By Katie Chambers
Meet NYWIFT Member Yolanda Gibson! Yolanda Gibson is an online entertainment writer and documentarian originally from Detroit, Michigan. She has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Political Science from Michigan State and Illinois State University respectively.
She began writing for online entertainment publications in 2010 in Atlanta, GA. Through writing she has been given the opportunity to conduct red carpet interviews for some of the biggest events and names in the industry such as the Tribeca Film Festival, BET Hip Hop Awards and the Soul Train Music Awards. She has written for Examiner.com and Yahoo Contributor, and currently writers for Medium. She is also the author of Celebrity Inspired Inspirations.
Gibson has been a member of NYWIFT since 2019. She attended our NYWIFT Night Out networking mixer with the Telly Awards at Neuehouse Madison Square in March 2023, where Telly Awards reps encouraged her to submit her projects for consideration. This Summer, she won a 2023 Bronze Telly Award in the Online Documentary Long Form (over 40 minutes) category for her documentary Wisdom from the Brooklyn Bridge, which follows her Covid-19 weight loss journey as she walks through political and social protests in New York City.
Yolanda spoke to us about her documentary, the award, and her future projects.
Tell us about yourself – give us your elevator pitch!
My name is Yolanda Gibson. I am an educator, writer, author, and documentary filmmaker. I graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A in Political Science and a Master’s from Illinois State University.
My goal is to create more documentaries that are interesting, inspiring, and informative that will help shine a light on African American and women’s experiences in our society as they relate to mental health, politics, body image and religion.
I am the author of soon-to-be four books. I have been a freelance writer for various online publications for 13 years.
How did you get involved with NYWIFT and how has the organization impacted you so far?
I was invited to join NYWIFT by member Judith Davis in 2018. The organization is a great gathering spot for creatives on all different levels that have a plethora of skills in filmmaking, writing and acting. I love the networking opportunities and resources that NYWIFT provides through screenings, film festivals and writing labs.
I take advantage of all NYWIFT has to offer. I have expanded my talent and network as a creative since joining NYWIFT. NYWIFT has made my New York experience complete, and for this I am very grateful.
Congratulations on winning your Telly Award for Wisdom from the Brooklyn Bridge! How is this recognition meaningful to you?
I was very elated to find out that I won a Telly Award for my documentary Wisdom from The Brooklyn Bridge because I was at a point in my life where I was asking the universe for a sign to know if I was going in the right direction with my creative endeavors…then I won!
I’d love to hear more about what the project is about.
Wisdom from the Brooklyn Bridge is a great documentary that encapsulates everything enlightening, comedic, informative, and entertaining.
Wisdom from the Brooklyn Bridge is about my 21-day weight loss journey during the summer of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. As I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, I received revelations of wisdom that I would share with my followers via social media. Along my journey, I came across social protests regarding the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and political protests advocating for Donald Trump.
Wisdom from the Brooklyn Bridge is an inspiring documentary that documents the best and the worst of times during the summer of 2020 in New York City when the Covid- 19 pandemic was at its height in cases.
What do you hope audiences will take away from this deeply personal story?
After watching Wisdom from the Brooklyn Bridge, I hope the audience will walk away with the knowledge that it is okay to share your personal story to help others. We are on this earth to help one another and the only way that we can grow personally, spiritually, and emotionally is if we share our experiences.
My weight has been something that I have struggled with all of my life. It was beautiful for me to get to a point in my life where I can change a struggle into a story that can educate and entertain, with the backdrop of significant historical contexts that will be relatable to all audiences.
What kind of projects excite you?
I love all types of documentaries! If it is a documentary, I will watch it and I will enjoy it! I love to learn about any and everything, watching documentaries help me to learn about everything.
What is the best advice you ever received? And the worst?
Best advice: “I am a great writer.”
Worst advice: “I am a horrible writer.”
Moral of the story, be confident in yourself, don’t look for anyone to validate you.
What are two things we might not know about you by looking at you or reading your bio, that you’d love for the NYWIFT community to know?
I am a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
I was the fastest runner in my 5th grade class.
And what is next for you?
I am currently gearing up to take an extensive documentary filmmaking class at New York University in the fall of 2023.
I am also looking for other opportunities that will continue to hone my skills as a documentary filmmaker.
Welcome to NYWIFT, Candece Tarpley! Candece Tarpley, of Sissipahaw/Tuscarora/Tsalagi descent, is a World Champion Powwow dancer, an actress and a poet-storyteller-playwright who has been writing since childhood. Holding her heritage close, she's been a featured performer nationwide, weaving her crafts with the patrons of the Public Library of Boulder Colorado; Middlebury College in Vermont; Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts; the Pequot Museum in Connecticut; the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Natural History in New York City, as well as other creative venues. Candece spoke to us about how her Indigenous heritage influences her work, the response to her television series, and her next major projects.READ MORE
New York based filmmaker Melissa Morales is a first-generation Puerto Rican Latina alum from CUNY Brooklyn College with a BA in Film Production, holding a magna cum laude GPA. Melissa is an aspiring writer, director, producer and production designer, and multimedia content creator. She has written, directed, & produced four short films in 2022, with her thesis "Bigger" winning a NYWIFT Emerging Female Filmmaker Award at Brookly College and a NYIFA Best Student Director Award both in 2023! Melissa tells us about receiving the NYWIFT Emerging Female Filmmaker Award, her role as a writer, director, and producer, and more!READ MORE
Introducing NYWIFT Member Sarah Eagle Heart! Sarah is a filmmaker and social justice storyteller from the Oglala Lakota tribe on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Sarah shares her creative journey from writing a book with her twin sister about reflections of identity, to working with musical icon John Legend, to her latest feature film.READ MORE
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