How Women Of Color Call The Shots
What are the unique challenges faced by black female directors as they pursue their careers? Are the stories they craft unique?
NYWIFT has assembled a panel of African-American women who have successfully created episodic television programs and theatrically-released feature films. We'll find out what themes they are asked to work on by producers, versus those that they choose to depict; how they are ranked for jobs among their peers, and how they use multiple pursuits to maintain an income while pursuing their dream projects.
Neema Barnette, producer, director and educator, has won an Emmy Award, two NAACP Image Awards and has been accepted into the Director's Workshop for Women at the American Film Institute. She was the first African-American woman to direct a sitcom, What's Happening Now, and has directed episodes of such hit series as The Cosby Show, A Different World, 7th Heaven and Gilmore Girls. In addition, Barnette has directed the features Civil Brand, Better off Dead and Scattered Dreams. She's taught at UCLA and NYU and is currently Executive Director of the Live Theater Gang in NYC, a group that teaches young people to express themselves on stage.
Director Daniel Cooperbey has created, produced and directed numerous film/video commercials and corporate videos, both regionally and nationally, including a number of PSA campaigns. Prior to making the transition into directing, Dan had an award-winning career in advertising creating successful campaigns and national TV commercials for products such as Minute Rice, Jif Peanut Butter, Grapenuts Cereal, Chips Ahoy Cookies, Bahamas Tourism, Nissan cars and trucks, Oreo Cookies, and Post Raisin Brand Cereal. Accounts included American Express, General Foods, P&G, Greyhound, and Nabisco Brands. Dan's creative work landed him in the Smithsonian when he created the first AIDS campaign for fashion designer Kenneth Cole. Dan has also worked as a creative consultant on CTW Sesame Street. He has been mentored as a director on Law & Order, Third Watch, and Ed, and is currently pursuing directing episodic TV. He is a co-chair on the Directors Guild of America's ethnic diversity steering committee as a voice for minorities in the industry and is a member of the Screen Actors Guild.
Bridgett M. Davis' (pictured above) is one of the first African-American women to write, produce, direct and self-distribute a feature film. Her film, Naked Acts, broke box office records for a single-screen, exclusive release. The film has screened in three dozen international festivals in Europe, North America, South America and Africa, and has garnered numerous awards, most recently the Audience Award at the 2009 African Diaspora Film Festival. Her debut novel, Shifting Through Neutral, was a finalist for the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright LEGACY Award. Davis teaches film and creative writing at CUNY's Baruch College. She recently co-wrote a multi-character screenplay set in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Sundance fellow Tanya Hamilton has received numerous grants, including a Pew Fellowship in the Arts for Night Catches Us (the first screenwriter ever to receive the award), the IFP Market Gordon Parks Award for Independent Filmmakers for best screenplay, and a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship. Her short, The Killers, won an award for the best short film at the 1996 Berlin International
Film Festival; it also won the 1997 New Line Cinema Award. That same year, Hamilton received the DGA Award for best female director.
Leslie Harris, writer, director and producer, won the The Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize for her debut feature Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. The film won honors at top film festivals including Tokyo, Cannes, Toronto and Deauville, as well as an Independent Spirit Award Nomination for Best Debut Performance. Harris has received The IFP Gotham Award Open Palm, the American Film Institute Filmmaker Award, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, an ABC/DGA Fellowship and the Showtime Network Award for Excellence for the short Bessie Coleman, A Dream to Fly. Her next feature is the provocative political comedy I Love Cinema.
Lillian Smith, Moderator, has over 25 years experience in television production and the development of series and documentaries. In 1992, while producing the Donahue Show, she teamed up with Phil Donahue as Coordinating Producer for the PBS special The Issue Is Race: A Crisis in Black & White. In 1993, she became Executive Producer of a new talk show featuring host Mo Gaffney, before joining Trinity Television to launch The Real Bottom Line with host Jim Hartz. Smith has received numerous awards, including The Political Woman's Caucus award for producing a program with African- American authors Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Angela Davis and others as well as eight Emmy nominations.
Produced by Rachel Gordon and Dolly Turner
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NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
Last updated: Feb. 8, 2010