By SPECIWOMEN Illustration PHILO COHEN
"I don't know where I would be without all of the powerful and generous women that recognized my passion and gave me the opportunities that I otherwise would not have received."
Who are you?
I am a creator, a storyteller, a dreamer, and an activist.
How did you get into film?
I've always had a passion for video creation since late elementary school when I got a Hannah Montana camera for Christmas. I used to make stop motion videos all the time and I'd write scripts after school. But I never thought of filmmaking as a career option that was attainable for me, probably because of the lack of representation of women and people of color in the film industry. But what sparked my conscious passion for film was a poem that I wrote the summer after 9th grade. It was about slowly learning to embrace my true beauty and strength. I randomly decided to create a video about it with a friend of mine and as I look back on it... it was pretty terrible! But at the time I had so much fun from pre-production to post-production, and that September I took my first film class. It was all down hill from there.
Thus far, what has been the most challenging project you’ve worked on?
The most challenging project I've worked on was a film I did called "Dear America." I had originally planned for the film to cover police brutality and racism, but while I was editing it I hit a major block. It took me months to realize that that was because I had been neglecting my own story, my experience with feeling inadequate and unworthy due to the color of my skin. I remember starring blank at my computer screen unsure of what to due when my sister told me that sometimes she gets writer's block when she's afraid to say something that she knows she should. And so I turned on the recorder and just started talking. I spoke about trying to lighten my skin, burning my hair, curving my lips inward because they were too full. And it was my ability to make myself vulnerable in that way that I feel made the film so moving for so many people. We are all imprisoned by socially constructed labels. Whether they are due to our race, gender, sexuality, disability, whatever. But at the end of the day, the only label that matters is "Beautiful." We are all so beautiful.
Where do you draw the most inspiration from?
I draw most of my visual inspiration from photography books and magazines and I draw most of my contextual inspiration from issues going on in the world. Human rights violations are my greatest ignition.
How do you de-stress after a project?
The feeling of completing something is enough of a de-stresser for me. After that it's onto the next project!
Your favorite movie of the year?
Oooh that's a tough one. In terms of Oscar nominated movies, I loved Fences and Hidden Figures. But I will be honest and say that I did see Fantastic Beasts three times! My family and I are huge fans of the wizarding world and I think the movie allowed us a much needed mental break from all of the world's absurdity.
Three actors/actresses you’d like to work with?
Lupita Nyon'go, Viola Davis, and Chadwick Boseman.
Aside from film, what other passions do you have?
I like to write poetry and to dance, specifically Nigerian, salsa, hip-hop, and voguing.
Are you working on anything currently?
Currently I'm working on a short film/PSA to celebrate all of the people I feel truly make America great!
How as your experience as a filmmaker’s been shaped by the fact that you are a woman?
One of the things I find so beautiful about being a female creator is the feeling of sisterhood. I don't know where I would be without all of the powerful and generous women that recognized my passion and gave me the opportunities that I otherwise would not have received. I also think that being a women makes me feel more inclined to share stories about women or non-male identifying people as we are too often portrayed as one-dimensional.