Movie: Platonic Love
Director: Nahyr Galaz Ruiz
1.Hello, Nahyr! Welcome to Scénema. Would you like to share how your journey began in the films?
I began working in film as an assistant and membership coordinator for the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) back in 2010. NALIP was were I first began producing and learning the ropes of what I now know to be roles such as production coordinator, line producer, first A.D. etc. However, my love for film and storytelling has always existed and been intertwined with my love for dance and books. I believe each of these mediums has shaped the way I approach storytelling.
As far as I can remember, I found myself lost in stories. If I read a book, I imagined that I was the protagonist. I grew up on telenovelas and Maria Felix films and I would often renaact scenes on the playground during recess. As I got older, I began experimenting with writing my own versions of stories that I’d read but didn’t love how they turned out or the lack of female protagonists.
2.How did you come up with the story?
“Platonic Love” is a slice of life and proof of concept of a larger story, which is my feature screenplay “Dancing with Plato.” In “Platonic Love” I explore similar characters than in the feature but at a different moment in their lives and under different circumstances. I explore the same themes of roads not taken, of missed opportunities, and philosophical questions on romance; What happens when love comes and you’re not ready for it? But I explore this under the extreme constriction of the short-film medium.
Both films are a byproduct of my own affinity for impossible love stories and the influence of such works as Pride & Prejudice, Love in the Time of Cholera, and Like Water for Chocolate.
3.Why did you choose to quote Plato at the beginning of your film?
Because our male lead is a philosopher and because his feelings for our female lead are stronger than even he can understand, I felt this particular quote from Plato’s “The Symposium” to be very appropriate. This notion that love calls us to one another, that it tries to heal our human condition, that against everything love can win.
4.How did you approach the storytelling and visual elements to capture the essence of the film?
For me it always begins and ends with character. Because our leads navigate the world of dance and the world of philosophy, I knew from inception that I wanted a dark academia romance mood and tone for the film. The world of academia and the world of concert dance inherently intertwine academia and romance together. I pulled references from films that had similar mood and tones for my lookbook and scouted locations that I felt would capture the tone of the visuals I wanted to capture as well as the environment that your characters would inhabit.
5.What challenges did you face in portraying Platonic Love on screen, and how did you overcome them?
Like any production, despite how much we prepared, curveballs happen and you have to pivot and think on your feet. We definitely hit some hiccups our first day of filming with one of our interior locations and then with weather on one of our exterior locations. But that’s where all your preparation and really trusting and leaning on the team you pulled together saves your day. When you have prepared, when you know your shotlist and the vision and your key crew are on the same page with you, you can pivot quickly, efficiently, and without sacrificing the integrity of the storytelling.
6.What do you believe is the most important aspect of bringing a story to life on the screen?
I think first it’s approaching the story with as much authenticity and humility as possible; every choice should be in service of the story. And secondly, I believe that filmmaking is a collaborative medium. To me that means that I need to trust my team, trust and consult with my department heads’ expertise and thread it into my vision for the film.
7.How do you approach the visual and aesthetic aspects of your films?
I hate to sound like a broken record, but it’s all in service of the story and comes back to character for me. As such, if I’m also writing the script, I’m visualizing the locations, the music, the smells even. I’m fully immersed in the world I’m building. I even create playlists of musical references and a musical mood for the script. If I’m not also the writer, I read the script as a fan first. I let myself feel the story and the characters. Then I read again to see what images pop up, what tone I’m picking up; what soundtrack starts to play in my head. From there I begin pulling references from other works that I can add to my lookbook for the film. I don’t just look for shots and angles; I look for coloring, for tone, for lighting, and I look for ways to connect these elements to theme.
8.How did you balance the exploration of platonic love with other aspects of the story?
That’s just it; I don’t really tackle platonic love in the sense that Plato meant it. On the contrary, I explore two characters that deny their feelings, that insist it’s a platonic friendship, but who’s connection is so strong that they keep gravitating toward each other in spite of the circumstances, the winds of life and in spite of the tests of time.
9.Did you have any specific sound design or music choices to enhance the emotional impact of the film?
Absolutely. As I mentioned, I wrote the script with a playlist for reference and I took a few of these reference songs to my composer as he and I began working on what the musical tone of the film would be. I knew I also wanted to write an original song for the film and he and I worked together to create it. I wrote the lyrics and took the melody to him and he composed and arranged the music for it as well as the rest of the score.
10.What is your dream project?
Oh this is a hard question. There are so many projects burning in my “mind palace,” as Sherlock Holmes would say. But I’d say right now my dream project is shooting my feature film “Dancing with Plato.”
11.Are there any other themes or genres you would like to explore in future films?
I would really love to tackle a period piece. I have two ideas; one short and one long form sort of brewing in the back of my mind waiting for their turn to be written and produced. I don’t really think in terms of genre. I always start with character and let the character lead me; the theme will come from the character, their struggles, their choices, their circumstance and the genre will sort of unfold from character as it’s often reflected in the world the character inhabits. At least for me, that’s how I work. I cannot write for plot or genre, I can only write from character.
12.What qualities do you look for in actors when casting for your projects?
Again, I’m looking for character. That first look at headshots before offering the audition; I’m looking for character. Is there something in the shot that grabs me? That shows me the character or the potential for the character I’m looking to cast? Secondly, I look at training and previous experience. However, if the headshot pulls my eye, I will often offer an audition or ask my producer to even if an actor has little experience. At the self-tape level, I’m looking for a grounding of the character and the tone of the film. Are you making bold choices in line with the character I wrote or as written in the script? This doesn’t mean to only deliver what’s on the page. But moreso to expand and create based on the character as written. Do you know how to tailor your performance to be cinematic, how to move for and with the camera? Will I be able to edit your performance cleanly or will it wind up on the cutting floor? By the time we get to callbacks and I’m in the room (or zoom these days), I’m looking to see how you take direction and how you respond to the team; I’m looking for professional rapport.
13.Have you planned your next project? What can we expect from you?
I am currently in the rewrite stages for my pilot and working on procuring funding for my feature film. I’m also co-writing a horror feature film with a dear friend and long time collaborator. We’re aiming to finish that script by Summer 2024. Those are my three primary foci, however, I do plan to begin writing two new shorts by the end of the year; one of which I plan to shoot next year.
Thank you for your time! Lastly, I’d love to know how you enjoyed working with BCIFF?
Beyond the Curve International Film Festival has been an absolute delight to work with and has been so gracious with their reception of my work and our film. I am profoundly grateful to the curators, organizers, and festival judges. I sincerely hope to continue to work with BCIFF in the future.