When she was a teenager, Judy Febles watched Girl Interrupted for the first time...


It was one of the first times that she’d witnessed a film with a large cast of women, as well as the first time she’d seen a woman presenting more butch on screen. Although the film has a complicated legacy in the queer cinema canon, Girl Interrupted had Sapphic undertones and was a mainstream film that featured queer affection.

Judy enjoyed the film so much she didn’t just watch the movie completely through, she even felt inclined to read the credits. That’s when she noticed the word “screenwriter” and looked it up on the internet. It never occurred to Judy that she could pursue film as a career.

“When I was in high school, I learned about this film school in New York,” Judy recounts, “but it was too expensive. So, I decided to go to the army so that I can have school paid right after.”

After leaving the military, Judy ended up attending Columbia College of Chicago, where she earned a general concentration in film.


Judy Febles serving in the military | Judy Febles


“I did a lot of producing, directing, writing, and production design classes,” Judy remembers.

As her college experience progressed, Judy found herself focusing more and more on producing and logistical support on sets. Judy believes that her time in the military, as well as her age, allowed her to be especially effective at producing. Yet, it didn’t always feel fulfilling. 


“Producing films at Columbia just didn't feel as creative because I didn't understand that part of producing,” Judy muses. “I think students there also thought ‘okay, you’re the producer. So, you’re just doing the budget and logistical stuff’.”


While she oftentimes felt overlooked in the creative process when it came to being a producer, Judy does point to one experience as allowing her to see a whole different side to the job. 

When working with Juan C. Linares on the short film ‘Warren?’, Judy notes that Juan understood the creative role a producer should take. As a result, Juan would have conversations with Judy and ask for help when something wasn’t working in the script. Additionally, with budget and time restraints, Juan trusted Judy to search for creative solutions within the story. 

“It's about throwing out different ideas to make sense of what the original intention is,” Judy relates. “I mean, sure we can’t afford this, but why don’t we find a way to make it work in a way that we haven't thought of yet?”


A still from "Warren?", directed by Juan C. Linares and produced by Judy Febles | Carmenjia Productions


“My film school was really white, so sometimes it felt like it was a little bit hard to connect with other people,” Judy remarks. “But, then I found a group of other Latinx kids and that changed my entire experience.”

Through connecting with other film students who were from similar backgrounds, Judy began feeling more comfortable pursuing what she’d really wanted to do in school. For example, knowing she had the support from a diverse community of friends and colleagues, she felt empowered to enroll in a directing class and take on a more creative role in filmmaking

After graduating from Columbia College of Chicago in 2014, Judy decided to take time off from film. Part of the reason was that, at age 28 and coming straight out of the army and school, Judy felt burnt out. Yet, she also began feeling weird about working in film.

“Sometimes it very much feels like filmmaking is a rich people's game,” Judy candidly points out. “Maybe other people don't know that when they enter and so they don't have access to all those resources. It makes me a little sad.”


Judy Febles celebrating her graduation from Columbia College of Chicago with her family | Judy Febles


For two years after graduating, Judy Febles took some time off. She invested time into a new relationship. She discovered other interests. Although she was still working as a production assistant here and there, she was largely not going on to film sets.

That all changed when she slowly began connecting with people who felt as passionately as her about fostering diversity on sets.



“I started working with filmmakers who also wanted to see more women and more people of color on screen and behind the camera,” says Judy.


She felt re-connected with film after working on the web series Brown Girls as a Script Supervisor. It was tremendously rewarding for Judy to be surrounded by fellow filmmakers who were also hungry for change. 

Slowly, through word of mouth and organic connections, she began meeting more and more minority filmmakers.


Judy Febles in a crew photo of "Brown Girls" | Judy Febles


In recent years, Judy has started more intentionally pursuing what she wants.

“I'm kind of just learning what I'm willing to do and what I'm not willing to do as a producer,” she states. “In the beginning, I didn’t know what to say, but now I say upright that I want creative input and if that’s not what you’re looking for, then maybe this isn’t the right fit.” 

Judy eventually got to a point where she felt the urge to flex the creative muscles that she hadn’t used in a long time. While making schedules and calculating budgets were important, she really wanted to express herself more creatively. As a result, she went back to one of her interests in film school: production design.


“It's fun to create the world that characters are living in,”  Judy relates. “It’s a lot of work, but when it does work out, it just feels so good to know that I had input in helping with the director’s vision.”


Her latest challenge: converting an abandoned building into a mental institution. Judy recently worked on production design for a feature film called The Coming. She remembers feeling overwhelmed, having to convert one of the rooms into a chapel. Yet, with the help of the rest of the art department, she was able to pull it off.

“Art department feels very collaborative in a way that is different than production,” Judy offers. “There are so many small little details you have to think about in art that it's great to have multiple brains on it.”


Judy Febles in a crew photo of "Departing Seniors" | Judy Febles


“Right now, I’m Line Producing Departing Seniors,” Judy shares. “This is a super colorful crew, which is really exciting.”

In fact, Judy had heard comments while filming from passersby about the diversity featured amongst the people working behind the scenes. It's been a wonderful experience for Judy, especially given that disparities for people of color working on film sets remain as large as ever.

That being said, Judy is ready to ease off on working on other people’s films. Judy wants to get back into her roots. She’s interested in creating her own stuff - directing and writing her own stories.

“To be honest, this year I've been going really hard,” Judy sighs. “So, I'm kind of looking forward to taking a little break.”

After a long period of being brought onto other projects, she’s excited to make space for her own.


Judy Febles, as director, reviewing a shot with the cast and crew of "Strap Me" | Judy Febles


JUDY FEBLES is a producer, writer, director, production designer, and 1st AD. She is known for her work on Strap Me (2014), Holy Trinity (2018), Firstness (2019), The Coming (2022), and Departing Seniors (2022).