I know that Ava Duvernay is absolutely in-flipping-credible, but she’s also what some would say, the present "flavor-of-the- month", black woman to love. Well to those that feel my affinity for her is that…a big fat WHATEVER to you. …moving on… Anytime I read this woman’s words about film, filmmaking, what she does and/or why, I’m not just motivated, I’m touched. She really just GETS it. She operates - to me anyway - in a space without ego, but full of confidence, and with a small dash of “if you don’t know you betta ask somebody.”
I came into this game just wanting to act and sing. Less than five years later (counting just my time as a professional actor booking consistent work), I am writing, directing and producing as well. The writing and directing came last, but the producing was innate. After working as an Executive Assistant for CEO’s, COO’s, Corporate Partners and the like for more than 15 years… it was inevitable. And now that I’ve really continued to exercise my right to be more than a really dope secretary (no shade to those EA’s out there, because I do still work in this capacity even now), I walk in my true purpose once I leave that office. I am a STORYTELLER. Be it as an Unit Production Manager for hire, or as I toil over the minutia of my latest script – a romantic comedy that I’m going to co-direct, star in and that I wrote myself – or brainstorming with my partner regarding the marketing and submissions for festivals of our latest collaborative short film that is almost in the can…I must tell the story. And I revel in that.
For a long time I took issue with how my storytelling compared to other’s. Namely, the stories that I wanted to tell and found compelling versus that of my Boxed Out Production’s partner. And I would utilize dangerous comparisons to try and validate my take on things vs. hers, and even versus others I thought were “deeper” than me. Those that I admired for being brooding, artistic, sometimes dark, cerebral bleed-for-it type of writers and artists. But then I realized that audiences enjoy film for the various facets that it covers. I realized that we can sit and decide to watch a love story when we are feeling romantical and such, or a slap-stick comedy when we need that silly nudge, or whatever lies both between and beyond that. For that reason, as a storyteller, I can tell whatever kind of story I choose to tell as long as I stay true to the story itself. It’s okay if it’s surface to some, it’s my story to tell and the way that I write…it will relate and engage. And as a woman who has endured A LOT, those deeper stories and more involved pieces exist in me and will surface when they are ready. It’s all OKAY!
I say all of this to say…all that Ava ran down at Tribeca during her interview with Q-Tip resonates with me. And if you have not read the article in this month’s ESSENCE with Ava, Debbie Allan, Issa Rae, Mara Brock Akil and Shonda Rhimes…do yourself a favor and read that too! It all in basic terms has encouraged me to give myself permission to do what I want to do, my way. Looking at those that take, as Ave phrased it “left turns,” but still wind up where they should be because they dare drive the damn car in the first place, motivates me to continue my unconventional path to my good place.
I LOVE my job; writing, acting, directing, producing, telling the stories and most importantly learning from when I don’t do a great job of all of these tasks. I LOVE that I can sit and watch someone experience what I created and be affected; be it on stage, film, a computer screen or a cell phone. I LIVE for the fact that I can speak on these topics with passion, fervor and real knowledge, but that I am also continually learning and growing in this space. As technology evolves and as my life continues to happen, there is always something else to know, to need, to understand, to emote, to give, to withhold or to experience.
No matter what your passion is, read this article: Tribeca: Ava DuVernay's 8 Tips to Filmmakers On How to Stay in Control, and take away from it the decision to just do what you want to do. That was my takeaway. At Boxed Out right now, we are finished with our film Mars & Venus: Operation Equilibrium, and now we have to not just submit it to festivals, but if we do get in to those festivals, we still have to find the coins to get to these places. In addition, as we prepare for pre-production of my next short, we have to figure out who is shooting it, editing it, acting in it, and where we will get our locations, not to mention how we will pay for it all. Top that off with the fact that my partner is writing the NEXT film after that one so we then have to do all of this AGAIN for that one, including figure out funding. But that means nothing more than we will.
Go get what’s yours folks and don’t let anyone, least of all YOU, be a distraction!