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SBIFF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and education organization dedicated to making a positive impact utilizing the power of film. SBIFF is a year-round organization that is best known for its main film festival that takes place each year in February. Over the past 30 years the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 90,000 attendees and offering 11days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums. We bring the best of independent and international cinema to Santa Barbara, and we continue to expand our year-round operation to include a wide range of educational programming, fulfilling our mission to engage, enrich and inspire our community through film.

In June 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. The theatre is SBIFF’s new home and is the catalyst for our program expansion. This marks the first time that Santa Barbara has had a 24/7 community center focused on the art of film and is an incredible opportunity to expand our mission of educational outreach. Particularly important to SBIFF is making available high quality learning opportunities for underserved and vulnerable populations. Our programs and reach are more robust than ever before.


SBIFF 2022 ‘A place in the field’ Interview with the director


SBIFF 2022

With director: Nikki Mejia

By Emmanuel Itier



Director Nikki Mejia is an atomic director exploding on the screen with a “tour de force” first feature: ‘A place in the field’. She dares to explore and expose the human soul at its most raw incarnation and invite the viewer into a journey of redemption and self-exploration. Nikki’s poetic approach of PTSD among soldiers is a moving and rare inspiring mind trip, allowing the soul to find refuge in a safe haven before reaching to the heavens. Make sure to check out Miss Mejia picture. This bad-ass lady gonna be very quickly picked up for a major feature to direct in Hollywood. Next stop: The Oscars!



Q: What were you trying to explore with this film? What was the inspiration?


Nikki: Don DiPetta is a friend, he is the one who wrote the script. “Blue” who is also a friend and who is in the military was the inspiration to bring his vision to the screen. He suggested this subject matter. He explained that there are the people in the field, fighting, and there are others sitting in a booth taking incoming calls in an office of sort. But these people are also hearing the bombs next to them. Our friend thought that we don’t see those moments in films. Then I spoked to another friend who was a combat veteran and he saw a lot, suffered a lot. Too many times we see these war films and it’s just about the “action” but it’s not about the human. I think a lot of the time we forget what the human is experiencing. Honestly, we can relate to veteran who have PTSD and to trauma. You don’t have to have that trauma. In my case I have sexual abuse trauma so for me that was my way into this film. I spoke very openly about my experience and how my day to day is. How I face difficulties and how I’m afraid to talk to people about it and be afraid to open up to others. But also, to tell what happened when I did open up, finally, and started talking about it. My life changed at this moment, and I started to heal. And with all the conversations I had with Don we came up with this picture and the rest is history.


Q: As a female director and because the movie is mainly about a male character and his “friend”, what is interesting to study men? What did you find out about us, “men”?


Nikki: So, I love gangster films! I have always loved male characters dominated films. So, it was never a thought in my mind that there was any hesitation about directing a male driven story. I knew I wanted to direct Men! All the actors I want to direct are mainly men. I love actors like Mark Ruffalo and Tony Shalhoub. I love bad-ass men who are able to tap into that deep source. And it was amazing to work with these men on this film who opened to me and were able to be vulnerable. So, at the beginning we had lots of takes while we were shooting. There were not feeling the freedom to explore their emotions. I had to clarify with them that it’s ok to open up. I was telling them to yell, and punch, and to get it out of their systems. I felt their restraint. So there was some “clashing” and many conversations in order to get into the free rhythm of things. Eventually they gave themselves permission to totally express their inner feelings, their inner emotions. I had so much fun. And it gave me the taste to want to direct big action films and I’m going to direct gangsters in a near future!


Q: As your first directorial effort what were the main challenges you faced?


Nikki: For me it was all about the exploration. This was the first feature for most of us behind and in front of the camera. There were times when I didn’t know, I didn’t have the answer. And I had to be honest and just say: “I don’t know”. And we figured it out, together. And I encouraged my team to do that as well. I didn’t want them to do a half fast job and tell me later why you did what you did. Being able to be vulnerable and to say, “I don’t know”, was one thing to face. But also, I wore many hats, and I produced this film as well, so this was challenging to multi- task and do so many things at the same time, like also financing, finding the money for this film. Lots of people told us it was impossible to do such a film. They told us to just go and shoot one scene. But I refused to give up and just shoot one scene. And I did it, I shot the entire movie! So, finding all the collaborators who shared my vision and wanted to do it, was quite challenging. But we found the team, and they were all women! And I trusted them, and it got done.


Q: At the end what is the take-away with this film? What are the messages of importance to you?


Nikki: I really want to have a conversation about the veteran community with more people. For all of us to just say that “we are here for you”. We are still in this cycle of violence and non-sense, see what is happening with Ukraine. And people are being traumatized all around the World. So, I hope a movie like this trigger your empathy for others. And love for one another. We need to hold space for each other and just saying: “I’m here, it’s ok, it’s going to be fine”. Even if you have to seat in silence with someone, there is something beautiful about it, making one with each other. I hope our film awakens this conversation. I hope it helps veteran being seen and heard.


Q: Being at the Santa Barbara film festival, what’s the feeling, the expectations, if any?


Nikki: Santa Barbara is amazing. It’s a true blessing to be here and premiere our film at SBIFF. It reminds me of Santa Fe, in New Mexico, where we shot entirely our film. We all set out to learn when we decided to make this movie. And I never thought we would be at a festival like this. It’s such an honor and I’m so happy to be here, I’m so proud of our movie and of everyone who worked on it.




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About Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival has star wattage and a wealth of premieres in a Mediterrean-style city by the sea.

Blogging here with dailies: 
The team of editors of the The Santa Barbara Blog:
Carol Marshall, Felicia Tomasko, Vanessa McMahon, Marla and Mark Hamperin, Kim Deisler and Bruno Chatelin

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