Mariana Da Silva is an LA-based Actor, Filmmaker, Programmer and the founder of El Cine—an organization promoting diversity in film and television by engaging directly with the audience.
Mariana began acting in Spanish Soap operas in Telemundo when she was 17. When she moved to Los Angeles, it was as though she had to start all over again. She went from a world of everyone being Latin to very limited amount of roles that identified with her. I caught up with Mariana (who I'm happy to announce will be curating and hosting film nights for Supervirgo!) to get her story and opinion on diversity, being both a female and a minority in LA's biggest industry——film.
Tell me about what changed for you when you started working in Los Angeles. What helped you overcome the pressures of conforming to stereotypical roles of your culture?
When I moved to LA I began producing and writing in between auditions and shoots to keep myself busy. I became an all around better story teller because of it. I now, understood the functions of my characters in a bigger picture. However, it was always very apparent to me that in a business of not enoughs, not Latin enough, not white enough, I was always being told about what someone else's idea of my culture was vs. what it actually is. I then started programming. I realize no one really knew my culture because they have not been properly exposed to it.
Being a film buff, I started sharing films I never got a chance to see in the movie theaters, films that educated me about my culture, and other Latin cultures I didn't get to be a part of but was often asked to interpret. We have a responsibility in the film industry to watch as much as possible, so we can honor each other honestly in our stories.
The film industry in LA is huge but also extremely competitive. Out of filmmaking, acting and programming—which has been the most challenging and which has been the most successful for you?
The most challenging is Acting. I have had the privileged of working on projects that were honestly my dream scenarios where I met some of the most influential people in my life, did my most honest work and then they don't see the light of day, because of network, budget, etc. It's heartbreaking to fall in love with a role and not be able to carry it further.
Programming has been the most successful. There are so many Latin people in LA who don't feel they get to connect culturally with what is being shown or made. The energy in these screenings are undeniable and magnetic, it's far beyond me.
You told me that when producing a documentary recently you were the only woman working on set. Is that a common experience for you? Why do you think there is a lack of females making leading decisions on the production side of filmmaking?
It has not always been my experience, but when I am putting a team together, I honestly don't know many women who are in the technical aspects of production. It's why I am so excited about Supervirgo, because I don't think I have been exposed to a community of female filmmakers and I would really love to be.
What would your advice to females and minorities in the film industry that are looking to get ahead in bigger roles producing, directing, and acting?
I would say, don't be set on being one thing and be of service in some way no matter what you do. As an actor, I was set on the fact that I would audition, meet my perfect role, do that for years, and be done. It has not been that way for me, luckily, because it's made me expand into a better artist. I realize now my goal is to share stories, no matter in what format. Acting is my passion but so is my culture, having a real honest conversation about it, weather I am doing it by producing a documentary that represents progress, or showing a film with a director who took the time to contribute to it not only empowers me but many others.
What's your favorite female-directed film?
Mi Vida Loca by Allison Anders.
What's a Latin-directed film that everyone can learn from in terms of the importance of understanding culture?
Beatriz at Dinner. I think it is the best representation of the cultural differences for people who do migrate here. I've felt like an outsider in that way, and people don't realize it because the culture sort of invites you in but always reminds you you are different. It often makes you feel foreign.
In fact, the director, Miguel Arteta, couldn't fund the film until Salma came along largely because it was about a woman who was a minority.