Valeria Vallejos is a talented filmmaker of Indigenous and Spanish descent, born and raised in Patagonia. She left her country for Paris at the age of 17 to pursue her career in film. After a brief study experience in Paris, Valeria went on to travel the world extensively, continuing her education in the arts and collecting an MBA along the way. Vallejos wrote, directed and starred in her debut short film Me También (in English, Me Too).
Me También is set in of Los Angeles and revolves around two women from strikingly different worlds. Cristina (played by the director herself) is an undocumented Mexican immigrant, running from her past and trying to live out her personal American Dream as a nanny to a wealthy family. Monica (Kathryn Romine) is a rising executive in a prestigious marketing firm. At some point, both of their lives will be derailed by the same hardship and by the abuses of the same person, Mr. Reynolds (Regen Wilson).
We had the chance to interview Vallejos and talk about the making of her film. You can watch the entire 17-minute short here: https://youtu.be/O2JCh7iWZbU
DAVIDE ABBATESCIANNI: How did the idea for this short come about?
VALERIA VALLEJOS: I’ve always wanted to tell stories about who I am, a woman, an immigrant and a person of color. I had been formulating the story of two women struggling with hardships in their lives, but the real spark that I needed to start the writing process for Me También was Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the 2018 Golden Globes. Here, the main goal was to tell my truth, a truth to which every woman can relate to.
ABBATESCIANNI: What message is your short willing to convey within the wider #MeToo debate?
VALLEJOS: Definitely, it is a message of hope. The last scene of the short is the message I really wanted the audience to take away. Despite everything that Cristina and Monica had been through, they found hope in standing up for one another. I think that what just happened with Harvey Weinstein feels like the continuation of what I wanted the audience to read into the open ending.
ABBATESCIANNI: How did you work on Regen Wilson’s role on set?
VALLEJOS: Regen is a particularly experienced actor. He was extremely prepared, we didn’t have the resources to rehearse or even have a table read, so the performances developed very organically. He came to the set full of ideas and his contribution was crucial to bring Mr. Reynolds’ character to life. And, most importantly, he never judged his role, despite being so drastically different from him.
ABBATESCIANNI: Why did you also decide to star in the film? Did you want to make your message even more personal?
VALLEJOS: My intention, starting from the inception of the project and all the way through the writing process, was to act in the film. This was definitely a very personal project and I never hesitated to be in front of the camera. Being behind the camera was a decision that came later, after a male director that I approached wanted to alter the tone and the voice of the film and tried to push me out of my own project. That’s when I realized that the film I’d envisioned was going to be directed by myself.
ABBATESCIANNI: How would you judge the current state of equality in your country of origin’s film industry? How are things changing?
VALLEJOS: That’s a tough question to answer! I love my country, but I recognize that there is still a major lack of diversity in the Argentinian film industry. I have indigenous blood, from the native tribe of Mapuche, and I still don’t see anyone who looks like me in film or on television there. I left my country when I was 17, so I can’t really say if things are changing or not but I dream of being part of that change.
ABBATESCIANNI: How did your crew contribute to bringing your artistic vision to life?
VALLEJOS: I don’t think I’d have made this film without them. As a first-time director, Me También was in many ways my film school. My director of photography Jorel O’Dell was a great collaborator, who earned the Best Cinematography award at Los Angeles’ DTLA Film Festival, along with the master of the invisible art – my editor Brett M. Reed – and my fabulous composer, Nuno Malo. We made a great team and I hope to work with them again in the future.
ABBATESCIANNI: What initiatives do you think may be successful to implement equality and give more exposure to women in film?
VALLEJOS: The simplest and most impactful initiative is to just give opportunities to female filmmakers. To believe in their talent and their stories. The sensibility, intuition and strength that a woman can bring to a project is invaluable.
ABBATESCIANNI: What women filmmakers from the present and the past do you find inspiring?
VALLEJOS: Definitely Ava DuVernay, especially because of how brave and determined she was to change the trajectory of her career from publicist to storyteller and with such an original voice. Then, Kathryn Bigelow for sure, because of the types of complex stories she chooses to tell and her impeccable taste. Finally, Mira Nair, for her passion for storytelling and for doing it with such little support and resources. Her wisdom and love for filmmaking really inspire me.
ABBATESCIANNI: Are there any new projects you’re working on? What kind of themes would you like to explore in your next endeavors?
VALLEJOS: I’ve just finished writing the script for a feature-length film, entitled It Was Written. It is about the journey of a Latin teenager, who escapes his abusive home life and finds the truth about his past and love along the way, through his poetry. It’s a very compelling story with twists and turns and I anticipate that will take your breath away. I’m kind of obsessed with it and can’t wait to bring it to life. I’m also developing a pilot for a limited series, called Lady J. It revolves around a woman struggling with infertility and her dark and unexpected metamorphosis.