Recapping… with Victoria Mahoney's Yelling To The Sky, making its theatrical debut in New York this Friday, December 14th, I thought I'd re-post this interview she gave to us in March 2011 – an interview that Stephanie handled (on the old S&A site), and did so incredibly well that I felt I couldn't have really done much better, and thus decided to instead repost it.
It's a really good piece that covers a lot of ground – so much that we had to split it up into 3 separate parts/posts. So please take the time to read through it (I know a lot of you weren't S&A readers in March 2011, given how much the site has grown since then; so you most likely haven't read it). Get to know not only the film, but the filmmaker from whose mind it originated.
Tomorrow, Thursday, look for our interview with the star of the film Zoe Kravitz.
Here's part three of Stephanie's interview with Victoria, which was done as the film was about to make its USA premiere at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival:
In this short conclusion Victoria, who swears she’s not in the advice giving business, ends up providing some excellent advice. As we wrapped up the interview, we talked about mentorship and helping artists thrive, being a female filmmaker of color, and giving a big ole “fuck you!” to the people who just don’t get it. And for all you aspiring, and even seasoned, filmmakers out there, Victoria offers parting words with a glimmer of hope.
Giving Back and Inspiring
SJ: We’ve talked about mentorship on Shadow and Act, and I know that that’s something you have done, something you’ve been on the receiving end coming up; are you interested in mentoring others? Is this something you find an integral part of your journey as a filmmaker?
VM: Yeah I do. I have a bunch of people that I’ve worked with, different kids and young people that I keep track of. And there are people for different reasons—some are actually writers, and some are photographers, and some are painters, and then there’re obviously filmmakers. The art form isn’t as crucial for me as the need for that individual to say something matched by their talent level and discipline. It’s not just talent for me, there are a lot of talented people in the world. But what’s intriguing, and that I feel like needs support, are the individuals who have talent and discipline. It’s our job to look out for them, and it’s my responsibility to make sure , in whatever capacity I can, that they don’t go under, they don’t sink, whether it’s this industry, that this environment doesn’t swallow them. So I’m very proactive. And, you know, we’re doing this thing in conjunction with the Tribeca Film Festival in April. We’re going to do screenings for some at-risk youth, who are in the tenth and eleventh grade, I think—high school—and they are twenty youngsters who want to be filmmakers. And it’s the most exciting place I’m going to go all year. Like out of all the fancy places we’re going, that’s the one thing I’m looking forward to the most. We’re going to show them the film, then we’re going to do a Q&A, and sit with them—like that’s the stuff. Screening your film in Hollywood is not the fuckin’ nector. But screening the film for a bunch of kids that are in trouble, the ones who want to be filmmakers but have no proof or support of it, that’s where you’ll find me. And I don’t want that to sounds like I’m martyr or anything…
SJ: I read the biography on your website, and you talked about how it was kind of a rough road at the beginning. You didn’t have a lot of money, you were taking thankless jobs…But you found some mentors early on to help you push through. And even if you were just staring at the screen and couldn’t quite figure out what to write, you kept with it. What advice would you give to people who are in a similar situation, who want to be a writer or director, but can’t see the forest for the trees?
VM: Well, I’m not really in the advice giving business, ‘cause umm, who knows specifics? Everyone’s path is so unique; one person’s poison is another person’s freedom. If we’re going to talk in brushstrokes, I can say that the key factor in creative exploration and flight is the internal knowing. So regardless of what happens in the external world, to be completely certain internally, to not have one’s constitution shift because of whatever is occurring in the external world. So that means if people are saying, “we don’t want to buy it”, “we don’t want to finance it”, if people are saying “you’re no good”, “we don’t want your kind”…Whatever the climate is in the world, whether there’s a place or space for you, and what you want to offer and what you want to say, there has to be this unflinching strength of one’s constitution that “this is what I want to say and I will die doing it.” And then, the rest is fun! [laughs]
SJ: I noticed that you mentioned in the SXSW IFC interview that you sort of have to market yourself as a black female filmmaker to financiers. Not just your story and your ideas, but who you are as a person. How is that process for you?
VM: I should say that I don’t market myself in any way. I don’t market myself as something. What I’m actually finding challenging is that the film industry—financiers, agents, sales reps, distributors—they market us as something. And if you dare go off of the dial of that they will not support or look for you, or resource you, or protect you, or fight for you. So if you’re a black filmmaker you do this kind of a movie. If you don’t do that kind of a movie, you do not get to fucking go to the ball. If you’re a black woman filmmaker you have to make this kind of a movie, and if you don’t make this kind of movie you don’t go to the ball. That’s what I’m noticing, and that’s what I was talking about. So then it goes pass that, and there’s all these other people who are “just filmmakers” who get to do whatever they want. They get financed for any old goddamn thing, like people farting and doing toilet jokes, and they get financed. Like there’s one director in particular who has made nine films in the time that I tried to make one. Like right on, and cool, or whatever, but I’m amazed that half the films are centered around the toilet. And I know that a lot of the trouble that the industry is having with my film is that people think they see brown people and “urban”, and they thought it was a hip-hop video! And then they go [to see my film] and it’s this “thinking film”. It’s not “thinking” because we’re smart and intelligent, nobody’s trying to be “intelligent”. We’re just trying to make art and have an experience, and see what’s pass the fucking invisible line, that’s all. Nobody’s trying to crack the cosmic code…We wanted to see what we were made of, and see what lives beyond the point where everyone’s says “you can only play inside here".
SJ: So they [the aforementioned reps, agents, etc.] are trying to slap a label on it while you’re trying to defy label making.
VM: Exactly. So how does one survive and thrive if you are purposefully trying to avoid labels in a world that has to exist, monetarily, by labels?
Wrapping up the interview, I asked Victoria if there was anything she wanted to add. She did.
VM: Well, I’ve got to say, the whole thing too is like when we were kids and we weren’t invited to play, we would create our own game. We would make it so damn fun so that everyone would be like “What are you guys playing? I want in.” And that’s the principle! And it’s folly, it’s not life and death. Nobody’s curing terminal illnesses here, so let’s just stop being so damn serious about it. And I would like to add, this moment that we’re living in, that no one is certain of, where all the minor indie houses were bought up by the major studios, and then they all went chapter eleven and they no longer exist. So we’re all walking around with orphaned filmmakers, and we have nowhere to land. And if you don’t fit within the paradigm it’s a little bit challenging. And I just want to say that I really believe that we will go pass this moment where there’s a disinterest for true independent cinema. I need to just say to whoever is out there making a film in their backyard on the weekends, I see you, I know you, I hear you—I’m with you, and I beg on my life that you don’t quit.