After The Six Feet Apart Experiment filmmaking competition launched a few months into the onset of COVID-19, hundreds of screenplay submissions came in. Once all entries were reviewed by Wayfarer Studios and a team of judges, five screenplays were found that needed to be brought to the screen. The winning filmmakers were then paired with top industry mentors and professionals who could help guide them throughout the filmmaking process.
As mentor to winner Julianne Fox (Never Better), Nzingha Stewart brings her industry expertise that stretches from writing to producing and directing. We hear from Nzingha about her process as a director, and what it’s been like to work with an up and coming filmmaker during COVID-19.
We are thrilled to announce Nzingha Stewart will also be directing one of Wayfarer Studios upcoming projects, ‘Badass Biker Chicks of Marrakesh,’ a film about five Muslim girls trying to break into the male-dominated world of Moroccan motorcycle racing. Read more.
After directing commercials and hundreds of music videos, while breaking down barriers for women of color in the music video world along the way, Nzingha came onto the film scene working as Executive Producer on For Colored Girls with Lionsgate. Her work as writer/director for With This Ring and The Tenth Date (Lifetime/ A+E Networks) earned these projects great recognition (With This Ring: nominated for three NAACP awards and won the Women In Film award for Best Television Movie). Recently, she directed Tall Girls with Netflix and an episode of Little Fires Everywhere. Up next for Nzingha is the feature film Life In Motion with New Line, a biopic about powerhouse prima ballerina Misty Copeland.
What do you hope Julianne walks away with from this process?
I’m hoping that Julianne walks away from this happy – most importantly – happy with the film she made. And I hope it gives her a growing confidence to keep going. She has such a great voice, and I can’t wait to see what other stories she has to tell.
Any thoughts you’d like to share with an aspiring filmmaker out there who may not know where to start?
To any aspiring filmmakers who may not know where to start, I’d say the thing is – to start. Use whatever you have in hand to do what you can. Write a script – you need nothing for that. Shoot an iPhone short. Use the resources you already have in hand – the friends you have who may be writers, the friends who are actors, the friends who are interested in being a cinematographer…. to help. But do something so that when opportunity strikes, you’re ready. You have a script. You have a short. You are growing as a result of doing.
What was the moment you knew you wanted to make films?
I’ve never really NOT wanted to be a filmmaker. When I was ten, I was writing and directing plays that I made my brothers act in. When I realized directing was a job. Like someone got paid to do it… and after seeing Do the Right Thing – realizing black people got paid to do it, I was hooked.
What is the most challenging part of the filmmaking process?
The hardest part is always feeling like you don’t have enough time. Enough prep time, enough rehearsal time, enough time on set, enough time to sleep! You always feel behind. And you have to trust that doing the most you can in the time you have will be enough… because it has to.
Have you adapted your process at all during the pandemic?
Right now I’m filming a show during Covid and I have to remember that my FIRST job as a director is to create a safe environment. Julianne and I have talked about this. If people feel safe, if they know that you take their safety as seriously as you do your own, they are allowed to not worry about that and can give you their very best work because they feel safe. You have to almost think of it like filming stunts. That every detail that pertains to the safety of the actors has to be thought about and adapted to, so we can continue to do this work that we love.
How do you choose what stories you want to tell?
This sounds trite – but the stories choose me. If it’s a script I haven’t written, like a Tall Girl, or a Little Fires Everywhere, it’s all about seeing if I can find my way into it. Am I still thinking about it an hour after I read it? Or if it’s something I have written – a lot of times an idea will come to me kind of all at once, and again, if I’m still thinking about it a couple of days later, and my brain is already starting to work on it, I know I just have to sit down and write it.
Sometimes a story comes from a lived experience – When I wrote and directed With This Ring – it was about a single, black woman’s experience. Now I’m writing a film about marriage! Julianne wrote this very funny, lovely script about her lived experience, and because she knows it inside and out, it’s incredibly organic and honest.
Come behind the scenes of #TheSixFeetApartExperiment and meet, Nzingha Stewart [@zingbling], mentor to Julianne Fox for the film ‘Die Trying.’ Nzingha brings her industry expertise that stretches from writing to producing and directing.— Wayfarer Studios (@Wayfarerla) November 20, 2020
Full interview:https://t.co/p44D48He3c pic.twitter.com/WQ9UGGhB0P