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UCI Alumnus Dylan Quintero, Writer And Director Of ‘Thank You’

23-year-old UCI alumnus Dylan Quintero gets personal with his latest film, “Thank You,” which was released in the month of February through private screenings. Taking inspiration from therapeutic healing processes and mental health advocacy, “Thank You” reconciles the aftermath of a relationship. Daniel (Ron Abina) writes a letter to ex-girlfriend Sarah (Julia Quang) with closure and comfort in mind. Moved by the messy, intense reality of grief, Quintero sought to tell a story of love, loss and acceptance. 

While the sentiments are universal, Quintero’s personal connection to the film dubs the work as “an act of honest and positive reflection.” It isn’t just Daniel who writes a goodbye letter to a past relationship in “Thank You” –– it is also Quintero.

“In a way, it’s my own goodbye letter and there’s a couple specific creative choices I made to emphasize that. I wanted to capture the emotions of pure dopamine bliss in the beginning of a relationship, while paralleling it with the struggle of coming to terms with the idea that the relationship came into your life for a reason and left for a reason,” Quintero said. 

Ron Abina in “Thank You” Photo provided by Dylan Quintero/Courtesy

After graduating in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in film & media studies, Quintero was apt to enter the world of professional screenwriting, directing and filmmaking.

Having written, directed and produced music for the film, Quintero feels confident in his candid approach to storytelling. Often stripped-back and down-to-earth, Quintero lets the emotion of his films speak for itself. 

It is not unusual for Quintero’s directorial work to grapple with matters of the heart. His 2020 debut film “Carne” follows the newly widowed Beto and his grandson, who come together over a shared meal of carne asada. In the same year, “Carne” was officially selected for the Arpa International Film Festival. 

His seminal work shapes a particularly poignant viewing of “Thank You” –– one that resonates with new and devoted audiences alike.

“Thank You” stars UCI undergraduates — second year drama and informatics student Abina and third year drama student Quang — as Daniel and Julia. Aside from current UCI students, the film’s crew largely consists of UCI alumni, such as producer Alan Mendoza, assistant camera Allan Dizon and script supervisor Shant Araradian.

Ron Abina and Julia Quang in “Thank You” Photo provided by Dylan Quintero/Courtesy

Admitting it was one of the easier roles to play, Quang reveals that playing Sarah was a conscious balance of her own personality and “honoring the essence of who Sarah is.” Like Quang, Abina found refuge in his role: “I would say that my character, Daniel, is a character that resonated with me.”

However, due to the partial reliance on an improvisational exchange between the on-screen exes, Abina often found it difficult as a first-time actor.

“The biggest challenge for me, though, was actually the fact that I was pretty nervous about this being my first time acting in a film to this level of professionalism … [W]hile I was admittedly a bit nervous at times, remembering to live in the scene as my character –– while also receiving support from Dylan [Quintero] –– helped me adjust,” Abina said.

In writing, directing and filming a production of relatively heightened professionalism, it is worth acknowledging how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the making of “Thank You,” and how the cast and crew members managed to be safe and effective in a combined effort. 

Crew members of “Thank You” preparing for a shoot. Photo provided by Dylan Quintero/Courtesy

Quintero notes that “the creative process of making [the] film was mainly affected by COVID during pre-production.” Despite the perpetual frustrations of online-only social interactions, which vastly limited the creative possibilities capable of in-person collaboration, Quintero “knew they were capable of bringing their A-game to set without an in-person rehearsal, and they did not disappoint.”

In contacting the cast and crew, Quintero initially began correspondence over Facebook, Zoom and Google Drive. Everyone on set followed preventative COVID-19 measures. 

“Everyone was required to get tested ahead of time, crew wore masks at all times, we had daily temperature checks, social distanced as much as possible and kept [the] crew as small as possible,” Quintero said.

From script to set, both the cast and crew conveyed that they felt the creative integrity of the film was preserved. “I did not feel as if the creative process was affected. The film itself is set within the timeline of the pandemic and so I appreciated that these circumstances were acknowledged artistically as well,” said Abina. 

Ron Abina and Julia Quang in “Thank You” Photo provided by Dylan Quintero/Courtesy

Quintero is most vocal about his overwhelmingly positive experience working on the film. “It never felt like work to me. Everyone on set was super talented and did what they needed to do. Ron [Abina] and Julia [Quang] were awesome to collaborate with … You could tell they knew their characters and were super prepared to bring their best performances to the project. I appreciate all the hard work everyone put into this film and can’t wait to work with them again,” Quintero said.

Quintero’s second directorial work wields the power of vulnerability, unfettered honesty and the ability to relinquish the past while radically embracing the future. Rooted in recent life events and remnants of a past relationship, “Thank You” is a fictionalized telling of Quintero’s own experience with love, loss and acceptance.

“I want people to feel seen and understood no matter what their situation may be. That’s always my inspiration for making films, and ‘Thank You’ was no exception,” Quintero said.

Mia Hammett is an Entertainment Intern for the winter 2021 quarter. She can be reached at hammettm@uci.edu.