Eva Longoria is earning attention for her skills behind the camera…
The 47-year-old Mexican American actress, producer and activist has earned a spot on Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch in 2023 list.
For more than a quarter-century, Variety has canvassed the field of emerging filmmaking talents for the artists whose voices set them apart: directors with an original point of view and the chops to go the distance. The idea: to identify talent before they “pop,” although in some cases, they’ve already started racking up awards — like Charlotte Wells, who won the Gothams’ Breakthrough Director prize shortly after being selected for the list.
Six of these filmmakers have yet to unveil their latest work to the world, and we’re grateful to them for giving us an early look. Three — Elijah Bynum, Laurel Parmet and Niza Mansoor — will debut their films later this month at the Sundance Film Festival.
Others, such as Longoria and Jingyi Shao, have made crowd-pleasers that will be released later in the year.
How long has the Desperate Housewives star wanted to direct?
“I’ve always been a director who fell into acting,” insists Longoria, adding, “I feel like I’m more comfortable behind the camera. I’ve really touched every rung of the ladder: I started with short films, I did a documentary, I did half-hour TV, I did multi-cam, I’ve done one-hours and pilots.” But starring on the hit series gave Longoria a special understanding of how the process works, a chance to learn at a budget far bigger than she would have to make her debut. “I used ‘Desperate Housewives’ as my film school. I paid attention to where the lights go, cameras, lenses. That was a decade of my life,” says Longoria, who found mentors along the way, including Ron Howard, who produced her second short film.
“My first feature was supposed to be this comedy at Universal with me and Kerry Washington.” But another project she was preparing came first, one rooted in a side of Los Angeles she insisted on showing authentically: “Flamin’ Hot,” about Richard Montañez, the former gangbanger turned Frito-Lay janitor who came up with the idea for the company’s super-spicy (and ultra-profitable) line of snacks.
“I like to produce with purpose,” she says. “Contributing to the world, to our art form, to societal and cultural change. This is a really important film because we Latinos don’t get a lot of bites at the apple.”
Technically, the Searchlight-backed comedy is a biopic — a genre with a tendency to be boring. “Flamin’ Hot” is never dull, but that took work. “When I read the original script, it had no point of view. It was like a documentary,” Longoria recalls. So she said, “This should be in his voice. He’s the smartest uneducated guy you’ll ever meet. It’s Scorsese meets Adam McKay.”
A twist on the American Dream shot in just 35 days, the result is inspirational and engaging, but also authentic, owing to the care Longoria took in representing a community she knew well. “Opportunity is not distributed equally. Talent is. All his life he was told, ‘No, ideas don’t come from people like you.’”
Influences: Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese
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The 10 directors were honored in person on January 6 at the Palm Springs Film Festival, where a couple of last year’s alumni (Aitch Alberto and Goran Stolevski) will also be screening their films.
Click here for the complete list.