SxSW ’22 Interview: HONEYBEE director Emilio Vazquez Reyes

HONEYBEE sheds light on the harsh reality of immigration by following the story of an undocumented Mexican immigrant who receives a heartwarming yet heartbreaking phone call from his daughter across the border who tells him a tragic children’s tale of an innocent honeybee. However, as the story goes on, the brutal parallels between the children’s story and real-life begin to be drawn. — Filmmaker Emilio Vazquez Reyes on HONEYBEE which screens in SxSW Film 2022.

Welcome to SxSW 2022! Is this your first SxSW experience?

Not only is this my first SXSW experience, but my first in-person film festival experience of my life since HONEYBEE is my directorial debut short film. I still can’t believe that I made it to SXSW considering how inexperienced I am in terms of directing compared to most people.

How did you first hear about SxSW and wishing to send your project into the festival?

I heard some of my favorite YouTubers and filmmakers mention SXSW as one of the biggest film festivals in the world as early as 2017. However, during spring break of 2019, I got my first real taste of how culturally significant SXSW is when we were trying to get home to Texas from Oklahoma City and discovered that almost every flight to Austin was full. Flash forward to my freshman year of high school when I decide to take a photojournalism class, and one of our assignments was to photograph an important event. Since I live in the DFW area, I made plans to attend the 2020 SXSW Film Festival over spring break to not only cover it for my assignment but to go for my interest since I had always wanted to go after hearing my favorite YouTubers hype it up. However, I never got to go through with those plans due to COVID. I was never aware of their Texas High School Shorts category until after I made HONEYBEE, so I was more than excited to submit my film.

Tell me about the idea behind your project and getting it made!

My video production teacher approached me and asked me if I was interested in making a 3-minute short film for a high school film/TV contest. I happily accepted since I was eager to get off my couch and just make something. As for what the film would be about, I already had the idea of making a short film about immigration for a long while. Both of my parents are Mexican immigrants who raised me in the United States, so the topic of immigration is very personal to our family. Although I have personally never experienced any form of violent or explicit racism, hearing stories about people who aren’t too different from me having to go through these sorts of things really disturbs me since there is a possibility that this could happen to myself or my family. This idea that I could give people who were silenced a voice motivated me to not only make this film but to share it with SXSW.

Who are some of your creative inspirations? Any particular filmmaking talent or movie that inspired you for this project?

The biggest inspirations for this movie would be some of my all-time favorite films such as ROMA, MOONLIGHT, and LA HAINE. The way ROMA focuses on emotion, atmosphere, and authenticity instead of telling a structured story with clear goals and motivations inspired my philosophy on filmmaking and the way I wanted to go about telling this story. The experimental, intimate, and dreamlike anamorphic cinematography from MOONLIGHT inspired the way I wanted this film to look. And finally, the way LA HAINE goes about sending a punchy message on politics, society, and a look at us as humans by simply showing events unfold helped me decide how I wanted to send my own message on politics, society, and a look at us as humans.

How did you put this together from a technical viewpoint? What sort of cameras/lenses did you use and/or did you have any creative challenges in making it?

HONEYBEE was shot on a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K with an SLR Magic anamorphic 35mm lens for the anamorphic look. The biggest challenge that we experienced nearly made me scrap the entire project altogether. I had rented the lens to arrive Thursday so we could shoot for Friday and the weekend, which all of my actors had called off work for. However, since no one was at home at the time of the delivery, a signature was not signed, and thus the lens returned to its access point. When I arrived at the access point after school to retrieve my package, the workers there said they couldn’t find it. The next day at school, I received an email saying that my package would be delayed and delivered on Monday the next week, which means that we couldn’t shoot over the weekend or even next weekend since we couldn’t meet the deadline and no one could call off of work. I came incredibly close to texting everyone involved that the film will be scraped. Luckily, my brother and my dad were able to try again and successfully retrieve the lens just before everyone came over to begin shooting.

Being all virtual this year, what do you hope to get out of the virtual SxSW experience? And where is your project going next?

Since this is the first time the festival is being in person since 2019, I really look forward to not only seeing movies again in theaters but also meeting new filmmakers and connecting with them. The area I am currently living in doesn’t have that much of a film community since it is more specified in athletics and academics, so to meet people with similar interests who I could potentially work with in the future is something that I am excited to do.

What would you suggest to film festivals as a way to show more short films or make them more accessible to audiences across the country?

Making short films more accessible by posting them online and promoting them through social media is the best and most efficient way to show more short films across the country. From a marketing standpoint, utilizing social media is fundamental for getting any work of art into the public’s attention since most people use it on a day-to-day basis.

If you had one piece of advice to offer someone to get their start as a creator or filmmaker in the industry, what would you suggest?

The best piece of advice that I had ever gotten was from a YouTuber that goes by the name “The Royal Ocean Film Society” which was to study more than film, and I will always echo those words to any aspiring filmmaker. Although I mentioned that HONEYBEE was inspired by films such as ROMA, MOONLIGHT, and LA HAINE, the real motivation and inspiration of the film came from the heartbreakingly true stories from Hispanic immigrants. Taking ideas from real-life stories adds an extra layer of authenticity, originality, and honesty to any work of art.

And finally, what is your favourite short film of all time?

My favorite short film would be 2018’s FAUVE. It’s such a tightly made film that never fails to astonish me. Everything from the acting, cinematography, writing, its themes, and the slow and disturbing building of tension really hits me hard and makes it an all-time favorite short for me.

This film and many others like it will be showing at the South By Southwest taking place March 9-18. For more information and to register for the festival, point your browser to

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