's block or need inspiration (I once remembered 16 dreams, and that's still my record). Maybe the world "stopping" gave people time to process what goes on in their brains at night, in any case, I was fascinated by this intriguing change of events in people's minds.
What were some of the challenges of making the film?
Lockdown was the greatest challenge of making this film. We couldn't just go shoot where we wanted, we had to pick safe locations that weren't closed. At one point we wanted to go shoot in nature but by that time National Parks were closed so we had to figure out a different way of making it work.
When did you realize that you wanted to make films and what was the first film project that you created?
Making films has been a passion of mine ever since I can remember. I've been acting since I was three years old but "Alphabeticvs" is my directorial debut. I have a lot of stories to tell and as an actor, you usually tell a story written and directed by someone else. I enjoy how proactive you can be as a writer-director, it's very empowering.
Which directors have been influential in your work?
The fantastically dark and darling worlds Guillermo del Toro creates, Sofia Coppola's ethereal and feminine visual poetry, Wes Anderson's pristine work, Lars von Trier's provocative style of melancholy, and Greta Gerwig because of the love, care, and charisma that shines through her dialogues.
What genre of filmmaking do you like to work on?
This is a tough question! My favorite kind of films are usually a mix of genres. If the films I make could have any genre it would probably be Magical Realism, but since that's not really a thing (yet) I'll go with fantasy or thrillers.
What is the most challenging aspect of making an independent film?
Well, it's a recipe of blood, sweat, and tears, isn't it? Maybe sprinkle some fairy dust in and then you have the miracle that's a film. No, but honestly finding funding as well as the right team for each project I think is pretty hard and not something you can cut corners on. Fortunately, I'm one that likes to stick to her team. Most people I like working with again if we had a good workflow the first time around.
What is your plan for further distribution of your film?
We'll be screening and promoting "Alphabeticvs" through the L.A. Independent Film Channel, and since it's a microfilm we're looking into distributing it through cultural social media platforms because in this case, the format is kinda perfect for that.
How can cinema change the world and have an impact on society?
Cinema is the precursor to any change. It's the first draft of making something come alive. The example that comes to mind is that sci-fi film by Georges Méliès "A Trip to the Moon" from the early 1900s. Little did the french filmmakers know when they created it, that 67 years later landing on the moon would be a reality. That's one example of many which is also why a lot of films or writings get banned in some countries. They are ideas that materialize into visual means and show people in a way, that this fictionalized version is a possible reality in the future.
What is your next film project?
My next film project is a tech-noir thriller I wrote, will direct, and star in this fall. The short, Sandman shows the toxic side of the man-machine relationship set in a dysfunctional family dynamic plagued by manipulation and blind ambition. To me, each era has its very own spirit that defines it. Ours is intrinsically characterized by digital technology. Our digital devices have become a reflection of our inner world, which places this narrative in the current ethical struggle we are facing as a society. In the story, the main character trusts her parents blindly. The parents have been experimenting with dream streaming technology on their daughters for years and dangerous side-effects start happening. Devout faith in her parents leads the protagonist to a very dark place. Sandman sets the stage for this current human tragedy.
Why do you make films and what draws you to the language of cinema and directing?
I make films to keep my soul alive. As the daughter of an artist, there's been a lot of importance placed on storytelling and aesthetics in my upbringing and it's what I connect with most easily. Cinema has always been the art form I feel most intrigued by and the one I find the most complete. I think a film is a small universe that encompasses pretty much every art form: writing/literary art, visual arts/aesthetic, performing arts/acting, sound/music, and you see it all through the medium itself, film. So I guess the language of cinema and directing is a collage of everything that fascinates me which is why I'm so drawn to it.