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Interview With Film Director, Actress, Coach Giovannie Espiritu

Updated: Jun 2

Photographer: Denise Vasquez Filmmaker Giovannie Espiritu

Feature Interview in Promote Magazine issue 3 April 2024

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Tondo Manila but came to the United States when I was two. I had a kind of unstable upbringing that took me to twelve-ish schools in the Bay Area before I ended up in the Philippines a Biblical doomsday cult and dropped out, then Yosemite, remote parts of northern California, and then when I made my re- entry into the world, I went back to the Bay Area, then moved to Los Angeles, then made my way to Las Vegas.

Did your environment growing up influence you creatively?

So much of my work has to do with realizing when authority figures may be hiding monsters (probably from my Biblical cult upbringing), an inherent belief in goodness, and trying to heal generational trauma... I think that any art created will reflect the beliefs of the creator.

Did you study theater or film or are you self taught?

I didn’t go to traditional schooling, but I did study at various acting schools and the Upright Citizens Brigade, and interned at a lot of management/casting/ production houses to learn the business side of the industry.

How did you get into acting?

I got into it through voice -over, but through a weird way. Part of being in the cult, I was living in the woods and isolated, so I was trying to keep telemarketers on the line because they were my only “friends” - and one of them said that I had an interesting voice and should try voice overs. I had no idea what that was, so I looked it up on the internet, and it took me to a website for an agency in SF called Stars, and I sent in a really ridiculous recording, and they ended up calling me in for an interview, signing me that day, sent me on my first audition for a last minute video game, and I ended up booking it. It felt like a sign from God, especially since my husband at the time quit his job because he believed Jesus was coming soon. It was more money per hour than I had ever made in my life.

What led you to becoming a director?

I have been directing actors for about 20 years through acting coaching, and my students are Emmy nominees, Young Artist Award winners, series regulars and the like. I already knew how to speak to actors, understand the arc of scenes and know how to make a scene work in terms of auditions and these snippets of film. I produced an indie pilot early on, and then branched into producing a martial art action comedy and existential drama, and an LGBTQ series that ended up on Amazon Prime. I started directing for real when Outfest had a one minute film contest and I entered it with a spoken word piece delivered directly into the camera. It ended up winning an honorable mention in the festival and started me on my directing journey.

What inspires your films/documentaries?

My life. The things that make me angry. The things that my heart loves and inspires me.

What’s your favorite thing about being an educator/coach?

I love watching the lightbulb moment happen.

Congratulations on winning a Telly award! How did that come about?

I entered the Outfest film competition with another spoken word piece, and it ended up winning the Hyundai Evolve Innovation Award, and a few other awards as well as was shown at the New American Museum and I entered it into the Telly awards and it ended u winning.

Tell us about any other awards you’ve received for acting, your films, and or documentaries.

Oh gosh... so many... but the ones that I’ve been proud of:2021 Most Influential Filipina in the World by the Filipina Women’s Network Nominated for Best Supporting Actress at MethodFest (particularly because my fellow nominees included Academy Award nominees Alfre Woodard and Amy Irving) Cristobal Ibarra Screenwriting Award Hyundai Evolve Innovation Award There are more in Social Justice, Directing, Woman in Filmmaking but it seems a little redundant...

What challenges do you face getting cast?

There aren’t enough roles for asian women of color over 35... particularly for a “normal looking-not particularly beautiful” person. Which is why I started writing and directing to create more roles for people like me.

What challenges do you face being a female director?

People don’t listen to me and/or devalue me. Or opportunities aren’t even given simply because of who I am.

If there was anything you could change about the entertainment industry, what would it be?

I would want more funding for independent filmmakers and underrepresented communities — and those that won’t make a profit. Those stories are worthy of being told as well.

Any new projects in the works that you are able to talk about?

I am working on a documentary called “Into the Motherland,” that focuses on my matriarchal family lineage and delves into the reason that I went into the Biblical cult. I also wrote and directed a beautiful little film called, “Love and Karma,” that stars Filipino talent Belinda Panelo and Jojo Riguerra as well as Eric Roberts, Joanna Paula, and Bai Ling. It’s in post-production right now, but having a few usurpers in the mix.

Any advice for people wanting to pursue a career in acting, directing or filmmaking?

Know the YOUR WHY of beginning this process. I truly believe that acting, directing, filmmaking — or storytelling — in whatever forms, increase empathy in the world.

That is my why. But this business is brutal and ruthless, so know what you need to feed our soul, and when to take breaks and rest.

Where can people find you online?

IG: @giospirit2 or @giovannie.espiritu

Anything else you want to add?

Define success on your own terms. For me, it’s the moments of joy that I can create during the day.Know your why. Life is about the journey, not just the destination.

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