It is Women’s History Month and 2020 has already ushered in some historical achievements for women. This year brought in a record number of women on a presidential ballot, reviving the hope that maybe one day soon, a woman will hold the highest public office. In addition to politics, the Me Too movement brought Harvey Weinstein to trial for countless crimes against women. Women have been raising their voices and fighting to be heard for centuries and they get louder with every year. For International Women’s Day, AIPT interviewed screenwriter Valeria Vallejos. In addition to writing Me También, Vallejos also stars in and directs this short feature film. Me También. The short film shows how the Me Too movement brings women together and the extreme importance of supporting one another. Vallejos discusses Me También, her background, and the value of getting your voice heard.
AIPT: You left home at an early age and have accomplished so much. What motivated you to pursue such extensive studies in the arts, language, and business?
VALERIA VALLEJOS: My primary intention was definitely always to study the arts, I wanted to become an actress from a very early age. I moved to Paris at 17 and despite knowing a bit of French, it didn’t take long to realize that the language was going to be a real barrier. I applied to La Sorbonne and didn’t get in, so that really motivated me to learn French. When I decided to move to the States, I knew the same obstacle would apply with English. So my study in business really served as my English school as well as a great way to connect with the culture. And after all, this is SHOW BUSINESS. But I wouldn’t say I’ve accomplished so much, I’m just getting started.
AIPT: How did your experiences lead you to a career in writing?
VALLEJOS: I never planned to become a writer, my experiences pushed me to this career. Not only my own experiences, but those of countless fascinating human beings I’ve encountered around the globe. I’ve always been a collector of stories, I have them all in my mind and it’s just a matter of determining which I can bring to fruition.
AIPT: The Me Too movement is largely to do with speaking out and standing in solidarity with other survivors. What aspects of the movement did you hope to illuminate with Me También?
VALLEJOS: That this movement crosses all racial and socioeconomic barriers, we are all living a common experience as women. No matter where you come from or what job you do, we must all stand together in order to change the mentality of our society.
AIPT: One of the things I noted in the film was an undercurrent of silence, which I found particularly impactful. A lot is said with looks. Was this something you were intentionally aiming for in the direction?
VALLEJOS: That’s a great observation. Absolutely, that was my intention and it was a very risky one, but I will continue doing even more as I believe human beings say more with our looks and physicality than with words. I believe filmmakers and actors that allow those silences to exist, come from a place of confidence and truth in their craft.
AIPT: You have lived all over the world. Why did you choose Los Angeles as your setting?
VALLEJOS: Indeed, I’ve lived in Africa, Europe, Asia and America. But honestly Los Angeles is really a true amalgam of all those places… also I’m based in Los Angeles and frankly, we didn’t have the budget to even think of shooting anywhere else.
AIPT: You have a great cast. Both you and Katherine Romine give stellar performances and Regen Wilson is terrifying as Mr. Reynolds. Some scenes are particularly hard to watch given the subject matter. Did you find any scenes particularly difficult from the acting perspective?
VALLEJOS: Yes, the scene in the bathroom after Cristina was raped was particularly difficult for me as a survivor and an actress, and honestly wearing the director hat at the same time… it wasn’t easy. It was a dark place and I felt conflicted, I wanted to go there but I was afraid at the same time, but I did it for the sake of the story.
AIPT: The scene where Monica is in the boardroom with the men is interesting in terms of sound and atmosphere. It’s a bit scary and chaotic. Can you give some insight into the directing of this scene?
VALLEJOS: This scene was actually based on a real story, it happened at a production company in LA. When the victim told me the story, long before I wrote the script, I imagined men behaving as they would in a bar, but doing it in an office. So I directed them that way. I encouraged the men to let themselves go, but it was really one of the more challenging scenes to direct.
AIPT: You did not originally plan to direct Me También. How would you describe Me También and the work you put in to complete this project?
VALLEJOS: It’s interesting how the circumstances pushed me to direct the project for the sake of the story. I’d handed the script to a male director and producer who wanted to make changes, eliminating those precious silences, and honestly giving the film a masculine tone. When I objected they tried to push me out of my own project. So I decided to do it myself, and along the way realized that being a writer/director is my calling. It’s funny: while making a film about female empowerment, I had men try to take my power away, but in the end, thank God, I gained more than I ever would have dreamed… feels like a script right?
AIPT: What do you hope the audience can take away from this film?
VALLEJOS: Hope and the power of agreement between women. To inspire the audience to break the chains of harassment and abuse that we’ve endured for generations. That’s the power we have as filmmakers, to change the world in our own way.
AIPT: You’re developing a pilot, just finished a screenplay, and starred alongside David Arquette in Domino: Battle of the Bones. Do you see more directing in your future?
VALLEJOS: Absolutely, I’m planning to direct my first feature screenplay, “It was Written”. It’s the journey of a Latin teenager, who escapes his abusive home life, finding the truth about his past and love along the way, through his poetry. It’s a very compelling story with twists and turns and that I anticipate will take your breath away. I’m kind of obsessed with it, can’t wait to bring it to life.