David Velduque's short film Transition premiered at Fantastic Fest 2023, and it is a stunning entry to a body of work focusing primarily on horror and the LGBTQ+ experience.
Shot in gorgeous black and white and featuring a strong performance from actor Celeste Gonzálezz, the short follows an aging woman who receives a strange visitor one day. It's scary, atmospheric, and emotional, all in a compressed timeframe. Each shot is carefully composed, bringing beauty to a fairly terrifying situation.
We spoke with Velduque via email and got to ask about his processes and inspirations. Enjoy!
TRANSICIÓN de David Velduque - Tráiler oficialwww.youtube.com
No Film School: What inspired the look of this short film? The black and white is so dramatic and beautiful.
David Velduque: The main inspiration for the look of this short film comes from the work of American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. I’ve always found his photography so compelling, especially when it comes to his way of portraying the body, sexuality, and death.
Flowers are an important element in his art and they’re really present in Transición as well. Also, his last powerful photographs were a huge inspiration for this project and a great lesson for life. The daring look on his face when he already knew he was dying of AIDS was in everybody’s minds throughout the process. That’s why we mainly used a still camera and frames that could remind us of his photography.
I wanted to do an homage to the first horror genre films. I was inspired by Nosferatu and German expressionism. Also, Eraserhead by David Lynch, Cronenberg’s body horror, and Hitchcock’s use of composition to create tension.
NFS: What tools did you use to make Transition?
Velduque: Having those references in mind I worked along with my DP, Alejandro Buera, and my production team at Neurads to decide what type of camera and lenses would be the best fit for both the look of the film and the production needs.
We decided to go with the ARRI ALEXA Mini because it was going to be easier to fit in every space of the location we used for this film. We had POV shots inside the bathtub and her bedroom. We wanted to move easily.
We went for Zeiss lenses: high-speed T1.3 MK II + LAOWA 12mm. I decided to portray the space where Ángela is living with wider and stable shots and little by little increase the instability in the frame while we are immersing ourselves into the unsettling situation that she’s living in.
We also created a black box for the last part of the film, but I don’t want to give too much away because it’ll be a spoiler, hehe.
Behind the scenes of TransitionCredit: David Velduque
NFS: What were some challenges you faced making this short film, and how did you overcome them?
Velduque: This project had a few challenges for me along the way of creating the story and directing it. I always deal with an important amount of anxiety when it comes to writing and finding the right angle for every scene, the title, and the ending … so usually I do suffer during the writing stage of my projects. There’s a moment when something clicks in my head and then I feel that we have a very special thing on our hands, but the process is quite painful sometimes.
I’m trying to overcome this pain by trying to play more by not taking myself too seriously, and giving time and space for creativity. Sometimes you just need a walk and a talk with friends to relax your mind and get your story back on track. It’s not easy for my fellow creators, either. I think that we really need to create spaces for us to get together and talk about what we go through when we are creating because sometimes writing and directing is a very lonely job.
We also dealt with budget and time challenges, both limited. We had to ask for many favors to make this project happen but still had a tight budget, and we had three days to shoot in a location in the middle of the countryside. Some of our crew members were working together for the first time, and in a short film you need to be excellent from the first minute, so there were a lot of conversations that involved explaining every step of the process so we were all working together with the same goal.
As a director, it requires a lot of understanding, negotiation, and also a big sense of improvisation because constant surprises and challenges are always part of a production. Luckily, this is the part that I enjoy the most. If I come in with good pre-production work and a clear purpose of what I’m doing, I really enjoy this crazy game of shooting.
TransitionCredit: David Velduque
NFS: There is nudity in your film. How do you create a safe and comfortable set for your actors?
Velduque: This has always been an important part of my work as a queer creator and director. There are not many representations of queer bodies in cinema and the ones that exist are usually from a normative perspective. That's why it’s been a thing for me to create new images that would help us understand that bodies are diverse and that we’re all beautiful and deserve to be treated as art.
The nudity in Transición comes from a conversation I had with Celeste González, the actress who plays Ángela in the film. We thought it was important to show a trans body because it made complete sense with the character and we agreed on how that was going to happen. The light, the shots, and the crew that was just strictly necessary for this to come to life. Also, I gave Celeste the option to change her mind if she didn’t feel comfortable with it happening.
I think these kinds of scenes need coordination, consent, and open conversations so everyone is on the same page at every step of the process.
NFS: Several of your latest projects have been in the horror genre. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how horror and queerness intersect.
Velduque: I feel that this intersection is very clear to queer people because we have always felt really close to the monsters and weirdness present in horror films since the beginning of cinema. I’m pushing for films that have queer characters as the main leading characters for stories that don’t necessarily have to be about their queerness. I want to let our monsters reign the world while asking uncomfortable questions for everyone, but always with a sense of hope and light.
I also feel that the horror genre is a great playground to develop stories that are really powerful for people to watch because it connects with your subconscious. It opens yourself to a wide range of situations and metaphors about our main experiences in life and acts as a catharsis.
I’m really interested in tackling social issues through the lens of horror, fantasy, and sci-fi. I feel it is a great way of healing while also having fun.
TransitionCredit: David Velduque
NFS: What inspires you when you begin a new project?
Velduque: I’m always drawn by things that are happening in my life around the time that I’m starting to think about a project. It’s kind of a magical way of dealing with creation and it helps me to grow and cure my wounds.
The invitation to create a story about the difficulty of becoming old for a queer person came from an NGO that I usually work with, Apoyo Positivo. That conversation with them opened my eyes. They gave me all the freedom to decide what story I was interested in telling.
It felt important to tell a story about the difficulty of aging because my grandmother went through Alzheimer and it was very challenging for every member of my family. At the time I was creating this project, I also went through a very difficult breakup and all that pain helped me connect to the story from a different perspective. It felt like an unexpected death to me and in a way that’s what we talk about in Transición: things happen in your life all of a sudden and you have to embark yourself in a journey to understand and accept a new reality.
NFS: What advice do you have for someone wanting to make a short film?
Velduque: Do it. Do it. Do it. I think that’s the only way you can get your art going! Don’t wait for anyone else. The hardest thing about this art form is that you need a lot of money and a group of people to get something started. It’s very tough and not easy to overcome those obstacles when you’re dreaming of making a film.
The cool thing is that there’s a lot of technology that we can use to get our stories out, especially now that it is so much easier to get a camera or a phone. I think you need to find the right tool that can serve your purpose and my advice would be to use that lack of money to explore original ways to tell your story. You’re not alone.
TransitionCredit: David Velduque
NFS: Do you have anything else you'd like to discuss?
Velduque: I’m working on my first feature film! So if anyone is up for joining/producing the film they’re more than welcome to reach out to me @davidvelduque.