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I Didn’t See My Truth About Black Women On Screen, So I Made My Own Film

I Didn’t See My Truth About Black Women On Screen, So I Made My Own Film

Women are conditioned to be driven by expectation. The expectation of what we should do, what we could do, what we can’t do, what’s a good look, who would look good on us, and how and what we’re supposed to feel. And more often than not, our girlhood, adolescence, and primitive womanhood is explicitly defined by whether we feverishly run towards meeting these expectations, choose to quietly forgo them, or decide to riot against them. 

In fall of 2021, I decided to move to NYC with two girls I had only met on Facebook. Our first conversation? A FaceTime call to e-sign the lease. As my father would say, “I didn’t know them from a can of paint” – but I didn’t care. My mind was only consumed by two things. I wanted to live in New York by any means necessary (even if it meant taking the gamble of living with complete strangers), and this move had to undoubtedly change my life for the better. 

Funny enough, the minute I touched down on 125th with just one old suitcase busting out the seams, and an anxious-head, filled with high hopes of what my new life could look like – something told me I had fallen sick to a case of wishful thinking. 

But could you blame me? How many of us have fallen for the “move to the big city, change your life”,  propaganda? It wasn’t a lie. The change I had been looking for was certainly just around the corner (quite literally) – but so was the beating into womanhood I had no idea was coming. 

To make a long story short, my first 30 days in New York City was a storm filled with a personal chaos that left me short on words. And if you know me, you know that’s rare. 

What I thought would be a new era filled with new life-long friendships, instant career advancement, a perfect apartment, and a self-realization only the movies could devise – simply wasn’t. My apartment was so small I could barely do a 360 turn in my bedroom. Cultivating genuine friendships was much harder than anticipated. I had no idea what I wanted to pursue. But the most disappointing part of it all – I myself hadn’t changed into this idyllic version of myself, like I had imagined. 

I was the same person, just in a new place. And as quiet as it’s kept, that wasn’t a truth I could handle. 

It was a long night on the L train when the idea came to me. The strangers aka roommates I had met on a FaceTime call had now become my friends – close one’s at that. Trekking a 2 hour ride from BK into Harlem from Everyday PPL at 3 AM – we recapped our night, and for the first time our woes. 

Our half-sleep drunken conversation about the typical absurdities of the night, paved the way for us to speak our grievances about all the ways this move had left much to be desired. 

While I was selfishly reassured that I was not the only one struggling, it did lead me to think why aren’t more women talking about this? Why aren’t we screaming from the rooftops about the disappointments, the unmet expectations, our collective cluelessness?

The truth was – the reality of designing what your life looks like as a young woman wasn’t as cute as the fantasy of the city that was toted around on TikTok – but you didn’t hear it from me. 

As a hophead interrupted our full blown keke, one of my roommates jokingly said, “girl, this is too much, we need a show”. 

And for the first time I thought to myself – “we do”. 

Classic shows like Insecure, Girlfriends, and Sex & the City have acted as the blueprint for what figuring out love and life in your 30’s looks like. A time where women are supposedly meant to be in full bloom. But what would the prequel look like? Why aren’t there more stories about black women in their early 20’s not just on the journey to figuring out life, but on the journey to figuring out who they were? 

I used myself and my roommates as inspiration to tell the story of our own, but it’s for all the girlies in their early 20’s dealing with the plague of expectation, and coming into who you are in a new place.

And not for nothing – we seen some sh*t together. Someone should laugh at it. 

Fast forward to writing a treatment, a script, and becoming a grant recipient of the Johnnie Walker X Blacktag First Strides Creator Program, I was making a movie (short film) about us. 

I decided to call it, The First 30 Days. 

While the opportunity ignited an excitement in me my body had yet to feel, it also ignited an anxiety that my mind was a stranger too. I had never even been on a film set before, and now I was about to make my “directorial debut”. How was I going to do this? 

I wish I could say I became some type of film academic overnight, becoming knowledgeable about everything and all things cinema, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

It was the height of summer, and I had 3 months to make this come to life, and my time and sanity was of the essence. So I studied and took notes from what I liked -70’s blaxploitation films, classic black comedies, and directors that had a way of showing black women in a way that illuminated their beauty, their flaws, their absurdity, and their funny. 

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After theory came practice. Not knowing a single person in the film world – I once again turned to Facebook to assemble a group of collaborators. 

To say I got lucky would be an understatement. From my producer and actors to both my onset and post-production crew, every single person I worked with not only did a job above my wildest imagination but were gracious enough to take a chance on me, and guide me along the way. 

I heard this phrase before, but in my experience it became a testament to live by. 

Anything worth doing, you definitely can’t do alone. 

While the story itself was centered around hyperbolic, clashing versions of myself and my roommates –  me, an angsty, type-a, eccentric, cynic on the hunt for self-idealization – one of us, a hold-no-punches, aspiring influencer – and the other, a hopeless romantic treating dating like a full-time job – the truth was a little bit of each us existed in each other, regardless of how different we were. 

Like all black women. 

It was around February of this year, when I watched the final version back to myself. While it’s easy to see mistakes, harp on what you would’ve done differently, what you could’ve done with more finesse,  I’m proud to say at the very least, the film gives space to black women to divorce themselves from expectations and yoke to honesty. 

And while the experience from start to finish was hard, exhilarating, gut-wrenching, and damn-near volatile, I’m eager to do it again. 

I most certainly have more to say. 

The First 30 Days is currently on the festival circuit, but you can watch the trailer here.

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