Lena Waithe Speaks at AFI Directing Workshop for Women Showcase: “Be Unafraid of the Images in Your Head”
On Thursday, May 4, at the AMPAS Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, CA, the American Film Institute hosted the AFI Directing Workshop for Women (DWW) 2018 Showcase.
Presented by Lifetime, the event was an opportunity for the program’s 2018 participants to share their work with the creative community. The evening began with remarks from DWW director Lauren Ludwig, followed by a stirring keynote from Emmy®-winning creator, writer, actor and powerhouse Lena Waithe.
“If we want to know who we are, all we have to do is look to our movies,” Waithe said. “Cinema has always been a perfect time capsule for us as a society. This time capsule is sacred, whether we like it or not, and every movie that ever comes out is a reflection of us — good or bad, big or small, funny or heart-wrenching. We look at movies to try and find ourselves.”
She discussed the influence of seminal African-American films on her career, from DO THE RIGHT THING (1989) to LOVE & BASKETBALL (2000), noting that “over the years, women, people of color and citizens from all over the world have gotten opportunities to put their stamp on celluloid. Cinema has become diverse, more colorful and more authentic with every new release,” she said.
Waithe concluded her keynote with a rousing call to action for the DWW filmmakers. “I ask that you be unafraid of the images in your head. They need to be seen. If you tell your story, others will feel less alone,” she said. “But I beg you not to go about it with dignity and kindness and grace. Do it aggressively, do it unapologetically and do it without asking for permission.”
The DWW Class of 2018 filmmakers in attendance were: Beth de Araújo, Georgia Fu, Milena Govich, Tiffany Johnson, Katrelle Kindred, Nancy Mejía, Gandja Monteiro and Lorraine Nicholson. You can watch their films here.
The May 3 event also introduced the incoming DWW Class of 2019: Parisa Barani, Jessica Kaye, Shilpi Roy, Amber Sealey, Siyou Tan, Carly Usdin, Marielle Woods and Talia Zucker. Read about them here.
As the official Showcase sponsor, Lifetime has continued its commitment to guarantee employment to DWW filmmakers through its Broad Focus initiative, including the Class of 2018 filmmakers. The initiative provides women with more opportunities to write, develop, produce and direct content for the network.
As a new Major Supporter of the Showcase, this year FIJI Water committed $100,000 to DWW with the goal of increasing the number of women working professionally as directors and showrunners in film and television. Support from the campaign provided crucial funds for DWW’s female filmmaker education and mentorship programs.
Pictured at top: DWW Class of 2018 filmmakers with Lena Waithe, from L to R: Lorraine Nicholson, Georgia Fu, Gandja Monteiro, Beth de Araújo, Tiffany Johnson, Katrelle Kindred, Nancy C. Mejia and Milena Govich