I decided to write this because I wanted to share my experiences of making an indie film as a Queer Person of Color (QPOC). I come from a strong story telling tradition belonging to the African Diaspora. We have an oral tradition in which we paint images and weave words to enthrall anyone who is willing to hear. So it is no coincidence that Hip Hop/Rap are dominant in the world right now. The cinema screen is really a giant campfire.
We know that as QPOC we do not often see images of ourselves in mainstream cinema, independent cinema, LGBT cinema, television or any form of media – in the universe – to lift a portion from standard release forms. Yes, we are pretty much invisible, yet ironically we are more likely than “white” people to identify as LGBT. Go figure!
In the UK here are the feature length films that have been made by QPOC, Young Soul Rebels by Isaac Julien which won the Critics Prize in Cannes in 1991, Nina’s Heavenly Delights by Pratibha Parmar in 2006, Kick Off Bashment and Fit in 2010, by Rikki Beadle Blair. (Rikki Beadle Blair also made a TV series in 1999 called Metrosexuality. ) Another film made by a straight woman but with a QPOC storyline is Rag Tag made in 2006 by Adaora Nwandu. We can count QPOC films on the backs of our hands and in the grand scheme of things we are probably way underepresented but so are feature films made from a transgender perspective.
I want people to make more films especially those people who are not used to seeing images of themselves reflected back at them on screen. Why do I think this is important? I think as long as anyone continues to see the white straight male perspective as representing universal human experiences/stories and never just another specific experience, we deny everybody else their humanity.
Here are five points of inspiration to get you up and making your indie film. And when you make your movie be sure to tell me about it.
1.Filmmaking is tough for everyone
It may seem like it is harder to make a film if you do not see credible images of yourself in Hollywood films or the indie films that get awards. But it is also tough for those white straight guys if they do not want to churn out the same formulaic easy-to-merchandise-make-a-sequel-comicbook films. The mainstream is risk-averse and in harsh economic times it is even more timid. The best strategy is to make your movie now, by any means necessary. Don’t worry about what everybody else is doing or not doing. Psyche yourself up to make your film and believe in your vision and story.
2.Surround yourself with good people
Once you say you are making a movie, and reach out, people will come to you with love, willing to help. Anybody who is serious about working in film and TV wants an IMDB credit and wants to build up their portfolio. Look beyond your friends and reach out to the wider film community in your locale. Good film people can only enhance your project as they take pride in their craft. These people are hungry to work on the next exciting project – yours.
3.Engage with your audience
As artists we like to think our work will speak for itself. This may be OK for people who are well known by Jo Public. However, if your film poster is not on the side of the bus, then you need to build an audience. You can do this by screening at film festivals, organising community screenings and engaging on social media. Build relationships with community organisations who tap into the audience that you are trying to reach.
4.Look at indie movies and buy them
If you do not watch indie films, why do you expect anybody to watch yours? Do the research, and find indie filmmakers who share your interests. Support them and their movies. And yes dominant films are easier to access, however there are many specialist distributors like Peccadillo Pictures, Wolfe Video, Busk Films, Sistah Sinema and AFFRM. Support their films by going to see them in the cinema or buying the movies. If they do not have the films you are interested in? Google is your friend!
5.You do not need rich parents to make a movie
We are so lucky to live in a time where those of us who have access to the internet can find finance for our films through crowdfunding. When I was making Stud Life Movie, I received some cash on IndieGoGo. People donated to the project who I had never met in my life. They like me believed strongly that Stud Life Movie, the urban romcom about a friendship between a stud lesbian and a white gay man, had not been told and wanted to see it made. There are people out there who are hungry for our diverse stories. If Spike Lee can go to Kickstarter to raise money for his latest film, the door is wide open for all of us!
Make your movie already!