“My dad put me in the Santa Monica Playhouse, which is this theater camp in Santa Monica, when I was six, and I thought it was just so much fun. I giggled through every single play. I also did The Little Mermaid at my elementary school and Shrek the musical. From there I did some musicals in high school, like Legally Blonde, and I also played Carmen in In the Heights at our local theater.
“When I was 13, I saw What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and that movie just really changed my perspective on how film can just make you think—think about the way you treat people, think about the way you see people, how you see the world. I thought, ‘My goodness, if a movie makes me think this much and makes me wanna do something differently in my own life, then this is exactly what I wanna do.’ I want to make movies and be in this world where something I do can make someone else think differently or change their life for the better. And I think that cinema has the power to do that, especially because it reaches such a large audience.”