We had the good fortune of connecting with Rommel Villa and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rommel, we’d love for you to start things off by telling us something about your industry that we and others not in the industry might be unaware of?
I think the film industry can have a glamorous facade that many times hides the struggles of such a demanding world. It really is a dream come true to be able to attend red carpets and networking events, to get to wear expensive elegant clothes, and to be part of private screenings at the most beautiful theaters in town. However, I don’t think many people know that it is not easy to be part of “Hollywood”. There is so much talent out there and only so many spots for all the productions happening. It can be discouraging to apply to several filmmaking grants, audition for numerous roles, pitch projects to countless production companies, and not get the desired or expected result. The film industry is a tough one, and I think that it requires dedication, passion, patience, perseverance, and in many cases, luck.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Last year, my team and I won a Student Academy Award for our film Sweet Potatoes, which I wrote and directed. That was by far the most fulfilling experience because it validated the effort and love we put into making our film. Filmmaking is my art. I find passion in real people’s stories. Those stories that we don’t hear about but that deserve to be told. Stories about society’s taboos, sexual identity, faith, inner demons, and social struggles. I’m passionate about characters that do not necessarily fit in in the society we live in but have an incredible journey to unveil. I love exploring stories that originate in remote towns, that are based on urban legends, old traditions, forgotten voices, and unconventional scenarios. The road to understanding my love for this kind of stories wasn’t easy. I started making dramatic stories, then switched to magical realism mixed with comedy, then took a 180 and made a historical film about a serious and relevant topic. Going through this process taught me that I don’t need to label myself as one kind of filmmaker. I can mix up different tones and styles to create a genre that will fit the needs of the stories that I tell. I am not afraid of exploring dark and serious topics, on the contrary, it excites me to learn when I’m exploring uncharted territory because I know that I am bringing to the surface characters, scenarios, and perspectives that I’m sure the audience will be fascinated by.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love nature. I grew up in a small colonial city right by the mountains, so my heart feels complete whenever I’m closer to the countryside. Don’t give me wrong, I got used to and appreciate the tall buildings, busy highways, coffee shops, museums, eating spots, and amenities LA has to offer, but it is great to contrast such high-speed life with a getaway to the countryside. The perfect week-long trip with my best friend would start with a day visiting the scenic beaches, followed by a full day at Disneyland, then a fun two-day trip to Vegas – can Britney have a Vegas show we can catch? -, and spending the rest of the days road-tripping the Pacific Highway and camping in a remote location where the invisible hands of technology won’t be able to disturb us. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people I have to thank. First and foremost, my family back in Bolivia, who with their thoughts, prayers, and unconditional support, made this bumpy road easier to navigate. Next, USC, the school where I learned to develop my vision as a filmmaker and with incredible mentors like Tom Miller, Reine-Claire, and Richard Burton, who believed in me and my projects. Also, I need to give a big shoutout to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, to The Academy, and to my mentor Nicolas Celis and the inspiring Spike Lee, who have been a constant support system both emotionally and professionally. Finally, to the friends and new family I’ve grown to love here in Los Angeles. It is the people around me who inspire me to be a better person and filmmaker.
Rommel Villa, Enrico Targetti.