Super Savant Q&A: Ana Verde

by Erica Anderson

Ana Verde (she/her) is a writer, director and our newest Super Savant. With her latest project, Te llaman las olas / The Waves Call You, she tells the story of a humble seamstress who is having trouble making ends meet. Based in her hometown of Levittown, Puerto Rico, this short film explores questions of gentrification, tradition and the values that shape us.

This is Ana’s first short-film. While she received a grant from Wavelength Productions –which was awarded to first time BIPOC women & non-binary filmmakers (go Ana!)– she still needs to crowdfund to make the film. This is where we can help: if you’re able, consider donating to Ana’s effort. TNS will be making a donation, too. 

Without further ado, here’s the Q&A with Ana!

TNS: What’s your connection to THE NEW SAVANT… and what’s your favorite scent? :)

AV: I am a very loyal reader of the Girls Night In newsletter, where I first read of THE NEW SAVANT and their candles. I really liked TNS’s approach to creating scents – incredibly personal, and a mode of storytelling in itself. When I got my first shipment, and was showing the perfect little paint can packaging to my younger sister, she freaked out because she used to religiously watch Ingrid’s videos on YouTube when she was in high school! 

Now, every time I have to send someone a birthday or thank you gift, it’s always a candle from The New Savant. My favorite scent is definitely DUVET DAY for how cozy it makes me feel. I light it before bed every night while I do my affirmations, journal, and read. My brain cannot wind down without it!

TNS: Tell us about what you do and how you got started.

AV: I am a writer and director across various mediums. My life in the arts has many beginnings: my parents encouraging me to be an avid reader, my grandma taking me to see plays in Puerto Rico at El Centro de Bellas Artes in Santurce, working with a youth theater company helmed by my mentor, Miguel Rosa López. I studied theater in college, but I’ve always been interested in expanding into filmmaking and writing literary fiction. At the end of the day, I’m an artist interested in exploring various modes of storytelling. I admire people who dip into a little bit of everything.

TNS: What kind of storytelling do you think is important to be creating right now? 

AV: Our world is deeply scary. I have to regulate how much news I take in because on any particular day, a news story can take the wind out of me. I think, in a way, the world has always been full of tragedies like the ones we face today, but it is the first time that we’ve had such rapid access to, well, everything. It is deeply overwhelming, but I think storytelling can oftentimes be the balm that makes everything better. My wish is for artists to lean into telling personal stories about their families, particularly if they come from marginalized or impoverished communities. It is an uphill battle, artmaking. It requires a lot of resources to make anything (if not time, then money), but it is time for our voices to be heard somehow. Even if it is just writing pieces and posting them online on a free site. Get around the gatekeepers until they can’t avoid you any longer, and keep at it. I firmly believe that the artists that “make it,” aren’t better or worse than those that don’t… they are just the ones who never stopped trying. 

TNS: How do you keep your creativity alive or replenish it?

AV: I have a three-pronged approach to keep my creativity alive: 

  1. My mornings are sacred. I work a full time job at an artist support organization, so after a long day of zoom calls, my brain is scrambled eggs, and it is important for me to have open space where I can quiet my mind. I typically start the day moving my body somehow and then I work, uninterrupted, for about three hours, from 7:00 - 10:00 am, give or take. Phone on silent, candle on, piping hot cup of tea. “Work,” though, can mean many things. Sometimes this is writing, other times it is working on a grant application or calling my mom and asking her to tell me a story about when she was younger. All of these things nourish my creative self. 
  2. I also cannot overstate how much my community replenishes my creativity. I have three or four writer friends who I check in with on a regular basis where we just talk about the practice of making work, read each others’ pages, or celebrate wins (literally called YAY DAYS). If I am stuck with any particular project, often times all it takes is a conversation with one of these folks to get my mind fired up again. This industry can often times feel so competitive, but it is grounding to have a group of peers who are also making work. One of my favorite parts of being an artist is knowing that I will also get to see how they grow their careers, and knowing that I will grow alongside them.
  3. Thirdly, I have a weekly baking project – channeling my creativity into food to share with others. I firmly believe in following instructions as a means to unlock a creative part of my brain. My latest plot dilemma was solved as I baked a cherry cobbler. 

TNS: Tell us about your latest project! 

AV: I am in the midst of the pre-production phase of a short film I am writing and directing – my first short film! It is set in my hometown of Levittown, Puerto Rico and the story follows a humble seamstress who is having trouble making ends meet. When her daughter asks her to move to the United States to pursue a more financially stable life, she begins to have daydreams of being enveloped in Puerto Rico’s waves, wearing the dress she is working on for a client. The seamstress would rather drown in the ocean than move to the United States, a move that would mean accepting defeat and leaving her home behind.

This story is deeply personal to me as many of my loved ones find themselves or have found themselves asking themselves if they are able to stay in their home countries. I’ve seen many friends move thinking a better life is in store, but quickly realizing that more money doesn’t make up for one’s home. My mother is a brilliant seamstress, and I have seen her business suffer greatly since Hurricane Maria all the way up to the current pandemic, two crises that deeply impacted the event industry her work hinges on. Local artists and artisans find themselves in an extremely delicate place both economically, and personally. This occurs at the same time that – due to ongoing gentrification – the cost of living in Puerto Rico is rising exponentially. What is a creative to do when she can no longer afford to live where she calls home? She’d rather drown than move to the United States. 

I’ve seen many movies about quinceañeras: a beautiful young girl, a classic coming of age story. I’ve seen stories where the battle is with femininity itself, or tradition. And all of these are worthy concepts and takes. The tradition of the quince is incredibly rich. But, I want to turn the camera down a bit to the woman hemming the dress. I want to make a movie about my mother. I see this project as a way to honor my mother’s hard work, and all of the hard working Puerto Rican people who want to be able to afford to live in the place they call home.

TNS: How can members of the TNS community support you?

AV: We are raising money to make this movie! We were awarded a generous grant from Wavelength Productions to make this film, but we are crowdfunding the rest, and we would be honored to have the support of the TNS community.

I feel immensely lucky to have been awarded Wavelength Productions’ $5,000 WAVE Grant, awarded to first time BIPOC women & non-binary filmmakers. In a way – I feel it is my responsibility to bring those resources back to my hometown, and share it amongst the artists that have helped me become the artist I am today. 

For a short film that’s quite literally about the payment of local artistic professionals as a means to survive, it’s paramount that all our collaborators are compensated in a way that supports this principle. Thereby, we seek to create a positive impact not only through the outcome of the film, but also through the process of making it.

TNS: If you could do one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

AV: My dream is to continue to make space to create art. I want to look back on my life and be proud of my body of work and the effort it took to make it happen for myself.

About TNS Super Savant Award

Our name pays homage to the untraditional, self-made path in life. By our estimation, TNS community is made up of countless creative, savvy NEW savants. To honor this, we created TNS Super Savant Award where we highlight an individual in our community and make a donation towards their creative pursuits. 🥇 🎉 💗
Read more Super Savant stories here