Reel Women: Emily Esperanza, Filmmaker

Emily Esperanza (photo: Michael Egon Schiele)

Emily Esperanza (photo: Michael Egon Schiele)

Emily Esperanza is a filmmaker and artist whose passions lie in discarded aesthetics, liminal spaces, guerrilla approaches, and unconventional narrative.

An advocate of rebellious voices in cinema, Emily is the founder and a co-curator of WRETCHED NOBLES, a Chicago-based immersive monthly film/video screening shorts program.

Co-produced by Full Spectrum Features, Emily’s new film, Make Out Party, premiered earlier this year at an event co-presented by FSF and Chicago Underground Film Festival. To keep up with upcoming Make Out Party screenings click here.

Emily is currently developing a new project and continuing to work on Wretched Woman, a collection of short films and videos that utilize duration and soundscape to explore female sexuality/sensuality, archetype, and gendered spaces through a series of non-verbal video tableaus. Emily Esperanza’s Wretched Woman will screen at Chicago Filmmakers Saturday, June 30th. Tickets available here.



How did you get into the business? When I was a kid I was really taken by old school Golden Age Hollywood and wanted to grow up to be an actor. I did theatre and eventually got a talent agent. My experience with the agency was negative and I was typecast because of my features, Mexican heritage, and last name. After a particularly insulting audition, I quit the agency. I had learned editing software in a summer camp some years before and knew how to use video cameras. When I was sixteen, I got into Oxbow, a semester-long high school arts program in Napa on scholarship. It was there that I discovered film as my medium and life path.

What obstacles have you faced specifically because of your gender? Everything from lower pay to sexual harassment to being talked over, talked down to, fighting to be credited for my work, being treated certain ways because of how I present or dress, and so on. Honestly, there are too many examples and it’s a brutal and depressing list. The system has never worked to benefit more than a small percentage of very privileged people. Because of this, I generally tend to operate outside of traditional structures, seeking out like-minded collaborators and artists to work with.

Best thing to ever happen to you to remind you that you are a woman? Coming to realize my gender identity isn’t something that needs to be defined by anyone other than me.

Work you are most proud of? My new film Make Out Party, for sure. I am so proud of the cast and crew and everyone who helped make it. We had very limited resources and no budget. The amount of energy, innovation, dedication, and talent that everyone put into the film was insane. Make Out Party is an absolute collaboration and is a testament to the strength of individuals from different communities working together towards a shared goal.

How have professional attitudes towards women evolved during your career? When I was a teenager trying to pursue acting, there weren’t many roles available to a person like me. A lot has changed in the industry since then and there is a now demand for different perspectives. There are more opportunities for women, POC, and LGBTQ+ people, which is exciting because there are many untold stories waiting to be heard. There’s still a long way to go but individuals and companies are paying more attention to inclusivity with casting, hiring, and storytelling. I’m very excited for the younger generation who are taking a stance against discrimination, violence, and exhausted paradigms and demanding their future.

Trapped on an island what essentials must you have? A Moleskine and pen, a machete, fresh water, my hat, Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives.

If you had a time machine, what would you say to your past self? July 8th, 2016 winning lottery numbers 8 – 19 – 20 – 55 -73 – 5.

If you could have a one-on-one with anyone who would it be? And why? Eartha Kitt, probably. She’s a badass.

To see the up-to-date list of Reel Women, click here.