The Spotlight: Kryzz Gautier

The director of ‘Keep/Delete’ talks to us about the making of their latest project at MVAAFF 22.

By FTW Staff

Kryzz Gautier

The Spotlight is an interview series in which we follow under-the-radar contenders as they break ground in the festival and awards space.

For our latest dispatch from The Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, our Global Talent Lead, Aja Wiley sat down to chat with FREE THE WORK creator, Kryzz Gautier to talk about heartbreak, genre filmmaking, and using VFX in storytelling. Love is a battlefield and Gautier’s vision for its grandeur at its highs and lows is a sight to behold.

“universality comes from specificity”

This film stems from a personal experience of heartbreak. How do you use your practice as a creator to unpack elements of your life?

I think the most honest work comes from truth. I really believe in writing what you know, so everything I write has queer Afro Latina women at the center of it because I am a queer Afro Latina woman. And typically even though I primarily write genre, I give elements of my life a genre spin. I think some of the most powerful social commentaries that you can do comes through the space of genre.

One thing that is really important to me, and it’s one of the things that I live by is that universality comes from specificity. So even though it’s a queer love story, anyone can relate to the process of heartbreak.

Kryzz Gautier

How do you use sci-fi as a lens to discuss the world around us? What draws you, in particular, to science fiction as a mode of expression?

I think science fiction and genre, in general, is a really powerful tool for social commentary. There are a lot of ways in which people utilize genre to put out some really intense critiques about where society is, without having to hit people over the head with it and without it feeling preachy. That’s what I love about genre filmmaking. You can open the doors to a lot of different things without it being occasionally off-putting. And the more that we give creators of color the opportunity to authentically and honestly tell their stories, the wider an audience will be able to follow their stories. If it’s well done, then they can appeal to everyone.

You selected your crew super intentionally, creating an environment of all women, centering queer folks, and women of color. Were there any noticeable ways that this intentionality shaped the film’s final product?

Having a full women crew, led to a very collaborative process. Sometimes you really struggle to get people to respect you or hear what you’re talking about. When it’s an all-female crew, everyone knows what they’re there for, everyone understands that everyone’s there because they’re good. I think it’s much easier to be collaborative and on the same level when you have an all-women, primarily women of color and queer team, and you’re making a story about queer people and queer people of color.

Kryzz Gautier

Since this short was originally intended to be a pilot, can you discuss how the short’s concepts might have played out in a more serialized format?

Every scene that’s in the short, for the most part with some small tweaks, is in the pilot. So it is kind of the centering of the show. There are some big revelations that come in the last act. We see them meet again and it’s clear that they’re about to go on this journey because these two people are unavoidably pulled together like magnets.

So what happens when you live in a society where you can just erase your memories, and you can just erase every traumatic experience that you have? There are all these layers of what happens to a society that has the technology capable of removing those important elements from a person’s life.

Bonus: Were the VFX effects used throughout the film a step in a new direction for you, from a tech perspective? Did you have experience working in the VR space?

I’ve worked with VFX before, on a much smaller scale. About a half of the film involved some really, really heavy visual effects. Since the work was of a much larger scale, I worked with visual effects supervisors and collaborated with them as early as the development process. We started to work with the VFX company months before the project was filmed. We had to design things like the user interface, the look of the holograms, and everything else that was going to eventually be on screen. So while I had done VFX before, it wasn’t to the level of building this entire universe from the ground up.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

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