"Valor" means "value" or "worth" in Spanish and "courage" in English.
In 1995, Valentina “Val” Guzman (Mexican-American, 34) is a pregnant, MBA student, who just wants to take her final exam. However, her due date is dangerously close the exam date and her male professor won’t make accommodations.
This exam is an important hurdle Val will need to overcome to not only pursue a career in wealth management, but also create a new heritage—with greater income and opportunity—for her growing family. The challenges to her goals are Professor Holtz, a strict academic and the gatekeeper to her future; the experience of otherness (i.e. being pregnant, older, Mexican-American female) in a homogenous institution; and Vera, her mother, who is an immigrant and questions whether Val can really pursue her ambitions while also being a good wife and mother to her family.
The story is told in both a sincere and funny way. What makes the story sincere is that Val’s challenges are realistic and we take them seriously. What makes the story humorous are its details. For example, Val’s pregnancy is introduced when her pregnant belly bops every one of her classmates’ heads as she tries to discreetly leave class for the bathroom.
The Director’s Note
This story is inspired by the true story of my birth. My mother was a pregnant MBA student who was denied an alternative test date, studied for her final while in labor, and managed to fit in breaks during the test to breastfeed me in the hallway. I grew up with this story. Recently, I saw it in a new light, recognizing the absurdity of expecting a student to take a major exam only three days after giving birth. Through this film, I want to honor this academic and physical feat and motivate audiences to consider the many additional hurdles experienced by students like Val.
Furthermore, I am also excited to tell this story and see a Latina in the pursuit of wealth and a career in finance. On average, Latinas are the ethnic community most adversely affected by the wage gap, earning “just 53 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men” (National Partnership for Women and Families). Also, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, “for the average Latino family, it would take 84 years to amass the same amount of wealth White families have today—that’s the year 2097." As a NYU Stern finance student, I have strong insight into the power of investment and hope this film might raise conversations about income in Latinx communities.
Director-Writer: Natalia C. Bell is a fifth-year student in New York University’s Stern-Tisch BS/BFA Dual Degree Program focusing on film direction, film production, and finance. Natalia has a passion for telling female-driven, multi-generational stories and is an advocate for a more equitable and inclusive environment in entertainment, media, and technology.
Beyond campus, Natalia has interned with Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, Annapurna Pictures, Martin Scorsese’s Sikelia Productions, Chicken & Egg Pictures, The Weinstein Company, and recently graduated from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Gold Program. She has also worked with NYU Langone, Dimension Films, and NYU Residential Life as a freelance filmmaker and content strategist.
Producer: Sophia Shi
Sophia Shi is a fourth-year student in the Stern/Tisch BS/BFA dual-degree program, studying Film & Television and Finance. Originally from Ithaca, New York, she is interested in development, producing, and content strategy.
Sophia has produced several short films, including “To Endure,” which won Best Narrative Film in the Tribeca “Our City, My Story” competition. She is currently interning at FilmNation Entertainment and has previously worked at A24 and First Look Media.
Producing Team: Denise Zhou
Born and raised in Southern California, Denise Zhou is a senior at NYU and budding producer, writer, director, and editor. During her time in the Film & TV program, she has collaborated on a number of narrative and documentary projects and has worked professionally at Big Beach Films, Sesame Street, and Viacom. Denise is passionate about inclusion in storytelling, youth development, and fish tacos.
Director of Photography: Nicholas Kalajdzic
Nicholas Kalajdzic, a recent graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts BFA program has a background in Cinematography and Producing. He has worked on feature films such as Captain America: Civil War and Television shows like Mozart in the Jungle. After working at both Panavision and Light Iron, he most recently started his own production company, Next Degree Productions.
Production Designer: Anna Kwok
Anna is a junior student at New York University, who is also a visual artist born and raised in Hong Kong. With her previous fine arts and literature knowledge gained in Hong Kong and Norway, Anna wishes to compose immersive aesthetics and enrich visual expression in the production for a more sophisticated way of telling stories. She has been involved in multiple culturally specific indie projects that have effectively taught her to understand and display various cultures with authenticity.
In Bell’s film, Anna anticipates to create immersive visual environment for audience in both the traditional Mexican-American family and the male-dominating education system. Val stands out as a strong contrast and force in each of these environments.
Casting Director: Lauren Hardman
Lauren Hardman is a senior finishing her dual major at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Pursuing a BFA in Drama and Dramatic Writing, she has made a home at NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing for the past four years, considering it a catalyst for collaboration, physical comedy, and powerful original work. While she has been acting since age six, more recent works include Tennessee Willaims’ Camino Real (NYU Experimental Theatre Wing MainStage) and Freezer Services(an ETW Independent Project). This past summer she had the opportunity to work at Brookside Artist Management here in New York, which has further propelled her in her dedication to building new art from start to finish. Lauren seeks to bring as much “radical empathy” as possible to all parts of the artistic process.
Casting Director: Estefania Giraldo
Estefania is an actress and activist based in New York City and a recent graduate of NYU Tisch Drama. Giraldo is also a Youth Ambassador for the Women’s March in NYC. She is also a proud Colombian woman.
Music Composers: Khaya Cohen and Emily Sgouros
Khaya and Emily have been producing original music for over six years and most recently in moon gel (@moongelmusic), an indie pop band. Khaya is a senior at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music and Emily is a student at The New School. Both are excited to further explore their music in film scoring and lend this story their sound.
Where will your donation go?
Our largest line items are locations, production design, camera rentals, and food for cast and crew.
Production Design: In order to create a rich and textured cinematic world, the production will need to provide a believable prosthetic pregnant belly, period costuming for the main characters, period accessories for the 40 students in class, props to decorate Val’s mother’s home, and props to convey a traditional university setting.
Locations: This story has many locations, including a university business classroom, a historical library, a space that looks like a hospital room, a high school classroom, and a home. Though being students provides access to some of these spaces, there are still custodial and public safety costs required. Then, some spaces must be rented.
Camera Supplements & Expendables: The production will supplement NYU camera kits with rented lenses and camera support for movement.
Food: Since the production would like to produce this film with current NYU students, recent graduates, professional actors, and extras, the cast and crew will not be paid. Thus, they must be provided with healthy, filling meals. Then, there are extra costs for two production days that require 40+ cast, who will play Val’s classmates at the business school.
We also welcome businesses who would like to contribute through in-kind donations.
We will begin production in March 2019 in NYC, host a friends & family screening in May 2019 in NYC, complete the production by July 2019, and begin to submit it to festivals.
Specifically, we will submit to Athena Film Festival, Bentonville Film Festival, Citizen Jane Film Festival, NYU’s Fusion Film Festival, POWFest, Underwire Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, South by Southwest, Cannes Film Festival and more. In addition to how festivals will extend the film’s reach to different audiences, festival participation will also enable the director, producers, and DP to connect with future collaborators and partners.
Risks and challenges
Some of the greatest challenges for young filmmakers are often time and support (feedback groups, mentorship) constraints.
However, this production was designed to mitigate these risks. First, the production will be completed with the support of the Tisch School of the Arts Film & TV, which will not only provide feedback and guidance from an advanced production class and instructor, but also practical support like insurance and some equipment. Then, the director Natalia Bell is also being mentored through the Academy Gold Program by a highly-acclaimed director throughout the production. She will also be a part-time student. Thus, this production will receive her full attention and leverage the support of her peers and mentors at New York University and beyond.
Please be part of the community that helps reach our full financial goal through generous generation and sharing the link to this fundraiser. Thank you so much for your consideration.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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