Los Angeles, California
How did you get your start with filmmaking?
Filmmaking was not always the plan for me. I initially majored in Video-Film at the University of Miami. I wanted to learn the behind the camera responsibilities and experiences, so when I got in front of the camera, I would be fully aware of all aspects of this industry. However, after the first semester, I decided I didn't care too much for a certain professor or the classes, so I switched majors to Visual Journalism. Visual journalism mostly focuses on sharing true stories through graphics, photographs, and videos. The video aspect got me into filmmaking. I would say my passion was mostly for documentaries, but the more my acting evolved, I've grown to love and appreciate creating and sharing fictional pieces.
Where do you draw inspiration for your stories?
Inspiration is EVERYWHERE. Each person I encounter serves as inspiration. Each experience I'm blessed to have served as inspiration. We all have so many unique and ordinary life experiences; using those experiences to share stories that may impact others in some way or another is what's so beautiful about creating content. Traveling, fellowship and dreams are where most of my ideas come from. With travel, you're not only exposed to the country, city or space that you visit, but you're exposed to people from all over the world, all walks of life. These people have amazing stories to share. The things you learn and get to experience simply from speaking to someone on the plane, train, bus, tram, etc. is mesmerizing. Fellowship, specifically with close friends, also gifts me with endless inspiration. My girls, the FAB5, are a daily source of inspiration. Dreams (not goals, but real dreams when you're asleep) are probably my favorite source of inspiration. These are unique gifts from God to only you. No one else gets to be inside that beautiful mind of yours, but you and the Most High. The thing is you have to be quick about writing things down when you have a dream, the stories and memories usually don't last long. I like to keep a notebook near my bed or use the notes feature on my phone, so when I wake up from an amazing dream, all I have to do is write it down.
What are some of the messages you want your audience to take from your stories?
My goal is to share stories that spark and ignite something within people. I want people to watch my work and be moved. Whether it makes them curious, happy, sad, intrigued, inquisitive, or it teaches them something, I want them to feel connected to the story. No matter what the story is, whether it’s fiction, based on a true story or sci-fi, I want them to see a little bit of themselves within the work.
On current short film Glow:
Glow came about around three years ago. I started writing it a few months after my uncle passed away from esophageal cancer. I was battling with all sorts of emotions one night and just decided to write this story of both love and sadness. I wanted to create an open letter to God, lovingly called Papa throughout the film. Ironically, I got the idea to refer to God as Papa from my favorite book The Shack which was just released as a movie at the beginning of March.
The story takes you quickly through the life of Glow and Jazz. They fall in love, get engaged and married and then she's diagnosed with aggressive cancer that spreading rapidly. We follow her through her diary to Papa, and then through Jazz's diary to God. It's how I wished I talked to God as I watched my family members succumb to cancer. There are this love and respect for God, but also this desperation for Him to heal the one's you love. Glow shows the pain that comes along with cancer. I wasn't concerned with happily ever after, I just wanted the pain and sadness to be as real as the pain and sadness we all feel when we lose someone we love.
Glow is my very first completed short film. It was a challenge that took almost two years after shooting to commit to finishing finally. There's a level of vulnerability that comes along with releasing a project that is entirely yours. I wrote, directed, filmed, produced, starred and edited this entire project. I'm so grateful for the help of my co-star, Victor Ector, and my besties Shayla Love and Chazitear Martin for their assistance in filming some of the scenes.
What are some of the risks or sacrifices you have made in pursuit of your career?
I recently moved to Los Angeles. It is a pretty big leap for me. I've lived in Atlanta for the past five years. Atlanta has been great for my acting career so far, but something in my spirit has been telling me that LA is where I need to be. So, I sold most of my stuff, packed up the rest and made my way west. I'm excited to create more of my content and also thrilled to see where both my acting and film making career go from here.
From your first film project until now, what have been the greatest lessons you have learned about the filmmaking process?
I'm honestly still learning and hope that never changes. Glow is my first short film. Before Glow, I had the pleasure of working as director of photography and editor for my friend's, Ernestine Johnson, spoken word videos Formation and Red Bottoms. I think each project teaches you something different. You learn a little bit more about the editing software you're using, a bit more about how to share a story that is concise and to the point. Although it was fun doing most of the behind the camera work on this project on my own, I definitely would like to work with a larger team next time. Collaborating with other artists will inevitably create better art.
It has been a phenomenal two years for black film and television. What do this is the future of black cinema?
The past few years have been amazing! I think we already see forward progression. Whether it is subscription based content like Netflix, Hulu, YouTubeRed, or web series that are accessible for free via YouTube, Vimeo, etc., we are now able to be more selective on what content we consume. We are no longer limited to watching a show at 7 pm on a Thursday night. It's incredible. And with camera's being far more accessible we are getting to create and share more of our work and our stories. We are not limited to being the "token" or the maid or the servant. We can share our stories as complex, interesting, multi-dimensional Black people from a place of truth, using our words and skills. I'm ecstatic to be a part of this generation of creators.
On upcoming projects:
Currently, I'm working on getting Glow into film festivals. I'm also finishing up another short film as well as a couple of web series. Auditioning is also a constant and hopefully a film I worked on in October and November will be released sometime this year. :)
What advice would you give a first-time filmmaker working on their first project?
Just do it.
Your ideas are valid. Your stories deserve to be shared. Someone out there will appreciate what you have to say and share. Don't wait to have the best camera or the best editing software. Use what you have and go from there. Collaborate with other artists. Create. Create .Create. As my best friend Shayla likes to say, "Create Don't Wait."
What quote or affirmation do you live your life by?
"Start each day with a grateful heart"
Gratitude is one of the greatest feelings in the world. I strongly believe that God will never give you more until you appreciate what you have now. Be so abundantly grateful for every single thing in your life, the good, the bad, and the in-between. We all have so much to be grateful for. The beautiful thing about gratitude is the more you express gratitude, the more you'll have to be grateful for.