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By Vanessa McMahon, blog author

Leo's Love Letter (2014) by young and upcoming director Gabriel Rhenals recently won for Best Opening Night Film at the 6th annual Love Your Shorts Film Festival in Sanford, FL. The film has been making rounds on the festival circuit for the past year since its international premiere at the 5th annual Aruba International Film Festival.

Rhenals is an award-winning filmmaker based in Miami, Florida. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, he has been active in the visual arts since a very young age. He started making short films in 2002 and since then, he has written, produced, directed, shot and edited 15 short films. He has also written a feature-length screenplay.


Can you tell us about your short film, 'Leo's Love Letter'?

GABE: Leo’s Love Letter is a short film about a young man whose relationship is in serious trouble and who attempts to reclaim the love of his partner. I wrote, produced, directed, shot and edited the short film. It’s my 15th and latest short film. It stars two very talented actors, Emmanuel Franco and Stephanie Maltez. It also features an original score by award-winning composer, Ben Morris.

Is 'Leo's Love Letter' inspired by an actual event?

GABE: No, but it is inspired by a very real and consuming interest in the power of communication.

Words often get in the way of how people really feel. Do you suppose that's why the visual medium is so powerful?

GABE: Verbal communication can indeed be tricky and obfuscate our attempts to connect with others. But I believe the visual medium is much more powerful because, from a basic evolutionary standpoint, our eyes have been with us far, far longer than our capacity for language.

Do you think most fights and wars begin with simple miscommunication and misunderstandings with words?

GABE: I think the most serious forms of conflict in our world are caused by a desire for resource control along with rampant and untempered masculine tendencies toward power and dominance. But while these causes may not be going away any time soon, I believe competent communication definitely helps treat such incivility and allows us to glimpse a more ideal reality.

How long did it take you to make the short film?

GABE: Not very long. Actual production and Ben Morris’ writing of the short film’s original music lasted only several days altogether. The writing and editing process, usually the lengthiest parts which I perform very solitarily, took several weeks.

When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

GABE: I’ve loved movies and been into visual arts (drawing, primarily) since a very young age. An interest in filmmaking grew out of an early love for animation and sequential art. But I knew I wanted to pursue filmmaking in my adolescence when my awareness of talent behind the camera, past and present, grew dramatically.

Your premiere screening took place at the Aruba International Film Festival. How was that?

GABE: A wonderful, top-notch experience all the way around! I’ve never been surrounded by so many talented filmmakers and dedicated festival staff. I made so many new friends and I look forward to submitting future projects to that amazing festival.

Will you be attending any more festivals with 'Leo’s Love Letter' this year?

GABE: I recently attended the Love Your Shorts Film Festival in Sanford, FL with Leo’s Love Letter and won, by audience vote, Best Opening Night Film! As for more film festivals, I’m still waiting to hear from a few others but the short’s multiple award-winning festival run is nearing its conclusion.

What will you be working on next?

GABE: I am currently writing my 16th short film which will be my last short film before I begin my foray in the feature-length film realm.

Where can we see your past short film work?

GABE: All of my past 14 short films are available for viewing on YouTube: (

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