Q+A with CampbellX (“Stud Life”)

CampbellX                                    (Photo by Robert Taylor http://www.roberttaylor photography.com/)

Biography:

Campbell is an award-winning filmmaker/curator whose films include the award-winning BD Women about Black lesbian lives and history, Legacy about the lasting impact of slavery on Black families and Fem, a butch homage to queer femininity.   Her body of work was honoured by the Queer Black Cinema Festival in New York (2009), and she curated “No Heroes” in 2010 at Iniva.  She was a selector for GFEST 2009-11 and the festival director for The Fire This Time! – Queering Black History Month.  Campbell has been published in Diva Magazine, Feminist Review, The Pink Paper, and many more publications.


Her Film:  What is your film Stud Life about and what drew you to making this film specifically?

CampbellX:  Stud Life is a film where a stud lesbian and her gay man best friend deal with what happens when she gets tight with a femme lesbian lover. “who did you wake up with? your lover, or your best friend?” The story is about how you negotiate time with your queer family when you want to be with a new lover.

I made the film as there are actually a dearth of images of masculine females – studs/butches/bois in cinema and not that many images of QPOC [Queer People of Color] anyway. The queer films tend to be from a Eurocentric perspective and whenever there are QPOC in films often our presence, whether it is the filmmaker’s intention or not, is often treated like we are giving insight into our “problems” and the issues of “gayness with our cultures”. We as QPOC filmmakers are not given the space to just tell a story where we are central to the narrative and it not be problematised.

I also made the film to show that London is very mixed and jumbled up if you live in an urban environment. So immigrants, queers, and the indigenous people are all living on top of each other and have to learn to negotiate the spaces we occupy. However we are now heavily influenced whether queer or not,  and from whatever class or ethnicity, by African Caribbean and African American culture in our clothes, language and the way we dance.

Very often British cultural product that shows this urban life is usually straight and homophobic and the ones that are LGBT are very “white”. Stud Life shows a different reality.

HF:  What has the reaction been to the film?  How do you engage with your fanbase/followers around the topic of the film to continue to build an audience?

CX: The reaction to the film has been mixed. Stud Life is not for everyone. It has scenes of sexual practice and violence some people may find triggering. The main role is that of a stud, which many lesbians who wish to have a mainstreamed image of ourselves find shameful.  It is also not a segregated film. It shows a world where genders, sexual orientations and ethnicities mix. Some queer audiences like their films gendered – boys only, girls only.

With this in mind I have been absolutely bowled over by finding the Other Audience who do not really care for this and are hungry for something different.  They have responded with love and joy at the screenings. So far all screenings have been fully booked out with many sold out screenings. The audiences have laughed, cried, screamed, groaned and shouted at the screen. I have had many tweets, Facebook feedback and posts written from audience members. Some quoting lines from the film or saying how the film related to them personally. I have found these touching, as when I wrote the film, I had no idea if anyone would even like the film or come to see it.

I used Facebook from the very beginning to connect with an audience and later Twitter and YouTube. I think it is important in these media to share others people’s work as well. Stud Life is about building LGBT community around queer cultural product. We seek out those who are doing the same. We actively promote those whose voices continue to be silenced by mainstream straight and LGBT media.

HF:  You’ve directed a number of projects, but can you speak a bit about your experience making your first feature film?

CX:  My experience of making my first feature was like that of a virgin. I had no idea what it would be like so I went into it all wide-eyed and innocent. This is even though I have made several award-winning short films before. I had one goal and it was to finish the feature. I could not have done it without community support and by that I mean the wider filmmaking community in London, the people who live and work in East London and also the wider international LGBT world who stumped up cash for our IndieGoGo campaign. The cast T’Nia Miller, Kyle Treslove, Robyn Kerr and Simon Savory were put through a gruelling 10 day shoot in the cold and wet London weather but were always chipper and professional and put in stellar performances.

I am one of the privileged few in the UK to have made a feature film – Stud Life was the only new LGBT film made in 2012. That is a sobering thought considering we made the film “by any means necessary” and received no film grants from any of the funders who give money for film. This allowed me to have a freedom to play and to cast the leads I wanted and also choose the crew I wanted to work with.

I am no longer a virgin and now have baggage that anyone does after the “first time”.

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To connect with this filmmaker and to support her work, please visit these links:

Website:  blackmanvision.com

Twitter:  @CampbellX

Vimeo:  vimeo.com/blackmanvision

Facebook (Stud Life):  /studlifemovie

Twitter (Stud Life):  @studlifemovie

Tumbler (Stud Life):  studlifemovie.tumblr.com

Women’s Stories Weekly: Streep, Pixar, Tropes, and more

MERYL STREEP CALLS ON HOLLYWOOD TO MAKE MORE FILMS ABOUT WOMEN

Read the story over at The Guardian.  

PIXAR’S ‘BRAVE’ CALLS ATTENTION TO FEMALE ROLES ON AND OFF SCREEN

Read the article at Mercury News.

DIRECTOR NANCY SAVOCA A ‘COWGIRL’ IN CINEMA’S WILD WEST

Read the fully story at Toronto.com
Read my review of Savoca’s Union Square here (scroll to 2nd film).

HYSTERIA HITS OVER 150 U.S. CITIES, NEW FILM FROM TANYA WEXLER

Visit the website and check out theater release information here
Read my review of Wexler’s Hysteria here (scroll to 3rd film).

ANITA SARKEESIAN’S ‘TROPES VS. WOMEN IN VIDEO GAMES’ REACHES RIDICULOUS NEW LEVELS OF CROWDFUNDING AT $150,000+ WITH A $6,000 GOAL

Check out the project on Kickstarter.
Follow Sarkeesian @femfreq.
Visit Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency website.

(Sarkeesian has been the target of severe harassment — including threats of rape and murder — as well as disgusting hacking of her wikipedia page and lewd and hateful comments online as a result of her launching this study and web series.  For those stories and details, please google.  I’m more interested in sharing and reveling in the greatness of this project and the enormous positive response to it. Unfortunately, I see that most reporters and bloggers are more interested in focusing on the negative response she has received mainly from gamers.)

THE WRITING ROOTS OF A YAMHILL GIRL: ESSAY ON BEVERLY CLEARY

Read this eloquent essay about Cleary’s life and how it helped her form her writing style by clicking here.

Review: “Higher Ground” (2011)

A film by Vera Farmiga

Vera Farmiga directs and stars in this movie about a women’s journey of faith.  The film is based on Carolyn S. Briggs’ memoir, This Dark World. She breaks the movie up into chapters, such as “Summons” and “Waiting for Dawn” that deal with different parts in her journey.  Corinne grows up with a sister and parents that are in love but break up when they lose their third child.  Corinne goes to church as a young girl and tries to make sense of religion and how she fits into the picture.

The film goes on and shows Corinne as a teenager finding love with a boy in a band called the Renegades.  They marry at a young age after she becomes pregnant.  The band travels and on one particular trip Corinne brings their young child along and they are in an accident.  They crash into a lake and frantically search for their toddler that they had placed in a cooler.  They find her and are convinced that God saved her.  They join a fundamentalist sect and raise their family in the group.  They have two more children.  The group is very traditional and Corinne goes along with it until she starts to realize that maybe it’s not for her.  The group is very strict about women doing any teaching.  She tries to share what she has learned from the bible to the group and gets chastised for preaching.  She also gets called out for wearing a dress (a maternity dress no less) that garners too much attention.

I think we can all relate to this film because religion or spirituality is in most of our lives in some shape or form.  It can be a struggle to make your way and try and figure out what you would like to believe.  I thought that Corinne was very brave to leave the group when she no longer believed what they did.  It was all she had known and took courage to walk away from her family and friends.  Farmiga did a great job with the flow of the movie and kept it moving along nicely.  This film was a great start for Farmiga as director.

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Lotus Wollschlager is the official Her Film movie reviewer.  Find her bio on the Her Film Reviews page.

SPOTLIGHT: Small Small Thing

Writer-director Jessica Vale, with producer Nika Offenbac, are making a powerful documentary film called Small Small Thing about the epidemic of rape in Liberia, focusing on the story of a mother working for justice after her young daughter is raped.  Today, rape is the #1 crime in Liberia.  Vale and Offenbac (with co-producer Barnie Jones) have spent the last three years making this film which is currently in post-production and raising funds through Kickstarter.  Together, Vale and Offenbac are founders of the Take My Picture LLC production company in New York City dedicated to the pursuit of long form non-fiction works.

Trailer and Pitch:

SMALLSMALL THING

Crowdfunding through: Kickstarter

Campaign goal: $25,000

Days left on campaign:  Less than a day (28 hours / deadline April 8)

Logline

Caught between tribalism and democracy, a Liberian mother is at odds with her country after the brutal rape of her six-year old daughter.

Olivia (Photo courtesy of J. Vale)

About Olivia:

“As we were there, we had to navigate the same channels that she and her mother were also trying to navigate to find out their own answers.”

– Jessica Vale, director

“If this were to happen here in the United States, maybe she could get therapy.  There’s no such thing as therapy in Liberia…. [S]he represents thousands of little girls behind her that we haven’t met; we haven’t heard their stories.”

– Barnie Jones, co-producer

Synopsis

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her work in women’s issues. Yet according to U.N. statistics in 2012, rape is still the #1 crime in Liberia, and the majority of the victims are children.  Médecins Sans Frontières in Liberia reports their youngest survivor at 21 months old.

Olivia (Photo courtesy of N. Offenbac)

Small Small Thing begins at JFK Hospital in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, and urban center of this West African country.  Olivia is 9 years old, severely malnourished and handicapped. Her condition is life threatening. Believing her injuries to be the result of witchcraft, Olivia’s mother had been hiding her for years.  The doctors conclude her condition is the result of a brutal rape that took place when Olivia was 7 years old. When pressured to reveal her rapist, Olivia names her cousin.

Olivia's mother Bendu (Photo courtesy of N. Offenbac)

This diagnosis has severe consequences. Originally from deep in the Liberian jungle, Olivia and her mother are shunned from their tribe for seeking outside help.  They are left stranded in Monrovia at the mercy of President Sirleaf’s government, facing the most difficult decision of all. What price are they willing to pay for justice?

Photo courtesy of J. Vale

Credits

Jessica Vale (Writer/Director)
Nika Offenbac and Jessica Vale (Producers)
Barnie Jones (Co-producer)

Connect with this filmmaker and learn more about this new film:

Facebook: /SmallSmallThing

Twitter: @Smallsmallfilm

Website:  www.smallsmallthing.com
_______________________

Do you have a film you are trying to finance that you would like to feature here?  Send us an email with a website and social media page(s) for your film.

INTERVIEW: Cassandra Hollis, director of “A Praying Grandmother”

BIOGRAPHY

Filmmaker Cassandra Hollis

Cassandra Hollis has directed, produced and written eight films, many of which are award-winning. The award-winning SAG film, The Altar, is airing now through 2013 on the TCT television network in the U.S. and airing on television networks in the U.K. and  South Africa. Her three-part film series about the Underground Railroad, Mattie, Johnny and Smooth White Stones: Parts I, II, & III, was selected for inclusion in the National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program and distributed in schools, universities and libraries throughout the U.S. and Canada. In June, Mattie: Part III will screen at the 2012 Harriet Tubman Underground Conference in Cambridge, Maryland. Currently, she is co-producing a feature film with Gospel great, Helen Baylor, based on Ms. Baylor’s life story, A Praying Grandmother: The Helen Baylor Story.
(Bio updated by Her Film 4-5-12.)


Her Film:  Can you talk a bit about your newest film and what drew you to this topic?  How did you reach out to the film’s subject, renowned gospel singer Helen Baylor?

Cassandra Hollis: Amazingly, this project “found” me. Ms. Baylor saw me on a local television talk show discussing my previous 8 films and she said the Lord told her I was “the one.” For years, she’d wanted to tell her life story in film but never felt right about the
timing nor about who she could entrust her story with. She said she told her husband that she wanted to contact me and before I left the station, I received a note that they had called.

Poster for A Praying Grandmother (Courtesy of C. Hollis)

HF:  In addition to you adapting Helen Baylor’s life story — published as No Greater Love (Vision Publishing 2007) — you are also working directly with her on the film and she appears with you in the pitch video on your website.  Can you describe the type of relationship you have and the challenges that also go along with this filmmaker/film subject dynamic?

CH:  Yes, she is the Co-Producer of the film and we have become like family during the process of bringing her story to life. As a filmmaker, working with her as I adapted her autobiography into the screenplay was unlike any writing experience I have ever had. Her
recall is amazing. She can describe details of some of the biggest triumphs and tragedies in her life. She even remembers details of furnishings, etc. It was rewarding to me as the screenwriter that when she read the screenplay, she said that not only did she feel like she
was reliving everything but that it seemed I was there as it happened.  It was great being able to just call her or send over questions as I worked on the script.

Some of the challenges in our filmmaker/film subject relationship include just maintaining the daily grind of what it takes to bring a project like this to the screen. We live in different states and she travels a great deal with her singing career so sometimes it may take a few days to get a response back when I needed it yesterday (smile). I am just so proud of her commitment to share her story so that someone else may be delivered and helped. We’re on the same page with the same vision for the film so ultimately it all works out well.

HF:  You’ve worked in television as on-air talent, as a producer and a director.  To what extent do you draw off of your early experiences in this arena to inform your filmmaking, especially in the context of narrative filmmaking when much of your past work has been journalistic?

CH:  What a great observation. I believe I draw a great deal from my journalistic roots and they readily inform my choices in subject matter. My films have addressed all sorts of social issues and ills, including homelessness, abortion, abstinence, centenarians,
Underground Railroad.. I have been able to address these issues within the context of narrative filmmaking and never been accused of making say a glorified documentary or glorified news story. So my films really just show the humanity behind whatever the issue may be. The issue is positioned as subtext largely because I’m not necessarily preaching about it. Nor am I necessarily taking a position. I just present it for audiences to choose whether they want to focus on it or stay focused on the characters and plot.

HF:  Every experience in life changes us somehow, and as filmmakers, we spend so much time dealing with a script, story structure, etc.  It is inevitable that these experiences change us as people and artists.  How has your experience making A Praying Grandmother changed you as a person and as a filmmaker?  What lessons have you learned in the process that you could share here?

CH:  As a filmmaker, making this film has helped me to grow as a producer as well as director. My previous projects involved smaller budgets and therefore, I had not experienced all of the details along the way that must be covered when bringing a project to the big screen. I knew what the steps were but had not done them. Experience is the best teacher. Because of this experience I am well equipped to do more films on a large scale. I believe it helped me take my vision to global status.

Grandmother Hudson, grandmother of Helen Baylor (Courtesy of C. Hollis)

Personally, I have even more compassion for people. To some degree, I’ve always wanted my films to help people. But, with this project I think lives will be saved. It has taken that mandate to a higher place for me. I really feel a sense of responsibility and urgency with all of the recent tragedies in the Entertainment industry. Helen was a rising R&B star plagued by her addictions to cocaine and all kinds of drugs. But she had a ‘praying grandmother’ who literally did not cease to pray for her. Someone needs to see that the power of prayer can really help pull a person from the depths. Someone needs to see that you can be delivered from drugs by the power of prayer. Prayer often becomes a cliche’ but Faith and prayer are powerful weapons. Someone needs to see that and get help. As I mentioned before, the film does not preach and is not super spiritual. It simply, elegantly and powerfully tells what happened to this amazing, annointed Gospel Great and how she lived to tell it!

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To learn more about this film or to connect with the filmmaker, please visit:

Website: www.holyhillproductions.com

Twitter: @HelenBaylorFilm and @cassandrahollis

Facebook: /cassandrahollis

LinkedIn: /CassandraHollis