Your new movie Sirena's
Gallery - in a few words, what's it about?
It's about an art gallery owner coming back from a research trip in El Salvador
only to find that her husband has killed himself. Just as she's learned
this, the Covid lockdown happens. She's forced to pay for his funeral and
pivot her business online, all while processing her overwhelming feelings
Quite obviously, Sirena's
Gallery was informed by the Covid-19 lockdowns - so to what extent
was the film based on your own experiences during that time, and was the
concept of the movie a direct result of the lockdowns or have you dreamed
it up in parts at least pre-Covid?
dreamt up a lot of it pre-Covid and itís truly a work of fiction. Iíve
never been a gallery owner or widow. During my MFA, I had a campus gallery
to myself. I spent hours and weeks and ultimately a couple of months
re-tooling and installing my thesis exhibition. It really put me in the
mindset of a gallerist and how hard that job must beóor at least from
what I imagined from what I knew about the art market. By the time
lockdown happened, I already had the character and general story in mind.
The conditions of the pandemic forced me to refine it, such as not having
on-set cast, but I worked with those constraints.
Other sources of
inspiration when writing Sirena's
before lockdown, I finished making a short film called Bottled. It's about
a young woman grieving the death of her grandfather and finding herself
desperate to communicate with him. The concept is actually quite simple.
There's only one on-screen actor (me) and one off-screen one (Deniz
Ataman). I didn't know it at the time, but creating that film prepared me
to fine-tune the story for Sirena's
You just have to talk about the art
shown in Sirena's
Gallery for a bit, and have you created these artwork especially
for the film or made them for their own sake? And what can you tell us
about your artistic style and influences?
made some of these pieces while teaching in-person art workshops at a
human services organization before the pandemic. Several came from Zoom
workshops I began hosting for the organization during quarantine. But the
bulk of the pieces were made during film production. The style of art
shown in Sirena's
Gallery is representative of my small, simple
watercolors from that period. They are abstracted figures and very
colorful, sometimes garish, and I make use of mixed media: Ink, pencil,
What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
wanted the story to be emotionally driven and resonant. More invested in
poetics than plot, I hoped to draw the viewer into Sirenaís life of the
mind. Watching the film should feel like stepping into someone elseís
nightmare or fever dream.
also play the lead in Sirena's
Gallery - so what can you tell us about your character, what did
you draw upon to bring her to life, and have you written her with yourself
in mind from the get-go?
is thoughtful but pragmatic. Sheís also highly self-sufficient and
resourceful. Iíd like to think these are all qualities I possess to some
degree. Thatís one of the reasons I wrote Sirena for myself: I knew I
could rely on myself to play the part. Unlike me at this point in my life,
Sirena is timid about her art. Itís something she very nearly gave up
altogether. I was inspired by a former classmate who was almost a decade
older than me at the time. She had stopped painting for years and resolved
herself to commercial graphic design. Things changed when she got bored at
work and began making digital illustrations that turned to animations.
They had nothing to do with her job. After committing more and more to
this hobby, she decided to return to her art practice.
Do talk about the rest of your
cast, and why exactly these people?
are just buddies! A couple are professional actors in New York City, but
most of them are other kinds of artists. I basically chose folks who were
interested and available. Most were ones I was communicating with via text
or social media during quarantine, anyway.
You also have to
talk about the gallery this was filmed in, what was it like filming there,
and how did you find the place even?
I was awarded a solo residency at 1708 Gallery in my former college town of
Richmond, VA. They had an idea for how to provide studio space for
selected artists during quarantine and I benefitted from it. It was a
contactless experience, whereby I had the gallery to myself. I'm pretty
comfortable working on my own and, despite the isolation, relished it.
During a time when New York City felt so hopeless, I was glad I could
escape for a couple of weeks. I had lost my studio space because of the
pandemic. Words cannot express my gratitude for having a place to make art
A few words about
the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
It was me! In the gallery! By myself! I only had the person I was
quarantining with in there very briefly for one day. The rest of the time,
I filmed in the gallery with my DSLR and iPhone. I also set up Zoom and
FaceTime calls and recorded them on my laptop for additional footage. All
of this amounted to hours of silence, interrupted with some online
conversations here and there. Honestly, I was processing a lot of what was
happening in New York at the time. I needed those hours to think through
things, while channeling my anxiety into a creative project. The stars
aligned with that residency.
$64-question of course, where can Sirena's
Gallery be seen?
distributed by Summer Hill Films. It is or will be streamable and/or
available on Blu-ray
via Amazon, Hoopla, Tubi, Plex, Vudu, and elsewhere. Start googling, start
Anything you can tell us about
audience and critical reception of Sirena's
are digging the lo-fi! I didn't doubt my ability to move people; I've
proven that in my writing. I've received many compliments on how stirring
the story is. But I wasn't sure how audiences might react to such a simply
made, largely one-woman band film full of technical ďflawsĒ. I'm happy
to hear folks gravitate toward the stark, almost crude aesthetic. I wanted
to create a sense of intimacy with Sirena, a home video quality that
matches the frenetic energy and exhaustion of the quarantine Zoom era.
Any future projects you'd like to talk
I am currently filming the first television season of my feminist, New
York-centric talk show Badass Lady-Folk. This show originated as a podcast
and now airs on Manhattan Neighborhood Network. Watch episodes on YouTube
- @Badassladyfolk. Audio-only airs on Radio Free Brooklyn on Fridays.
Iím the co-host of Donít Mind If I Donít, a new comedy show created by
Aaron Gold. Basically, guests try to convince him to like things heís
not a fan of. Our first episode is on bagpipes and in the final stages of
post-production now. Follow along on Instagram @dontmindtheshow for
Her Garden is my next feature-length film and it's currently in
post-production. Itís about a young womanís complex relationship with
her mentally ill aunt, who believes she was kidnapped by mermaids as a
child. I'm the director and lead, acting alongside my co-star Aaron Gold.
Meagan Meehan is the writer. Jacob Baron is the cinematographer, editor,
and sound designer.
What got you into filmmaking in the first place,
and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
father is a documentary filmmaker and director photography for the news.
Both of my parents are huge cinephiles. Unsurprisingly, I started writing
my own stories and took interest in the arts from a young age. I graduated
from the VCUarts Cinema program and earned a BA in English/Creative
Writing and a certificate in Product Innovation from Virginia Commonwealth
University. During my VCU days, I interned for the Virginia Film Office
and the VCU/UR French Film Festival, which is the biggest Francophone
festival in the United States. As if that weren't enough, I had short-term
opportunities with Lifetime,
PBS, UniFrance, and
National Geographic's All
Roads Film Festival, too. This early-life foundation allowed me to spend a
few years after college working full-time and juggling my own creative
projects, such as my multimedia publication Quail Bell Magazine. Then I
got to the point where I wanted to develop more ambitious creative
projects on my own. So I applied to a single graduate program: The MFA in
Digital & Interdisciplinary Art Practice at The City College of New
York. I spent two years pursuing my own art projects, with artist videos,
short films, theatre scripts, photography, and more in the mix. I didn't
pay a dime for that excellent education and I still can't believe it. To
reward me high performance during that rigorous experience, CCNY gave me
the Helen & Sydney Jacoff Scholarship for further graduate study. I am
now in a one-year MA Oral History program at Columbia University, where I
am concentrating on non-fiction storytelling.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Sirena's
This is my first feature as director. I had directed narrative shorts,
documentaries, poetry films, music videos, film essays, and artist videos
before this point. Iím looking to realize more long-form film and TV
projects, including adapting some of my stage scripts. I was prolific
writer in college and still have so much unused material from that time.
Besides making movies, you've also
successfully tried yourself in many other artforms - so do talk about your
other artistic ventures for a bit, and how do they inform you as a
filmmaker (and vice versa)?
best known as a writer and do consider myself one first and foremost. I've
written several published books, both fiction and non-fiction. Some
greatest hits include Belladonna Magic, Desert Fox by the Sea and Hispanic & Latino
Heritage in Virginia. I've written produced stage plays. Most recently, my
drama Mi Abuela, Queen of Nightmares premiered at The Tank Theatre
in New York City in September 2023. I've written for magazines and
newspapers, such as Bustle, Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue,
The Huffington Post, Yes! Magazine, Native Peoples, etc. I founded the aforementioned
Quail Bell Magazine, which has involved a lot of writing and editing over the
years. I make paintings, sculptures, conceptual works and performances,
too. My comedy act Art Bitch is something I'm pretty excited about these
days. My visual work has been presented at the New York Transit Museum,
The Old Stone House of Brooklyn, the Queens Botanical Garden, and
elsewhere. My performance work has been presented at the Broadway Comedy
Club, The Players Theatre, The People's Improv Theatre, and beyond. I
don't see too many clear divisions between my artistic ventures, as you
call them. They are all interrelated. Many of my projects are multimedia
and generative. I'm not too interested in traditional Western borders
defining art forms. In fact, I refuse them. I make what I want to make as
an artist. Sometimes that is film. For my own soul, it's important to me
to pursue both individual and collaborative projects.
How would you describe
yourself as a director, and how as an actress?
directorial style has been described as magical, poetic, playful, and
charming. My acting has been described as intense and, while it doesn't
really show in this film, comedic. I would agree with all of those words.
actresses, artists, whoever else who inspire you?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
July, Josiane Bolasko, Louise Bourgeois, Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball,
Guillermo Del Toro, Meryl Streep, Sally Mann, Camille Henrot, Shonda
Rhimes, Nan Goldin, LaToya Ruby Frazier, David Bowie.
changes! Sabrina, Cleo from 5 to
7, Amťlie, The Dark Crystal, The Virgin Suicides and
Eternal Sunshine of the
Spotless Mind are some favorites.
... and of course, films you really
give a lot of things a chance, but I can't stand Avengers: Infinity War.
Your/your movie's website, social media,
distributor's webpage is the official site - summerhillfilms.com/sirenas-gallery/
Before the film got
distribution, I made a site at sirenasgallery.weebly.com, which I still
The Facebook page is www.facebook.com/sirenasgalleryfilm
Check out my website at
Anything else you're dying to mention and
I have merely forgotten to ask?
I'm just really happy and grateful that my work is reaching an audience.
Thanks for the support! I'm excited for new folks to experience my creations.
Thanks for the interview!