Seductive. Gory. Atmospheric. Supernatural.
Ella se queda is a dance horror short film with a bite like A Girl Walks Home Late At Night, the blood of Suspiria, and a shiver of Climax.
In Tijuana, Mexico, LAURA, 27, is accepted to a dance master’s program in Italy and has to accept or deny quickly. Upset by the recent breakup with her boyfriend, JOSÉ, her best friend ANA promises her a evening out in downtown bars with other friends. Throughout the evening Laura notices three very similar-looking GIRLS that are carefully watching her wherever she goes. Is one of them the girls Laura’s ex cheated her with? Distracted by these interactions and trying to make up her mind about school, she can’t make herself have fun like her friends, and is constantly annoyed by their attitudes towards her. After an encounter with José later in the night, Laura seduces him and sacrifices his body to be initiated into the dance company, whose members are vampire ballerinas– the girls she saw throughout the night.
From Marinthia: A Love Letter To Tijuana, Vampires and Dance
Ella se queda (She Stays) is a story about a young woman who has to make an important decision for her future at a time in her life full of confusion, and heartbreak. The cinematic path of this story is a reflection that questions our normality and desires through a lens of fantasy, horror, and dance. This story is an exercise on perception and gaze– what do we assume what it is that the character wants? How do people perceive us and why? How do we want to be perceived?
I was raised in Tijuana until I was sixteen. I finished high school in San Diego and when I graduated was very unhappy because I didn’t want to attend any of the colleges I was accepted to since they lacked a film program. This story comes from a time I was in emotional and educational crossroads during my first years of university. I was doing everything in my power to transfer to UCLA for film school, but kept thinking what would happen if I got in– what would happen to my friendships back home, what would I be losing being unable to go back and forth so often, why was I even visiting so much in the first place if I knew where my heart was?
The image that was the genesis of this story was a girl being bored at a bar. I think it is a very interesting juxtaposition to have someone that is in a space designed to have fun but they cannot be in that headspace because they want to be somewhere else. With Laura, and when I was at this moment in my life which I just described, it is the fear of leaving the familiar because it is all you know. You don’t know how unsatisfying life is until you’ve had enough. When I got into UCLA it was very tough on me emotionally, but a few months later I finally started making friends and a life for myself in Los Angeles. When I was comfortable enough to not go back to Tijuana as often and finally call Los Angeles my home, I sat down and wrote Ella se queda. I finally started to believe that home is where your dreams are and stopped being afraid of leaving what I used to know behind me.
This goes without saying that I love Tijuana. Like any downtown, La Revolución (the main avenue in downtown), is the heart of the city and the bar crawl that Laura and her friends go through is the classic route in La Sexta (6th street). This short film is a tribute to Tijuana and this part of town– it’s grimy but also magical. I want to capture this atmosphere on screen, to really feel the space of these places. Most of all movies and TV shows are based in Mexico City, and it is a shame that other states of the country, like Baja California, are not shown in film.
The vampire myth is rarely explored from a female point of view. When treated, a female vampire is usually a seducer who is highly objectified and without much of an arc of transformation. In this project, the vampires (all women), although they are supernatural creatures, are presented as the heroines, and the male figures, humans, are actually the real monsters. Being native to Mexico, and as this story takes place in Tijuana, I want to highlight the everyday gross remarks men tend to tell women. Although they’re not life threatening, microaggressions are exhausting– tiny actions or words that can sour your night out, and these push Laura to be initiated into an all-female vampire coven. Going further than the microaggressions themselves, this story analyzes the male psyche. José might not catcall or give Laura unsolicited requests, but he cheats on her and has the confidence to win her back with no repercussions. Of course people of all gender expressions and backgrounds can commit romantic infidelities, but we cannot ignore that these emotional abandonments are rooted in a patriarchal system, which is heightened with Mexican machista culture.
I have been in dance classes my whole life but I had a strong reconnection with the medium throughout lockdown. During it, I started accepting incorporating choreography as a tool to my creativity. I have finally started exercising this ability that I knew I always had, and have choreographed music videos and live performances for one of my best friends, Myuné (Amor Amezcua), a musician from Tijuana. I love dance as a vehicle for horror, and I wish we could see more of it on screen. When I first saw Climax by Gaspar Noé, I realized that dance could be something euphoric and nasty– something so grounding and primitive but also dream-like since it is such a physical experience that it can represent any emotional condition. Choreographing and collaborating with real dancers for this project, I will be able to show on screen the raw sinistry, catharsis, and madness that goes with the story and the vampiric myth.
My perspective as a storyteller is multifaceted and multidisciplinary. Living between two cultures, and my knowledge in various artistic backgrounds have prepared me to execute a kinetic, visually, and sonically strong narrative about the emotional storm and breakthrough one goes through in accepting your destiny. With Ella se queda, I will use all of my sensibilities as an artist to bring the authentic, surreal, and fantastical characters which I am longing desperately to see on screen. If I could hope what a viewer gains from watching my film, it would be that they’d be touched, horrified, and surprised all at the same time– because as a storyteller, visualizing these feelings are what bring me the most joy, catharsis, and aesthetic satisfaction.
Photography: In Glorious 16mm
I'm in love with movies. Living in LA, I'm spoiled enough to watch a lot of movies in theaters projected on film. I take this huge privilege seriously and make it a priority to go to a screening at least once a week. In a way, film is to me what dance is to Laura. Being at a theater is my safe haven, and without movies-- without the stories and the images I've encountered in this medium-- I wouldn't be the person I am today.
Using tangible formats come as a second nature for me as I grew up drawing and painting.
Over the years, my love for physical art has expanded within filmmaking, being enchanted by practical effects used in pre-digital cinema, and of course, by analogue cinematography. It is undeniable that there is a magic about film and physical editing or effects that cannot be reproduced by our contemporary technology.
By filming using a combination of black & white and color 16mm stock, I want to give this project the care and detail it entails when producing it with a delicate and frail format. This means that I will shoot in celluloid, edit on a flatbed and will make a physical print to project in 16mm. No digital software, no digital effects, no shortcuts.
Not only do I want this movie to feel like you're watching a classic movie, but to pay tribute of making movies the traditional way. By shooting in 16mm, Ella se queda will look and feel like a cinematic, horror fairy tale unfold within beautiful, analogue photography. And I'm excited to visualize Tijuana in a way that it has never been presented onscreen before.
Inspiration: Cléo from 5 to 7 (Agnés Varda, 1962)
The choreography will be formal but intuitive, in modern dance fashion. Laura will perform an animalistic, creature-esque style of choreography when she enters the trance of her vampire conversion. The young woman casted as Laura will be a real dancer like the rest of the vampire girl characters. Dancers are both athletes and artists, so it would be easier to work on the acting of professional ballerinas instead of training an actor to dance. Dance is one of the main pillar in this story, and I want it to be as authentic and impressive as I can display it. Through body and camera alike, my vision is to encapsulate the feeling of freedom and transcendence that dance can give you.
Inspiration: Sweet Charity (Bob Fosse, 1969)
Both sound design and music will be used in an almost strictly diegetic manner with the purpose of sticking to Laura's existence as "real to life" as possible. For the music, the songs will reflect both the type of music heard in jukeboxes like Mexican classic ballads, or rock, as well as electronic music in the dance venue at the end, but at the same time, the score will reflect Laura's headspace.
Inspiration: Sweet Charity (Bob Fosse, 1969)
As a fully independent short film, your contributions to this campaign will fully make up our production budget and make our short film a reality. We trust in you to make this project happen!
MEET THE TEAM
Writer, Director, Choreographer
Marinthia Gutiérrez was born in San Diego and raised in Tijuana, Mexico and currently resides in Los Angeles. She graduated from the UCLA Theater, Film, and Television School in 2018 with a Bachelor’s in Film, & TV, emphasizing in narrative Directing.
Marinthia is drawn to tell stories that are character-driven and introspective in an almost surreal way– she likes being close to her subjects in order to show raw emotions through highly stylized images. Her artistic sensibilities are informed by her biculturality, having immersed herself in American and Mexican media and culture throughout her entire life. Her directorial tone can be described as atmospheric magical realism.
Her directorial experience includes music videos for Lily Waters, Myuné and 16:9. She has choreographed music videos and live performances for Myuné. She is an Emerging Content Creator Initiative Scholar with NALIP and the recipient of the inaugural Standard Fantastic Fellowship. Marinthia currently works as a Writers' Assistant at Disney TV Animation.
Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Melissa has collaborated in the making of projects such as Tijuana Zine Fest, Tijuana International Photography Festival and Cinema Crushes (follow them on Letterboxd!)
She is the co-producer of TRAVESÍAS, directed by Sergio Flores Thorija (Morelia International Film Festival). As part of Violeta Cine, she is the producer and co-writer of Los Fundadores, Diego Hernández's feature debut awarded at FICUNAM, FIDMarseille and ZINEBI. His second film, Agua Caliente, premiered at FICUNAM and FIDMarseille. Melissa is currently producing the next feature film by Clemente Castor and co-produces “I'm only thirsty”, the fifth feature film by Matt Porterfield (CineMart IFFR).
As a director, her documentary in development "And everything is light inside me" has been part of the "The cinema of tomorrow" residency of Cuorum, as well as the residency Platform MX of DOCS MX.
Director of Photography
Mayela Ponce is a visual artist born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico. After obtaining a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing, she decided take a cinematography workshop to explore the audiovisual world. She fell in love with direction of photography.
Since then she has worked in different production companies in Mexico City and Tijuana as a video editor and camera operator. She has also worked as a content producer and screenwriter for Raze TV at Warner Media.
Mayela loves to experiment with film in low light environments, playing with colors and frames per second so that the viewer can experience a psychedelic, experimental delight. A true border girl like Marinthia, she believes she can capture the director's vision so that people can have a taste of Tijuana’s lifestyle with this story that has a mystical and vampire-esque touch that is a perfect match with her visual style.
Chris Friedman is a sound designer based in Brooklyn, NY. With extensive experience in narrative content, he hopes to bring his experience in world building and intimate sound design to this film.
An NYU music technology graduate, some notable projects include feature documentary Moments Like This Never Last for Vice Media and Shiva Baby, a SXSW official selection. Marinthia and Chris have history together working in tandem with Myuné crafting sound design for music videos, and share an appreciation for the same film aesthetics.
When you’re brought into the scene as the viewer, you feel what the characters are feeling. Realistic sound design plays a big role in this. Chris believes terror lies in the mundane, in quiet realism, and intends to conjure the supernatural.
This Project is Supported by the Inaugural Standard Fantastic Fellowship
Providing youth in the US/MX transborder region with resources & 6 months of mentorship to produce a short analog 16mm film.
Standard Fantastic Pictures, an artist-run production studio emerging from the front lines of cross-border politics, intersectionality, and late capitalism. Standard Fantastic’s projects are process-driven with the goal of replacing the exploitative one-way dynamic that currently & historically has shaped the US/Mexico Binational relationship with a new collaborative form of production that values Cultural over Economic Capital. By centering Transborder experiences, Standard Fantastic disrupts an existing system of marginalization and cultivates a community of inclusion; providing the resources, care, and support for projects the Hollywood film industry ignores. Standard Fantastic Pictures is where Freire and Fellini converge.
Some Final Words
My intention for this project– and overall, as a filmmaker– is to not only transport you to a place you’ve never been before, but to take you somewhere: a full atmospheric and emotional state of mind and body, where the unknown becomes familiar using the surreal and grounding perspective that I can provide as an artist.
With your support, we can make a beautiful genre-bending movie that has never been done before. This specific project needs your help because fantastical, surreal films such as this one are hard to make fully independently, specially by female, non-white filmmakers. And we need more stories like Ella se queda on screen– for the TJ/SD community, for the horror heads, for dancers, and for anyone that loves movies.
With much love,