Carlos and Kelly Gets Up Hyped for Summertime

In this edition of EMExclusives, we are going to experience the ultimate poetry slam on film this weekend with Summertime!

A spoken word poetry musical set in Los Angeles, following the lives of 27 young Angelinos as they intersect over the course of a single day. The film was developed with these 27 youth poets, all of whom served as co-writers and stars. I recently sat down with writer/director Carlos López Estrada and Executive Producer and newly-minted Disney princess Kelly Marie Tran to talk about this unique love letter of the season!

My first question goes to you Carlos, what inspired you to make Summertime your directorial debut?

Carlos López Estrada – Writer/Director (CLE): I was inspired by a poetry workshop that I got invited t about two years ago and it featured all of the poets that you see in the movie. It was two hours of them performing back-to-back poetry that essentially just explored their relationship to the communities, to their families, to the city. It is such a beautiful inspiring experience that I came back to the director of the nonprofit that they all work under and propose this idea to turn it into a movie and that was two years ago and we’re ready to put it out into the world.

We’re ready for it to explode, I agree. You two have a history together. You both worked together on Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon. So Kelly, how does it feel to be working with Carlos again in back-to-back films?

Kelly Marie Tran – Executive Producer (KMT) It’s amazing. I enjoy Carlos so much and I’m so grateful to be part of this experience. I don’t know why I am so gushing about this.

I read that you went as far as attending a GetLive workshop to learn how to write poetry. Have you gotten into the spirit of poetry and if you have can you share some of that poetry with us?

Well yes, I have gotten into the spirit of poetry. It was so life-changing and Carlos was also there. We both sorta workshopped our poems and did a performance and independently did ours on our own journeys of reading more poetry and watching our performances. It has absolutely changed my life. I’m so inspired by the poets in Summertime as well as the community that surrounds the word in which I was not aware of when I got involved with Summertime.

After seeing Summertime and the love letter to Los Angeles, it makes me want to write a love letter to Washington DC.

KMT: Dean, I’m ready! Send me your drafts, I’m ready!

We will definitely talk after our presentation here! Carlos, what inspired you to become a filmmaker? I had a feeling that you have a lot of stories to tell.

Wow, that’s a question. I haven’t been asked that in a while. There’s a handful of people, artists that I grew up feeling really connected to, whose work really affected the way that I see the world. I think that it became so important to me growing up having those people inspire me and that confirmed that I am going down the right path. I love the idea of being able to offer that same experience to other people who may be looking for those types of answers. People who want to be inspired, want to be motivated, who want to do things that they consider important. It’s crazy to think that I may be in a position where I can provide that inspiration for someone else and that’s the feeling that got me started and it’s still the feeling that keeps me going. I try to connect to that feeling for as long as I do this work because it may be the only reason why I am doing this.

Kelly, I read somewhere that “This is the first feature film role for most of the actors, and it gives them a megaphone and a space they haven’t had before” and you have done that twofold by being one of the first Asian characters in Star Wars and one of the first Asian Disney Princesses. As a society, what should we do to increase those unheard voices?

Wow, that is a big question. I will only speak for myself because I don’t feel equipped to have the answers for the world but I will say that I want to keep lending my voice to projects that are highlighting those communities that have historically been ignored. I feel that Summertime does that so beautifully.

Carlos had said this earlier but every single one of the artists in this film has so much to offer. I really do believe that this is for them the beginning of something. It is a credit to see the ways in which the way to utilize their voices after Summertime comes out and how they are able to keep making beautiful art. I guess that I don’t know the solution to the world’s problems but I know that what I am doing right now feels like hope, it is a step in the right direction and I hope to continue to do that.

Kelly, you have done it so well. With your performances in Star Wars and later Raya, you have developed a wonderful craft and an amazing job. I hope you keep it up! Carlos and Kelly, what advice would you give to aspiring actors and future filmmakers?  I will start with you, Carlos.

CEL: Go watch Summertime in theatres.

(We all laugh) That’s a start!

No, what I would say is sorta the question that all the poets ask themselves when they started to do work, the question that they encourage Kelly and me to answer when we were diving into the poetry is “What matters the most to you? What is important and what makes you a unique individual? What are all the things about your upbringing, your family, your culture that you feel have shaped you for the better?” And the ones that are complicated to also embrace that and chase that because I think that the most important type of art is the one that explores those questions. The ones that try to celebrate art individuality and that it’s honest that its the best tool for empathy

I think that if aspiring filmmakers & aspiring artists ask themselves that question often they are going to end up creating work that is meaningful and work that is important and that’s original. That is the best kind of work we could be doing.

Excellent advice, and you Kelly!

KMT: That is a beautiful answer! I totally agree with Carlos!

SUMMERTIME by Good Deed Entertainment will release this FRIDAY, July 16th