INTERVIEW: Alexandra Barreto – Lady Hater at Tribeca

FANVERSATION spoke with Alexandra Barreto about her directorial debut, a short film titled Lady Hater, which will be screening at The Tribeca Film Festival in New York this weekend. Barreto wrote and directed this short film which is inspired by events in her own life.

Barreto doesn’t shy away from admitting the main character, Sam (played by the hilarious Allyn Rachel), is based on herself and grown out of introspection,” I had to take a look at myself and see some of the things I thought and had figure out why. And coming to terms with it being about my own insecurity.”

Unintentionally Barreto wrote the full length feature that would be the basis for Lady Hater, “I wrote this feature and I wrote it as an exercise for myself, just because I really was trying to figure out all these ideas in my head about me calling myself a ‘guys girl’ and what I meant when I said ‘I didn’t have female friends’. Which is a lie. I have a ton of them. I wrote it because it was on top of my mind. I didn’t assume I’d try to sell it.” But as she allowed those closest to her to read the script, “everyone who read it said ‘that’s your voice, you have to direct it’… So I started applying to director’s labs and the first one asked for a sample.”

Although experienced in the industry, Barreto did not have a director sample. Just like that, with a bit of support from her husband, she turned the feature into a short, “I wrote it really fast, I didn’t have to tear it apart. I really did just put all my thoughts out there quickly.”

Audiences who have seen the short have already had quite a few different reactions. The writer-director hopes that women “take a look at this and think, ‘oh, this is a fall out of, kind of, the societal pressures that have been put on women that we’ve all kind of accepted, and in turn, sort of, have put them on each other and on ourselves.'” Adding that “Sometimes we are our own worst enemies,” because there are many ways to be a woman and we should be “accepting everybody, accepting all versions of womanhood.”

As for men, she noted amusingly that she “screened this for friends and family, and the men ended laughing way harder than all the women. I don’t know if it’s because they — it’s been very interesting to see men coming out of the woodwork and loving this movie… I want them to see maybe how ridiculous even their ideas about what a woman should be – that a woman should be dressed nicely for them, or you know have their nails done and hair done for them…. We don’t need a mansplainer thing, we can have our own ideas we don’t need theirs all the time.”

The reactions from male audiences may have been surprising, it reminded Barreto of specific times “where I put something on, and I have this idea of what I’m supposed to be, as a woman. And often times my husband will be like, ‘you don’t need to wear that, you look sexy in your sweat pants’ – And I’m sorry that I keep going back to clothes and whatnot, but it seems like easiest, visually, to kind of represent what I’m talking about – I think [men] get to laugh at it because they can see it. They can maybe see how, maybe how my husband watches me and can see how I’ve fallen prey to society values.” Whereas female audiences tend to be “a little more critical of it, trying to figure it all out.”

A feature version is still the plan for Barreto, who revealed a few differences between the short and feature version: “The characters, Sam and Premstar, are in the feature. [But] Sam has more of a meltdown, where she’s actually even harsher than she is in [the short]. She’s like really struggling with it, like just to the point where she doesn’t have any female friends. She’s a comedian and, on stage essentially bashes women, does a rant like you see in the short. And then her mom sends her off to a spa and that’s where the whole short takes place, what ends up being a female goddess retreat.”

The cast of Lady Hater is quite diverse and it’s by design, “That was very important to me to have diversity, for many reasons. But mostly because if I’m going to show one type of woman then that does nothing for us. Then I’m doing a disservice, I’m doing the same shit that everybody does. I knew Natalie [Zea]; Allyn [Rachel] I had met once, so those were the two leads. All the other women — I threw a wide net out to all of my friends and just asked them ‘please send me your most talented friends who are actors’ and I wanted to make sure they’re all actors too. I didn’t want the room to just be extras, just to fill a room. I wanted to really make sure they could bring something to it.” Adding, “we got really lucky to get 13 people. And it was so fast, I mean we did it in just a couple weeks.”

Being able to pull together a script, cast, and then actually shoot and edit a project in less than a month is quite an achievement. Although she did not get selected for the specific director’s lab, Barreto’s short is going to be at Tribeca (so it all worked out). And she intends to apply for more labs after the festival.

Being the kind and professional woman that she is, Barreto was generous enough to share some advice for up-and-coming writers and directors, “I would say, just do it. Meaning, for me, it was so scary to enter into both realms [Writing and Directing], but once I just jumped in and did it, it felt so natural – especially coming from the acting world and producing world – it’s like all this time being in front of the camera, and being on set, it was to me, such a natural thing to move into writing and directing.”

If you don’t have any writing experience, she doesn’t think that should stop you. The advice is the same, “in general, write. Write. Write bad scripts. Write them and throw them away. I wrote a ton of bad scripts that only one or two people read because I refused to share them with anybody else. But they led me to finally writing the script I was really proud of.”

As for the script at hand, Lady Hater, “at the end, what I love about this is every time I show it, especially in a group, it does spark a conversation. Everybody does start trying to look deeper into it. I’m very proud of that, for a 7-minute short to accomplish that.”

Lady Hater is screening at Tribeca.
Visit the website for tickets and times. Keep up with Lady Hater on Twitter and Instagram.

— Yael Tygiel

Interview edited for length and clarity.

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