Leandra Torres sets up the shot in the vestibule of the building. The sun provides the lighting for the scene as her subject stands in front of a yellow chair facing the camera. Leandra watches with intensity on the other side. She gently moves the camera to match the scene, capturing every angle that flatters the mood she wants to create. When she is satisfied with the moment, she interjects her voice into the air.
Everyone moves with swiftness as the serious mood fades in preparation for the next visual that Leandra would make.
At just 20-years old, Leandra is establishing herself as a legendary director in both film and theatre. As a college student, she is building her experience in directing including backstage work and guiding actors and crew members. She practices using these techniques when she directs plays, performances, and even in her own film. Within all these mediums, she is able to visualize a written scene, making it come to life on screen in a vivid and powerful way.
Her goal is to take the knowledge she learns throughout her time in college and become both a professional theatre and film director. She also wants to create her own production company studio. She wants to create content for everyone but wants to be more inclusive to individuals of color.
She says, “I want to create a safe place for everyone, particularly other Latinos and women of color. I feel we are portrayed in a more negative light and I want to be able to make a platform for us to create in a good environment.”
In addition to under-representation in the media, Leandra feels there are other struggles in media for communities of color. “There is a lot of negative content surrounding people of color. The subjects are always intense or pointing blame on our communities. It’s hard because it makes it difficult for people to figure out who they are or who they want to be since they are constantly being shown portrayals that don’t represent them.”
Leandra does believe that with a more positive direction in the media, these perspectives can be changed. With inspiration like director Ava DuVernay and shows like ‘This is Us’ and ‘American Son ‘for her to reference, she wants to create her own content that is both empowering and relatable to others. She says, “Having conversations on taboo topics and spreading correct information is good. It helps people understand our story. There is more to us than just our struggles. We have inspiring stories and it needs to be heard.”
In her personal environment, Leandra is receiving encouragement to continue her path. Her family created a strong foundation for Leandra to feel comfortable exploring film as a career. “My family always taught me to pursue my dreams. They supported me through my art and always made sure I knew no matter what, I can do what I want to do.”
Leandra relied on her art more than ever during the summer of 2019 when her mother moved to Puerto Rico. “My mom moving away was very overwhelming for me. I had to become more independent and be ok with being alone.” However, she is able to find positives in her situation as she progresses in her experience as a director. “I use art to ground me. I am more comfortable doing things on my own. I’m doing new things and feel as if I don’t have many restrictions. And I do still have a strong support system with my friends here in the U.S and with my family in Puerto Rico!”
Leandra remains focused on being successful not only in her art but in her life. “Success to me is not letting society tell you that you can’t make it or that it’s too hard. You have to know you can achieve it.” Leandra wants to leave a legacy as someone who works hard and will continue to do everything necessary for success. “I want people to know that I rose to the occasion with anything I wanted to do. If I need something done, I’ll do it and do it well.”