Meet the Makers: Leticia Akel Escárate

BY Sushma Khadepaun, October 10, 2018

Headshot of Leticia Akel EscarateMeet the Makers is an ongoing interview series highlighting current Columbia University School of the Arts Film Program students and faculty.  


Leticia Akel Escárate is a Screenwriting student from Chile. She will graduate from the Film Program in October 2018.


How did you get involved in film?


My grandfather was a filmmaker and a photographer. He used to write poems and stories too. Since I was very young I would hang out with him and ask about his camera. He taught me how to write stories; how to compose a frame and breakdown a scene in shots. As he became older he gave me everything he had - his writing machine and even his books from when he was studying filmmaking. At the time I didn’t know if I would be a filmmaker but I knew I would certainly be in the arts. I began with just recording videos with cousins playing characters. Then, I decided to study filmmaking, here in Chile, at Universidad Catolica de Chile.



How many films have you made while in the program and have you had the opportunity to play at festivals?


I have made three shorts in the program.


My first year film, Life Coach, was sold to Gaia TV, which was really unexpected and exciting.


My second year film, Premonition, is the one that I’m most proud of. It has played at many international festivals including Aspen Film Festival, Sao Paolo International Film Festival, Palm Springs ShortFest and will play at the Madrid Film Festival this month.


My third year film is currently in post-production.



How has the Film Program at Columbia helped or changed you as a creator?


When I started the program I had directed three short films in my undergraduate program and I kept a very similar track during my first year in the MFA. On the other hand, I really wanted to focus on developing stronger writing skills during my second year. My goal was to leave the program with written projects that I could keep developing after graduation, and I am glad that I made that decision. Now I have two feature length scripts and two TV pilots. I have also really enjoyed collaborating with my classmates and have co-written scripts with some of them. 



What are you working on right now?


I am right now busy finishing my thesis feature script Shadow (working title).



What do you hope to do after graduation?


I would like to pursue a writer/director career path. I want to find a production company to produce my TV pilot Friendship and keep developing my first feature film Enlightened Man. I also want to write and direct another short film which has been on my mind for a while. It is about a young firefighter that faces death for the first time.


Any thoughts on being a filmmaker as a woman?


Honestly, when I started I didn’t really think any differences existed. But now I have learnt through experiences that it is real. I often write about men, their relationships and explore masculinity in my work. And I think, the fact that I’m a woman allows me to explore that in a different way. We should be proud of the vision we, as women, have. Our vision and intelligence matters.



There are so many challenges in filmmaking and simply surviving as an artist. What keeps you going?


I want do well because I want to make my grandfather proud. He passed away two years ago. But he is my mentor and I feel like he is always present. Back in the fifties, in Chile, very few people were making films so he was very bold and I want to continue his legacy.


Leticia Akel Escárate's grandfather, Dagoberto Escárate