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Filmmaker Interview with Sonalii Castillo

Filmmaker Interview by Chris Olson

You wear many filmmaking hats. Of all the titles you have (actress, producer, director, writer etc) which do you love the most and why?

I love being an actor. Don’t get me wrong; being able to write and create a story to build on and see it come to life is amazing. Directing it to make sure that what is being put together in real life matches what I see in my head is also amazing.

But my goodness, to actually be able to bring to life, to feel those emotions, to experience that life that I imagined, to become that character, to be that character and tell her story… now that, that is what sets my soul on fire. If I don’t feel that fire, that passion when I’m playing a character, then what’s the point?

If I don’t believe ME, if I can’t move others the way that I want to be moved, I didn’t do my job. And oh what an honour it is to be able to move another soul.

You have recently written, directed and starred in a short music video called "Kid" - with music from Rob Mayes. How did you come to be part of this?

This is a fun one for me. I did this to myself actually (lol). Rob and I have been friends for a while and I am a huge fan of his music. There is one song in particular that came out a year ago called ‘MY HEART IS BLEEDING’ which is a different style than what he puts out and I just fell over that song. The mood, the beat, the energy of it. I joke with him that if I had to have a stripper song that would be it. Listen to it, you’ll understand why.

That being said, when he sent me the unfinished version of ‘KID’, it reminded me of the style of ‘MY HEART IS BLEEDING’. I’ve been in a lot of music videos and at times I felt that the story being told didn’t match the song. I’ve always toyed with the idea of writing a story for a song so that I can do a music video. Rob doesn’t have music videos, just one if I’m correct, so for me, this song was a perfect way for me as they say, to get my feet wet.

Still from "Kid"
Still from "Kid"

Why did you want to make this music video?

Where I was in my life at that time, it hit all of the right heartstrings, as I’d like to call it. I’ve been out of the spotlight for about three years due to an injury suffered on a set of a show I was in and for me this song is like an anthem. I asked Rob if I could use this song and he honestly had no idea what I was doing with it. Then he saw the teasers and was surprised because all he saw while I was shooting and putting it together were BTS of what he thought was another production, so to have him love the results and supporting me in this is huge.

I wanted to show the industry that I’m back. That it’s go time for me. What better way to do that than to show some of my skills in one video?

I am an island girl who grew up in France so a country song with a blues undertone is a bit out there, but that is what this is for me. It’s my fight song, my comeback song in a way. I have always tried to live my life the way I wanted, going against what my family wanted for me and what society depicted for me as well. I still want to act of course that is my main love, and now I can do so much more. LET’S GO!!!

Behind the Scenes "Kid"
Behind the Scenes "Kid"

What have been the challenges getting it made?

COVID!!! My goodness. Taking on anything while there is a pandemic is very challenging. So I had to make sure that I wrote a story that could be done with a skeleton crew and barely any other human being around.

The focus is on the heroine; her journey and the decisions that she needs to make for her life to live in her truth.

So that allowed for not having a ton of people around. Shooting in the desert was a plus and smart also, so we got a ton of production value for what was available for us to use. Timing, shooting with natural light. I wanted this to feel real, raw. So racing against the sun and then being my own hair and makeup and wardrobe person was challenging. Making sure that I knew and projected the emotions that I wanted to convey on camera, then watching the playbacks to make sure I did what I saw in my mind was also challenging but a great feeling. I learned a lot making this video. Mainly that ‘I CAN’, and I am.

You have directed a few shorts and acted in a lot. How can audiences watch your work?

Yes, I have. Right now because I am shopping a few of those projects around I have not shared them with the public to view yet. They did the film festival rounds and I am proud to say that three of them have brought home over 25 awards combined. The one that is on public display is ‘Voodoo Vanessa’ and that can be found on my youtube channel.

Here is the link if you want to check her out, and also, I have a lot of my other work on this channel.

I will release MAMBA and DAHLIAS on Vimeo soon and I will share that link publicly as well. I will post that on my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts when it’s time to share.

Who would you love to work with and why?

SALMA HAYEK. I’ve had a lot of time on my hands lately, like A LOT. And yes, I have my favourites that I’ve admired for years and have wanted to work with. Directors, actors etc. Yet this week, I’ve thought about Salma. She’s the reason why I came to Hollywood. I watched her in a movie, ‘DESPERADO’ to be exact, and I thought then, wow, she’s Latina, a firecracker, funny and goofy yet an amazing artist. Age has never defined her and she is still going strong, sexy, and confident all-around badass. I thought that if she can do it, maybe I could too.

JENNIFER GARNER. I am a huge action junky. I am a huge fan of hers, especially since her ALIAS days. There are more and more women doing action and for me, she is on my top list of badass women that I want to work with. She’s sweet, honest, has integrity and also is an all-around badass strong female. Yeah, I want to work with her too. One of my projects that I’m working on at the moment has a character that I want her to play actually. So yeah. I’ll stop there for now.

Still from "Kid"
Still from "Kid"

What's next for you?

The music video is my focus right now and we will be rolling the teasers for it soon. We will announce the release of the music video in the near future also. It’s taken me a bit over three years to get here. Two major surgeries, physical therapies, and a lot of pain. I had to learn how to walk again. To get strong again. It’s been a battle that I haven’t shared or talked about much publicly, it’s been extremely hard to come back from that. Now it’s back to the grind. Auditioning, writing, producing. I am working with some producers to get some of my projects made and until that happens I am back to being an actor. I was just brought on to a project called ‘voodoo Biker Gangs’where I play a Dominican witch, very fitting if you ask me, and we are waiting for the green light to head into production for that. For now, I am enjoying being back fully. Before the accident, I lost track of me somehow, lost my focus. I’ve was given this gift of time, as painful as it was, to refocused, to get back to living my life the way I want and I am not going to squander it.

What would you say if you were a dolphin?

Catch up human, you are evolving too slowly.



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