Film producer/director Kiara C. Jones has enjoyed tremendous success as a storyteller which began with a career as a poet and hip hop artist. She has produced and directed short films and commercials that have been featured on HBO, BET, Lifetime Movie Network, and shown at various film fest across the country.
She’s currently the head of her own production company, Cultivated Films, whose mission is “to create art that accurately reflects the varied experiences of all Americans. ” She’s in town for the Chicago premiere of her film Amazon Women, a sexy comedy from the short program series Sex Afican American Style, a group of films which will be presented at the 16th Annual Black Harvest Fest of Film and Video on Saturday August 14. Here’s what she had to tell us.
PRIDEINDEX: You’re going to be in town for the Chicago premiere of your film Amazon Women which plays at the Black Harvest Film Fest on August 14 and 19th I understand it has played in several film fest in major cities, what can filmgoers expect to see?
JONES: Audiences really enjoy this film. It’s smart and sophisticated and respects their intelligence.
PRIDEINDEX: Please describe your what your experience was like to make this film and tell us about any notable challenges and how you overcame them?
JONES: Making this film was a lesson in learning the difference between advice and commentary Everyone had an opinion about everything in the film, but as director you have to know what you’re trying to do and know that most people don’t have the vision to understand what you’re trying to create until it’s finished.
PRIDEINDEX: What made you become a filmmaker?
JONES: I’ve always been a storyteller and figured this should be the next evolution for me.
PRIDEINDEX: How did you get your start? Where did you get your formalized training?
JONES: I started as a poet, then I rhymed for a while then I needed money so I went into broadcasting, then live shows and events. I wanted to move to New York so I needed a good excuse to quit my job, so I applied to graduate school, not knowing that I was about to be accepted into the best film school in America at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
PRIDEINDEX: Any influences?
JONES: Street noise, sunrise, the sound of water, babies crying, anything by Marvin, Michael, Stevie or Roger, things that bloom, my mothers hands, a lovers kiss, the last page, grass, really good cake, unknown paths, rocks, Oscar, Spike, Ang, Jean Michelle, Fela, Barack and of course my lady Michelle.
PRIDEINDEX: Give a brief synopsis of your films and where you found the inspiration for each one.
JONES: My films are about women generally African American women. I try to tell universal stories that have specificity of our cultural influence. My first short film Basura catalouges the pain of a woman as she discovers her husbands infidelity. My film After is about a woman who has trouble balancing her personal life with professional aspirations. Amazon Women is about the bonds of friends and the lengths we go to to support one another as women and I have film in post now called Men or Mice about the deliberating consequences of fear and our primal urge as women to be saved. (at least that’s what I think it’s about)
PRIDEINDEX: What are you currently working on?
JONES: Men or Mice as I mentioned before and a feature documentary on victims of domestic violence and abuse that have to go through the shelter system in New York City to recover the lives they have to abandon. I’m also working on my next film about a woman (imagine that) who refuses to be defined by conventional ideas of femininity. I’m shooting the film in Amsterdam and will travel there next week to begin pre-production.
PRIDEINDEX: Do you have any collaborations planned, if so then with who?
JONES: I’m also a Producer so I have a ton of collaboration projects. Kiel Adrain Scott’s award winning short film The Roe Effect is screening and receiving the Saatchi and Saatchi Producers award at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Fest this weekend. I produced a PSA for the Black History month entitled Black Rose, with director Lapo Melzi, which just won the AICP (Association of independent Commercial Producers) award and was inducted the Film Achives at the MoMA. I also had the privilege of interrning on Spike Lee’s new documentary, If God is Willing and The Creek Don’t Rise, which will premiere on HBO on August 29th the fifth anniversary of the devastation caused by the break down of the levees in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
PRIDEINDEX: Are your characters in Amazon Women based on people in your own life?
JONES: Each character is me and every character is someone I know. When creating characters you must take elements from reality to keep them fresh and genuine. I study people all the time. That’s the best part about being in New York, there’s so many unique and different people.
PRIDEINDEX: Why do you think it’s important for black lesbians or black women to tell your own stories, like you did with Amazon Women?
JONES: No one can create or communicate us in the way we can, our stories deserve to be told and if we don’t tell them, they’ll be told wrong or as a characterization of what we really are.
PRIDEINDEX: What do you hope filmgoers will take away from Amazon Women?
JONES: This film is about the strength of the female bond the conviction we have to support each other as friends, and the intimacy we share with one another that is often confused with sexuality. The women in this film presume happiness and refuse to be defined by society or masculine ideals. They are bright, beautiful and balanced. They have the intellect, vision and conviction of the Amazone and the compassion and perplexity that is inherit to femininity which makes women truly amazing.
PRIDEINDEX: What do you believe is the biggest misconception about you or your work?
JONES: People think because I support women that I don’t like men, I love and respect men, especially black men and though they are flawed in this film, they are handled with elegance and compassion that shows the Directors for them.
PRIDEINDEX: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
JONES: I don’t look at myself that way. I see life and its events as a journey not a destination. Sometimes people get so caught up in the future thay miss the present. I can’t afford that. Tomorrow is not promised. I just want to be happy and enjoy the things that life has to offer me.
PRIDEINDEX: What piece of advice can you share with aspiring fimmakers?
- Learn your craft. Yes everybody can grab a camera and a mac book pro these days and make a film, but that does not make you a film maker. Lots of cities offer free technical training through public broadcast stations.
- Find a film maker who’s work you like and offer them your talents in exchange for their knowledge. You have no idea how valuable accounting or event planning can be to an artist.
Our stories need to be told and we need more talented film makers out there telling them.
click here to learn more about The Black Harvest Film Fest http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/content/sex-african-american-style