By Morgan Roberts
In her latest short film, “Someone to Carry You”(2022), writer/director Cyrina Fiallo explores the nuances and beauty of female friendship. The film is an ode to her own friendship with her real-life friend Laura. It is a piece of art that blurs the lines between fiction and archival, art and artist. It is a lovely film that highlights the power of friendship and an ode to the people who see you for your unique self.
Much of the work Fiallo has created has been with friends and about friendship. She co-created, co-wrote, co-directed, and co-starred in “The Subpranos” with Chrissie Fit. She’s currently working on a project with Natalie Morales – Fiallo talks about it in our interview. And she was in a cover band called The Girls with Alison Brie and Julianna Guill. (Which, side note, in college, I listened to The Girls a lot while studying. So, just take a moment and check out this banger. I’m pretty sure I listened to this while crying about the periodic table or something.)
But, in addition to writing and directing work, Fiallo has been featured in a number of television shows including “Supernatural,” “Glee,” “Community,” and “Good Luck Charlie.” Fiallo also has appeared in TV commercials for Allstate, Capital One, Pepsi, and Subaru – to name a few. Her latest short film, “Someone to Carry You” premiered at two festivals over the 26-27 March weekend and is Fiallo’s third short film. We talked about her latest film, the power of female friendship, her childhood Red Van Club, and the brilliance of “Pen15.”
Morgan Roberts: Sorry, I am so bad at Zoom.
Cyrina Fiallo: Oh, I get it. I am technologically challenged. So I can really understand.
Morgan: So, the past two years have really been a challenge.
Cyrina: Yes, yes, they have. Zoom has made things a lot easier as far as the writing process is concerned. I’m working on two different projects right now, and, you know, the logical thing would just be to meet up. And that’s what we always did but then 2020 happened, and that was impossible for many reasons. And also, LA is so spread out, and both of my writing partners live very far from me. So it was always a 40 minute to an hour long commute, when we would do that. And now it’s just so easy. You pop on when you need to, you go get lunch, you come back, you do your thing, and so it’s made it so much easier.
Morgan: Well, that’s incredible. And you’ve been making a lot of content for quite some time.
Cyrina: Yeah, I’ve been trying to. I think the interesting thing about moving to LA to pursue a career such as this is that I came out here just wanting to be an actor, I didn’t know that anything else was possible. To be honest, I didn’t really know that acting was possible. But I moved out here with a couple of friends, and we all had the same dream, same idea. And it’s really hard to get work. It is not easy. So at some point, individually, together, we all started creating content just for ourselves to fulfill our own creative needs to laugh, to try to not take this business so seriously. Because there’s so much rejection, and just creating your own stuff gave us some autonomy and gave us some control in this otherwise very, very difficult industry where you have no control whatsoever most of the time. So yeah, we’ve been doing it for a while for sure.
Morgan: So what, for this film, what was the catalyst for you to kind of create the short?
Cyrina: So I directed a couple of smaller things here and there. Me and one of my best friends Chrissie Fit, she’s also from Miami, and we started doing these little web series things before web series were even a thing, it was so long ago. And we thought, “maybe we could just do that.” So we started doing that, and then we directed them ourselves. We wrote them ourselves and guerrilla shot them ourselves around town, doing it with each other and directing each other. It was fun, there were no stakes. So I thought, “Alright, I want to try and do something on my own.” But it needs to really not just be meaningful for me. It needs to come from a place of, I’m the only one that can do this thing, because that’s the only way that I can wrap my head around the imposter syndrome of directing.
So one night, my best friend growing up texted me something that made me laugh forever, as it usually does when she texts me. And I was next to my boyfriend and he said, “What are you laughing at?” And I said, “Oh, my God, just Laura sent me this stuff.” And I asked, “did I ever tell you how we met actually?” And he said, “I don’t think so.” Then I just went into the whole thing, and we had these clubs, and we were so weird, and this is what we did in school. And it just was on, and on, and on. He said, “that’s so funny and so weird.” And I thought, you know what, I wish we had video; I wish I had a time capsule that I could see and just rewatch these wonderful moments in my life, that pretty much made me who I am today. I for sure wouldn’t be who I am without Laura. And so I thought, “I think I’m going to write this into a little story and then maybe see if I make it into a short.” And that was the catalyst for this particular little film.
There’s just something about female friendships that you never truly understand unless you cultivate them and really care for them and treat them as they are, which is this really special, unique gift.Cyrina Fiallo
Morgan: Well, that’s amazing. And what I loved so much about the film was it felt like that snapshot of looking into people’s friendships. So I’m wondering, how do you as a creative have that boundary of “here’s something that I’m bearing, that’s very personal to me” while also having a little bit of space for there to be something else to grow from it.
Cyrina: Right. Some separation? Um, that is a great question because I’m typically such a weirdly private person about certain things and other things, I will talk about, no problem. And you can probably tell that from my Instagram. If you’ve ever watched my videos, some of them, I’ll talk about health stuff, I’ll talk about personal stuff such as that. But then I won’t want to show certain things about my relationship or some of my private life with my family, things of that nature. But then another time, I’ll post a video of me plucking my dad’s white eyebrow hair. So it really just depends. But with this particular story, you know, I watched “Pen15,” and it just deeply touched me in a way that I don’t think I’ll ever be the same after watching that show.
And I thought I want to create something where people just remember that first person that changed their world, and gave them the confidence to be who they are today, and never judged them, and never made them feel as if they were less than, or you know, that they had to fit in with the crowd, and just encourage them to be their most unique, authentic self. And that’s what Laura always did for me. So I felt that, all of this stuff is weird and personal, but it’s so much a part of why I am the person that I am. And I want to share that with people because I also want to make it evident to younger generations that you should embrace that. You know, we of course drifted apart here and there, as friends often do, but we always came back. It was like magnets, and I think that happens with a lot of friendships. When you don’t do that is when you drift apart, and then you drift apart forever, and sometimes people regret that. Or sometimes there’s sadness there. But I just wanted to connect all people in a way, and connect friendships and just bring those memories back. And I figured the most personal way to do that is to share the most personal things.
And there’s a ton missing, obviously, because it’s a nine-minute short. But I think actually, a really interesting part of this project was the original video that she sent me that I’m looking at on my phone in the shot is something called “hobby horsing.” I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of this before, but it’s kind of a female empowerment thing. It’s been in, that I know of, in the last five years, and it’s young girls horse racing with those fake horses on a stick, you know, and there’s hurdles, and they have a track. And they compete. I said, “Oh, my God, this is something we would do.” Absolutely, we would have had our own team. And I thought, this is weird, yes, but it’s so cool, and I love that this is a thing that exists, and I love that this is something that brings young girls together, and gives them confidence. So that’s the video that I’m watching, and I didn’t feel connected to anything because yeah, this is funny, and yeah, this is weird, but it doesn’t say anything about our friendship. And so I was really sad. I cried about it, because I thought, “Oh my gosh, I spent all this money to make this thing and I used all of my friends and creative people to come together to make something special, and it’s not what I wanted it to be.” I just sort of wracked my brain as to how I could make this feel right, and I realized that what it was missing was us as young girls, and being able to show that, because I hired young actors to play us, but they’re not actually us, obviously, and I felt like that’s what was missing. I needed real snapshots from our past.
I thought, “What actually happened? Our home videos that we had, where are they?” So I called my mom and said, “Mom, I need you to look at all of our home videos.” We have so many it’s crazy to sift through but she did it for me, and she found all this footage of us. And that’s what you see in the movie. As soon as I put that together, I said, “Oh, this is what it was missing.” And even if it’s too personal, and it takes away from the film in whatever way, this is what I wanted to make. I hope that people see it and it reminds them of their friends, so I hope that that worked because that’s what I was going for. But it was really, really depressing, how disconnected it felt without that. Yeah, so that’s even more personal because it’s literally me, in the awkward stages of life and I felt if you don’t put that in, you’re just glossing over who we actually were, what we looked like. There’s little moments of vulnerability and, sadness, and goofy, awkward braces and teeth and facial hair. It’s all the things you don’t typically want anybody to see. But if you want to make people feel something, I think you have to show the truth. So as personal as I can be, in this particular case, I really wanted to show as much as I could.
Morgan: And it comes across as both the cast that you’ve assembled, and with those nice touches of home video and pictures; so what was it like kind of casting those people to kind of fill in some of those pieces for you?
Cyrina: I had a casting director, Fred Warner, who I’ve worked with before in other capacities, but he works with a lot of kids. I said, “I need kids. I need good kids. I need kids that look like me, and I also need kids that look like us like this, at this age, not just a progression of what we probably looked like, but what we actually looked like.” We auditioned a bunch of girls, and it was really the essence that I was looking for in terms of Laura’s character. But I had already asked my friend, Renee Felice Smith, if she would play Adult Laura, and she said, yes, so then I thought, “great, now we have to have her look like Renee, and now all we need is someone to look like me, but we found her and she is this wonderful young actress, Nora Harriet from Ohio, and she was living in Ohio when she auditioned for me. She flew out here just to do the short, and then shortly after that, she moved out here with her family. Now she lives here and works all the time. All of the girls, there was something so unique about each and every one of them. They were just fun to have around, and I loved auditioning them because the first one was through Zoom, but this was before the pandemic. So I got to see them in person for their callback and I just love working with young actors. They’re just so open and excited, and they have such good ideas, because they’re not thinking about judgment as much. And so I just sort of went with the flow of their choices and didn’t care if they said the right lines. It was really fun. So that was a really cool process for me, because I just love working with actors in general, but I really enjoy working with young actors.
Morgan: And I think you mentioned that the two youngest actors ended up becoming best friends because of this, so what was that like to have created this friendship, inadvertently.
Cyrina: It almost feels not real, and I definitely well up every single time it’s mentioned. They both posted about watching it this weekend when it screened at a couple of festivals, and it overwhelms me so much and warms my heart so much, I can’t even believe it. But I really hope they stay friends because they legitimately have stayed friends and see each other all the time. And I shot this a couple years ago, so it’s really beautiful to me. And if this comes full circle in that way, I don’t know if I’m going to do a Linklater film and I’ll film them in 20 years and ask, “What’s your friendship like now?” Do a classic “Boyhood” film. But yeah, what could be better than that? Literally a story about best friends, and then the actors are actually best friends. It’s crazy. They’re seven and eight, I think at this point, but you know, when you know, absolutely. It’s really sweet to me.
Morgan: And what is it like? Because you mentioned that you shot this before the pandemic. So what is it like watching it now?
Cyrina: I mean, what was sad to me was that I really wanted everybody to be able to see if for the first time together. But that just kind of wasn’t possible and hasn’t been possible, because it’s tough to have everybody in the same space. The first opportunity has been this screening capability at the film festivals. But seeing it back there’s just, I love theater. I grew up doing theater in high school and college and you don’t do it that much out in LA, which I feel is a real big bummer. But that camaraderie, that time that you spend together, even when you do a TV show or film or something, it’s this little family, so it was sad to watch it without them.
But having everybody here, we shot it in my house mostly and we would all eat snacks around the table together, and people were just taking from the fridge. And just that aspect of creating something from your brain or from your history or whatever it is, and piecing all of these people together, having these moments without masks, without the fear of getting each other sick – the way that the fear is now – it was just so nice. And so I hope we eventually get to go back to that because, unfortunately, everything that I’ve worked on since there has been that separation, there isn’t the same closeness that you feel when you make something because there is that fear still underlying. There’s also all the protocol that you have to go through to make sure no one gets sick, which I respect, of course. But with the masks, I don’t know how it would have been, because I was also working with minors, so you know, there’s other rules in place for that as well. So it is a little bit sad, but I’m glad I was able to film it beforehand, because then there’s just this extra element of special closeness that they were able to have, especially the little girls in those moments where they didn’t have to be separated or tested or anything.
Morgan: And what was it like? You know, you have a very extensive background in acting. So what is it like for you to be creating these things and giving opportunities to other women and especially young women? And so what, what is that, like, in creating that space, both for yourself and for others?
Cyrina: Yeah, well, when I first moved out here, it was challenging because you want to fit into some space. You know, as much as I talk about being authentic and being exactly who you are, when I first moved out here, I lost a little bit of that. I lost a little sense of myself, especially because you want to be chosen, and you want to make your mark in some way. And I was also really young, so it’s hard to know exactly who you are or what you want to offer to the world and your essence and your creativity and all those things. So I think I tried to fit into a box, and I don’t really think I do fit into a box. So that worked against me. And even something as simple as my last name being Fiallo [‘fjaʝo], that’s how you pronounce it. My dad’s Cuban. I would always say Cyrina Fiallo [fee-al-lo] because I wanted to make it easier for people to understand and I just wanted to make it easy for everybody else. But I think, why not just do exactly what it is, say exactly who you are, and then people will learn. If they don’t, that’s their problem, not yours. And this is something that I’ve learned, of course, years and years later, but it was really challenging.
And so I think in writing things with friends and creating things on my own, it was sort of that space of okay, I have to do these things for other people sometimes, but in this world, I’m going to try and compartmentalize and at least create what is authentically mine, and who I am exactly in this world. And now I’m wanting to expand that more, and more, and more, and more. Hopefully, these young women that I worked with now, they will never have to do that. They’ll never feel as if they have to fit into some mold to make other people happy. I hope that they always just present themselves exactly as they want to be, and nothing more, nothing less. And if they end up changing in 10 years, which I’m sure they will, great. That’s who they are 10 years from now. But there is a need to fit a certain space, and you often get pigeonholed. And so, I guess, the older I get, and the more I create, the more I just want everybody to see what’s in my brain and not what I think they want to see. You know, just what’s in there, whether they enjoy it or not, it’s gonna be weird so if you’re on board, put on your seatbelt. But, I’m still learning. I’m still learning how to do that.
Morgan: Well, and I also love that, throughout your career, you have worked with your friends and made things with your friends. I mean, you mentioned Chrissie Fit and things with other friends as well. And so, you know, this story both reflects this particular friendship, but also kind of culminates a little bit of your career of working with your friends. So what is, kind of, the power of friendship to you? And what does it also mean in a creative space?
Cyrina: Oh, my gosh, I mean, this question kind of makes me cry. So I’m currently writing a movie with my friend Natalie Morales, and we moved out here together from Miami. We’re writing a story together that revolves around growing up in Miami and this big family and having to come back into that world after being removed from it for a while. We want to keep this as authentic as possible to our experience, and also what it was like growing up there with multicultural families, how we kind of also felt like outsiders in that space, and now our coming back to realizing that everything is what you make it. When we met in college – she was my Laura in college – we moved out here together, and we have always said we’re never going to leave each other behind. And Chrissie falls into that category too. You want to surround yourself with people who love you exactly as you are. And it’s not that often that you get blessed with those friendships, especially in your career.
In this particular case, I’m lucky enough to have two people that believe in me, that see me, that are always reminding me to be me, and in reminding me are always like, let’s all be exactly who we are; let’s try to meld it all together and make something where people can feel seen. And so, I always encourage people to work with friends and work with people you trust, and work with people who aren’t going to try and change who you are, or change whatever it is you have going on in your head, because that’s the stuff that people want to see.
That’s why I loved “Pen15” so much because it felt as if, oh my god, they’ve been saying the stuff that I was thinking all my life, and how do they remember this? How do they remember those feelings? Those super unique special feelings of being that age and wanting to fit in, and we never really change from that. We grow up a little and our self esteem goes up, sometimes, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it gets worse, and so, we just get better at covering it. So I think just talking about it as much as possible and working with the people who will call you out if you’re not being who they know you are, they remind you, this isn’t working for you or this isn’t going to be the thing that helps, this isn’t going to be the thing that gets you anywhere. And that’s what I think is special about working with friends and the power of female friendships. Yeah, to me, I kind of grew up thinking I was more of a guy’s girl, a tomboy. The idea, of, “I’m cool because I’m not difficult. I’m not dramatic.”
Morgan: “I’m drama free.”
Cyrina: Yeah, I don’t care, “I don’t take two hours to get ready” or whatever it may be. But now as an adult, I’m realizing that female friendships are a superpower. And oftentimes, especially in this career, not even purposefully, maybe, but we’re pitted against each other a lot. And that’s really sad to me. And so, having these, the foundation of friendships that are going to be by your side to pick you up when things get rough and encourage you to not stop and not quit and keep going, no matter how many times you get rejected, that is so important. And there’s just something about female friendships that you never truly understand unless you cultivate them and really care for them and treat them as they are, which is this really special, unique gift.
Morgan: What has it been like receiving feedback? Because the film did premiere this weekend, I believe at two festivals. So what was it like kind of letting that go out into the world?
Cyrina: I was really, really nervous. I’m still nervous. It’s still potentially going to be in other places, and once it gets in, or doesn’t get in, I’m going to put it online, and then it’ll really be available. And I think I, this is not always easy to remember, or to stay true to. I remember saying, when I first made this; I don’t even care if nobody likes it. I want to make it for myself, and I want to make it for Laura, and it’s a love letter to her. And if no one gets it and they think it’s stupid, that’s fine, because we were made fun of a lot and we weren’t included in a lot of things, but I wanted to make it for me.
And it’s very rare that I do anything just for myself, especially in this world, because it’s so much about, “here are the lines that you need to know, here’s the character, and we need you to be this.” In my particular case, I feel as if, well, this is this, and it’s for me. Sometimes that is hard; it’s hard to remind myself that I created a thing just for me. But, I haven’t gotten negative feedback, so that is great. I may eventually, but for now, Laura loved it. My family loved it. My close friends loved it. And they see me in it, which I know sounds ironic, obviously, because I’m in it, but they see my soul, I should say, and that is what matters to me. It’s still nerve wracking, you know, to have it out in the world, and you hope that people like it, but more than I hope people like it, I just hope they feel seen. I just hope that it makes them want to call their friend or reminisce about a time that was maybe a little less shiny, or a part of them that’s embarrassing. I love embarrassing things. I wouldn’t be who I am at all without all the embarrassing things. I used to feel a little shame for certain things that happened in growth spurts or whatever and now, I realize, if I didn’t have those, I literally wouldn’t be me. So I’m very happy they happened.
But now as an adult, I’m realizing that female friendships are a superpower.Cyrina Fiallo
Morgan: Well, I did reminisce about my own friend group from high school. We had a croquet club. So what was kind of what you feel was the top notch weird activity that you and Laura did?
Cyrina: Oh my God, I mean, there were so many but I think if I had to pick from the three things that we did, it had to be drinking out of baby bottles. Because we were probably 11/12 at this point. And we brought them to school. And we would fill them up with water, apple juice, whatever and we drank out of them. And there was a weird thing – this is so weird; I can’t believe this is going to be in print – but there was one thing that Laura did, I could never do it. So, I don’t know how she did it but she would bite the nipple of the bottle in a certain way and whatever liquid in there would squirt out. So she would, in class, squirt the bottle at an angle, it was like a stream of apple juice into her mouth. And we thought, “This is normal. And all of you guys are stupid for not using this as a cup, because this is the new cup, this is the travel cup. And we’re gonna make a statement and no one else ever did it, obviously.”
Morgan: She had to be good at math because I feel like you have to have an understanding of trig or something for that.
Cyrina: If I remember correctly, neither one of us was good at math, and we still are not. But yes, I mean, whatever trigonometry, she was figuring it out in that world. God bless her. But that was for sure one of the weirdest, we had many. We had another one called the Red Van Club, which is her sister Erin’s favorite to this day, she just told me the other day. And it was because one time a guy in a red van next to us went like this [makes a face]. And we decided, “That guy sucks.” And then everyone that had a red van, we hated. And we used to take pictures of license plates, because we were spies, of course. And one funny thing is that every so often, my mom would take a roll of film to be developed at, you know, your local Eckerd Drugs, if you’re old enough to know what that is. And there would be just pictures and pictures of blurry license plates from the Red Van Club and she said, “you have to stop doing this. This is expensive.” I still have some of those. But yeah, yeah, everyone in a red van, we hated them after that one guy stuck his tongue out at us at a red light.
Morgan: I mean, there are certain things that right when you experience them, they’re just kind of a red mark. Like, exactly. What do you think that you now would say to Young Cyrina, who probably was feeling a little weird, and is now feeling seen in this movie?
Cyrina: Man, I would just say, keep going, keep doing you. Don’t hide. I think don’t hide is probably what I’d say. Because sometimes people make you wanna hide and go in a cave, or you know, or hide with clothes you wouldn’t wear but everyone else is wearing them. Hide behind your fancy car because everyone has it and you feel embarrassed to drive your dad’s Oldsmobile, or whatever. But it’s like, don’t hide; if you’re you, no matter what you wear, no matter what you’re driving, no matter how you’re feeling, you will be loved. Because you’re not being anybody else. There’s only one you, just don’t deviate from that. So that’s what I’d say.
Morgan: I love that. And because I asked my therapist-y question, I like to do fun questions at the end. So what is your favorite film about friendship?
Cyrina: Yeah, so our favorite movie growing up was “My Girl”(1991), if you remember.
Cyrina: Horrible, horrible, the saddest I will ever be still to this day when Macaulay Culkin dies of the sting. And then the second one was “Now and Then” (1995). Have you seen that film?
Morgan: Oh, of course. Yeah.
Cyrina: So “Now and Then.” Classic. They were all friends, all four of them are friends. But each friendship had their own individual needs. And they met with each individual person. Those two films. I just want to make stuff like that.
Morgan: And who is someone in your field, especially like a woman or someone in an underrepresented community that you want to work with and why?
Cyrina: Well, two actresses that I love beyond belief are Melissa McCarthy and Annette Bening. I just want to work with people that have a weird, unique vision on anything. I don’t know if you saw the film “Swiss Army Man” (2016)?
Morgan: Of course!
Cyrina: It is beyond weird. And I freaking loved it. I wish I would have seen it in theaters. Actually, I saw it past its time. I saw it way later. And I thought, I want to shout from the rooftops about this movie. And I actually messaged one of the guys who directed it on Instagram later on, because I was like, “Hey, I just want to say, I saw this way too late. And you’re amazing. And your movie’s amazing. And I love this.” And now they have that new movie coming out, “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” So I’m so excited. That’s the kind of stuff where someone’s like: “look, I don’t know who’s gonna like this but…” And that’s who I want to work with. I’m gonna like this. And yeah, put Melissa McCarthy and Annette Bening in there, because they’re also so unique. Their choices that they make as actresses are so, you never know what they’re going to do next. And they’re both so funny in their own way. I just just love both of those women.
Morgan: That’s a great answer. And I can’t wait for their version of “Swiss Army Man.”
Cyrina: Oh my god. Yeah.
Morgan: What is the film that kind of was an inspiration for you to act or write or direct?
Cyrina: I have so many. Well, “Clueless”(1995) growing up was one of my favorite movies. It still is, it still is. And just so fun. The bright colors. Just everything. I love high school movies. I could watch them forever. I think movies such as“Little Miss Sunshine” (2006), and, not to only choose movies with “sunshine” in the title, but also “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004). Both of those movies are favorites of mine. I just love movies that are equally funny as they are dark, and not just depressing, but meaningful and in the way that you’re thinking about them for weeks, years later. I think about both of those movies multiple times a year, at least. And sometimes they’re hard to watch because I love them so deeply. And I’m just trying to keep it in a capsule in my mind, exactly as it was the first time I saw it and let’s just leave it at that. But I love that. And a perfect example: Steve Carell. He does this in all of his films. He’s just as subtly funny as he is heartbreaking, and those two qualities about an actor, about a human, are what I want to portray in things that I do.
Morgan: And last question, what has been the TV show or movie that you’ve been watching incessantly during these past two years?
Cyrina: Well, in speaking to the authenticity of exactly what someone wants to create from their brain, nothing more than, nothing less: “Dave.” I don’t know if you saw “Dave,” but he’s a wackadoo in the best possible way, and his best friend in the show, GaTa, what he’s doing is so powerful. I feel as if Dave is someone who acts like, I don’t care if you like this or not, this is just what I want to do. And that’s what I love about the show.