While looking at all of the great web series being screened at ClexaCon I was excited to see some familiar names on the list and jumped at the chance to reach out for an interview. I have chatted with Cheska Bacaltos before about another webseries she worked on, It’s Complicated, and I have seen Daniel Luna in another webseries, which has been featured on this site a number of times, The Leslie. Both of these exceptionally creative people are part of a new webseries that will be debuting at ClexaCon, Functional, and I chatted with them about their parts in the series and what they are looking forward to at the convention this year. All of Cheska’s answers are in italics and Daniel’s responses are kept in standard font.
Could you introduce yourselves to our readers?
Hey friends, I’m Cheska and I’m the director of functional! You may (or may not lol it’s ok) know me from creating and directing the webseries It’s Complicated a few years back.
Hello! My name is Daniel Luna and I am a functional alcoholic, originally a Colorado native now residing in the LA area. I am the writer and creator of Functional.
How would you describe your series Functional, which debuts at ClexaCon?
It’s about two queer Latinx BFFs that are just trying to figure out how to manage adult jobs and adult relationships. It’s very intersectional, which is cool. It’s also a silly comedy with very real, very dramatic moments which is totally my jam.
Functional is a queer modern story that follows two best friends, Jazmyne and Guillermo, trying to get their shit together as they attempt to become adults. All while facing the differences their demographic brings them… also a series that pays an homage to those close friendships that have shaped us into the lovable losers we are today.
This one is for Cheska, how did you become involved with the series?
When I was writing and creating my own web series, I tried to meet as many people doing the same thing as I could. Around that time The Leslie was also out in the YouTube-world… I met with Katie Johnson, the star and creator of The Leslie. Through her I met Daniel who was in it. A year or two later Daniel was getting ready to film this and needed a director. Kate wasn’t available at the time, so she referred me and it’s worked out!
This question is for Daniel, what inspired you to write the series?
I wanted to see more stories from the point of view of me and my friends in the political climate we are in. Simple as that. We are lucky to be living in the connected world where millions of stories are within our reach but unfortunately very few bring queer people to the forefront and from those stories even fewer highlight queer people of color. Knowing that my story is one out of many I definitely wanted to push it out there as an open invitation to everyone and hopefully continue this upward trend where stories like these are finally breaking ground to more audiences.
As a follow-up Daniel, what was it like for you to act in something that you wrote?
It was very interesting and in a way… a little therapeutic? Although I did write this basing the characterization off a certain time in my life I didn’t think it would be hard for me as an actor to jump into it. After the table reading with the cast and hearing it aloud though I realized there was a lot of emotional connections I would have to decide to either leave behind or bring with me. I ultimately got to play a version I wish I was like back then and I also got to close some personal loose ends I didn’t think I had.
What were some of your favorite on set moments?
Oh, God… filming this episode that takes place in a club was probably one of the hardest, longest days we’ve had. There were a handful of times where I looked at the script, then I’d look at Daniel with this expression of “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT”. Hahaha! We had to start at 5AM and that was rough. But I learned a lot and so it’s up there as a favorite moment because of that. Though one of my favorite scenes isn’t in that episode. My favorite scene will be in the episode to screen at ClexaCon… it’s in slow-motion… another film trick I love playing around with!
Anytime on set I was in awe with what the cast, crew, Corey, Doni and Cheska brought to the set with the little resources I gave them. Honestly each week we came on set the location would change, the crew became smaller (or non existent), the time frames become shorter etc. I felt like a cruel game show host upping the stakes each week and throwing twists or fireballs at them. But you know what, everyone showed up and delivered each week. The amount of hard work everyone contributed is beyond words.
What do you hope viewers take away from Functional?
I think, after they’ve seen all the episodes, I want people to come out of it thinking that there is no bad or good guy in this show. They’re all, at their very core, just trying to survive. And they’re all messed up. And that’s ok… that’s life. All of us are just messed up messes trying to navigate through life.
I hope they can take away that this story is one of many out there waiting to be told. My wish for Functional is that viewers regardless of their background can see this and see a little of themselves in it while understanding the journey of the main characters. If it can inspire just one person to feel seen or even want to tell their own story as well then I feel like my mission is fulfilled. I am someone who is very close to his culture and background but what I love most about being a part of the queer community is that all of our stories and fights are so unique that when we come together as a whole we all create a sort of mosaic artwork celebrating each of our journeys.
What are you most looking forward to at ClexaCon?
I loved it the first time I was there! I’m definitely looking forward to seeing other web series and short films. I also love checking out the awesome artists and vendors.
First off I am very thankful and humbled Functional is premiering at Clexacon for being the festival that it is. All of the big opportunities I have had in LA and the reason this show even got the green light is because some amazing women believed in me. I’m looking forward to the energy and space described by many of my friends that have been before. I am also very excited to view all the other content that celebrates women in film!
You’ve both been involved in a few other projects, could you share some things our readers can check out that you’ve been a part of?
If you haven’t, check out “It’s Complicated”. There’s two seasons of it… and the two seasons are wildly different. The first one is all comedy, and the second is a bit more like Functional. It’s pretty much a drama disguising itself as a comedy. I’m also working full time at BuzzFeed, and you may or may not see my face in videos. Other than that, Functional is my only creative baby for now.
I have been a part of The Leslie Series (written, created and directed by Kate Johnson) which has screened at Clexacon before and most recently I was able to be a part of a short film called Invisible Struggle (written, created and directed by Corey Xenos). Both of these amazing individuals played a huge part on set wearing multiple hats as either AD or DP. Both of these stories are also now available on Youtube to view!
Where can our readers keep up to date with you and Functional online?
I would ask Daniel! Haha. We have a Twitter and an Instagram that he handles, and honestly I don’t know how that boy finds the time. Being the sole creator/producer/marketer for an indie series is haaaard, and it’s fun seeing him navigate through it like Kate and I did back in the day. For me, you can follow me on Twitter @lazycheskie… I’m the same username on Instagram as well.
You can search us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook under @FunctionalSeries!