In Between the Gutter and the Stars directed by Diana Lesmez



Oscar Wilde wrote: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” This quote served as inspiration for this offbeat, coming-of-middle-age, and gender-bending love story.

Struggling actress, FANNIE (30s), suffering from deep-rooted issues of personal disempowerment, knows that much more is possible in life, but she just can’t quite figure out how to attain it. Therefore, she wiles away the hours, eking out a living from a variety of odd jobs, and failing to pursue her dreams of stardom. After hitting rock bottom, gradually she starts to realize that the only way to create the life that she envisions for herself is by taking small steps forward, which propel her toward conquering her worst fears.

In the meantime, the object of her affection, DANIEL (30s), who symbolizes a balanced existence between his male and female personae, serves as a voice of reason, challenging her to become the person that she envisions herself being. They’re so naturally suited for each other, if it weren’t for Fannie’s overwhelming neuroses. Not one to give up easily, Daniel sees in her what is possible. The sparks that fly between them arise not just from mutual sexual attraction and tension, but also from the fact that they’re each other’s best friends. Daniel serves as a remarkable role model in Fannie’s personal quest, by being true to himself and risking her rejection when he finally admits his attraction toward her. Eventually, Fannie will have to grow up, step up, and reciprocate.

IBGS Poster (no laurels)


Director Biography

Diana Lesmez has vast and diverse experience in most areas of the entertainment industry, spanning production, development, acquisitions, distribution, physical production, film finance, business and legal affairs, and new media. Currently, she is an independent writer/director/producer, developing a number of film, television, and new media projects for her own company, The StoryMaker Entertainment. Diana is also a creative, producing, marketing/distribution, new media, and pitching consultant, under her banner company, Bumptious Media Consulting.

Moreover, Diana recently completed a quirky romantic comedy, IN BETWEEN THE GUTTER AND THE STARS, which she produced, wrote, and directed. The short film has begun traveling the festival circuit, and in 2015, won the Gold REMI Award at the WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, and the Golden Palm Award at the Mexico International Film Festival. It was also an official selection at the Cine+Mas San Francisco Latino Film Festival, as well as at the Broad Humor Film Festival in Los Angeles. The film stars Jacob Vargas (GAS FOOD LODGING, TRAFFIC, and CESAR CHAVEZ), who won an Artisan Award at the Broad Humor Film Festival, and Yvonne Delarosa (LOS AMERICANS), and was shot by Chuy Chávez (ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW, YOUTH IN REVOLT, and CEDAR RAPIDS).

Diana is producing a feature film, FLIGHTS OF FANCY, which is inspired by the remarkable rags-to-riches, American Dream life story of Dr. Ricardo E. Saca, brother of Elías Antonio (“Tony”) Saca González, who is the former President of El Salvador. She is also the co-creator of a new reality medical web series, WALK-INS WELCOME, which is in early pre-production. Diana developed (while simultaneously training the writers) an original scripted one-hour television dramedy, CONTRACORRIENTE, for Puntos de Encuentro, a Nicaraguan NGO dedicated to eradicating the oppression of human rights.

In addition, for years Diana has been a screenwriter, as well as a screenwriting and producing instructor and advisor, working with private clients and teaching at various universities, studios, and industry organizations. Most recently, she conducted a pitching workshop for the Writers Guild of America, the Storyboard Development Group, the Alliance of Women Directors (which was sponsored by Canon), as well as three private seminars on pitching for Colombia’s largest production studios, Caracol TV and FoxTelecolombia. She also taught a two-part seminar on screenwriting in the Dominican Republic, as part of the nation’s largest media fair.

Furthermore, Diana taught pitching to the students enrolled in the MFA in Producing program at the New York Film Academy, as well as producing, screenwriting, marketing, and distribution at The Los Angeles Film School, screenwriting at NALIP’s intensive Latino Writers Lab, and development and producing at NALIP’s Latino Producers Academy.

Lastly, she was a Contributing Editor for the Brentwood Media Group, publisher of six magazines in Los Angeles. As a screenwriter, she has placed as a finalist in the Walt Disney Fellowship Program, The BroadHumor Film Festival, and the Slamdance Screenwriting Competition.

Previously, Diana was the UPM on the feature film based on Julia Sweeney’s award-winning, one-woman, stage show, LETTING GO OF GOD, which played at the Toronto International Film Festival and aired on Showtime. Diana is the producer of the feature-length concert film, CULTURE CLASH IN AMERICCA, which Emilio Estevez directed. CULTURE CLASH IN AMERICCA premiered at the SXSW Film Festival and also screened at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival.

Concurrently, Diana was the President of Production, also managing the development department while pursuing film acquisitions for theatrical and DVD distribution. Diana also served as post-production supervisor on the acquired feature films, NICOTINA, IMAGINING ARGENTINA, THE THREE WISE MEN, and A GAME OF CAT AND MOUSE. She created the English subtitles for NICOTINA and A GAME OF CAT AND MOUSE, as well as edited the dialogue and oversaw the dubbing to English and neutral Spanish of the animated feature film, THE THREE WISE MEN (a Disney DVD release).

Diana has written, directed, and produced radio and television commercials for Evolve Post and Crosscrreek Entertainment, and previously for The Media Shop, Adobe Entertainment, and The AdMark Group. She also produced the short film, A SONG FOR HONEST ABE, for SunriseWest Productions.

In her tenure as Vice President of Creative Affairs at Atlantic Streamline (THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR and IGBY GOES DOWN), a self-financing film production company, Diana was in charge of developing the slate of film projects.

Diana was head of development at Patriot Pictures and Banque Paribas (AIR FORCE ONE, THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE, KILLING ZOE). She worked with Michael Mendelsohn, CEO of Patriot Pictures (a production company), and portfolio manager of the Entertainment Finance Group at Banque Paribas (a French bank that provided gap-financing for film production). Diana pursued new projects to be developed, produced, and financed by Patriot Pictures or gap-financed by Banque Paribas.

At Twentieth Century Fox, Diana worked in the legal affairs department, where she became well versed in the areas of music licensing, as well as theatrical and television contracts. She translated legal documents between English and Spanish and also served as a simultaneous interpreter in Licensing and Merchandising. Diana was promoted to Manager of Business Affairs at Canal Fox (Fox Latin American Channel), in charge of all aspects of affiliate relations.

Diana graduated with honors from Wheeling Jesuit University, in Wheeling, West Virginia, with a Bachelor in Arts in Professional Writing and a minor in Political Science. Continuing her education at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Diana received her Master of Arts degree in Theater, Film, and Television.

Headshot DL_Headshot

Director Statement

Written, Directed, and Produced by Diana Lesmez

This gem of a short film is an offbeat, gender-bending, coming-of-middle-age love story.

This project was born out of personal rejection. The idea emerged when I learned/realized that someone I was attracted to was not at all into me. Unfortunately, by that point, I had fallen into that trap that many women fall into–listening to girlfriends who, with nothing but the best of intentions, are only too eager to dissect his behavior and then feed a fantasy of possibilities. Deep down inside, however, I suspected the truth, which eventually he himself confirmed. Coping with rejection is a lot easier to accomplish if you’re confident enough to recognize that his non-interest is not a reflection of your lack of worthiness. Quite simply: every person has a right to feel however he or she feels–I had a right to be into him, and he had a right to not be into me.

As I moped about, licking my wounds, I started to formulate the idea that I could channel into a short film how I felt. And I began the creative process by asking that limitless question, “What if?”, knowing that there are an infinite number of answers to it….

Transcending personal rejection as the source of inspiration for the project, I then chose to connect it with what I believe to be a widening chasm between men and women. For quite some time, I have been observing the dynamics of coupledom, noticing that most pairings do not seem truly happy together. Spilling through the cracks of their happy façades is passive aggressive hostility aimed at each other. My personal observations led me to conduct some research on the subject matter. I found innumerable articles and books that corroborate what I have personally evidenced: that couples might choose to stay together for any number of practical reasons but most are not actually happy together. One recent study indicates that out of every 10 married couples, only 3 are truly happy in their relationships.

So then what makes the relationships of those couples in the minority (in terms of their levels of happiness), work so well? Very quickly, I started to notice one common trait amongst them. Couples who are happy together are mating with their best friends. Since we know that sexual chemistry can wane after a while, particularly if there’s no other foundation to sustain the relationship with the passage of time, then there has to be a more grounding element to level out the ups and downs of being together for an extended period of time–perhaps a lifetime.

I also observed that happy couples, who are in love with their best friends, have a particularly organic way of comprehending the nuances of the opposite gender. The female might not understand the male as a whole, but she can identify with their mutual commonalities, while appreciating those traits that make him distinctly masculine. And vice versa. In these relationships, both males and females appreciate the other gender without overwhelming biases. And once those preconceived notions about what it means to be a man or a woman are removed from the relationships, the couples are left appreciating each other simply as individuals.

So I began to formulate the idea for a short film, in which a woman and a man belong together not simply because they’re attracted to each other, but rather because they genuinely and wholly appreciate the opposite gender. He authentically loves women, ergo he is able to genuinely appreciate this particular woman in his life, and she authentically loves men, ergo she genuinely embraces this particular man in her life. The only obstacle in their way is when they allow the intrusion of outside influences to tilt them off balance and affect how they view each other and define themselves.

In selecting the cast, I wanted to focus on diversity and universality. A middle-aged woman struggling to find her way through life is not an organically ethnically centered “type.” In fact, almost any woman or man in any corner of the world could probably identify with Fannie’s self-created story of limitations and her very real need to overcome these, if she’s ever to become a happy and prosperous person. Similarly, women and men can identify on various levels with Daniel, the cross-dressing, self-confident paramour, who appears to take calculated risks. Thus, in the film, the characters are of a certain ethnic background that informs their identity but does not stereo typically overwhelm it. Above all, this is a human story.

In terms of the visual expression of the central theme, I chose to make a film that would be visually stimulating with the incorporation of a broad and vibrant color palette, which would reflect the essence of the two main characters. For Fannie’s character, her apartment is warm and colorful, but often also stark. She has an internal energy and passion that is fighting to be released upon the world, and in the meantime merely escapes a little into her immediate surroundings. Daniel’s color palette is an extension of himself, via his female persona. He has evolved into a space in which he celebrates his existence via the use of bright hues.

To capture and reflect the emotional and physical distance between Fannie and Daniel, as well as to serve the central theme of the exploration of the chasm that seems to permeate male and female dynamics, I chose a cinematic style of shooting in which the camera remains slightly afar. The close-ups come later in the film, once the intimacy between the two lovers is allowed to emerge in synch. In the first half of the film, there is a physical world that they simultaneously occupy together but at a safe distance from each other, for they have constructed barriers to keep each other out, despite their mutual attraction. By the end, the camera is intimately involved with their free and open expression of love, practically crawling onto the sofa with them. In those final moments, the camera invites the audience to experience the unabashedly and joyful celebration of whole-hearted loving.




 Director: Diana Lesmez

 Writer: Diana Lesmez

Producer: Diana Lesmez

Producer: Charles Miller

Producer: Gabi Ilioiu

Key Cast: Yvonne Delarosa

Jacob Vargas

Soledad St. Hilaire

Ruben Rabasa

Director of Photography: Chuy Chavez

Editing: Victor Giovanny Parra

Sound Editing: Kendall Hawley

Sound Editing: Vickie Sampson

Production Designer: Luie P. Garcia

Costume Designer: James David Leal

IBGS - Fannie and Daniel on couch IBGS - Fannie in drag