Director Alejandra Parody and producer/composer Elizabeth Phillipson-Weiner made the NAACP-nominated short Gets Good Light which centers around a luxury condo that becomes a brief refuge for a family targeted by I.C.E. It’s a powerful depiction of the ever-present threat of deportation in America.
The indie short stars Cedric Leiba Jr., Edmond Cofie, Jessica Pimentel (Orange is the New Black), and Catherine Curtin (Stranger Things).
Parody co-founded the Brooklyn-based independent production company Teddy Tracker Entertainment with Phillipson-Weiner. The company focuses on fostering diversity of thought, culture, race, sexual orientation, and ability in the entertainment industry both in front of and behind the camera.
Alejandra’s films have screened at festivals worldwide such as NBCUniversal, Urbanworld and Tribeca Film Festival, where her latest film Gets Good Light was nominated for best short.
As a composer, producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, Elizabeth loves to connect with filmmakers through the collaborative art of film scoring. Her music combines unique synth sounds with organic instruments to create bespoke sound palates for each project.
Elizabeth’s film scores have premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, HollyShorts, Urbanworld Film Festival,and Raindance.
Meet these two badass women in film:
What’s Your Origin Story?
E: Ale and I met on a student film set during our undergrad at NYU. I was producing and she was assistant directing. It was an overnight shoot and you definitely get a little loopy on those – we had a ton of laughs on set and were friends from then on.
When Ale was making her thesis film, Rosa, she asked me to produce it and we’ve basically been working together ever since. It’s hard to find people who are just up for anything creatively – I feel like we found that in each other, we’re ready to make things happen anytime. We also have a lot of fun together.
How did you both get into filmmaking?
A: I always loved stories, I was a big reader and then a big writer. I liked creating worlds and characters and exploring the possibilities of my imagination. Of course, I also loved watching movies. Eventually, I became curious about that medium of storytelling, fascinated at the possibility of black ink on a white page becoming a real, three-dimensional world, a shared reality.
I was maybe 13 when I began to have that itch to make films myself. My love for reading and writing had ingratiated me with most of my school teachers to the point where I was somehow able to negotiate turning in video work as opposed to written work –– video essays as opposed to regular ones for instance. In hindsight, I can see that I was giving myself so much more work! But it allowed me to practice the multitude of crafts associated with filmmaking (sound, acting, photography) from a young age.
E: I have always loved storytelling and the way I got into it was through music. I started playing the trombone when I was 10 and was on a path to become an orchestral trombone player, studying trombone performance at NYU.
During college, a friend was participating in a 48-hour film festival and asked if I could write music for his film. I said yes, not knowing what I was getting into but from then on I was hooked.
Film scoring perfectly marries my love of telling stories and music. I was friends with a lot of filmmakers in college through scoring and eventually a friend asked if I could lend a hand on a set. That’s how I fell into producing. It’s definitely a weird multi-hyphenate but I’m a right brain-left brain hybrid so it works for me!
Who were/are your mentors?
E: I have been lucky enough to have two amazing mentor figures so far. The first was my trombone teacher in college, Per Brevig. He was in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra for 26 years and he is an absolutely legendary trombone player and pedagogue.
He’s become a fantastic friend and spirit guide. John Kaefer is a phenomenal composer and educator who has been an amazing mentor to me as well. He is extremely giving with his time and knowledge and has been instrumental in my growth as a composer and industry professional.
While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
A: The best achievements come from being proud of the work itself. I think one of the biggest struggles one has as a young artist is trying to match the idea in your head with what you’re executing. This is true whether you’re trying to get better at drawing, or at making music, or whatever.
Feeling like you’re getting to a level where things finally look, sound, or feel exactly as you planned for them, gives me by far the best sense that I’m succeeding. So I’d say my biggest achievement to date is Gets Good Light itself, because it has been the most consistent and faithful execution of what I had in my mind’s eye.
How about your biggest disappointment?
E: I think COVID has been disappointing and extremely challenging to every single artist. It’s a time of such immense uncertainty both personally and professionally and that’s been really tough to keep going. It’s disappointing to think about all the opportunities we’ve had to miss over the last year but we are healthy and safe and you can’t ask for much more at a time of such upheaval.
If being a woman is your superpower, how has it helped you?
A: Being a woman is a superpower for a million reasons, but here’s one specific to the film industry: The fact that, historically, the great majority of films have been written or directed –usually both– by men, means that there is a gaping hole in female perspective in the stories we have seen depicted on big screens.
This presents us with the possibility to explore worlds and characters that have the potential to feel more original and unique simply because they come from an untapped perspective.
ALSO READ: See who else is on the 2021 Reel Women List
What’s your Kryptonite?
A&E: Sorry, but we can’t just give away that info. What if it landed in the hands of our enemies?! (Real Housewives, Nest candles, Seltzer)
How did a combination of a pandemic, Black Lives Matter and QAnon affect you?
A: The pandemic, and the way the previous administration handled and politicized it was rough. The murder of George Floyd was abhorrent. QAnon conspiracies gaining mainstream traction was debilitatingly frustrating to watch.
In many ways, all of these were the result of an administration that had been wreaking havoc in America since way before 2020, so much so that Gets Good Light was, in a sense, a response to the damage the administration was doing.
So we did in 2020 what we’d done before: we turned to art to weather the storm and continued to develop stories with social responsibility. We were also made hopeful by the surge in support that Black Lives Matters received, and partook in activism to help fight racial inequality in the face of rising white supremacy.
So in summary, the combination made us angry, sad, and frustrated, but it also renewed our sense of social responsibility, and our desire to create art that holds accountable the uglier sides of our humanities and societies.
What can the industry do better to promote true inclusion?
A&E: True inclusion comes from every person having the financial and creative power over their stories. Diverse representation in front of the camera is important but the work doesn’t stop there, we need to be in control of how our stories are told, who tells our stories matters – because our perspective matters.
We’ve seen a shift over the last few years to include more diverse casts and stories and that’s because the people at the top of the industry are finally starting to see that diverse stories are not only financially viable but what audiences are craving more than ever.
The reason change takes so long is because the top of the entertainment industry remains very white and male.
There need to be more women and people of color at every level in every area of the industry. There needs to be vastly more diversity in the people making business decisions in show business to make meaningful change.
If you’re Batwoman, who’s Robin?
A: We are each other’s Batwoman and Robin! We trust one another and are happy to either take the lead or serve as sidekick/support depending on what part of production we’re dealing with. I think this mutual trust allows us to be more efficient and practical because we can put our egos aside and focus on whatever role we need to take on to best service the story in that moment.
E: Agreed with the above and also my dog is my Robin. So – Ale and my dog.
What’s the engine that pulls you?
A: Art is a way to make meaning out of our circumstances, and that possibility is the true driving force for me: when the world seems hostile, or chaotic, or too complicated, I turn to fiction to make sense of things. I don’t really know what I’d do if I didn’t have that outlet.
So more than an engine that is pulling, it’s just a need, a basic necessity to understand this wild ride that we call the human experience.
E: Storytelling is one of the most important human traditions. From an early age, stories in any medium offered me a way of understanding myself and the world around me. I’ve always wanted to help others gain deeper compassion and empathy through telling stories.
I have the ability to dedicate my voice as an artist to enact positive change for individuals and communities and the power of that keeps me going.
What does Women’s History Month mean to You?
A&E: Every month is Women’s History Month at Teddy Tracker Entertainment. We honor the achievements of pioneering women before us – the women upon whose shoulders we stand and we continue our path toward further equity and empowerment for all women.