Katch University was lucky to hold a Zoom call with Nicole Mejia, a filmmaker and student at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, California. Two of Mejia’s short films, I Am (2019) and Shades of Blue (2019) were awarded the 2019 Audi fellowship for Women. Mejia talked about her troubles breaking into L.A. and her time in AFI, while giving out advice to aspiring entertainers.
Mejia grew up in Seattle, Washington in a family of immigrants. After running away from a troubled homelife, she fell into a dangerous situation where she was forced to work as a prostitute. Her mother took her back in and encouraged her to pursue acting, as Meija held a passion for it after seeing the play The Brothers Size (2007). She would eventually graduate from the Cornish College of the Arts with a degree in acting, directing, and playwriting. She does not let her past bother her, as she says “I just know what my purpose in life is, and I know that I survived what I survived for a reason.”
After college, she immediately moved to L.A, where she began auditioning for roles. She got into the Actors Studio, an organization dedicated to acting, theatre directing, and playwriting. Through the membership she found a mentor, and began to take acting classes and participate in showcases. After her sister got sick, she returned to Seattle, and was inspired to begin writing after seeing her broken family come together. Now interested in a career in filmmaking, she applied to AFI, as at the time it was “the only application that was open.” She got into AFI, which she attributes to her “crappy” (her words) short films, where she is currently in her second year.
Mejia emphasizes the importance of creating honest work, and writing stories that you want to see in the world, as media holds a great deal of power. “[Media] plays a huge role, clearly, I mean our president got elected because of the media… We can change the world as long as we are willing to be brave and tell the stories that are about our everyday lives.”
Her advice to Katch interns: cold calling. She says she even got a manager through cold calling. Ask questions, and “play the naive card” when talking. When working with other people, Mejia says “I think it’s really important to be with someone who’s gonna work as hard or harder than you, rather than being with someone who’s already successful and then they kinda really don’t do that much for you because they have money.” When on set, Mejia also says it is important to talk to those around you. “Everytime you’re on set, no matter what role you are… just like, go up to the people.” These people can help build both connections and experience. It is also important to be open, as “When you speak to people, if you’re honest about who you are, they will just have a clear understanding [of you].”
Mejia is currently working on her thesis for AFI. With an already impressive portfolio, Mejia looks to be an important figure coming up in the film scene.