Do Your Homework-

So, where to start? How to get this money? How do I let people know I’m not just an actress, but also a filmmaker with something to say? In my case my short has become a great calling card, as it shows what I now know to be, my storytelling style.

  1. Make a short. Tell a story in a creative way, in a short amount of time, 5–10 min. You will want to do this regardless of if you feel you need to or not for funding. If you should go the route of submitting for film grants (Why wouldn’t you?) from any of the many organizations that offer them, or labs for writing/filmmaking such as Tribeca All Access, Sundance, Film Independent, NYWIFT, and IFP they will ask to see previous work. This is why I say make a short, it’s the best way to showcase how you tell a story.

Though the writing for these grants can be monotonous and brain racking, saying the same thing in a slightly different way for each one, you will hone in on what your film is really about, possibly forcing you to go back and look at your script to make changes, and learn how to pitch it to others seeing what its true selling points are. *Also, some of these organizations also offer help with shorts as well. One thing I learned with going through this process is, if you have never filled these out before, as I never had, try to get someone that’s done it before, to go over what you’ve written. In my case, I write out my thoughts, then pass it on to my producers who each have their own skills with editing. Having someone that knows the language of these grants is very helpful, as you might not understand exactly what they are looking for when they ask for certain things. As you apply for them more and more you will understand how to say what you want and feel in a creative and clear way, within the character count they ask for. I wish I had this help while filling out the earlier applications that I had applied for.

2. Do Your homework. Know where your film will fit in, and who is looking for your kind of project. Producers- Submit your script to Independent producers or companies you feel would produce your project. Finding the right backers can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack, especially if you don’t know how to do it. IMDB.COM is a huge source of info as to who is doing what? Who produced what? and so on. Getting your script to the right people is key. As a filmmaker you should be breaking yourself down in every possible category you can be listed in. In my case, #Black, #FemaleDirector #Firsttimedirector #Actressturnedfilmmaker and the list goes on… You are selling yourself and your goods. Do your homework. Just because someone has a business card saying they are a producer does not mean they are. I have a bunch of these so called business cards that I use as coasters. haha But I always take them. :-) Check them out online and see what they’ve done, see you’re a good fit. Utilize the film organizations that actually help filmmakers make contacts and help with production. Once you find a contact willing to read your script be aware.

“The Reader” Something that I know to be true, whether you have friends/contacts in the area of film production is, your contact may not be the person actually reading your script. Many many times, the person reading your script is an assistant or a “reader” for a larger companies. It’s a luxury to have the person you had a conversation with actually sit down and read your script. Unfortunately many of these people reading scripts are not always visual, or all that creative at all. So, if you have something that is outside the box make sure you have supplemental materials to help sell your vision, like a “LookBook”. You can check out online what is included in a lookbook. Readers know formula’s that they are used to reading and they will know what their company is looking for to either give a “pass” on your project or let their boss know it’s something they should check out. Being a black woman who prefers subtleties and perverse storytelling my scripts tend to not fall under the formulaic models that the 20 something, white “readers” are used to reading. I bring it up because I find this to be problematic. Just as we are having the conversation about the lack of diversity of ‘People of Color’ in films, we should also be having it about the way our stories are seen and comprehended by others. Just as white people have A-F list actors and films that depict every kind of lifestyle imagineable, ‘People of Color’ are no different. Why can’t I as a filmmaker tell a story with black characters along the genre that Lars Von Trier might? Is it that black people wouldn’t understand it, or that white producers and PR people will not feel like being that creative to actually bring this type of story to viewers? I can say it definitely won’t be a money issue, because the budget on this type of movie would never even come close to some of the colossal box office failures that their big name, formulaic movies have cost. Being black woman, there’s about a 95% chance, my story will have some aspect of race in it. Will that be what the whole story is about? NO! It will not be, because I don’t define myself by my race. I’m a human for right now, living in the world just like everyone else with life experiences to talk about. Should/Would a white 20 something reader understand the experiences that I, or others speak on in our scripts? Wellllllll? If they don’t, maybe they should question what it is they’re reading. If that person has no knowledge or little knowledge on ‘people of color’ outside of the commercial films they know of, for and by us, how do they understand subtleties or points being made about elderly, when they have lived very little life at all and definitely not the life of a ‘person of color’. This is where many assumptions get made and the beginning of a films’ long road of rejections can begin. This very important person “the reader”, could be the person to start bridging a very big gap on how we see and understand each other through film.

Many doors will get closed in your face, or just not opened at all to you. As an actor, I go through this about 98% of the time so I been there, done that and KEEP IT MOVING. Life is too short. NEXT! Do make sure you pay attention to things that are being said though. If you should get feedback take it with a grain of salt. It should help you understand what people are walking away with as far as your product.

*Additional materials, make a TREATMENT, a 3–5 page document of your story with additional elements added to it that will help the reader with the visuals or feel for your film as you are telling the story. This along with the lookbook can help get the person you really want to read your script, to actually do so. GOOD LUCK!

#Sundance #FilmIndependent #Tribeca #IFP #IndependentProducers #NYWIFT #WIFT #Readers #Diversity #Peopleofcolor #Shorts #FilmGrants #BlackFemaleDirectors #Makerswomen #DirectedbyWomen #BlackVoices #YolondaRoss

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