Two years ago, Southern student and screenwriter Lisa Tedesco was among the crowds at Cannes, but not as one of the paparazzi or a mere film fan. Tedesco was screening her short film, August in The City, one of about 200 short films chosen from among 10 thousand submissions for the festival’s “Short Film Corner.”
Tedesco wrote the screenplay for the film and was executive producer, teaming up with Los Angeles-based director Christie Conochalla (Once Upon a Zipper, Forever Not Maybe) to produce it. Shot in Brooklyn and Oceanside, N.Y., the film did well at Cannes and spent over a year on the festival circuit, winning several awards. Now that it’s off the circuit, Tedesco recently released it on Vimeo.
Not one to let grass grow under her feet, she now has a new film — House of La Reine — hitting the circuit, and to celebrate she and her team held a red carpet event in October, “a benefactor screening” for donors who helped support the film. “It’s my way of giving back and to have an event to kick off the film,” she says. A media studies major, Tedesco was delighted to welcome Communication, Media, and Screen Studies Department faculty Wes O’Brien, Charlene Dellinger-Pate, and Karen Burke to the event.
Tedesco is a busy person. In addition to attending Southern part time and working on her film career, she works the second shift at Sikorsky as an electrical installer, working on helicopters. She also owns a film production company, Ladyfilm Media, which she started in June 2017.
“’Breaking all barriers’ is one of our mottos,” she says. “We like to project stories with strong female presence, give voice to the LGBTQ community, and support projects with 50/50 male/female crews.” A native of West Haven who now lives in New Haven, Tedesco says, “I’m so incredibly busy with my company and working full time, I’ve only been doing about three classes at Southern a year.” She estimates she has about 10 classes left to finish her degree.
The story told in House of La Reine surrounds a woman who is embarking on the next chapter of her life as she opens an inclusive performance space and bar. She has reservations and frustrations but is visited by someone from her distant past who once reigned the stage in Paris in the 1920s. Tedesco explains that a year ago, she went out to Hollywood to shoot this new short film with a $25,000 budget. “We shot half in color/digital and half in 16mm black and white,” she says. Her plan is for the film to be on the film festival circuit beginning in early 2020, and yes, she is hoping for Cannes once again. She’ll also submit the 13-minute-long film to such festivals as Slamdance, Tribeca, Inside Out Toronto, Frameline, among many others.
Tedesco says she started writing House of La Reine soon after August in the City went on the festival circuit. “I wanted to focus on a female protagonist who owned her own business and was independent and strong,” she says. But she left the project on the back burner for awhile because August was on the circuit. Then, in the summer of 2018, while she was taking a summer class with Dellinger-Pate, she rewrote the script. Filming took place in December 2018, and at this point, “it’s a waiting game,” Tedesco says, as she and her crew wait to see what happens with film festivals.
Meanwhile, Tedesco’s company will be producing a friend’s film – a male coming-out story – and she has sold a script to a company in Los Angeles. This film — called “Dear Emma, Your Charlie” — is now in preproduction, and shooting will happen in the spring.
Back on campus, Tedesco worked on a capstone project this fall with Rosemarie Conforti, associate professor of communication, media, and screen studies. Tedesco explains that the project was a thesis proposal on a media topic of her choosing. Her proposal is called “Finding the Rainbow: How Fantasy/Sci-Fi Television Fandoms Help the Self-Identity Process For LGBTQIA+ Young Adults in the Modernized World.” Tedesco explains, “It’s basically a study on how queer youth can form long-lasting friendships in an online safe space where they are heard, respected and discuss the representations they see from these TV shows. I’m using Hashtags, fan fiction and vidding [the making of fan videos] as a way to showcase the interactions between fans inside the online fandoms.”
Conforti describes Tedesco as a “super-smart . . . creative and earnest student, and always provocative in her thinking. She moves seamlessly between the Cannes Film Festival and EN 117. Unpretentious and authentic, Lisa is the dream package of outstanding student, award-winning writer, producer and director of her production company, Lady Film Media, and Sikorsky employee.”