Empowerment Series: Peruvian Director, part of the Female Forward NBCU LAUNCH Program, Kantu Lentz, Shares an episode of NBC’s “Chicago Fire” with AW
Film and television are filled with high praised, male directors. Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, and Dick Wolf are some of the most recognized names in their respective industries.
More and more, we hear the buzz about women making a splash in the field. Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog), Chloe Zhao (Nomadland), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), and Sophia Coppola (Lost in Translation) are Oscar-winning directors, shining a light on the work women are doing behind the camera.
Peruvian filmmaker, Kantu Lentz is a director with a vision. She is part of NBCU’s Female Forward Program, a project that seeks to create opportunities for female directors in episodic television. Kantu had the incredible opportunity to direct an episode of Chicago Fire, one of NBC Universal’s hit shows and part of the “Chicago Wednesday” lineup.
The talented director comes with an impressive resume. She has an award-winning short film “Jack and Jo Don’t Want to Die” starring Justin Kirk (“Weeds,” “Angels In America”) and Olivia Edward (“Better Things”), which premiered at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. The project is currently being developed into a feature-length film. Additionally, Kantú wrote and directed a comedic video “Rollercoaster Break-up,” starring Moses Storm (“Sunnyside,” “Unfriended”) that went viral with ten million views and counting.
I read that you are a Dick Wolf fan. Like many of us, you grew up watching Law & Order: SVU. When you think back to his shows, how have you been influenced by him, as a director? There is a reason Dick Wolf shows have run for a long time. His characters are well thought out. Specifically, SVU’s Mariska Hargitay, whose character, Olivia Benson is always in the between. She is constantly having to fight darkness while remaining someone who believes in the light. It’s something that I find interesting in characters because nothing is consistent, one way or the other. Humanity lives in between, in my opinion.
You directed this episode of Chicago Fire, and there was so much that I loved about it! Stella Kidd’s character, played by Miranda Rae Mayo, is such an inspiration. Was there an emotion, personal story, or experience you tapped into, to deliver a show able to highlight “girls on fire” without taking away from the action or other storylines in this episode? It mainly goes to the credit of the writers, who wrote an amazing script. Honestly, it wasn’t really about tapping into anything but showing something that is way overdue. Women should be in any and all jobs, they are inspired to do. For me, it was more the excitement of being part of this storyline and making magic for television. The show has such an incredible reach, for young girls all over the world to possibly, see themselves in Stella’s character is inspiring.
As a female director, how did you feel directing some of those action scenes? Was it easier or harder to direct the scenes where characters were dealing with the emotional side of an issue? I view it as a movement and how things feel, considering actors, as well as, experiences. Even though they are very different, you are tapping into “How the scene should feel.” You try to put yourself in the character’s perspective. I think about what the character is feeling and what I want you to feel, as the viewer, then make choices based around that.
Is there a challenging aspect, as far as directing this episode? Everything on a set is always a challenge. It was easy, as far as, the incredible crew and cast to direct. In production, you are fighting light and time. These pieces need to come together. Having the opportunity to step into a machine like “Chicago Fire” was an honor for me, as a director. Doing this job during CoVid, was tough but it’s what we had to do to be safe. The work is about connecting with an actor and vice versa which is difficult to do a mask and social distancing. You can’t see into anyone’s eyes or see their expressions. Everyone has to be in this connected space, it’s where the magic happens.
Being a woman in a man’s world has countless challenges. How has NBCU’s Female Forward program empowered you as a director and a woman? NBCU’s Female Forward program is one of those programs that is so unique. It is the only program that actually offers you a job. In order for the industry to take you seriously, you need to have the episode. The trust, commitment, and engagement with each of the directors, they commit to are simply invaluable. I think as a woman they are making a pledge to change the numbers.
I am very excited to continue directing television, as the door is now, open and I love it! I am also currently prepping my feature film, “Jack and Jill Don’t Want to Die” based on a short film that I wrote and directed in 2019 with a great run at the Tribeca film festival.
We like to end AW interviews with a positive message or advice. I have watched this episode but can you tell our listeners why they should also, watch this episode of “Chicago Fire?” Chicago Fire rocks!! This episode is wonderful because it has all the things you love about the show, amazing action scenes, romance, love triangles, and comedy. I hope you watch it, you will definitely enjoy it!
AW is filled with gratitude to Kantu for sharing her insight and experience with our readers. Female directors are stepping up to the podium and being seen. As we look to the future, we cannot deny the impact diversity and inclusion are having in business, politics, entertainment, healthcare, science, and other fields. Encouraging an environment that incorporates everyone offers an alternate perspective. Hopefully, it will also inspire a world that respects the differences among us without condemnation.
To learn more about Kantu Lentz, visit Instagram @kantulentz and happypessamist.com
This interview has been condensed for clarity.*
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