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Ella Grace Rodriguez is a genre film director who discovered her love for fantastical storytelling in an unexpected place: home.


As an Orlando native, Ella Grace grew up a car ride away from themed entertainment. But, more uniquely, she was a walk away from the stories of her seven-generation Floridian and Cuban American mixed heritage.


Ella Grace is a soon-to-be alumna of USC's School of Cinematic Arts as a George Lucas Family Foundation Scholar. Ultimately, Ella Grace strives to tell stories that introduce new, fantastical worlds to remind audiences of the humanity and realities they live in with grace.


Ella Grace Rodriguez is more than an artist. She's also a storyteller, so here's a fragment of hers.

I am the first-born of Woody and Heather Rodriguez, two people who met on a blind date back when hayrides were cool. But my parents couldn’t have been more different. Cuban American Woody was a first-generation college student whose parents gave up everything for the American Dream during the Fidel Castro era. Floridian Heather came of age on her father’s construction sites and her mother’s principal office and decided to save the world through her studies of international affairs and law.

And yet, they somehow worked, and a cocker spaniel named Bailee, two law degrees, a vibrant wedding, and two FSU National Championship wins later, I was born.


I spent my entire life growing up in Winter Park, the textbook definition of a small town with a big heart. Considering it was smack-dab in the middle of swampy Central Florida, it was quite civilized with its cobblestone streets and expectations that one only honked out of absolute necessity – although gator tail is still my favorite appetizer at the local bars. I was the fourth generation to graduate from my high school; a constant reminder to always remember my roots.


Despite my quiet town, I was loud, never met a stranger and danced to every beat. Then, I got lucky to have a little brother who danced with me named Keyes. (Yes, his name is Keyes like the Florida Keys. Our Great-Great-Great Aunt Mamie made the first key lime pie, or so the family legend goes.)


My roots were the reason why I discovered film. My beloved abuelita bought me a camera for Nochebuena. I couldn’t part with it afterward. I documented all I could, from nature to strangers to cityscapes to my family. Everything in the moving image moved me – even if it was a tiny hummingbird.

In my awkward years, I balanced my love for filmmaking with growing up. Tightening my tripods and my braces, donning my first blazer and training bra with equal amounts of fear and exhilaration, prepping questions for documentary interviews and first dates to the movies. I loved it all.

Eventually, with the encouragement from my wonderful teachers, I moved to Los Angeles to study film at the University of Southern California, where I made movies about home, family, loss, sisterhood, grief, but a throughline I discovered throughout all my work, beyond anything else, was communities and family.

But I never stop thinking about home. Not in a melancholy way – I love the weather of Southern California far too much to grieve humidity. Rather, I think about nostalgia to find the same sense of belonging I felt every day of my tiny existence in my tiny community.

 Perhaps that is it. Community. I yearn to tell stories of community.

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