Featured Female Filmmakers – Part 32

Using Web Series To Tell Unique Stories

Web series and independent filmmaking have often gone hand in hand. As an extremely freeing and creative platform Web Series are made in all kinds of styles, formats and tell a range of different stories that sometimes wouldn’t work as well as short films or features. This weeks featured director Laura Rivas has created and self-funded a comedy web series Tiny Laughs that tells the story of Valentina & Jeff attempting to make their way in Los Angeles.

But what made Laura want to become a film director in the first place? “I knew I wanted to be a director after watching classic Mexican Golden comedic cinema icons Mario Morenos (Cantinflas) and Maria Elena Velasco  (La India Maria) that wrote, produced and directed their films. Especially, seeing behind the scenes videos of Maria Elana Velasco running a set and directing her actors. Laura explained, “What I loved about their films was how their comedic personas were universal and relatable to the public. They made me feel like everything was possible in life. Especially in a world where there is so much violence, I think it’s important to create stories that uplift the human spirit and along the way make people laugh.

The idea for Tiny Laughs was loosely based on the experiences of Laura herself and co-creator Rukshan Thenuwara as first generation immigrants in Los Angeles, CA and their struggles to make it into the industry. The series follows a queer Latina architect, Valentina, who meets a struggling Asian comic, Jeff, who’s just come out…as unemployed, their instant spark sends them on a humorous and heart-warming journey through the city of dreams.

The series features a diverse cast and this same diversity follows through to the crew. I asked Laura if this was an intentional move or simply accidental? “As first generation immigrants from Mexico and Sri Lanka it was our priority to have a diverse cast as well as diverse crew members behind the scenes,” Laura said. On the biggest days there were over 20 cast and crew required on set during shooting, which was both a struggle and a highlight during the production process. “The hardest part was scheduling the times and days where over twenty cast and crew were available to shoot.” Laura explained, “There were many highlights during production. The best highlight for me was communicating and connecting with the actors. Especially the leads James Haley and Briza Covarrubias. I love the trust and deep connection I have established with them.”

The 5 episode series took over 2 years to make from pre to post production and a large sum of Laura and co-creator Rukshan’s own savings. “We thought about crowd-funding but we did not want to be restricted on how our money would be used throughout the process or worry about delivering gifts to our donors.” she said, “We wanted to emulate how movies were created independently by artists in old Hollywood.” And it seemed to work out great because they soon landed a licensing deal with RevryTV at the end of 2019 and were selected to be a part of BronxTV’s Pride airing, which has over a million viewers. Most recently Laura has been submitting the series to festivals. “The process to submit to film festivals has been easy with the film festival platform FilmFreeway.” Laura explained, “We are delighted to be accepted to New Media Film Festival and Web Series Festival Global.”

Tiny Laughs has had a great reception from audiences so far and it is clearly a product of hard work and passionate filmmakers showcasing the success that comes from not waiting for permission to tell the stories you want to tell. “Everyone can relate to Valentina and Jeff’s characters.” Laura said, “People have been asking when the second season will come out. Hopefully soon once we can start shooting again!”

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