Mermaids and the filmmaker journey

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Edwin O. Smith High School hosted their second speaker series with Brazilian writer and director Joāo Dall’Stella. Currently based in Los Angeles, Dall’Stella is known for directing “Dia De Las Carpas” and the short film “Stalls.” Photo courtesy of Joaodallstella website.

Edwin O. Smith High School hosted their second speaker series with Brazilian writer and director Joāo Dall’Stella. Currently based in Los Angeles, Dall’Stella is known for directing “Dia De Las Carpas” and the short film “Stalls.” Joined by several panelists, Dall’Stella discussed being Latin American and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community in his journey as a filmmaker on March 11 through Zoom at 7 p.m. 

“What could be portrayed as negative I want to give that twist of super positive, entertaining, color, fun and comedy,” Dall’Stella said. “I think those are naturally like my tastes and what I write. I always like something with a sense of humor and I would say that my characters in my story are parts of myself at some point in my life.” 

“I always like something with a sense of humor and I would say that my characters in my story are parts of myself at some point in my life.” 

Joāo Dall’Stella, Writer and Director

Dall’Stella developed his passion for expressing creativity at a young age. He said he would constantly use his camera to record everything. He also mentioned that he had a YouTube channel in high school that served as an outlet for his creative works. Even now, he mentioned using well-known PC game The Sims to help him storyboard. There wasn’t a defining moment where Dall’Stella decided to become a filmmaker. He said it was a combination of many moments in his life that helped build the courage to pursue his career path.  

“As an artist, we’re always thinking, ‘Oh, I’m not sure if I’m good, or if talented enough or I don’t know what to do,’” Dall’Stella said. “So, little steps. It’s life you know, as an artist you have to live a little and learn from that.” 

According to Dall’Stella, moving to the U.S. and coming out as gay were big factors that shaped his filmmaking. He said his parents weren’t always supportive of his career path but moving to the U.S., coming out as gay and transitioning to adulthood in general, really allowed him to feel free and be himself.  

“That’s one of the reasons I went outside of Brazil because I feel like I couldn’t do the things that I wanted to do in Brazil because the industry is not so developed and prejudice so I think America gave this opportunity to me,” Dall’Stella said.  

“That’s one of the reasons I went outside of Brazil because I feel like I couldn’t do the things that I wanted to do in Brazil because the industry is not so developed and prejudice so I think America gave this opportunity to me.”

Joāo Dall’Stella, Writer and Director
According to Dall’Stella, his inspiration for utilizing mermaids in his story come from his hobby for fishing. In addition, it was the mermaids symbolism of freedom that really increased the author’s motivation to include them in his character, Esme’s, story. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

“Dia De Las Carpas” is a fantasy adventure movie about a young girl named Esme who is trying to escape Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to Dia De Las Carpas’s website. A boy named Jonathan discovers Esme and tries to help her escape from deportation officers. Along with the help of his friends and a local fisherman (who catches a big carp fish), Esme and her mother turn into mermaids as they jump into the water, which ultimately helps them escape from ICE. 

Dall’Stella said the inspiration behind the story was his hobby for fishing but also a news story about a big carp fish that was caught by a fisherman at MacArthur Park in Los Angeles.  Dall’Stella said the carp represented Esme. The carp was caught in the beginning but then set free just like Esme was.  

“Mermaids live in the sea, right? They have no borders, they can go anywhere. They’re magical creatures always depicted as a symbol of freedom and they’re also part of the Latin culture in Brazil and Guatemala.”

Joāo Dall’Stella, Writer and Director

“Mermaids live in the sea, right? They have no borders, they can go anywhere,” Dall’Stella said. “They’re magical creatures always depicted as a symbol of freedom and they’re also part of the Latin culture in Brazil and Guatemala. So, in the end, Esme would get reunited and be free and have a happy ending. It’s a symbol for whoever is watching and is something that kids can watch. You know, no parent wants to see a movie with their kid being mistreated, so the happy ending gives that little bit of hope.” 

With influence from movies like “E.T.” and “The Little Rascals”, Dall’Stella and screenwriter Marina Kato Hoag created “Dia De Las Carpas.” Currently, Dall’Stella is working on a few different projects, from discussing LGBTQIA+ heroes with Marvel Cinematic Universe directors to creating a gay horror franchise.  

“If you have an idea, think about the smallest way you can do that idea in your own terms like without so much money,” Dall’Stella said. “With a camera, some lights and a friend and try to do that idea in five to 10 minutes. That way, you would know if [you] enjoy it and know it’s good and you can easily sell the bigger version of that idea to somebody else. That’s what I do with all my films.” 

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