Delila Vallot is
an actress, dancer and director, born and raised in Hollywood, California. In
her career, she has worked with some of the most well-known choreographers
to date, including Vince Patterson, Jaime Rogers and Debbie Allen, and has
performed in such shows as “CSI: Cyber,”
“Saturday Night Live” and “The Academy Awards” and
films including “Rent,” “Coyote Ugly” and “The Singing
Detective.” She made her feature directorial debut in 2013 with
the suspense thriller “Tunnel Vision.” “Can You Dig
This” is Vallot’s first feature-length documentary. (Press materials)
W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.
DV: “Can You Dig This” follows four people trying to create an oasis in one of the most notoriously dangerous neighborhoods in America. Set in South Los Angeles, the film features the original “gangster gardener,” Ron Finley, who has emerged as a figurehead for the greater urban gardening movement. While set in one of the largest food deserts in the country, this is not another food documentary. This is a story of the human spirit and what happens when you put your hands in the soil.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
DV: My decision to make this film was largely influenced by my experience as a child visiting my dad in South LA. I remember how uneasy and anxious I felt every time I was there — it was a huge difference from my life in Hollywood with my mom. When I found out about Ron Finley, the “gangster gardener” working to try and bring change to this neighborhood, I wanted to see if it could really work. Gardening really is one of the simplest, most basic concepts. I wanted to further explore how people in tough environments can use this practice to create positive results for themselves.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
DV: Starting with a premise, and then real life happens. I come from a narrative background, and I went into this experience completely blind as to how hard it is to make a documentary. It’s a whole different world when you’re working with actors on sets in a controlled environment. I had to learn that in the doc world, you have to plan to be surprised and go wherever your subjects choose to take you. You really do have to work yourself to the point of exhaustion and then push yourself beyond that in order to get the really good stuff.
W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving theatre?
DV: I hope that the movie leaves people feeling inspired and empowered. I also hope it reminds folks that there are a lot of cities in our country that are in need of an exceptional amount of focus. People are lacking access to what I consider basic, natural rights: healthy food, minimally adequate education and safety. The film explores the idea that at least some of these challenges can be eradicated by the simple act of planting a seed. Gardens do more than just provide food — they have the power to inspire a mental and emotional shift. It’s these small shifts that lead to monumental changes down the line. And in the case of gardening in particular, the power really is in our hands. The skill is part of our DNA. Paradise doesn’t have to be such a distant concept! So #plantsomeshit
W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?
DV: Every circumstance is different and this is only my second feature, so it’s hard for me to give advice. I read somewhere that there were a lot of female filmmakers in the silent era, so if that’s true, we’ve been at it a long time. It’s a business that needs an authentic voice that can speak to the female population. You are she! Ultimately, we have to acknowledge all of the familiar challenges but focus on being our own personal best and cranking out great work.
W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
DV: I was blessed enough to work with Delirio Films, who were pivotal in helping to get the documentary funded.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
DV: This may change by next week, but right now I’m going to split between “The Piano” because of the way Jane Campion manipulates emotion and “American Psycho” because of Mary Harron’s very clear and iconic style.