Alumni Spotlight: Monica Moore-Suriyage (BA '14)

Alumni Spotlight: Monica Moore-Suriyage (BA '14)

Jun 24 2022

While she was a student at Temple, FMA alum Monica Moore-Suriyage (TFM ’14) was one of many participants in the department’s LA Study Away program. After graduation, she didn’t waste any time in getting back out west. There, she jumped right into the world of horror film representing the next generation of Black filmmakers in the genre. Her first short film Black In Red Out gleaned high praise and led to her being featured in director Xavier Burgin’s documentary Horror Noire. Most recently, she released the short film La Ciguapa Siempre, which premiered at the 2021 Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival and was recently included as a part of this year’s Philadelphia Latino Film Festival (PHLAFF).

This week, we talked to Monica about her latest film, her plans for the future, and what current FMA students should be doing during their time here to help them after graduation:

Can you share a little about the plot of La Ciguapa Siempre?

The short is about a shy girl named Milagro trying to figure out her place in the world. She tries to set her culture aside to assimilate into what her preppy boyfriend wants her to be. But her true heritage might be lurking deep in the woods.

What inspired you to make this film?

I wanted to explore my Dominican heritage and its folklore in a horror lens. So when I learned about ciguapas and the way they kill men who cross them, I was intrigued. I wanted to tell a story about the mythical ciguapa, but with a justification for her actions.

What was the filming process like?

We filmed for two nights at a ranch in Santa Clarita, California. Shooting was a whirlwind and I honestly don't remember a lot of it. When we were looking for locations, I was trying to find woods that had an unassuming campground, but became more and more eerie the deeper into them we went. So we carved out a small area to be the campground and another area with creepy trees for the ending scenes. I love the way the trees look in the final product.

Why does horror appeal to you as a film genre?

Horror appeals to me because it's a way to comment on the difficult parts of life. For me I'm always thinking about identity and where one fits in, so my horror work usually reflects that. Horror also allows for creative imagery and larger-than-life scenarios. I've always been inspired by the original Suspiria, Scream, and 28 Days Later.

How did your experience at Temple inform either your work on this film or your work as a filmmaker?

Attending film school at Temple is where I met most of the crew and collaborators that I work with on most of my projects. The producer Chelsey Colosimo, the editor Christa Philippeaux, and more people vital to making this film went to Temple. Also one of my professors, Lou Pepe, has become a close collaborator and confidante. I'm so glad to have taken his classes when I was in the LA Study Away Program.

What other projects are you working on right now?

Right now I am working on adapting La Ciguapa Siempre into a feature film. I am also getting ready to direct another horror film about Sri Lankan folklore (which is where my dad is from). While I prep for this short, I am participating in the first Filmmaker Accelerator Program hosted by the Academy.

Is there any advice you would give to current or incoming Temple students?

If you want to be a director, direct as many things as you can. Even if they're not as polished as you want them to be, you'll become a better director with every project. Also build up your team so when a job does come up, you already know who to call.

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We were so glad to be able to connect with Monica -- and can't wait to see all her future success!

 

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