This Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting the oft unsung yet always vital contributions of those working below the line. Join NYWIFT blog contributors Kathryn O’Kane and Mellini Kantayya as they celebrate a few of the many women in history and making history—“Below the Line: A Cut Above.”
For our final piece in the series, we’re bringing back a favorite -our 2018 profile of Jessie Maple.
By Kathryn O’Kane
Jessie Maple is a filmmaker. She’s also a director, editor, producer, writer, cinematographer, and pioneer.
Maple is the first black woman to join the union of International Photographers of Motion Picture & Television (IATSE) in New York. Her book, How to Become a Union Camerawoman, is an instructional guide illustrating the obstacles that she endured to get into the union. It details the court case she initiated to fight discrimination after she became a member.
It’s also insight into Maple’s MO. When she wanted to make films to counter negative representation of African Americans in movies, she left her job as a lab bacteriologist and took filmmaking classes at WNET and Third World Cinema. She and her husband started a production company. Her film Will (1981) about a basketball coach trying to kick a drug habit was one of the first feature-length films by a black woman in the post-civil rights era. Needing a venue to premiere the film, she founded 20 West, Home of Black Cinema in Harlem as a venue to show films by independent and black filmmakers to the public.
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Maple said, “You can’t stop progress. You can hold it up for a minute, but you can’t stop it. Some people have asked, aren’t you angry that you had to go through all that? And I said no, I made money, and I had fun. So why would I be angry? You don’t get anything unless you pay a price for it.”
Will was restored and preserved by NYWIFT’s Women’s Film Preservation Fund.
Let’s give a warm welcome to Alisa Lomax! Based in Detroit, Alisa is an award-winning producer and director who is interested in providing a platform for characters who are in the midst of navigating hardships. Some of her most celebrated projects include Maya and Her Lover, Layla’s Girl, and the documentary When I Need to Smile, which centers on philanthropist and jazz label founder Gretchen Carhartt Valade. Alisa was one of just 13 Detroit writers to be selected as part of the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. Find out more about Alisa as we discuss her amazing 20+ year career trajectory, which includes her transition from working in corporate jobs to more artistic endeavors, and her current role in a digital arts program that aims to introduce the art of filmmaking to kids!READ MORE
Meet NYWIFT Member Toni R. Isreal. Toni is the CEO and Founder of REALEMN Productions LLC, Broadway’s leading multicultural marketing and PR team, run by Black women. In addition to being a proud member of New York Women in Film & Television, she is a co-founding member of The Industry Standard Group. Previously, Toni was the Managing Director of Walker International Communications Group (WICG) where she led a team providing all aspects of marketing consultation to arts organizations. A proud member of CTI — Commercial Theater Institute, Toni was instrumental in multiple projects including 2018 Tony Award-Winning Once on This Island, Disney’s Aladdin and The Lion King, A Raisin in The Sun, A Trip To Bountiful, A Streetcar Named Desire, Baby It’s You, and Stick Fly. Toni R. Isreal is an awardee of the Central New Jersey Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women for Excellence in Economic Empowerment and advocates promoting the arts and entertainment to multicultural communities.READ MORE
Please join us in welcoming new NYWIFT member Katrina Montgomery! Katrina is an NYC filmmaker with an affinity for the Bronx, the neighborhood where she grew up and still considers home. Katrina served as both Director and Director of Photography for Get Away For A Day with Allyshia Renay, which aired on BRIC, MNN, and BronxNet. Currently, she is studying film directing at Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema and will be receiving her diploma shortly. Katrina spoke to us about her inspirations, using comedy to tackle tough topics, and lessons learned from a successful fundraising campaign.READ MORE
Please join us in welcoming Ifeyinwa Arinze to NYWIFT! Ifeyinwa is a neuroscientist-turned-filmmaker from Nigeria and is currently based in New York City. Her work draws inspiration from human behavior and prioritizes intimate portrayals of Black women and girls that are grounded in generosity and care. Her short film, Two or More, premiered at the 2022 New York African Film Festival and has screened at the 2022 Palm Springs International ShortFest, 2022 Bushwick Film Festival and 2022 TIDE Film Festival, where she received the 2022 NYWIFT Outstanding Woman Content Creator Award. Ifeyinwa spoke to us about why the TIDE Film Festival is special to her, her transition from STEM to the arts, and the inspirations behind her work.READ MORE