Last night, award-winning filmmaker Debby Wolfe made the world premiere her new film of ‘Gordita‘ at the New York International Latino Film Festival. Set in East LA, the 10-minute short tells the story of Tatiana, a young Salvadorian woman with a serious case of low self esteem — until a chance discovery leads her to reclaim her confidence. Between screenings, we caught up with the film’s writer/director about the challenges of casting a plus-size actress in Hollywood, and what it feels like to premiere in New York…
Museyon Guides: Tell me about your film, ‘Gordita?’
Debby Wolfe: Gordita is a short film about a plus size Latina who reconnects with her lost confidence through the help of a cassette tape she recorded in 1994.
MG: You wrote and directed it — how did you come up with the idea?
DW: Recently I came across a box of cassette tapes that I recorded as a teenager. I went out and purchased the last cassette player in existence and spent a day listening to myself at age 12 pretending to host my own radio and show and actually directing my friends as if they were actors, telling them what to say and how to say it. I found it so inspiring to hear myself being creative at a young age for the pure joy of it, without the pressures of trying to pursue a career in entertainment. It was just such a powerful and bittersweet experience that I felt compelled to capture on screen. What I wanted to come across in Gordita is that no matter how old we get, our youthful spirit lives within us and it can be a very powerful to connect with it and use it to brighten our lives.
MG: Talia Zapien gives such a great performance…tell me a little bit about the cast…
DW: Casting a plus size actress in Hollywood was no easy task. I saw over 300 girls, many who at size 6 claimed to be “plus size”! Talia came in to audition at a moment when I was about to give up and cast in another state. She blew me away in the audition and then again during the filming. She gave a powerful performance and really had to go to a dark place to achieve it. Imagine being half naked in a room full of film crew and having to give a very deep, dark, and vulnerable performance, she really gave me her all, and I am so grateful. As a director you feel so blessed when working with raw and genuine talent and that is Talia. The rest of the cast were also wonderful, Carlos Ramirez who plays Manny, Gloria Sandoval who plays the mom, Raquel Cordova as the best friend, and Raini Rodriguez and Stephanie Mendoza who play the teen girls, all gave so much fun, and spirit to a film that is tackling a very heavy subject matter.
MG: How did you get involved with the festival? Is this your first New York premiere?
DW: This is ‘Gordita”s world premiere at the New York Latino International Film Festival. We are so excited to be premiering in NYC for an audience who loves and appreciated Latino culture. We applied to the festival back in April with a rough cut and were so pleased to be accepted. There’s nothing like being in NYC with a film, it’s amazing!
MG: Tell me about the experience of showing your movie in the festival. What’s been going through your head?
DW: Of course as a director there are always nerves before screening in front of a large audience, I had no idea how they were going to react. I’ve only shown the film to close friends who have all been very positive, but it’s a very different experience to screen with an audience then an individual. We had our first screening on a Thursday at 3:30 p.m. to a fairly large crowd and it was amazing! There was laughter, clapping during the film, and three sets of applause during the credits. I was floored by the reaction, and it was the first time I was able to truly feel I had made something special. The year I have spent on this film, struggling to raise the money to do it, spending hours and hours in the cutting room, it’s all finally paying off and I feel so blessed that it all came together into something special.
MG: Here at Museyon, we love visiting new places through the movies. Where are your favorite places to film?
DW: I have only filmed in Los Angeles, California, and Orlando, Florida, and I have to say I loved filming in both. In filmmaking, it’s all about the right locations that can best serve your story. I will search for days to make sure I find the right places for the look and feel of the film. A location can tell an audience so much and it’s really like another cast member of the film. A mistake of low-budget filmmakers is just taking whatever they can get because of budget. I don’t agree with that. Take the time to find the right places for your story because that it only going to make your film reach its fullest potential and people will notice.
MG: Think about your dream film. If you could shoot it anywhere, where would it be?
DW: As I mentioned before, you have to find the locations that best suit your story. I find inspiration everywhere I go. A single area in any part of the world inhabited by people consists of a million stories and just spending the time to reflect on that fact can be incredibly inspiring. I am truly excited to see where this filmmaking journey will take me next.
New Yorkers have one more chance to see ‘Gordita’ at the New York International Latino Film Festival. The film screens tomorrow, Saturday, August 1, at Clearview Cinemas Chelsea (W. 23rd St & 8th Ave.) as part of the Growing Pains Shorts Program. Director Debby Wolfe, Producer Rebecca Hamm and actors Talia Zapien, DJ-RAQ-C from Latino 96.3 Los Angeles, Carlos Ramirez and Stephanie Mendoza will be there — be sure to say hi!