It’s tough enough just starting out in this business, so why not have a list of all the people who are the best at what you aspire to do? Instant inspiration!
Ava DuVernay (Writer/Director, I Will Follow, Middle of Nowhere and Founder of AFFRM)
An inspiration because: I’ve met DuVernay three times, each at an important stepping stone in my budding career. Each time I’ve felt that if I even had the opportunity to hover around the inner circles a game changer like herself dominates in, then I’ve got to be on the right track. Her message had me hooked from the beginning: “We don’t need permission.” It has been my mantra ever since. She has stood behind those very words, building a platform movement know as AFFRM (African-American Film Festival Release Movement) that distributes 2 films a year: her personal projects and work by new artists of color.
Tambay Obenson (Founder of Shadow And Act blog)
An inspiration because: Some read Deadline Hollywood, Variety or THR; I can’t go more than a day without checking the updates on S & A. Between the daily posts and podcast archive alone, Obenson and his collective of writers have given me a re-education on the history (and future) of Black cinema. Seeing how far S & A has come, from a one man show dubbed The Obenson Report to a headliner on Indiewire.com, inspires me everyday to post here every day on Indies (even when I’m tired, crazy busy or feel uninspired).
Issa Rae (Creator of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl webseries)
An inspiration because: It all started with a Facebook tag. A friend suggested that I watch a new webseries on Youtube. In the opening credits, the main character, J (played by Rae), admits “I’m awkward and black. Someone once told me those were the two worst things you could be.” From there I was hooked. By offering digital audiences a Black Liz Lemon, I view Rae as one of the most refreshing indie success stories today. I’ve read the countless article profiles and every time I nod along as she offers the same poignant revelation: she made the show because she felt her image was missing from mainstream television. If awkward and black is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Benh Zeitlin (Director, Beasts of The Southern Wild)
An inspiration because: It goes without saying that I am 100% Team Hushpuppy. I saw Zeitlin’s feature debut back in January and I cannot get it out of my head (and my heart). From hearing him speak at a festival panel to reading recent interviews, I greatly admire the laundry list of risks he took with this film. First-time directors aren’t usually known for auditioning over 100 kids for almost a year to find the perfect star. Thank God he did because the world is a better place for knowing eight year old Quvenzhane Wallis. The fact that the festival circuit, general public and studios have embraced his wonderful fairytale renews my faith that the indie spirit is alive and kicking butt.
An inspiration because: Pop quiz: In what city, are two major film festivals headed by women of color? Answer: Los Angeles. In my book, that is reason enough to buy a one-way ticket today. I admit, I was once quick to write off LA as the city full of waiters with screenplays, but then a tweet by Ava DuVernay changed everything. I’d volunteered for AFI Fest before, so I was already in awe of Lyanga. I didn’t know that lightning struck twice in Hollywood. Both Lyanga and Allain represent the “x marks the spot” on my career path. Any advice I can gather from interviews and future festival events, I will truly cherish, because it’s rare to see someone who looks like me in the creative positions that I aspire to hold one day myself.
This is my indie all-star lineup. Care to share yours?