Rising Director Veronica Rodriguez Makes The Ultimate Girl Power Film In Disney’s ‘The Slumber Party’

‘The Slumber Party’ director Veronica Rodriguez | Image by Sela Shiloni

It has been described as the tween version of ‘The Hangover’, with a heavy dose of girl power, and honestly that’s all we need to know that we will most def be watching ‘The Slumber Party’ when it premieres on Disney Channel July 27, and streaming on Disney+ the following day. Directed by Veronica Rodriguez, the film is a coming-of-age comedy based on the popular YA novel by Jen Malone that portrays a spectacular ride following a group of friends.

The fun-filled movie stars Darby Camp and Emmy Liu-Wang as best friends ‘Megan’ and ‘Paige’ and follows the hilarious aftermath of a sleepover birthday party hypnotism gone wrong. After waking up with absolutely no memory of the night before, the girls must retrace their steps to find missing birthday girl Anna Maria (Valentina Herrera) along with her soon-to-be step-sister Veronica (Alex Cooper Cohen).

As the director of this film, Veronica Rodriguez got to shape the girl power themes we see on screen, while also working to ensure we see more representation behind the scenes in her own career.

The Mexican-American multi-hyphenate hails from the Bay area, and ‘The Slumber Party’ is her second feature film. Her first taste of the industry came as an assistant at ‘Funny or Die’ after graduating from USC. At FoD, she would work her way up to being a Producer and Director for their digital content, including the unforgettable “How To Become Legally Recognized As A F*ckboi”. Veronica was the 2019 Sundance Institute’s Latinx Fellow, and participated in the Viacom ViewFinder and Refinery 29’s Shatterbox director programs. Her first feature, ‘Let’s Get Merried’ for VH1 / MTV Studios earned her an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Director. She has also staffed on Netflix’s ‘Freeridge’, a spin-off of ‘On My Block’, HBO’s ‘Betty’, and Disney’s ‘Gabby Duran & The Unsittables’, which led to her first episodic directing credits.

Knowing that the film featured female representation on screen as well as behind, we had to speak with Veronica to learn more about what it takes to make a film like this, how she navigated her own career in an industry that is still slow when it comes to diversity and change, and the importance of representation in Hollywood.

Can you tell us where your directing career began, and what drew you to working in entertainment?

My directing career began at Santa Clara University where I wrote and directed my first short film. It was an amazing experience and I totally got bit by the directing bug. After that, I knew that my dream was to be a filmmaker.

We are very excited to watch ‘The Slumber Party’ when it is released in July! Can you share what it was like working on this film, and how you became attached to the project?

Working on this film was a dream come true. I was already in the Disney family having written on a Disney Channel show back in the day. When they knew they were making The Slumber Party, they thought of me and asked me what my directorial vision would be for it. My vision was a movie that was meant for 14 year old Veronica and adult Veronica. A movie that an entire family can watch together and enjoy. I wanted to give teen girls the cinematic quality and comedic respect that they deserve and so rarely get. They liked what I had in mind, so I got the job.

The film has been described as ‘The Hangover’ for kids. How would you describe it, and what can audiences look forward to most?

‘The Slumber Party’ follows three friends, Megan, Paige and Veronica, as they search for the birthday girl, Anna Maria, after she goes missing the morning after their slumber party gone wrong due to a sketchy hypnotism act. Audiences can look forward to the crazy situations these girls get themselves into while in search of their friend like an onion eating contest, racing down a huge hill on a giant hedgehog float, and baby ducks! 

What was the most challenging and the most rewarding aspect of working on ‘The Slumber Party’?

The most challenging aspect of working on The Slumber Party was working with 30 baby ducks. They’re adorable, but they poop a lot. Like a lot a lot. And they’re not the easiest talent to direct, but, boy, did they deliver great performances. The most rewarding aspect of working on this film was being able to have such great female representation in front of and behind the camera. There was a lot of girl power that went into making this film.  

What kind of stories, content and projects are you drawn to as a director?

I love coming of age stories and I love comedy, so The Slumber Party was kind of perfect for me. I love anything that I can add a little style to and pair with a dope soundtrack.

Hollywood is going through some major changes right now, and it is still very slow to diversify. As a woman of color, what has been your experience as you’ve navigated your career so far?

I’ve gotta be real. It hasn’t been easy. It’s still not easy. Every day is an uphill battle. But I have seen change and improvement. There are more and more people working to make Hollywood a more equally represented place. Change takes time and work, especially within a system. I just try to surround myself with people who also want to see change and who are willing to put in the time and work. Many of those people are also women of color. We need more of those, so all the young women of color out there, come join us! You belong and there is definitely a place for you!

As a mom, how does parenthood impact or influence your decision-making when it comes to creative projects?

I make my creative decisions as a director and artist first and foremost. I love being a mom and that will always be a part of who I am. But what I think helps make me be the best mom I can be is that I give myself the freedom to also be an artist. So being a mom doesn’t usually influence my artistic decisions. Some of my favorite moments during production was when my daughter, Canela, would visit me on set and sit in my director’s chair. I was proud for her to see her mama being the boss and trusting her creative instincts.

Who are your role models in the directing world right now?

Filmmakers I admire are Greta Gerwig, Bong Joon Ho, Chloé Zhao, and Taika Waititi.

What is next for you and what are you hoping to manifest in the near future?

I’m currently getting an independent film that I wrote off the ground. I will direct it and also star in it with one of my best friends. We’re very close to making that dream a reality so I’m actively trying to manifest that one. Fingers and toes crossed.

You can watch ‘The Slumber Party’ premiering July 27 on Disney Channel, streaming the following day on Disney+. Be sure to follow Veronica on Instagram to see what she is working on next!

‘The Slumber Party’. Image via Disney Channel.