Christina Raia is a New York City based Writer/Director and the Founder of CongestedCat Productions. With an affinity for ensemble pieces and quick-witted dialogue, she tends to focus on character-driven narrative projects that explore social issues through humor and horror. Her work, consisting of over a dozen short films, a web series, and two feature films, has screened at film festivals around the world and gained a large online following through multiple crowdfunding campaigns and coverage on press outlets such as Indiewire and BuzzFeed. Through a desire to support other filmmakers, she works for Seed&Spark as the Head of Education, teaching and empowering creators to build their audience and crowdfund their work. She also runs IndieWorks, a monthly screening and community-building series showcasing short films by other New York filmmakers. At the 2019 Queens World Film Festival, she won the Lois Weber Pioneer Award for her leadership in film.
IN HER OWN WORDS
I grew up on Long Island with a single mother and one brother. Growing up multi-ethnic (my mom was born in Trinidad of Indian descent & my father's side is Italian), I had the (what I now view as) gift of never fitting in, which meant always feeling a bit out of place but also impervious to society’s tendency to put people in boxes. I think this gave me a unique perspective growing up where I was often allowed to observe people interacting in an in-group context from an outsider point of view. I fell in love with storytelling very early on as a child. I began writing short stories at age five and attribute my interest in visual storytelling in large part to watching movies and TV shows above my age group as bonding time with my mom throughout my childhood. Watching "The Twilight Zone" marathon every fourth of July was a family tradition and I credit that as a huge reason for my interest in short-form genre filmmaking in particular. I wrote my first screenplay, or what I thought was a screenplay, at age nine. I knew my love for movies was something bigger than just an interest when a video camera was first placed in my hands at the age of 13. It was from that point forward that my passion in life was clearly defined. In high school, I attempted to make two "feature films" with a cast of friends and a crew of one, but those never quite panned out. After high school, I took a year off and honed in on my writing. I won a couple of online video contests and put the money towards funding my first short film. I enrolled in CUNY Hunter in 2008 and made that first short, a psychological thriller, the summer after my freshman year. While in school, I was regularly working on at least one short film outside of class while working on a specific class project each semester, which makes tracking exactly how many films I feel I officially made outside of learning a bit of a challenge. I graduated with honors with a BA in Film Production & Studies in 2012.
FILMMAKING & COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP
I am now a New York City based Writer/Director and the Founder and Team Leader of CongestedCat Productions, LLC. I shot my first feature film, Summit, a Horror-Drama, in January 2013, right off the heels of graduating. It was a learning experience, to say the least, with an end product that I have mixed feelings about. That said, it was a major audience builder for me. It premiered at the 2015 Manhattan Film Festival and was awarded Best Horror Film. I won Best Director for the film at the 2015 Flickers: Rhode Island International Film Festival’s genre sub-division; and the film also screened at the 2015 Scare-A-Con Film Festival, 2015 Unreal Film Festival, and 2016 Macabre Faire Film Festival. It is available on Amazon Prime, Vimeo on Demand, and VHX. Shortly after wrapping production on SUMMIT, I directed and produced the comedic web series 'Kelsey,' which premiered on blip.tv in September 2013 to rave reviews and consistent press coverage, including as a Critic’s Pick and named one of the 19 Best Comedy Web Series of 2013 by Indiewire.com. The 10 episodes combined received half a million views online and screened across the country in 2014 & 2015, most notably at Outfest, as part of an LGBT Web Series Panel tour . It is now available on Vimeo and Youtube.
Continuing 2013 as a major year for the start of my career, I turned my desire to foster collaboration and engagement in the local film community into IndieWorks, a monthly film screening series showcasing and supporting the work of other independent filmmakers in New York. It is now in its 7th year. Each month features approximately 5 shorts along with thoughtful discussions with the filmmakers. It consistently has over 40 people in attendance and has become a main staple of community-building amongst local creators.
My other credits as Director include a dozen independently produced (read no-budget and community supported) narrative shorts that have made official selection at film festivals across the country. With 2018 as another major year for me, I was selected as one of the 10 to Watch Filmmakers in 2018 by Independent Magazine, as well as selected for the prestigious New York Film Festival Artist Academy. 2018 also began the festival run for my second feature, a comedy titled About A Donkey, which was shot in 2017 and written by & co-produced with 'Kelsey' collaborator Kelsey Rauber. The film screened at Austin Revolution Film Festival, where it was nominated for 7 awards and won Best Produced Screenplay, as well as at the North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Georgia Film Festival, Adirondack Film Festival, Buffalo International Film Festival, YoFiFest; and then in 2019 at Flathead Lake International Cinemafest, Cambria Film Festival, Capital City Film Festival, and Queens World Film Festival, where I was honored to receive the Lois Weber Pioneer Award for leadership in filmmaking. With About a Donkey now released on Amazon Prime, Seed&Spark streaming and Vimeo on Demand, my focus has shifted to new projects. My newest completed short, a horror titled “The Gaze,” began its festival run in 2019 with screenings scheduled into early 2020. I just directed another horror-adjacent short, a drama titled “Affliction,” which is currently in post-production. And I’ll be directing a new dark comedy short titled “Game Brunch” in late 2019. I plan to round the year out by beginning early development for Silent Night, a feature horror-comedy that I hope to be my third feature (my screenplay for which made the Quarter Finals of the 2016 Slamdance Screenplay Competition).