Motion pictures student writes, directs coming out dramedy

Senior Danny Menendez, a relative new-comer to the world of moviemaking, finished his first film, “Born This Way,” this summer taking on the roles of screenwriter, producer and director. An interesting twist on the typical coming-out tale, “Born This Way” tells the story of a closeted straight guy coming out to his gay parents.

The Miami Hurricane spoke with Menendez about his experiences while creating his short film.


The Miami Hurricane: What inspired you to make this movie?

Danny Menendez: Timing really. I originally wanted to make a drama out of it, just a story about a kid coming out and telling his parents he’s gay. But at the same time I wanted to practice my comedy writing, so I figured I could put them into one movie. Right now, I feel like we’re reaching a point in our society that people are now understanding this different sub-culture, this different race of people, so to speak. It’s now being recognized by the youth especially. Now we have nine states allowing gay marriage. The more awareness the youth has, the better it’s going to be.

TMH: What was the process like?

DM: I figured the best way to tell this story, especially a story this serious, is through comedy. The best way to express something is through comedy. So then I thought, “What if it was switched? What if it was told from a different perspective?” People would automatically see the dramatic irony and it would hit them across the face even harder. So the process was all about getting the story straight, getting to know Kevin in the first minute, and right when we see his parents, getting to know the world they live in. I went through at least five drafts before I started getting the crew together and the actors. It was pretty difficult especially since I didn’t have any producer or assistant directors.

TMH: What was your experience like directing?

DM: Originally I was suppose to co-direct with a friend of mine and at the last minute he had to drop out because of personal reasons. So I had to direct without any knowledge of what I was doing. So I had to make it up as I went along, but I pretty much just went with my instincts. The challenging part was the casting.

TMH: Was this part of a course?

DM: It was part of an independent study. Originally, I just wanted to write it and have someone else film it. But it came to a point where time was basically money, and everyone was doing their own projects at this point. So it was just something I wanted to try and got a lot better results than I thought.

TMH: Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker?

DM: In high school, I did a lot of music. I sang for choir, jazz, jazz ensemble. When I was graduating high school I thought that this wasn’t what I wanted to do and I wasn’t passionate enough about it. When I got here, I didn’t know that you could major in motion pictures. Combining theater and film has been an absolute treasure for me. There isn’t anything better than creating something for the stage and entertaining. And there’s nothing like writing something yourself.

TMH: In reference to your future projects, are you sticking with comedy?

DM: I do want to try different genres. I do have a script that has darker themes. But I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing with it in the future. It’s more of a crime-thriller and so I just want to try it out. But I was basically raised in comedy. My family, growing up, was very, very funny. My brother is hysterical. Even if the stories are a little hard to take in, the best way to take it in is through comedy. Like when you’re hearing something that’s hard to take in, the best way to tell someone is through jokes and gags, or telling it in a funny way. Once you’ve taken something in and laughed about it, it’s easier to understand and take in.