Premstar Santana on Acting and Filmmaking in Hollywood
As an actor, filmmaker and feminist, Premstar Santana is well versed in the challenges women face in the film industry.
“There’s a handful of people who end up creating their own path out of necessity.” Santana explains.
When Santana first moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting, she quickly realized she didn’t want to succumb to the standard Hollywood mold.
“[I thought,] I am not going to fit into this cookie cutter idea of how an actor is going to survive in L.A.,” Santana says. “[I was] looking at breakdown after breakdown for roles that were all based on ‘sexy this, sexy that. Nothing where I thought, ‘oh my god,’ that struck me like, ‘I’d love to play this role.’”
Available roles were mostly based on the woman’s looks or lacked dynamic qualities. So, Santana entered the other side of the industry and started making her own films in order to showcase her acting skills.
“That was a huge transition for me,” Santana says. “I never wanted to stop acting—and I have not—because it’s my one true love.”
The World of Indie Film
Santana started on the filmmaking side by creating a series of short, experimental films titled Her Changing Faces. The series presents a variety of portraits, with each “face” expressing its own process and journey. The website notes, “Each is a unique celebration of life, and of the female experience.” Since then, Santana has worked on several independent films and shorts.
“My world is indie film. When people come together and decide to let go of their egos and dedicate everything in them to a project—it is probably one of the most magical experiences.” Santana says. “There’s something about starting from just an idea and becoming words on paper, a script, actors, a crew. And then it’s a ‘we have this much money, but fuck it, we can do this’ attitude.”
When asked if she had any advice for someone starting out in the industry, Santana discussed the pressure to act a particular way.
“There’s your way. I think trusting your intuition and tapping into your own inner strength will get you very far in this industry,” she says.
Santana is Creative Director/Founder of the Moonfaze Feminist Film Festival, which highlights independent works of feminist filmmakers from around the globe.
“You want people to see your work. … So I was struck by the idea of a one night evening event,” Santana says. “I knew there were other feminist filmmakers out there that need a safe space to have their voices heard. It was one of those things where every cell in my body was like ‘you have to do this.’”
Uncertain where to start, Santana created a Moonfaze website and initiated a dialogue about the project across social networking sites. She reached out to event spaces and ultimately joined forces with CEO, Co-founder and Chief of Marketing for LA Mother, Frances Vine.
“The reason I started Moonfaze is the lack of roles for women. I wanted to promote and push the filmmakers who were making those roles for women, myself included,” Santana says.
Santana and Vine had a similar vision for the event and their collaboration lead to a 2015 festival that exceeded Santana’s expectations.
“It was way bigger than I ever could have imagined,” Santana notes. “It was a dream come true.”
This year’s Moonfaze will continue its mission to shed light on the inequalities faced by women, transgendered people and people of color. To keep with Moonfaze’s goal to share “Her Story,” all accepted films must have a female lead character. Submissions are open to feminist filmmakers regardless of location or gender identity.
Santana adds, “Anyone can be a Moonfaze feminist!”
Instead of a one-day event, the 2016 film festival will take place across four days this December. It will mainly focuses on short films, but one day will highlight feature films as well.
On Current Films
In the film industry, it’s impossible to ignore the lack of female-focused content. Premstar Santana offered Mad Max: Fury Road as an example of a recent powerful female lead.
“She had barely any words to say, but it was all in her acting,” Santana says of Charlize Theron’s performance. “The guy character was basically a puppy next to her.”
Aside from the need for more women-driven content and leading roles, Santana addressed another issue.
“I’m all about the one strong female lead in film, but one thing that’s lacking is seeing women—more than one. And not just the broken, fragile female,” Santana says.
She also discussed her appreciation for Lena Dunham’s work in an industry that gravitates toward one body-type. Santana hopes the industry will soon embrace projects with female leads that are more representative of viewers.
“When I’m watching a movie, I want to see someone that looks like me, and that’s what a lot of women feel.”
As for what’s up next for Santana, her current focus is on acting, filmmaking, and running this year’s Moonfaze Feminist Film Festival.
Santana explains, “[My workload] is crazy, but I feel it’s the only way I know how to work. … This year my goal is to have more of a structured schedule!”
Santana and her husband have been submitting their short sci-fi thriller SEER to festivals and have plans to make it a feature film. Santana revealed there is also a Moonfaze production company in the works.
“There are so many things down the line. … I’m excited to keep shedding light on Her Story.”