s o l s t i c e.


High School students Olivia and Jacob are faced with a life-altering decision that no teenager is ready to face. Are they ready to trade one future for another? How does one know which future to choose?


Project Type: Short

Running Time: 12 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 1.39:1

Shooting Format: Digital

Country of Origin: United States

Director Statement

1 location, 1 day, 4 actors, 12 crew members, and a first-time director.

There was a moment in July 2020 where I realized I couldn’t not make “Solstice”. The entirety of the project came together amid COVID-19. Early in the pandemic everything was so uncertain and it was incredibly difficult for me to just slow down. In order to attempt to embrace the quiet I began to get into journaling and yoga nidra meditation. As time went on my meditations began harassing me to make this story. It was originally a 3 minute piece for a college screenplay writing class over a decade ago. All of my current feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, and lack of control were funneled into the angst of the updated story. Start to finish, the project was conceptualized, completely rewritten, scouted, cast, designed, filmed, edited, loved and hated in under two months. I really liked the thought of teenagers having to trade one future for another. Plus, women and men are so different at that age. This film also needed to be told by a woman, starring a strong, relentless female character. Having female representation on set was important to me and my goal was to have a 50% female crew, however we ended up with over 50% female crew.

The aesthetics of “Solstice” were exceptionally important to me. As the sole location is inside of a motel room, it was relatively simple to be able to control and curate the entire environment. Even as I was writing it, I knew which motel I wanted to film in because the rooms had so much character. The intent was always for the look to be moody but not dark and hopeless. I spent hours every night finding images to enhance the aesthetic through color and light. I wanted to keep the room very simple so the light coming in felt very important. I am so pleased that DP Daniel Zollinger was able to convey this concept.

The lead characters of Oliva and Jacob bring everything to the story, so I went in fully aware that casting would be all-important. As the funds for this project were almost nonexistent, I had to cast it myself. I used Backstage to find my actors. In the time of COVID-19 the entire process of casting and rehearsing was done via video on Zoom. It was definitely a gamble to cast Jacob and Olivia without meeting them and without them meeting each other. Their chemistry and how they interact with each other is inherently the story and the story does not work without their chemistry. It was paramount to the heart of the story that it be real teenagers. There is a naiveté and openness to how teens see the world that doesn’t exist when it’s a 30 year old playing a teenager. Their hair and makeup was toned-down to be true to life.

I am continually stunned that so many people still can’t have a level-headed conversation about abortion. There are people who will vote for politicians entirely based on their stance on this topic. Abortion affects so many women; 1 in 4 women will have one before the age of 45. Not only can they be very difficult to obtain but they can be financially destructive. There’s a healthy part of society that’s currently missing if we can’t have logical conversations about topics like abortion. I felt emboldened about the story and topic, even more so when it prompted some serious roadblocks in the casting process as several actors were uncomfortable taking part in portraying a story that involves abortion.

I chose the title because the solstice has so much meaning in the spiritual world. The winter solstice is celebrated as the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year, while it’s on the cusp of bringing lighter, brighter, longer days. The winter and summer solstices are when energy shifts in a different direction, having reached a sort of breaking point. The solstice also has a lot of connection to rebirth and self-reflection as well as new beginnings. This parallels Olivia and Jacob’s story, as well as how a lot of us are feeling in the pandemic. It even parallels my life and how I relate to making this project. The solstice is a time for reflection, quiet energy and giving yourself the opportunity to look within yourself to focus on what you want, need, and to set future intentions.

About the Filmmakers

Ariel Lopez - Writer / Director / Producer

Ariel Lopez was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Shortly after graduating from college with a degree in Sociology, she joined the film industry as a lowly location intern. Soon she was regularly getting jobs and continued to work her way up to location manager. She has worked in the location department on films such as, "Sicario,” "Stargirl,” and "Those Who Wish Me Dead.” She’s had the great privilege to work with some incredibly talented directors who didn’t teach her how to direct, but showed her how to treat the crew and collaborate, push her own creativity, and think outside of the box. Ariel has been an avid teller of stories her entire life. In high school she was known for her group video projects, made on a borrowed Sony Handicam and the first version of iMovie. They were not good, but they were entertaining and resourceful. On set now, the teamsters continually await her next “bad date” story. Writing and directing came as a natural next step in conquering the world. instagram twitter

Brandon Harris - Producer

Brandon moved to New Mexico when he was 13 with an ambition to one day work in film. As luck would have it, Albuquerque would become a flourishing hot spot for the film and television industry in which he has worked now for the last 10 years on projects such as "The Comeback Trail", "The Girlfriend Experience", and "Independence Day: Resurgence". He relishes the oft chaotic collaborative process of productions both big and small and looks forward to subjecting himself to it for years to come. Brandon will pass away at the age of 52 when he is eaten by a gang of C.H.U.D.S. He will be survived by his cat. instagram 

Mykel Salazar - Co-producer / Assistant Director

Mykel is from New Mexico and a descendant of Laguna Pueblo. She holds a degree in Indigenous and American Indian Studies from Haskell Indian Nations University. She was recently accepted into the Directors Guild of America and was the 2020 recipient of the Rising Star Award from the New Mexico Film and Television Hall of Fame. Mykel works full-time as an Assistant Director, primarily on independent films. Her passion lies in helping to create films that bring light to major issues such a sex trafficking as well as missing and murdered Indigenous women. As an Indigenous filmmaker herself, she supports other Indigenous filmmakers, as well as women, and people of color to break into the film industry. She plans to help bring the voices of women, Indigenous peoples, people of color, and others that are often marginalized to the spotlight. She was recently worked as an Assistant Director on the feature film, River, which had a female-led cast and crew.  instagram

Daniel Zollinger - Cinematographer 

Daniel, a native New Mexican currently based in Albuquerque, finds his growing cinematography career a thrilling and satisfying experience of creating art. Daniel first discovered his passion for camera work in high school as a still photographer and went on to acquire a BFA with a photography emphasis in college. With 12 years of experience in the film industry camera department, he consistently enjoys learning and growing in his work. Along with doing his cinematography work, he is currently a camera operator with the Local 600 Cinematographers Guild and enjoys Steadicam work as his specialty skill. Daniel loves light and its beautiful ability to push forward the feelings invoked with its careful use. He is a former champion gymnast and sees how that focused training ability has impacted the rest of his life. Daniel loves an adventure big or small and cares deeply about the work he does whether for the WB or a new director shooting their first short film. instagram facebook

Cara Cecchetti - Art Director

Cara moved from Pittsburgh to Santa Fe in 2004 to attend college. She graduated from the College of Santa Fe in 2009 with a degree in Moving Image Arts and a minor in Creative Writing. She has spent the last 11 years working on TV and Film crews in props, set decoration, and production. She is currently focused on learning to be an art director and future production designer. instagram 

Key Cast

Reese Fast as Olivia

Starting out in the whimsical world of theatre, Reese received awards on the state and national level for her work on the stage. Now shifting her focus to a career in front of the camera, she has trained with William Esper Studio, MN Acting Studio, Actors Comedy Studio and never misses a chance to improve when she isn’t on set. She lights up telling female-centric and female empowering stories. In the future, you can see Reese as the sweet and optimistic highschooler, Annie, in the raw coming-of-age feature Interior Lives and the type-A sister in the upcoming horror feature Those Who Call. When not immersed in the industry, Reese spends most of her time advocating for animal rights or hanging with the displaced dogs and cats at the local animal shelter. instagram 

Joaquín Madrid Larrañaga as Jacob

Joaquín Madrid Larrañaga has acted in dozens of theatre productions around Albuquerque, New Mexico, but is excited for this transition from stage to screen. He was last seen in "Voices Beyond the Veil; the stories of God humanly speaking" by Village Art of Colorado. He is currently studying theater at Occidental College in Los Angeles. instagram website

Briana Leslie Gonzales as Madison

Briana is an actress and crew member in the New Mexico film and television industry. Her background is primarily in music as a violinist and singer. From 12 years old to 19 years old she performed with mariachi groups where she performed for a variety of audiences including for the Hispano Music Awards in New Mexico. Briana received her Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Adams State University. After graduating, she joined the film industry as a production assistant, and soon after started acting. Briana has starred in multiple short films, including recent supporting roles in Sunsets, Just Kidding, and Capitol Barbie. instagram 


Coming Soon

Past Screenings

May 14-16, 2021 - San Diego International Shortsfest (World Premiere)

October 14, 2021 - Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, NM Shorts Block (NM Premiere)

March 5, 2022 - Las Cruces International Film Festival (in the Local Shorts Block #3)

Month of July - New York Lift Off Film Festival (new voices shorts block)

August 26, 2022 - ABQ Mindfield Film Festival