We had the good fortune of connecting with Rosita Lama Muvdi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rosita, what’s one piece of conventional advice that you disagree with?
One of the pieces of advice I would hear the most about screenwriting, especially from professors in film school, was “write what you know.” It would be the one lesson some teachers would always resort to while viewing or reading someone’s work. I think it was a way to get filmmakers to strive for authenticity by telling stories that felt more autobiographical. But if we did that, we wouldn’t have so many of the films that have impacted us on deep, emotional levels, especially ones that take place in imagined worlds. I do, however, believe that more than writing what we know, it’s more important to write what we feel. Because ultimately, it is the emotional journey of the characters that an audience will connect to, and that emotional specificity is what makes a story universal. There is great courage and power in vulnerability. When we’re able to be connected with ourselves, we can then be truly connected to others. If we can infuse our own emotional experiences into our work, then I believe it’s possible to tell almost any story because the emotional truth at the core will undoubtedly result in an authentic journey, regardless of the world in which the story takes place. And once we have that, as creators we then have the responsibility to do the necessary research in order to honor those stories respectfully.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Before I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker, I wanted to be an actor. In high school, I had been in several plays in which I was always playing a woman whose story revolved around falling in love, a character that at the time, I found hard to relate to and, to be honest, quite boring. It seemed like these characters’ narratives always revolved around being with a man (the protagonist, of course) whose story was certainly more flush with details and rich with purpose, while the characters I played were simply the woman in love and not much else. However, when I had the opportunity to play a villain, that’s when I would get truly excited. These characters had ambition, purpose, and a desire that transcended the approval of a man. And more importantly, they would do anything to achieve their goal no matter who stood in their way. Growing up in Colombia, I felt I could relate to that feeling on a more personal level, especially growing up around a culture with an overwhelming and devastatingly problematic pressure to fulfill societal expectations based on your gender. So when I started to gravitate more toward directing and writing, that’s when I felt I had the opportunity to focus on and write the characters I was interested in, especially women who defied those expectations themselves in the most devious and interesting of ways. There was one film in particular that I remember truly impacted me. Michael Haneke’s THE PIANO TEACHER, starring Isabelle Huppert. At the time, I’d ever seen a film that had me on the edge of my seat – not from explosions or action sequences – but purely by watching the character unfold in the most fascinatingly psychological of ways. Her behavior based on restricted desire and how she unraveled throughout the film drew me into her journey in a way that made me realize these were the characters I wanted to write and direct. Those who have this kind of inner monster that they inevitably unleash, connected to the darkness within them and the perversion in the mundane. As I continued to develop as a filmmaker, I realized that I too needed to surrender to my own inner monster and finally allow myself to truly be vulnerable in my work. To no longer hide in it but unravel through it, thus creating characters with emotional journeys that finally reflected the type of woman I wanted to see more of when I was acting. It is perhaps that vulnerability that I believe makes an artist’s work stand out. Through an exploration of ourselves, we can connect to a universal audience in a way. Not everyone will love what we do. But it matters that it’s honest to us, and that honesty will connect to the people that need it the most.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Before the pandemic, I would have taken them to all the places that would bring me joy or comfort. They would have joined me for some pho and deep conversation at Blossom when it had a spot near Sunset Junction, followed by some gelato at Pazzo a couple of blocks away. At some point, I would have taken them to Bibo Ergo Sum, an amazing bar that not only had beautiful cocktails but a wonderful environment to talk and catch up with a visiting friend. A walk around downtown, especially for some art, food, and drinks would have been pretty great as well. And it would have been absolutely necessary to then venture out toward the ocean, especially with the amazing coastline that this state has to offer. There’s still so much to explore in LA so I’ll certainly be reading some of your other guest’s responses on Shoutout LA for some more suggestions.
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?
In my life, there have certainly been many individuals who have no doubt contributed to my success. For me, my mother, sister, and aunts have been instrumental in supporting me throughout my career, and without them I know certain experiences and opportunities would have never been possible. Friends have definitely played a huge role in their support and encouragement as well, along with lessons I’ve learned from teachers I’ve had, especially at The American Film Institute Conservatory where I felt I had the freedom to truly express myself and develop my voice as a filmmaker. But you know, in thinking about this question, I think it’s important to acknowledge those who not only had faith in me, but also invested in me financially – not only my family, but those who hired me when I was just starting out. I think there are so many people who love to pledge their support, but when it comes down to it, are they hiring those they want to uplift? Are they investing in the talent they claim to support? In thinking about my shoutout, I want to acknowledge the people who not only believed in my talent, but who chose to invest in it by hiring me and giving me the creative freedom to develop those projects they brought me on to direct. I’ve also come to realize that, for the most part, the people who have truly empowered me not only with their words but with their actions have all been women, and it’s these women who constantly continue to do so not only with me, but with others around them, never allowing ego or competition to get in the way, unlike the examples I’ve seen from some men in similar positions who might talk the talk but fail to do much else in empowering other filmmakers that perhaps don’t look or think like them. So, thank you to all the women in my life who continue to believe and invest in me. I am incredibly grateful for your love and support throughout the years.
Other: IMdB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3391893/
Byonghoon Jo Michael Chan Chad Kotz Shanley Kellis Devin Cutter