INTERVIEW WITH 2023 SPRING SHORT FILM FUND GRAND PRIZE WINNER EDDIE MUJICA

Logline: A surreal, dark comedy about mental health stigma in the Latinx community. At his first therapy session, Rafael Reyes relives the anxious thoughts from the night of his 30th birthday.

The 2023 Short Film Fund spring season’s Grand Prize Winner Eddie Mujica shares his plans for filming his winning short film script LOCO and his aspirations for the film.

Tell us a little about your short. What is it about and how did you come up with the idea?

LOCO is a surreal, dark comedy that’s “based on a true story of false thoughts.” It’s inspired by my past experiences with severe anxiety and panic attacks (see: the majority of my twenties). The short aims to show what it’s like to go through your day on the brink of a breakdown while trying to hide it from friends and family in a culture that doesn’t talk about it. Because of my comedic background (and personal growth – thanks therapy!) I wanted to play with externalizing the “crazy” thoughts I would have in a fun but grounded way. The idea was originally developed as a pilot in HBO’s Writing Fellowship and then I rewrote it as a short.

What made you want to enter it into the Short Film Fund?

I entered purely out of necessity. I don’t have the means or resources to cover the full production budget of what is my most ambitious film to date. My previous shorts were all self-funded and made on little-to-no budgets but this one requires a full crew, multiple days/locations, etc. So, I’ve spent the past few months applying to various funds and fellowships in hopes of securing funding.

How did you feel when you found out that you won?

I honestly couldn’t believe it. It felt like a college acceptance letter after several rejections. It boosted morale, for sure. I literally jumped out of my home office into the living room, yelling “I won!” to my wife. I forgot the repairman was there – he just looked up like, “Ok…” He probably thought I was playing online poker or something.

Associate Director, 2023 CBS Showcase

Are you looking to direct your short film?

I am! I’ve acted in all the other shorts I’ve done but with this one, I want to focus solely on directing as I want to “level up” in my career as a filmmaker. Also, the material is so close to home that it’s probably best I let someone else play this fictionalized version of me.

Do you want to develop the script further? If so, what will you look to change?

I’m set on the short film version of the script but am always thinking about the original pilot and the potential series. My hope is that this project can serve as a proof of concept for a larger, very specific but incredibly relatable story.

What do you feel will be your biggest challenge in terms of getting your script off paper and onto film?

Besides my own imposter syndrome?! Funding is honestly the biggest hurdle. Getting this award is a huge step in bringing this film to life, now we just need to secure the rest. Once we have that, I’m very confident in the abilities of the team we’ve assembled to make it a reality.

Do you think about the practicalities of filming when you write? If so, how has that changed your writing

Writers Room, Gordita Chronicles (HBO Max)

process, or have you always thought that way?

Totally! I’ve always thought that way. I used to make movies as a kid with my parents’ bulky, VHS camera so I was already thinking visually before I ever picked up a pen/pencil. I’ve been told my scripts are very visual and I can usually see the specific shots fairly clearly when I write. At the same time, my experience working in writers’ rooms, on projects like the CBS Showcase, and even making my own shorts has taught me to think practically and economically. What can I cut or tweak? What do I absolutely need, and then, how can we do it safely without breaking the bank?

Do you have any thoughts/preferences on camera format, aspect ratio, crew, location, and anything else for the production?

I lean on the strengths of my incredible Director of Photography Kelsey Talton and producer Lauren Bancroft. We’ve all worked together in the past and they’ve always helped with assembling a kick-ass crew, finding amazing locations, and making things look great.

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What are your aspirations for the film once it’s completed? Certain film festivals? Help with getting a feature off the ground, etc.?

The goal with this film is to do the festival circuit, from the Latino-centric fests that have been such a joy to be a part of in the past, to the big ones I’ve always had my eyes on – like Sundance and SXSW. I feel my first films established me as an emerging writer/filmmaker and I’m ready to show what I can do on a bigger scale, hopefully opening doors to more opportunities. With this specific story, I also hope to spark conversations about mental health stigma in our community and potentially help others who may be in the middle of their own mental health journey.

Do you have any advice for upcoming screenwriters looking to direct their own material, or find a producer/director for their short script?

One of my favorite sayings (and artwork by Arturo Torres) is “Shoot Your Shot.” In our case, it’s quite literal. Especially for those in underrepresented communities – if we don’t believe in ourselves, who will? Start with the stories you can do yourself or with the help of a few friends. Making my own stuff has always led to some good and working with cool, like-minded people (whether friends or friends of friends) has brought about lasting creative partnerships. Find other up-and-coming peers who are making stuff you like and connect with them!

Are there any lessons you’ve learned from your previous projects that will help you going forward with making your short film?

Maybe this is my improv background talking, but two things: “Follow the fun” and “Don’t be a dick.” Some of my favorite moments in previous projects are things that were created on set, whether through a collaborative moment or an idea someone brought to the table that wasn’t on the page. Even though writing can be incredibly isolating, filmmaking itself is such a collaborative process. You have to remember that everyone is there to help bring your silly, little idea to life so be kind to them!

Eddie Mujica is a Cuban-American writer, director, and Emmy-winning producer from Hialeah, Florida. An alumnus of The Second City in Chicago, Eddie has 10+ years of improv and sketch comedy experience. He traveled with The Second City Touring Company and wrote/performed in two Second City e.t.c. revues before being flown out to screen test for SNL. Eddie moved to Los Angeles after being selected for the 2016 CBS Diversity Showcase.

His short film DREAMER was an Imagen Award finalist (noted for its social commentary on racial identity) and named one of Vulture’s Best Comedy Videos of 2018, while UNO POR UNO: THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS won Best Short at HBO’s NYLFF (2019) and Cine Sony’s “New Voices” (2019).

In addition to having staffed on shows for NBC, Peacock, and HBO Max, Eddie was most recently Associate Director of the 2023 CBS Showcase, where he helped helm the production of 15 sketches shot over 3 weeks.

 


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