Interview with Sara Blecher – A New Filmmaker for Array

Photo Credit - Array Now


There is a lot of controversy brewing in Hollywood around the topic of inclusion of women and people of color in film.  In the midst of all this controversy, one woman is doing more than just talk about the problem.  Ava Duvernay is doing something about it by using her talent and wherewithal to help women and people of color tell their story on the big screen.

Sara Blecher is a filmmaker under Ava’s distribution collective, ARRAY.   Sara is here to share with Reel Focus readers more about her film Ayanda.

Sara, thank you for your contribution to our Reel Focus readers this week.  Tell us more about how you became a filmmaker.

Actually I was living in Paris and I seriously had no money. I was working as a waitress and a babysitter. Pretty much doing everything I could to feed myself. Anyway I met this guy and he invited me to a party. It was by far the coolest party with the hippest people I’d been to in all my time in Paris.

So eventually someone came up to me and started talking to me. He introduced himself as a photographer and asked me what I did.  It was at this was the moment I decided to be a filmmaker.

I decided right there and then that I would never again be at a party like this and have to say I was a waitress. Or even worse a babysitter. That simply wasn’t the plan for my life.

So I went back to New York and enrolled in film school.

Not a sexy story but a true one.

What types of challenges have you faced being ‘woman in film’ and share with our readers how you overcame these challenges and how they too can overcome such challenges?

For me, like many other female directors, the greatest challenge is to find work. Up until recently I never directed anything that I didn’t create and produce so that I could direct – which is precisely how I overcame that challenge. If no one would hire me to direct then I’d simply create projects so I could be the one to decide who would direct.

Being an artist it’s always tempting to measure success through other people eyes, be they critics or journalists, or audiences.   But as I have gotten older I have come to realize what a terribly dangerous thing this can be.  Art is incredibly subjective.  What is great art to one person isn’t necessarily to another. So now these days I measure the success of my work by the way I feel about a film before anyone else has seen it. I think I can now trust myself to know when the work is good and deep and interesting and when it isn’t. 

Meryl Streep recently said “I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me.”  If there is any advice I could give readers it would be to try and learn this sooner rather than later.

Why should people watch your latest film Ayanda?

Five years ago I went to see Juno with my then 15-year-old daughter. I watched her transform while she watched that film. For the first time in her life she was given an alternate role model. Someone to emulate who was beyond any of the possibilities she had previously considered for herself.  I wanted to make a film that would do the same thing for young African women. And I believe this film does.

But perhaps more importantly people should go and see Ayanda, because it’s a different way of looking at Africa; one that doesn’t gaze at violence, and poverty and disease – but instead turns to look at what it means to be human in this continent.

What more should we expect from you in the near future in terms of your film making career?

I just completed a film called Dis Ek Anna ( It’s me Anna) about a young girl who was abused by her stepfather. It has just released in South Africa and is due to be screened around the world early next year. Also, for those who want to see Ayanda, you can check it out at the Bronze Lens Festival in Atlanta, November 14, 2015 at 6:00 p.m. at Georgia Pacific Auditorium




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Tinashe’s World of Acting

Photo courtesy of Tinashe Kajese


Tinashe Kajese is no stranger to the world of acting. She is known for many acting roles on television and on stage.  Born in Zimbabwe, this sensational lady has been embracing the challenges of stage and screen for several years and she is giving back to her local community by helping others to hone their acting skills. For this Reel Focus blog, we will explore Tinashe’s world, both on and off stage.

Tinashe, for those of our readers who are not familiar with who you are in the world of acting and entertainment, tell us the roles that you have played in film and/or on television.

I would say the majority of my television work has been in the form of National Commercials like McDonalds, Homegoods, Hilshire Farms, Ford, and many variations of banks!! People may have also caught a glimpse of me in the HBO show ENLIGHTENED or on CBS’ Cold Case.

What brought you to Atlanta?

My husband, Keith Arthur Bolden, was offered a professor position in the Theater Department at Spelman College just over a year ago. We have a young son and felt like there were so many exciting things happening in Atlanta not just in our industry but also culturally speaking that we decided to make the move and explore our opportunities in this up and coming market. Having lived in NYC and Los Angeles, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that Atlanta was never on our radar in terms of a career move but we have been so blessed personally and professionally I can’t imagine living anywhere else at this time in our lives.

Tell us what Tinashe’s world is like outside of the limelight.

As I mentioned, I have a 2 year old son, so motherhood is the center part of my life. I am also a certified Interior Architect Designer – I had gone back to school for my Masters so that I could fully explore my passion for design. I mostly do commercial design and some residential remodeling. Having this other outlet of artistic expression is so rewarding and I love the process of reconstructing spaces into functional works of art that can remain long after I leave.

Photo courtesy of Tinashe Kajese

Tell our readers more about your acting classes and what you do to develop talent for stage.

Theater is huge part of my background and career. I do believe that craft and talent is developed through practice and ‘exercising’ that muscle of effortless storytelling. Also, knowing how to adapt your performance for different mediums is so critical if you want to be successful in this business. There are so many classes out there that teach actors how to audition but what happens AFTER you book that role and are expected to recreate what you did 3 months ago on tape for casting? I teach a very specific technique on how to break down scripts and create the most dynamic performance which not only makes you a memorable actor but also a marketable one. Being on set can be extremely nerve racking so I give actors tools that take them from the initial audition, thru the table read and into a successful filming experience. See the link below for details.

What can be expected from you in the future?

Photo courtesy of Tinashe Kajese

I have a couple national commercials running for Haverty’s, a furniture store, and some projects lining up in the near future. I just finished a production of DETROIT ’67 at True Colors Theater Company and am now at the Alliance Theater in BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY alongside Atlanta’s fabulous Crystal Fox (April 15th-May 10th). The fact that I am able to still pursue my love for the theater while having the opportunity to do television and film gives me so much excitement about living here in Atlanta and what the future holds!




For more information about Tinashe’s acting classes, email email

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Looking Through ‘Rosie’ Colored Glasses

Rosie on the View

Her voice is distinctive. Her laugh is infectious. Her presence on the landscape of American cinema has been unforgettable. From the fast talking sassy girlfriend, Tina, in Do the Right Thing, the game show obsessed, Gloria, in White Men Can’t Jump, to her Oscar nominated role of Carla in Fearless, Rosie Perez has proven that despite a tragic childhood her eyes only see success.

Her career has spanned nearly three decades and she’s seen the industry have its fair share of changes. “In regards to the Latino representation in Hollywood, things have gotten better. Do we need to do more? Absolutely,” she shares. “I must say that it makes me happy to be see and experience the current wave of change. For the past ten years plus, it has become fashionable to be Latin. I don’t know if younger people understand how difficult things were. And it was even harder twenty to forty years ago.”

She’s been on stage and screen. She sees all her work as favorites because they gave her life experiences and lessons that are lasting. However, some works have made stronger impressions. “I think my debut at the iconic Public Theater was monumental. It challenged me in ways that I was expecting it to do but never could imagine how deep and moving it would be. It made me grow as an artist and as a person,” she explains.

“On screen, it would be the film FEARLESS… and for pretty much the same reasons. This film still haunts me to this day. It will forever be a part of me.”

With so few women working behind the scene, Perez decided to move behind the camera and direct, “… because I just wanted to. I have always loved the idea. It’s such a cool form of storytelling. It’s likened to choreography in a way.”

Here latest move was to a seat at the table of the talk show, The View. Perez is excited about what this opportunity has to offer. She’s a regular show host and found it attractive for a variety of reasons. “I’m still figuring out some of the reasons and having fun along the way.”

Some things she’s got all figured out – passions and power. Perez is passionate about her personal life and loved ones, boxing and acting. Her best piece of advice for young women coming into the industry is to recognize and embrace your power. “That there is great power in being yourself. There is only one unique and honest you. Sometimes it takes a minute to figure it out but that’s the work you should be striving for. Understanding your power in just being yourself.”

Perez sees her work as important; however, she is reserved and cautious with the idea that women look to her for empowerment. “I am humbled by that thought. Truly.”

Rosie's Book








Images courtesy of Rosie Perez.



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Greenwood Avenue: The Decimation of an American Dream

Tulsa Race Riots 1921


The American Dream has worked for many; however, for some – particularly a small community of African Americans in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921 – that dream went up in smoke, literally. I’m referring to the annihilation of a prosperous African American town known as “Black Wall Street.” I won’t spell out the details of this event; instead, I will allow CorShonda “Coco” Springer, accomplished screenwriter and author of the new script Greenwood Avenue, to tell us more about her rendition of the story.

Thank you Coco for taking the time to tell our Reel Focus readers more about this troubling event in American history. What inspired you to make the details of this obscure event known, especially now?

There couldn’t be a better time to tell this story. In my opinion, 5 years ago was not the time. Even 7 years ago was not the time. With Obama being in office and with the success of movies such as The Butler, 12 Years a Slave, and Belle, it is obvious to me that audiences are responding well to historic projects. However, each of the movies mentioned depict African Americans in the same light that we have been accustomed to seeing them on screen – as slaves, as subordinates! They don’t show African Americans as pioneers or as entrepreneurs.

Boardwalk Empire did an amazing job at “introducing” progressive, wealthy African Americans over the past two seasons. Audiences ate it up! I know that audiences want to see more than one portrayal of African American people on television or at the theatres. “Greenwood Avenue” the series is the story of an almost unknown incident; centered upon historic events of 1921. Our projects focus on the famed Black Wall Street of Tulsa, Oklahoma. “Greenwood Avenue” charts the happenings of a thriving all black community in the face of racism, prohibition, oil greed, and corruption – a community that was destroyed, reborn, and then forgotten.

As we approach the 100 year anniversary of the Tulsa race riots, we have the ability with this television project and community campaign to change the face of our community for generations to come. The first time I heard about “Black Wall Street” I was attending college at Ball State University; which is where my creative partner Hadiyah Robinson and I met. We spent hours talking and envisioning this network of black investors that found a way around the racist strongholds of Wall Street to make millions of dollars. It wasn’t until many years later, after hearing countless other ideas of what Black Wall Street was that we started to do some digging and found the amazing story of an all-black town in Oklahoma that boasted millionaires, doctors, and entrepreneurs; that was burned to the ground and then swept under the rug of American History.

Hadiyah and I started to dig deeper. We began researching newspaper articles, watching documentaries, traveling to Tulsa, and in 2010 while sitting in Brooklyn, New York brainstorming; we made the commitment to breathe life into this project. We made the commitment to tell this story to the masses. Already having vowed during college to work together and produce media that matters; this project consumed us. Obsessed with television shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Boardwalk Empire, Spartacus, The Tudors, Game of Thrones; we noticed a very obvious trend: there were rarely any shows on TV with a non-stereotypical, positive, and strong African American presence. We immediately thought of the amazing story of Black Wall Street as the strong African American presence that was missing from Cable TV dramas. And what we envision so special about “Greenwood Avenue” as a series is the varied characters that would be portrayed. From a shoe shine boy and the hustler to a millionaire and a police deputy, ”Greenwood Avenue” embodies the variety of the African American experience that is rarely seen on television today and it’s what we want to see. It is our goal with this series to take this little known historical event and surround it with our characters, storylines and weave them with historical references, conspiracies and truths to honor this town, its legacy, and create ground breaking television that will usher the demand for more shows of the like.

Lastly with “Greenwood Avenue” The Movement we plan to produce a campaign that will lead people into a new way of thinking. This movement will serve as a modern-day push for self-empowerment and self-determination using the thriving Black Wall Street of 1921 to serve as a living testament to what minority entrepreneurs can accomplish today. It is our goal to change people’s mind set one day at a time. We would like to use the power of influence from celebrities, artists, historians, civil rights activists, senators, entrepreneurs and other like-minded individuals to move these projects forward.

Is this a feature or a documentary and if it is a feature, what inspired you to make it a drama instead of a factual documentary?

I have a fully developed feature length movie as well as s fully developed TV series. Both the TV series and movie have signed talent and signed directors – known talent and directors.

The documentary has already been done by others. However, I think all of the attempts at making the documentary dropped the ball. No one focused on the resilience of the human spirit. No one focused on what these people were able to accomplish at a time in history when it was unheard of. Instead, they focused on the riots. I decided to make a television series because I wanted the characters to become characters that you look forward to seeing each week and that you want to go learn more about. Ideally, the series will run for 7 years and people will fall in love with our characters and be “edutained” while watching. The movie is the pre-quel to the TV series. I am actively seeking funding to produce the movie independently.

You compared your film to Rosewood and, as we know, when that movie was released, it stirred a lot of controversy. What type of effect do you think your film will have, especially along racial lines?

Greenwood Avenue will stir many emotions. There are people who will be embarrassed. Some will be angry that we have told the story. Some people will feel vindicated that the story has been brought to the masses. Some people will feel motivated. It will definitely get people talking, both black and white. It will make people re-assess how they view African American people. It will make African American people look at who they really are and who they really can be. I want for every person who views my project to realize their potential and know that they do have worth. I want them to know that they can do whatever they put their minds to.

As they tell us screenwriters, if you are truly a writer and passionate about it, you write and you write and you write some more. In other words, you don’t stop at one success or failure – you keep perfecting your craft. Tell us where do you plan to go after Greenwood Avenue?

I have 7 other film projects ready to go. I have several TV shows ready to go. After Greenwood Avenue the movie, and Greenwood Avenue the TV series, I plan to continue to tell stories that matter. I am going to have to take the Mel Gibson approach I am sure but it will get done.

I am hopeful that I will find funding for “Isis and Osiris”, which is a story concerning the deities of Egyptian mythology Osiris, Isis, Horus, and Set. It is one of the most important and powerful stories in Egyptian mythology during the New Kingdom.

Secondly will be “Nat Turner’s Rebellion”. Nathanial “Nat” Turner (1800-1831) was a black American slave who led the only effective, sustained slave rebellion (August 1831) in U.S. history, spreading terror throughout the white South. This story might really stir a lot of controversy; but, I look forward to telling it.

Corshonda's Photo

Main photo courtesy of Ebony Magazine online at

Photo of Corshonda Springer courtesy of Corshonda Springer.


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SAG-AFTRA Atlanta: Mel Interviews Mel

Melissa Goodman Interview

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to be in the presence of greatness. I had an opportunity of a lifetime to come face to face with one of the most powerful women in the world of film in the Southeastern region: Melissa Goodman, Executive Director of SAG(Screen Actors Guild) –AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and Internal Governance Committee Chair of Georgia Production Partnership. Before I met her, I was terrified of our meeting because I thought that I would meet an executive who would be impersonal and cold, sort of resembling the interview scene from The Devil Wears Prada in which Miranda Priestly was far too busy and important to deal with interviewing Andy, the “poor fat girl” who was rambling on about her credentials. I was pacing as I waited for our interview to begin, hoping that I didn’t drop something, break something, stutter, or say something completely ridiculous that would end the interview. After a few minutes of twiddling my thumbs, rehearsing what I would say, hyperventilating, and breaking a cold sweat or two, I was put at ease when she entered because I saw the same warm smile that she exhibits in this photo. She was very easy-going and welcoming and this was a great icebreaker for my rattled nerves. We shared a few laughs and also realized that we have the same nickname. Her name is Mel, short for Melissa, and mine also Mel, short for Melisha; hence, the name of the article. Below is a recap of some of the things that we discussed about SAG-AFTRA in my interview with her.


Hi Melissa. I’m so glad that you had the opportunity to meet with me to tell Women in Film and Television Atlanta’s audience more about SAG-AFTRA. For starters, tell us what this organization is and what it does for the actors.

Well[as you said], I am Melissa Goodman, Executive Director of SAG-Aftra Atlanta. I have been with SAG-AFTRA (SAG and AFTRA merged two years ago) 25 years having become the Executive Director in 1992. Screen Actor’s Guild is a labor union and we protect the wages and working conditions of actors – and when I say actors, it’s not just our members only; but, if it’s on a union set and if it is under our jurisdiction here, especially in a “Right to Work State” we protect everybody. We are a professional organization made up of professional actors. In addition to us protecting the rights and working conditions, we also form a family for the union members. We do conservatory events twice a month and we do member-only events to help people build their skills. We even monitor agents that are franchised under us. Right now we have quite a few franchised agents. Some agents let go of their SAG franchise and became part of the ATA (Association of Talent Agents) but we still help them and work with them and the members they represent and even the non-members. Any and all of our projects – all the film and television that’s being done here in Atlanta or Georgia right now – is under our jurisdiction. The only shows that are not under our jurisdiction now are some of the reality TV shows. Our agents have to comply with certain regulations that we set forth such as the amount of commissions that they can take on jobs so that the actor is not scammed. For those that are paying thousands of dollars to get with an agency, we make sure that that doesn’t happen. In addition to the many [franchises] that we already have, we have 6 and one more that is looking to be franchised. [As a matter of fact, before this interview, I was just at a site] making sure that the franchise coming onboard with us has a physical office so that it meets the regulations that the national office puts forth. It doesn’t matter how pretty or nice the office is, we just can’t allow [franchisees] to be working out of their house or other unscrupulous behavior.


Does your local Atlanta branch focus on protecting Georgia actors?

[I reiterate], I protect anyone here working on set. We have tons of people joining now because of the amount of work we have due to the incentives that came here in 2008. Hence, we have been growing and growing and growing. Right now, our membership has been growing because of that but there have been a huge influx of people coming in from LA (Los Angeles); and because the incentives aren’t working out in North Carolina, we are also seeing people from North Carolina coming here. When they are working on a set that’s under our local Atlanta jurisdiction we monitor that. So [for example], if someone is here from LA and they have a claim against that, it goes through us. We work cooperatively with the Florida office if they might file a claim but we do the investigative part of the claim. For instance, when I was down on the set of “The Walking Dead” and there were members from all over. They are not just our [Atlanta] members but they are members in general, both [SAG-AFTRA] members and non-members.


Ok finally, I read that California recently passed the Assembly Bill 1839. How do you think the passage of this bill will affect our incentives here, if at all?

I think that it’s great for California. I think that it will help them maintain some of their shows and even take back a few of their shows, but for California, it’s just not enough for them. They needed a bigger package. I don’t think it’s going to affect us here at all. We are seeing a lot of new production coming in here all the time. Our incentives are still fine for what we need here.


For more information on SAG-AFTRA Atlanta, visit

For more information on GPP, visit

Photo courtesy of Melissa Goodman


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Diane Ashford: Celebrating a Good Deed

Be afraid. Be very afraid. His parole was denied and he has escaped. Now he could end up at your front door. This is the opening sequence of the intense and sexy thriller, No Good Deed. It also happens to be the number one movie at the box office this weekend raking in more than 24 million in ticket sales. These are impressive numbers for a film that cost a mere 13-million to produce. It’s the latest in a successful string of movies under the Will Packer Productions umbrella.
Atlanta based production supervisor for No Good Deed, Dianne Ashford, feels the film’s success was a long time coming. “We actually shot it two years ago. We’re very excited that it’s finally in theaters,” she shares. The release took longer than usual because, “…after we finished editing, there were a couple of things that we wanted to change. We had two of the busiest actors in the business and both had demanding schedules. It was just a matter of freeing up time in their schedules.”

Ashford admits she didn’t really know how audiences would respond to the movie. “Every project is a little different. There’s always a little bit of anxiety. You always wonder if you have done enough. You want people to have a positive response to it.” She shared with me her opening weekend ritual. She likes to watch the movie along with the fans and see their reactions first hand. “I love this business because it’s the only business where you get to see how it directly affects your consumer.”

She says some fans may have a hard time seeing Idis Elba in the role of a villain. “There have been so many people who have said they don’t want to see Idris like this because they like him as the good guy, the sex symbol type.” She adds it wasn’t hard for the Golden Globe award winner to pull it off. “I think actors appreciate the opportunity to experience new characters and to do different things. When they step outside of what they normally do, it’s rewarding.”

Taraji P. Henson’s character is memorable as well, because of some of her on-screen decisions. “She did all of the right things in the beginning. You get to see her fight back and not just be a typical victim. I think that’s the part that makes it different.”

The movie makes people think about what they would do in a similar situation. “All of the different turns that we take you through, you start to ask questions like ‘Why would you do that?’. Audiences are engaged and taking sides on what they would have done differently,” she explains. “When you really think about it and you put yourself in that position, you will understand the reason why she did certain things in the movie.”

What’s next for Ashford? She just finished work on “Survivor’s Remorse,” a project for the Starz Network. She’s teaching some of her producing secrets to independent filmmakers in Atlanta Oct. 11 and 12th. Find out more about the class, visit



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Atlanta Filmmaker Gives Us the Business of Screenwriting & Story Telling

If you have a story to tell, but aren’t quite sure where to start, you might want to heed the advice of Atlanta area filmmaker, screenwriting instructor and script consultant, Kathy Cabrera.

Kathy Cabrera - Atlanta area filmmaker, screenwriting instructor and script consultant“This era of everybody being able to make movies on their phone, tablet, or webcam is nurturing talent that might nothave been tapped 15 years ago.”  Kathy teaches writing classes through Atlanta Film Festival 365.  A graduate of the prestigious UCLA film school, she has penned eight feature length screenplays, written and produced several shorts,and even had a feature script optioned by a producer.

Kathy says, “There are tons of opportunities in Atlanta,” and says writers don’t have to live in Hollywood to be successful. “I believe you can be anywhere on the planet as long as you maintain willingness to travel when you need to.” Cabrera also says it’s important to keep an active network of contacts in Los Angeles.

Her advice to aspiring writers is to learn the market. Even if you live in Atlanta, you should know what’s going on in Hollywood. “Read the trades,” she stresses. “Staying true to your writing process and knowing the market inside out will help you get the job done.”  That may be a lot easier said than done since many writers sometimes find it hard to get started. Kathy finds the absolute toughest part is, “the motivation to isolate yourself for three to five hours and just

start writing. Everyone has so much fun once they’re on the page.  It’s hard to actually force yourself to sit down and write for a certain amount of time every day.”

Another key component is outlining. It’s a process that many writers neglect, but Kathy says is one of the most important components of writing a great script. “Everything is wasted if you don’t have an outline.”

Great storytelling happens in every industry. Cabrera also teaches businesses the importance of great storytelling to sell their product. She follows a golden rule of screenwriting when working with corporate clients, “Everything has to have a three act structure if you want to tell a story in a way that the audience is going to receive it best.” Through her business, she works with companies to help them create corporate videos that engage the target audience’s passion in a way that she feels, “keeps them watching their site and looking for more content.”

Regardless of whether you’re selling a script or a service, Kathy adds, “You really need to invest in connecting with your audience when you’re talking about promoting your product.”

You can check her out some of her work at or follow her on Twitter @kathycabrera.


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Atlanta’s New Mavericks

New Mavericks march 27 2014


Atlanta is shaking things up in the world of film with two new executives on the block – Janlatae Mullins and Gabrielle Pickle. Janlatae is a director and Gabrielle is a producer at Brothers Young Production (BroYoPro) – a production company owned by Matthew and Jared Young located in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, Georgia. Along with their production company, these women have worked with quite a few stars: Mo’Nique, Burt Reynolds, and Tom Sizemore to name a few. At present, they are working rigorously on their first film together – Untapped – a moving story about overcoming inner demons through contemporary dance. These ladies are on the rise in the Atlanta film community and we are certainly looking forward to more from them.

MC: What motivated you to pursue a career in film?

Janlatae Mullins: Ever since I was a child, I can remember being inspired by images and interactions between people. I called it “moment watching”. A grandfather sitting on a bench holding his crying grandchild with a scraped knee; a husband and wife holding hands; a child and his pet running in a field as the sun shone on their backs, the wind rippling through their hair, and their laughter squealing in the air. Those are the moments that inspired me. I felt like people needed to see what I was seeing – they needed to feel this heightened sense of awareness.

I believe that film has the power to change lives. When I watched movies like The Color Purple, Boys in the Hood, Singin’ in the Rain and West Side Story, I felt changed – I felt alive and well. Every sense in me stood at attention and wanted to live. I want people to feel the same thing when they watch movies I make.

I went to my parents when I was about 6 or 7 and I told them what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I either wanted to be a director or a maid. I realize now that my desire to be a maid was just my inner desire to take care of people; to make sure that they’re happy. Over the years, I’ve realized that my desire to serve others is one thing that has made me a good director. You can’t be a good leader without knowing how to serve first.

Gabrielle Pickle: I’ve always been a storyteller. As a child, I used to weave intricate stories together for my siblings and I made short films every Sunday afternoon on our huge VHS camcorder. Years later, while pursuing my Master’s degree, I spent time living in northern Indonesia helping to coordinate education, healthcare and co-op programs. I distinctly remember sitting in the dirt across from the pregnant wife of a former rebel soldier, hearing her explain the struggles of growing up during a war and of giving birth to her first born in the woods while hiding from approaching soldiers. Her story was unique, but her fears and joys were those that every woman shares. As I sat across from her, I was overwhelmed with the realization that stories have the power to unite us across backgrounds, races, nationalities, and income levels. I knew then that storytelling was my calling. Shortly thereafter, a job with a non-profit introduced me to film and a year after that I produced my first project. And that was all it took – I was hooked!

MC: What challenges have you faced as a “woman in film?”

JM: Thankfully, I’ve never really faced challenges as a woman in film. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist or that I won’t face any in the future. I just grew up with wonderful parents that fostered an environment in which the buck stopped with me. I was taught that any challenges that anyone faces – male, female, black, white – it’s their job to break them down. I’ve never let me being a woman or other people’s ideas of what a woman filmmaker should be define me. I just see myself as a person that has a unique voice – someone that has something to say.

GP: I’ve faced prejudice as a female in other job fields, but never in film. I think the biggest challenge I’ve faced, and still struggle with, is producing with excellence while not losing who I am as a woman. I am a workaholic, like most women I’ve met in this industry, and I absolutely love what I do. It’s a constant struggle to protect time for the things that make me who I am, like my faith, my family and friends, and my quirky hobbies.

What advice would you give to women who are pursuing careers in film?

JM: Make friends! Make tons of friends. Your success in this business is truly based on the circle you know. People want to be a part of a team that inspires them – that pushes them to do more. When you make your epic first romantic comedy, thriller, or heart wrenching drama, your “friends” will be the ones to support you. Friendship is however a give and take. Give your heart, time and creativity to other people’s projects and it will pay off in the long run.

GP: Find a people who believe in you and share your dream for film – then stick with them! Jan and I would not be where we are today if it weren’t for the team at Brothers Young Productions. Those guys have challenged us to grow, paid for us to get training, pushed us to excellence, and fought side by side every day to help us achieve our collective dream of making quality films with an important message.

Why did you choose Atlanta to pursue your career as opposed to other places more popular for film?

JM: I was born and raised here. I believe in the filmmaking culture that exists in Atlanta. There’s a real sense of “We’re just here for the art. If you have a dream, we’ll support it.” I’m not saying that this feeling doesn’t exist in other places, but I’ve seen it best here in the South. Southern hospitality is our birthright (along with sweet tea and family).
I’ve grown up alongside some really talented filmmakers and want to see them succeed. I want to be a part of their journey. Brothers Young Productions has been integral to my growth. They’ve challenged me in every way to be a better filmmaker, a better visionary and a better business woman. If I had not stayed in GA, I would not have had that amazing opportunity.

The Brothers Young team are the most talented people I’ve come across. With such great hearts, integrity, and character not just for the art, but for people, they’ve not only made their dreams come true, but helped others achieve their own. It’s hard to walk away from that. Their friendship and leadership is part of the reason I am sitting here today and I am so thankful for that. That love and sense of family is definitely a perk of being in Atlanta. It’s a southern thang.

GP: I didn’t move to Atlanta for the film scene. It’s more like the Atlanta film community found me and won me over! As soon as I uttered the words, “I’m interested in film,” local actors, screenwriters and directors invited me on set, gave me opportunities to learn the craft and offered me jobs. The past few years have been a wild and incredible ride into a full-time film career. The opportunities for a Producer in Atlanta are many and I simply can’t fathom being anywhere else!

Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Pickle.



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