5 Questions with Queer Filmmaker April Maxey

We continue our series of conversations with LGBTQ+ and POC-themed filmmakers presenting projects at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. We chatted with April Maxey, the director, and writer of the short narrative film Work.

Work is a short film made in the AFI Directing Workshop for Women. The film follows Gabriela, a queer film editor who cannot shake off the emotional effects of a breakup. Impulsively she drops into an old job, where she unexpectedly runs into a friend from her past. 

Maxey is a queer mixed Chicana filmmaker born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. She is currently 1 of 8 participants in the prestigious AFI Directing Workshop for Women. Her work has collectively screened at over 70 festivals across 14 countries and won 8 awards internationally. 

Photo from video stills from WORK trailer

PrideIndex (PI): Work is a short film where women are non-apologetic about working in the sex industry. Were you concerned about backlash?

April Maxey (AM): The film is inspired by personal experiences, and I think any time I write something that personal and decide to put it out into the world, it feels incredibly vulnerable- because there is this fear of what will people think? To make personal work, there is this process of shedding internalized shame one has to work through, and I think it’s a process many queer people are familiar with. The reception to Work has been greater than I ever imagined, but I also accepted a long time ago that I can’t control if there is backlash- and I am also okay if my film gets some people worked up! I’m basically forcing the viewer to empathize with this woman, a queer Latina, who is so layered, and then she goes to work at this lap dance party. I only show you that world through her experience of it, and I think that is new for audiences, and it might make some people uncomfortable, and I definitely invite that!

PI: What is the takeaway from this film? 

AM: I hope the film leaves people with a sense of hopefulness that everything will be okay. We follow Gabi’s emotional journey through her day and into the night, and I chose the last shot very intentionally- there is something symbolic of sun just beginning to rise that speaks to the feeling I want to leave the audience with. Before sunrise, it’s rather blue and grey, less saturated, and beautiful in this melancholic way. Still, as the light peaks through and slowly bring pinks and yellows into the sky, we are met with the glimmers of a new day, a new beginning, and Gabi feels okay at this moment. I want the audience to feel in this moment a release and exhale of all the emotional weight carried and to appreciate the beauty of the journey.

Photo from video stills from WORK trailer

PI: If you could wave a magic wand and have an unlimited budget to make Work, a feature-length film, who would you choose to star in this project?  

AM: Oh my goodness! I am trying to wave the wand right now! I am developing the feature with Skylar Andrews, who was also my producer on the short, and we are going to start pitching it at the end of this month! But as far as casting, I am pretty open right now. I guess with the characters I write since they are often not included in Hollywood, to begin with. I am not tied to the idea of getting a star, and I think many independent films that I enjoy and think are great works of art also don’t always have big stars for their leads, so I’m open to all possibilities right now!

PI: You participated in the prestigious AFI Directing Workshop for Women. What was that experience like? Would you do it again? 

AM: I knew this project was more significant in scale than my previous films, with more locations, extras, shooting in a club, lots of intimacy, dancing, etc.- so it was a dream come true to bring it to life in the AFI DWW! I felt incredibly supported by the program, and though it was virtual for the first time, we were able to have our classes taught by some amazingly accomplished filmmakers. I loved being able to workshop ideas with my cohort and the seven other highly talented writers/directors I was able to grow alongside. One of my favorite aspects of the program is that they had a professional script consultant come in and hold in-depth workshops on each of our projects through the writing process, and that was an invaluable experience. 

Photo from video stills from WORK trailer

PI: What do you have to say about “and the award for Best Director goes to APRIL MAXEY?”  

AM: Hahaha, it’s an honor to be included and well-received in so many festivals! From Sundance to KASHISH Mumbai Queer Film Festival- I am so grateful to everyone who has programmed us so far! Awards are always great, but I never bank on anything. So I suppose my response would be the same with or without an award. I hope people can connect with Gabi on some level. She may be very different from the audience members or people they know. I hope they can empathize with her journey and know that at the end of the day, we all want to feel loved, accepted, seen, and we are all such complex creatures- sometimes we make bad decisions, are reckless, angry, and hurt. Still, part of the human experience is getting to the other side of those hard feelings and nurturing that seed of self-love, and I hope audiences can walk away from the film with that sentiment. I also hope they can enjoy this visually beautiful piece of art made by so many talented folks- from Cinematographer Melinda James to Editor Steph Zenee Perez; everyone put so much work into making this. I am happy that so many audiences are enjoying their talents!

Work will be shown on Sun June 19 – 6:30 PM click here for more information.