How did the concept for Dear Lemon Lima come about?
Re-reading passages from my childhood diary inspired me to write and direct a story that encourages love and kindness. The diary is a rainbow-studded, tragic, and funny compilation of letters written to my imaginary best friend, Lemon Lima. These sticker-clad pages became the heart of my first feature film. It was a delight to create and capture this magical world through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl, using a sherbet color palette, sweeping wide-screen aspect ratio and infusing the world with love and kindness. The film inspires the notion that every human connection deserves the honesty, love, and compassion with which a 13-year-old girl embraces the world.
How much of it is from real-life experience?
A couple of years ago, my ex-boyfriend stopped talking to me because he was scared that everything he said would end up in Dear Lemon Lima. He was probably right. I find it's cathartic to write from life experience. Dear Lemon Lima is a collection of my emotional truths, servicing a story that is essentially about learning the true meaning of heartbreak.
The most gratifying dialogue I write is plucked from life experience. My sister's ex-boyfriend literally said, "Say you are a baker, and you make cupcakes for a living. And then you quit. And then you make them again. And then you quit again. You are still a baker." Neither of us still really knows what he meant, but Philip Georgey, the lead love interest in Dear Lemon Lima, certainly does.
When you write from real life, how do you discern what to include and what to eliminate?
In the first drafts, I included all of my personal experiences that were relevant to the subplots in the film—heritage, first love, heartbreak, alienation, prejudice. Two months before production, I went through the script and slashed anything that was two arm lengths away from the protagonist's journey. It's kind of like Jenga, if I can pull out a piece and still have the structure intact, then no matter how shiny and smooth that piece is, it's a memory.
What was you favorite part of the process when making this film? Your greatest challenge?
I love production, so translating the film from script to screen has been the most gratifying part of the process. I adored casting and finding kids who created certain nuances, making the audience fall in love with all of the characters.
The greatest challenge was maintaining high production value on a low budget. The protagonist Vanessa sees her life like it's
There are so many films from the male point-of-view, were there any specific challenges in getting a film with a female
I am always amazed by how many coming-of-age films about teenage girls are directed by men. Although I am a fan of many of those films, I felt that so much of the nuance from my personal experience was being dismissed—doodling, dreaming of unicorns, rainbows, and plastering your Lisa Frank notebook with hearts. Historically, women are natural storytellers, so I believe we should have the same presence in the film industry.
Throughout the process, there were obstacles, as with any film, but there are also some amazing programs that are springing up to help women and minority filmmakers. Several years ago, I participated in Tribeca All Access, which introduced me to agents, financiers, and creative executives. After that experience, I was fortunate to receive a grant from National Geographic All Roads, which enabled me to direct a short version of the film.
In your writing, how do you approach the blank page?
Before I start writing, I compile the soundtrack for the movie and collect photographs that capture the essence of the story. These media are what I fall back on when the cursor morphs into a stick figure, flashing on the page.
How did you keep the sincere quality that makes the film so special?
I literally threw all of my heart into Dear Lemon Lima. I have a deep love and respect for all of my characters and I stay far, far away from caricatures. Great characters will guide you through your script.
This interview was originally posted on Write On! Online.