Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmaker Angela Golden Bryan of Fireburn Enterprises Is Helping To Change Our World

An Interview With Edward Sylvan


I’ve had many speaking engagements as a result of my projects being noticed. I’ve spoken to students of all ages, from second grade to university and college. I’ve done many interviews as well. These opportunities allow me to share the story of the Fireburn which showcases human resilience, strong female leadership, hope, and empowerment. These engagements create opportunities for dialogue, something very powerful for healing and ensuring that human rights atrocities don’t happen again. It is an opportunity to teach a new generation about their history, thereby instilling cultural pride, as well as an opportunity to teach those unfamiliar with US Virgin Islands’ history.

As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Golden Bryan.

Angela Golden Bryan is an independent filmmaker rooted in the culture and heritage of the US Virgin Islands. Her love for oral and written storytelling led her to produce Fireburn the Documentary. Bryan is passionate about sharing stories that instill cultural pride and those that expose human rights violations.

Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of me telling stories to my dolls, as well as holding a brush while pretending it was a mic — and singing my head off. I’d even prance around the house with a dishtowel on my head, pretending that it was long flowing hair and that I was Pocahontas. I loved entertaining and making people smile. As an adult, this translated into being an actress as well as a writer. I never dreamed that I could make films until one of my acting coaches challenged me to start writing and pick up my smartphone and start filming myself and my friends! Now my mind is spinning with the endless possibilities for creating content that makes a difference.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

I lined up the expert cast of interviewees for Fireburn the Documentary and included myself in the lineup. I believed that I was a good fit for the documentary because my ancestors were involved in the Fireburn (a labor revolt that occurred on the island of St. Croix in 1878); I’d written a best-selling book based on the Fireburn, as well as an award-winning children’s book. So, we get the interviewees onset, and their vast knowledge of the subject is so extensive and impressive that I immediately begin to feel like a first-grader attempting to play with college students. I started off believing that I should be in the documentary and ended by pretty much telling the director he’d better not put me in the documentary! It was a humbling process, and I loved how much I learned.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Children are by far the most interesting people to work with. I love how most of them don’t have filters. When I volunteer in schools, I talk about bullying, Black history, human rights and help the kids appreciate reading and the arts. I go to teach, but I often learn.

I learned the value of carrying mints in my purse after being told, “Your breath stinks!” (In my defense — it was my lunch’s fault, not mine!) I learned that I’m doing better than I realized when a second grader said, “Wow — you have your own website — you must be famous! And I learned that my children’s book was probably not for second graders when one told me, “That was so long I fell asleep!”

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m working on several projects right now, but due to “Fireburn the Documentary’s” personal nature, I’d have to say it is the most interesting one for me. During a family party, two of my aunts told me that my great-great-great-grandmother was involved in the bloody labor revolt known as the Fireburn. The Fireburn is a pivotal point in Virgin Island’s history, but I’d never known that my family was involved in the Fireburn. My Fireburn projects took on a feeling of “legacy” and family history instead of merely being island history. The Fireburn projects are also exciting because they are relatable today even though this event occurred in the 1800s on an island in the Caribbean. It’s BLM in a different era.

Also, it is unique for several reasons. The Fireburn is Caribbean history since it took place on the island of St. Croix; it is Danish history since in 1878 when the Fireburn occurred, the Virgin Islands were Danish territory; it is African Diaspora history because many of the laborers on the island of St. Croix were enslaved people from Africa. It is world history and relevant today as it shows what happens when individuals’ rights are suppressed for too long.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

People like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi inspire me the most because they considered the quality of life for the masses as more important than their own life. They believed in their mission so much that they were willing to die for the sake of leaving this world a better place. That epitomizes bravery and courage. Also, pioneers in their fields who stick with the truth even though they are ridiculed by their peers. I think of 9th-century Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis, who discovered the importance of handwashing. In Dr. Semmelweis’ case, he saw doctors coming from the morgue with bloody gloves and gowns, and they would go straight into the maternity ward and deliver babies. The women whose babies were delivered by these doctors were dying in large numbers compared to the women delivered by midwives. He noticed that the midwives washed their hands first, while the doctors did not. He put two and two together and concluded that handwashing was important and could help save lives. His peers ridiculed Semmelweis for suggesting this novel and crazy idea. He had a nervous breakdown and died in an insane asylum. History has shown us that genius and sacrificial love aren’t always welcomed, and sometimes the price is death. I admire these people because they don’t stop spreading their truth.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

I’ve had many speaking engagements as a result of my projects being noticed. I’ve spoken to students of all ages, from second grade to university and college. I’ve done many interviews as well. These opportunities allow me to share the story of the Fireburn which showcases human resilience, strong female leadership, hope, and empowerment. These engagements create opportunities for dialogue, something very powerful for healing and ensuring that human rights atrocities don’t happen again. It is an opportunity to teach a new generation about their history, thereby instilling cultural pride, as well as an opportunity to teach those unfamiliar with US Virgin Islands’ history.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions but never manifest them. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

Seeing my mother lying on her death bed reminded me of my mortality. I’d like to believe that I have many years ahead of me, but no one knows for sure how long they have on this planet. I became saddened at the thought that I could die and not have shared the stories inside me and possibly made a difference in someone else’s life. As I witnessed my mother’s life coming to an end, it gave me a sense of urgency about my own life and purpose. I thought about my gifts, talents, and abilities and wanted to use them to encourage, entertain, equip and energize others so that I can leave this planet better than I found it.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

My son was the victim of bullying for many years, and he suffered in silence until he became suicidal. He was afraid that if he told anyone, it would only get worse. In my children’s book, ”James and the Fireburn,” I take my son’s story of abuse and I “flip the script” and make my son the hero. He is the one that comes to the rescue of the kid being bullied. In my book, I also show how the laborers’ abuse at the landowners’ hands correlates to bullying. This is an opportunity for younger children to learn some Caribbean history and receive a strong anti-bullying message. A child might listen to the story of the Fireburn and think, “That happened in 1878 and has nothing to do with me today.” But when I show them that the laborers were being bullied, just like the main character of my children’s book, they recognize the bullying behavior, and the story becomes more personal. At the end of one of my read-alongs, a young boy came up to me and hugged me and said that he could relate to the main character in my book because he got bullied in school as well. His father was present and was surprised that his son opened up to me because that was unusual. My son was also deeply moved by the book because I rewrote his story…it was very healing for him to read and encouraged him. I teach children that they too can rewrite their story into one that makes this planet a better place.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

  1. Start with the children and start teaching them what it means to make a difference in their own environment, on their own level. Teach them to care about the world outside themselves and honor their unique personalities and gifts.
  2. Get my books into the school system: the children “get it.” I would love to see my books in the school system, or on a summer reading list because the story of the Fireburn is so relevant today and it is history. My children’s book “James and the Fireburn” is suitable for most third to fifth graders and shares the history of the Fireburn while giving a strong anti-bullying message. I cover heavy topics in a way that kids can digest. “Fireburn the Screenplay” is suitable for most middle school children through adulthood and is historical fiction. From it, people get a really good sense of the history behind the Fireburn. It addresses human rights issues in a way that leaves the reader entertained and educated. The adult book was designed to stimulate curiosity.
  3. Support filmmakers and other artists that seek to make a positive impact in the world. When it becomes available, watch Fireburn the Documentary. We are still working out the details of distribution, however, it is a great fit for PBS as well as educational institutions. Stay tuned for home viewing options as well.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1 . Work with people who are excellent at what they do, then allow them to do their job.

I started by taking so much ownership and felt such a huge responsibility that I was micromanaging and sometimes doing other people’s jobs. I realized that I was not using my time wisely, was not trusting others, and was not staying in my lane. Yes, there will be times to “step in,” however, it is essential to allow everyone to express their creativity in their area.

2. Work in excellence, but release perfectionism.

I struggle with perfectionism and have to remind myself that there is no such thing as perfection. Perfectionism has caused me to delay projects, procrastinate and even abandon projects because they weren’t “good enough.” Being part of a team allows us to hold each other accountable, and anyone can speak up if there is “nitpicking” or unrealistic expectations.

3. Have a compelling reason for starting your project so that when/if you want to quit, you’ll remember why you started in the first place, and you’ll stay the course.

There have been many times that I was so frustrated, overwhelmed, and depleted of energy and resources that I wanted to throw in the towel. But then I thought of the promises I’d made to family, friends, and donors, and I knew that I could not quit. People had put their faith in my team and me, and I knew that we had to find a way to move forward. This business is not for the faint of heart, and results don’t happen overnight. You’ve got to stick with it.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask family, friends, and even strangers to contribute financially to your cause.

This was the most challenging part for me because I love to be self-sufficient, and quite honestly, I don’t particularly appreciate asking for help. I had to have a major paradigm shift to ask for financial help. The shift came when I realized that although I had come up with the idea to create and produce these projects, they were big enough to share. At the risk of sounding “hokey,” it felt like a spiritual awakening when I embraced the fact that asking others to help allowed them to be a part of the projects. In many cases, others will never attempt to do some of the things that I do, but when they give of their time and finances, they have invested in it and can take pride in it as well. With this shift came the realization that “we” are all in this together. Every success belongs to all who have given their time and resources, not just me. In any healthy organization, partnerships and collaborations exist for that unit’s survival and growth; each person helps. That’s what I see now with inviting others to make financial contributions — they are a part of the family now because we could not have done it without them.

5. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself, your project, and your team.

I grew up with the idea that any type of self-promotion was prideful, immodest, and “bad.” Being afraid of promotion is not an empowering mindset for any creative that has chosen filmmaking and the entertainment industry. Promotion is a vital part of any business. For filmmakers and entertainers, it is hard to separate ourselves from our projects — we must promote our work, and ourselves, if we want our work to be seen. People have to know what you are doing.

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I would start by reminding them of how powerful they are and how much they matter to the future of this planet. Many young people feel “lost” in that they don’t know what their “purpose” is and are afraid of making mistakes. My encouragement is for them to take a look at what they do well, what they are passionate about, and what they find fun. Then ask themselves if they prefer working with people, animals, or nature. This is a simple map for getting started because we can contribute to this world and leave it a better place if we work with our natural abilities in the area we are passionate about.

I was at the United Nations a couple of years ago as a delegate for the Broward County chapter of the United Nations Association. I listened to the wise words of a speaker who said that by thinking of all the areas in need of support, we become overwhelmed. Instead, she recommended that we choose one area and make a difference in that one area. Filmmakers can do the same thing — start with a theme, a person, in one area and watch your passion grow and see the lives of others affected positively.

We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

Oprah Winfrey has been on my vision board for years now! I have admired her tenacity, business acumen, creativity, and heart for helping those in need. She is a woman of action, and I’d love to collaborate with her. I dream big. ☺

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“I can hardly wait to see the good that’s going to come out of this!” This is my rephrasing of Romans 8:28 and I say it when I wonder if I’ve made a mistake, when I know I have made a mistake, or anything happens that I might be tempted to label as “bad.” This saying helps to shift my attitude to one that is positive and empowering and helps me to move past worrying and anxiety. I have to believe that all things are working out for my good and that everything is going to be ok.

How can our readers follow you online?

They can follow me on Instagram at @AngelaGoldenBryan and @FireburnDocumentary. I also have my website,, and a website for the documentary,

This was great, thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this with us. We wish you continued success!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.



Edward Sylvan CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group
Authority Magazine

Edward Sylvan is the Founder and CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc. He is committed to telling stories that speak to equity, diversity, and inclusion.