Me, less than a year.
First word: Action!
I came out of the womb with a pencil in my hand. Not really, but I always knew I was going to be a writer. I started writing stories when I was about 8 years old. My dolls were the characters. When I first said I wanted to be a writer, folks assumed I wanted to be a journalist. No disrespect but I hated journalism, the whole 5 Ws thing--‘who, what, why, when, where?’
I attended The Penn Center, a literary arts program in Washington, DC, where I focused on creative writing. I thought I wanted to be a novelist. When I headed off to NYU I still had that dream until someone in a writing group said I had such a visual writing style had I ever considered screenwriting. I hadn’t and a new door cracked open.
In the late ‘80s I saw a groundbreaking film, written and directed by a groundbreaking young filmmaker. Spike Lee. And that film was called, She's Gotta Have It
. It was about a young black woman living in Brooklyn and guess what. I too was a young black woman living in…Harlem. But hey, close enough. There’s something about seeing yourself, or a reasonable facsimile of yourself, represented on a movie screen that is totally empowering.
And that new door that had just been cracked open was officially kicked all the way open and I found my calling, my purpose. I am going to be a filmmaker.
I worked my way up through the ranks on films with Spike while creating my own projects. My first short (well the first one I’ll cop to), Since Lisa,
screened coast to coast and won awards at the Black American Cinema Society, The Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and The Rochester International Film Festival. (It even made a woman in an audience cry once; maybe I’m on to something here.)
Two years later I wrote my first feature film, Kali’s Vibe.
It’s seen more of the world than I have. It was nominated for the Gordon Parks Award and won both the Jury and Audience Award at the Denver Pan African Film Festival and a Vision Award at the Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival. After Kali’s Vibe,
I won the IFP
Project Involve: NY Fellowship.
Next came my first foray into digital video (and I was a die hard film fanatic): a Dogma ‘95
inspired short called, The Assistant.
Then another fellowship: The ABC Writer Development Fellowship
. Somewhere in there I got nominated for a Rockefeller Grant.
An unexpected phone call from a producer friend led to my second feature, Building Girl.
I affectionately call it ‘my white cross over film.’
Then to continue to hone my skills as a director while I figured out what I wanted my next feature film to be, I wrote and/or directed the shorts, Walk, Call Me On It, Storytellers and Eye Wonder
. And I even tried my hand at animation with my creative partner Zen Browne
on a short called Transcendental: The Adventures of Dicky and Clitti.
I’m a member of this very cool group of New York directors, called, of all things, NYC Directors Group and DnA
, which is a directing lab. I’ve been mentored and supported and encouraged every step of the way in my career so I try and give back by mentoring up and coming young filmmakers. I’ve been on panels here and there and taught classes and workshops about this and that. Shoot me an email if you really want more details; I’ll gladly oblige.
I’ve ghost written for a TV show but can’t tell you which one or I’d have to kill you. And I script doctored a screenplay called Worth
penned by a writer in Hong Kong (!) Harkening back to my childhood desires, I wrote a short story that won first place in a fiction contest. And that thing I said I hated about 6 or 7 paragraphs ago—you know journalism—well now I freelance doing that too.
Hey, a girl’s gotta eat.
But all jokes aside: so why do I do what I do? Because using my creativity is my way of making a difference in this beautiful but often crazy, frequently confusing and sometimes unjust world.