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Award-winning D.C. Filmmakers Announce New LGBTQ+ Short Film, “Safe Word”

Updated: Oct 20, 2022



Lauren McMillen | LRA PR

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Award-winning D.C. Filmmakers Announce New LGBTQ+ Short Film, “Safe Word”

The queer, psychological drama makes its D.C. debut in November

Washington, D.C. (September 28, 2022) Tepui Media is pleased to announce the forthcoming release of “Safe Word”, a new powerful and thought-provoking short film that centers around the paralyzing tension between self-loathing and love. The film asks viewers the integral question: what’s at risk when we reveal our most authentic self? Executive Producer Mauricio Pita and Co-Writer and Director Christopher Cunetto teamed up to create the 15-minute film - a love letter to the LGBTQ+ community that highlights the impact internalized narratives and stigmas can create when building and maintaining genuine relationships. The film will debut in D.C. at a special VIP and press screening celebration on November 16 at GALA Hispanic Theatre (1333 14th Street NW).

(L-R, Jonathan Adriel as Bear and Mauricio Pita as Cesar)

The script, co-written by German-American artist and filmmaker Eva von Schweinitz, follows the story of Cesar, an emotionally stunted man who finds release in humiliation, satisfying a cruel inner voice that fully dominates him. Cesar has a standing appointment with Bear, a tall, muscular dom. When Bear decides that their game must change, Cesar is forced to confront his deepest fears and insecurities as they move toward a paradigm-shift neither one of them expects.

The film is a deeply personal story for Pita, who also takes on the role of Cesar. He was inspired to work with von Schweinitz to develop the script based on his own personal experiences and journey towards self-love and authenticity. Pita then turned to Cunetto, with whom he has worked on a previous film, to help lead the project creatively and continue to push the characters and story.

Safe Word is inspired by my very own struggles with mental health. It exposes my internal conflict and internalized shame for being queer, kinky, Latinx, bald, distant, scarred, skinny, different… while at the same time having to face it in front of an audience as the subject, actor, and producer in a re-watchable permanent piece of film,” said Pita. “All three on top of each other, which, according to my anxiety, is the ‘the worst possible idea in the world’ and yet, that’s the whole point of Safe Word. How vulnerable can we be before we have to use the safe word?”

“This film is an honest exploration of how our traumas and self-hate can get in the way of connection, even when those negative voices are directly challenged. I want this film to start conversations in the community about where we find our self-worth and how the impossible standards we face as queer men impact our ability to relate and be vulnerable with each other. My hope is that the themes in the film will resonate with people outside the queer community, too, and I think everyone can identify with the fraught experiences of the characters, and hopefully feel less alone in their own struggles as a result.”

shared Cunetto.

(Director Christopher Cunetto and Executive Producer Mauricio Pita)

The project is the first high-impact work that Tepui Media has debuted since the company's inception in 2021. Previously, Tepui Media co-produced the short film “Gateway” with Cunetto. “Safe Word” was shot in Northeast D.C. over six days. Award-winning D.C.-based actor and dancer Jonathan Adriel plays Bear. In addition to Pita, Cunetto, and von Schweinitz, the creative team includes Director of Photography Fernando Rocha, Camera operation by David Lotfi, Assistant Director Katy Grossman, Sound by Liam Tipler, Key Make-up Artist Noreen Mira, Production Designer Jonanthan Borgia, Wardrobe Designer Emily Cunetto, Styling Coordinator Kitt Crescenzo, Supervising Producer Elena Kritter, Assistant Producers Nina Young and Nicole Wackerly, Production Assistant Grace Chen, Assistant Editor Kayla Fyfe, Coloring by DC Color, Sound Design by Brian Jacobs Rivera, original score composed and performed by Guitarist and Composer Ryan Walsh, Title Designer Sarah Jamison, Shibari Art and Safety by Allan Sean Weeks and Unit Stills Photography by Lauren Emerson.

To learn more about “Safe Word”, please visit here and follow Tepui Media on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Photos can be accessed here. All images should be credited to Lauren Emerson.

To schedule an interview with Pita, Cunetto, von Schweinitz and/or Adriel and cover the screening of “Safe Word”, please email For press unable to attend the screening in-person, a private viewing link will be provided upon request.

About Tepui Media

Founded by Mauricio Pita in 2021, Tepui Media is a film production company based in Washington, D.C. Tepui Media’s mission is to produce bold films about people navigating remarkable events. Tepuis are table-top mountains in the Guiana Highlands of South America that host a unique array of endemic plant and animal life. Inspired by these powerful ecological islands of the sky, Tepui Media aims to provide a unique ecosystem of support and a platform for exciting new stories and emerging artists Visit here to learn more Tepui Media.


About Mauricio Pita

Mauricio Pita (Executive Producer/Cesar) is a Venezuelan-American actor, director, and producer. Pita is Arena Stage’s current Community Programs Manager where he oversees the Voices of Now program, which produced two feature docudramas during the pandemic and most recently nine short films for the 2022 VON festival at Arena Stage. Mauricio served as Creative Producer for the 2020-2021 Virtual Season of IN Series Opera. His projects with IN Series included the film Orphée et Eurydice, the audio play A Fairy Queen, and the interdisciplinary film/theater piece Boheme in The Heights. All three were featured on DC Metro Theater Arts’ 2021 lists of outstanding productions. In addition, Mauricio currently serves as Artistic Associate with We Happy Few Theatre Company and recently directed two Sherlock Holmes audio experiences as part of their at-home Detective Play Series which received praise for their crisp style and directing. Maryland Theater Guide called Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Norwood Builder “...a perfect adventure.” In addition, Mauricio is scheduled to travel to Croatia in December with an Arena Stage delegation to devise an original play with artists from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Ukraine.

About Christopher Cunetto

Christopher Cunetto (Co-Writer/Director) is an award-winning filmmaker, visual artist, and creative strategist based in Washington, D.C. Beyond his work in commercial video, his narrative film has been screened at diverse venues - from the premiere of his short film Jeux, a love letter to D.C. LGBT nightlight, at local bar Number 9, to a selection of shorts celebrating Iberian poets at The Kennedy Center. He recently completed post-production on an award winning short film he wrote and directed, Gateway, about a grieving widower’s desperate attempt to reconnect with his late wife using a fringe-science meditation technique. Cunetto is a passionate creative hell-bent on making things that move people. He has built a creative career on top of his passion for incredible visual experiences, technical skills, commitment to showing up and doing the hard work, and a belief that art and story are the most effective tools to inspire empathy and positive action toward a better world.

About Eva von Schweinitz

Eva von Schweinitz (Co-Writer) is a German-American interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker. Her films, both documentary and narrative, have screened at Tribeca Film Festival, Palm Springs International ShortFest, International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, and others. von Schweinitz was a pitch finalist at Tribeca Film Institute's If/Then Documentary Program in 2018. Her short film Heads or Tails won Best Short Film at Los Angeles Diversity Film Festival 2017 and her projection design for Public Theater’s Measure for Measure was nominated for the Henry Hewes Design Award 2018. She was the Associate Designer on Public Theater’s Arguendo which received an OBIE Award for Outstanding Projection Design. Fellowships and residencies: 2018/2019 Public Theater’s Devised Theater Working Group, 2018 Harvestworks Artist-in-Residence, 2017-2018 The Civilians' R&D Group. Eva holds a B.A. in Film from International Filmschool Cologne and an M.F.A. in Performance and Interactive Media Arts from Brooklyn College.

About Jonathan Adriel

Jonathan Adriel (Bear) is an award-winning actor and dancer based in the Washington, D.C. area. He has performed on many stages in the DMV including Ford’s Theater in The Wiz – and fondly remembers a visit from First Lady Michelle Obama for the performance and after-show backstage conversation. He was in the first class of men to dance in The Washington Wizards’ NBA Dance Team. His favorite work was at the Children’s Theater of Charlotte, North Carolina where he worked as Dance Captain and child-actor wrangler. Jonathan is a former D.C. Public School educator and professor of Dance at Howard University. He is a member of the Actors Equity Association and is a graduate of Winthrop University with a BA in Dance and Theater Performance. He holds a Master of Education from Strayer University.

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