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Life & Work with Anali Cabrera

Today we’d like to introduce you to Anali Cabrera.

Hi Anali, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
Cracked sidewalks, withered palm trees, and gated homes—East Los Angeles, California is the place I call home. Back in high school, I longed to find film fellowship programs that would provide me the resources to explore my growing interest in filmmaking. Telling my Mexican parents that I wanted to pursue film was an anomaly to them, and resulted in their little-to-no support in these endeavors. Fortunately, at age 15, I found Ghetto Film School and Youth Cinema Project, both nonprofit programs that aim to increase minority representation in the entertainment industry. After being taught the basic fundamentals of filmmaking and making films of my own, I realized my passion for filmmaking and applied to film school for college.

Skip to four years later, I am now a graduate at UCLA’s film school, where I recently completed a senior thesis film. With the help of my internship and production experience, I managed to produce, finance, and direct my first large(ish) scale film that is soon to go through a festival run! This is just the beginning of my directorial journey as I continue to create films that shed light on the colorful fabrics of my family’s Mexican culture.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It definitely hasn’t always been a smooth road pursuing my aspirations in film. During my first year at UCLA, I knew I had to get an internship if I wanted to network, but I soon realized many first-time internship opportunities are unpaid—a reality that I knew would be difficult for a low-income college student like myself. In November of 2018, I started working at UCLA’s Housing Mail Center, where I organized and handed out mail to student and faculty residence. Of course, this job was nowhere near the experience I needed to gain experience within the industry, but the reality was I needed money to pay for my college expenses. Every time my department chair would send internship emails, I would immediately scavenge through the list and find paid opportunities that would allow me to gain experience while being financially stable. I soon realized that companies wouldn’t hire me for paid gigs if I didn’t have previous internship experience. So, in February of 2020, I decided to work an unpaid internship and my regular job at the mail center simultaneously.

At my internship, I was obligated to commit 16 hours a week and 20 to 25 hours at the Housing Mail Center. For nearly three months, I committed to these work hours while still being a full-time student. As tiresome as this time was, it was the step I needed to get new internship opportunities. After having a few unpaid internships under my belt, I was able to get internships at A24 and Apple. These internships helped me tremendously in understanding the industry from a professional level, and ultimately taught me leadership skills that I’ll forever use.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I recently directed a film, On Slauson, loosely based on my uncle who joined an East Los Angeles gang at 14. In this particular story, we follow a young boy Miguel who realizes his mom is visiting him at his waitering job at the same time as his gang-member friends. He must serve both tabes while trying to hide his affiliation with the gang from his mother. I find myself wanting to focus on writing more stories within the same coming-of-age genre as On Slauson. Films like Call Me by Your Name, Real Women Have Curves, Mid90s, have always interested me as they so gracefully draw young people to the lives of precarious people who are dealing with the same prevalent issues as them. I particularly revolve my stories around Latinx culture, my family and my community. I tap into the stories within my family’s history—stories about immigration, sexual identity, abuse, loss of identity, all within the context of a Mexican-American family.

I am very proud of my thesis, On Slauson, considering it was the first film I directed at such a large scale. I directed films before then, but I always felt like I limited my creative and directorial capabilities due to a lack of resources. Now, I understand the importance of financing and crowdfunding in order to achieve the vision I have. What sets my vision apart from others is that it comes from the perspective of a Latina who grew up in a first-generation household. We don’t have enough of this perspective in Hollywood, or in fact, we don’t have enough marginalized voices working in Hollywood. Including myself, we have powerful, profound stories to tell that significantly diversify the industry narratively.

We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
My favorite childhood memory, by far, is my weekly visits to my grandmother’s home in East LA. My grandma never had cable, so I would sit in her living room watching PBS Kids. I remember watching Sesame Street, Maya and Miguel, and Clifford: The Big Red Dog, always with a bowl of fruit by my side. My grandma never failed to spoil me with fresh fruit my grandpa picked from the market. It was the perfect way to spend summer for me.

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Image Credits
Sarah Rodriguez Cole McCarthy Kyle Reingold Provencio

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