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Spotlight: Interview With Ina Espiritu Of Groundbreaking Short Film Series “Homies”

Spotlight: Interview With Ina Espiritu Of Groundbreaking Short Film Series “Homies”

Representation is important, something that writer-director Ina Espiritu puts front and center in the groundbreaking short film series Homies.

As she explains, “despite the challenges one still faces as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, we prove that we are more than that – we are students, professionals, artists, laborers, partners, parents, children, and friends.” Quirktastic had the amazing opportunity to sit down with Ina Espiritu to talk about the project.

What is Homies and what inspired it?
Homies is a group of short films that revolve around stories of love and heartbreak of people who happen to be queer.  I wrote several scripts of these in the in the spring of 2018 mainly as writing practice. That year, I found myself 3 years out of college (where I pursued screenwriting), working in TV production, but lacking a creative outlet.
At the same time, I was meeting more people in the DC queer community and feeling inspired by how unapologetic we, as a community, have become in just ‘being.’
As a writer, I have always been drawn to stories that deal with the dynamics of people and the subtle ways in which we experience pain, jealousy, fear, joy, love, etc. When I was deciding how to frame my writing exercise, I knew I wanted to explore these themes with characters that look like the people I have met in the DC queer community. I even gave myself three rules: that the characters be in the LGBTQ+ spectrum, that they be people of color, and that the plot point not be focused primarily on their being queer. Eventually, the exercise became a project I wanted to pursue further and the Homies Web Series was born.
Why is it important to have these kinds of stories that feature queer people without emphasis on the queer?
I always make sure to say “happen to be queer” whenever I talk about Homies because I want people to know right away that these are not coming out stories. While those are HUGELY important to the LGBTQ+ experience, I think it’s time that other narratives are put to the frontlines. There is more to the queer community than oppression and invalidation and I want to tell that side – that even the most oppressed and invalidated also experience the mundanity of life and relationships.
What impact do you want Homies to make?
My hope, through my series, is to contribute to the normalization of queer people of color characters in media. Though we have seen a surge of queer people of color on screen and other media, there is still a lot of work to do. I want people like me and my friends to see my series and recognize themselves and their own friends. Furthermore, I want people who do not look like me and my friends to see my series and be able to relate to the themes in the story and see how universal the human experience is.
What has been your artistic journey been like as a queer female creator of color?
When I first started writing, I veered away from writing characters and situations that could point to me. I felt very protective over my experience and did not want anyone who did not know me personally to be able to tell who I was as a person. Mostly, these characters were cis, white, and heterosexual. I was afraid for being judged for who I was. One day, I came across text that essentially said, “whatever your characters, whatever the story – it is about the writer,” and that made a huge impact on me.
I decided to rip the band-aid off by writing about the first time I questioned my sexuality. To be very specific to my story, I described the characters exactly as they were in real life. This meant that I had to put physical description to the characters and I had to specify which race they were. This process proved to be hard for me because most of the screenplays I have ever written up till then contained barely any racial description. Never before then had I written non-heterosexual, non-cis characters and that was a big deal to me. As I finished the screenplay however, I felt like a load was taken off my back. I didn’t realize that I was hiding myself in characters I wrote but never resembled me. It was a liberating experience. More than that, I became aware of race and sexual orientation and how I was made to believe that we shouldn’t see those differences in people – because really, what that meant is that we shouldn’t let those people be seen.
It was a slow process, but from outright imagining my characters as white and straight when I first started writing, I now make a conscious effort to only write characters that are queer and people of color.
What do you think must change in the film/creative industry to foster more authentic inclusivity?
I think the best thing that the industry could do is hire people of minority groups as creators and team members. Nothing can beat experience and if the goal is to be inclusive, then the industry needs to include.
To find out more, follow their Instagram  @HomiesDC and consider supporting the project at IndieGoGo.
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