Queer Black Women On Tv (Ep. 2)

Welcome back to another episode of Toya’s Chronicles.  Just in case you missed episode one, go back and read it.  In the meantime, I can give you a quick recap.  I wrote about my journey to making my first official short film.  From the concept of the idea to the film playing on the big screen at a local theater.  That was such a great experience and I aim for many more.  Let me fast forward to now episode II where I will express my desire on why I want to see more images and stories about queer black women on television.  Until then, in the words of Jessie Jackson “Keep Hope Alive”.  So, lets jump right into it.

 

Why is it important to see queer black women on TV?  Well, the answer is obvious, at least it should be.  Seeing a representation of yourself on TV makes it feel like people know you exist in the world.  Makes you feel relatable to those that maybe different from you.  At the end of the day we are all human beings that desire to be respected and looked at as human beings with real feelings and emotions.  Whether we like to admit it or not the images that we see over time seeps into our subconscious which develops our beliefs.  I think of young people or even older adults who may struggle with coming out.  Too afraid that they will not be loved.  There was a case down in Texas a few years ago where this father bludgeons his 24-year-old daughter to death, shot his daughter’s girl friend to death and disposed their bodies near a dumpster.  All because he did not approve of the “sinful lifestyle” even though he was registered as a sex offender.  Let that marinate for a minute.  Maybe, if the father saw images of queer black women like his daughter on TV he would have thought twice before committing such heinous acts of murder.

 

From my own personal experience, it would have been easier for me to accept my own sexual orientation quicker if I would have seen more images of queer people of color especially black woman like myself growing up in the 90s, or even during my coming out years in the late 00s.  Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to see people of color in general on tv.  But, I yearned for a little more representation in my early twenties (even though I was in denial of my sexual orientation).  It was a struggle coming out in my early twenties and I felt all alone.  Partly, because I felt as though I had to be either a stud or a fem (more on that later).  If you know me, you know that I am neither.  Yes, I am quite sure there were community centers or groups that I could have reached out to.  But being an introvert those type of settings do not necessarily fit me.  I would have felt more comfortable seeing representation of myself in the comfort of my private space. 

 

A friend introduced me to the L-Word (s/o to Showtime) in the late 00s and although the show had a predominately white cast I could relate on many levels.  I felt as though I could see myself in the characters due to the fact I was watching a group of LGBT women being portrayed on television.  Something that I had never seen before on screen.  The show was a breath of fresh air which made a part of me feel recognized and accepted for one hour once a week.  After a while I started to wonder did any of these LGBT characters have any black LGBT friends or companions that looked like me with kinky hair, wonderful full lips and darker tone skin??? Yes, I know one of the main characters, Bette Porter, played by Jennifer Beals is half black and half white.  But, I am talking about the representation of darker skin individuals.  History has shown us that darker skin is considered to be less than and not visually desirable (Side note: Tanning Salons are a BILLION dollar industry… I wonder why?!?).  So, I was craving for a little more representation and guess who showed up in season 4, Tasha Williams, (The name alone sounds like a good representation) played by Rose Rollins.  I was elated and it felt like I literally saw myself on TV.  Even though, it is a fictional character that was written for everyone to watch.  Once again, in those moments I felt recognized and accepted.

 

Fast forward to a decade later, 2018, where there are more stories being told of LGBT women of color primary on youtube.  But, even those stories need to be told from different perspectives to give us different visuals of black LGBT people.  Remember black LGBT women are not a monolithic.  I will be ecstatic the day I see a predominate cast of black LGBT women on a well-known network like showtime, hbo, starz, fox, or even on a major streaming platform like Netflix or Amazon.  In the meantime, I will sit back and enjoy the current shows that represent the black LGBT communities like Dear White People, Pose, or replay Master of None season 2 episode 8 “Thanksgiving” Co-Written by Lena Waithe.  I am quite sure she (1st black woman to win an Emmy for outstanding writing in a comedy series) is working on something special for her “LGBTQIA family”.  Better yet, I should write the characters that I want to see.

Film Journey To Creating Facing The Truth (Ep. 1)

First, let me reintroduce myself my name is LA TOYA!  L to the A to the T.O.Y.A! Boom!! Drops mic but realizes it wasn’t even on… Epic fail.  Anywho, what it do?! I want to welcome you to Toya’s Chronicles episode one where I will write about my journey in filmmaking as a newbie writer and producer of my first official short film.  In upcoming episodes, I will write about my journey in life through the lens of a black queer a** woman! Whether it is about career, finances, love, sexuality or whatever makes the world what it is.  I hope to be consist on this journey of writing, because there is one thing that we lack as people in general is being consistent. So, with that said lets officially begin by telling you my journey of writing/producing my first short film!

 

Facing The Truth is the name of the short film which started out as an assignment in my screenwriting class at Houston Community College in the fall of 2016.  Mind you, I had never written a script, didn’t know how to write a script and never saw an actual script in person.  I was fresh off the boat, wet behind the ears or whatever you want to call it.  There was one thing I knew.  I was determine to learn!  I had a bomb ass  instructor by the name of Michael Jerome Cohn.  Yes, I spelled this man’s ENTIRE government name out. *Sidebar… every time I see or hear the name Jerome I immediately reference the character Jerome off of the 90s hit show Martin. “I said Jerome, I said Jerome in the hoouuse you betta watch yo moouuuth!” If you are currently lost by this sidebar… YOUTUBE IT.  Okay, where was I… Facing The Truth was my second script that I ever wrote, and the assignment had to be five pages.  Fast forward to the 1st quarter of 2017 when I decided to re-write the script and film it.  The main purpose of this was short film was to build up a reel so when I move to Atlanta I would have examples of work that I have done.  I had no other intentions of doing anything else with the short film.  Matter of fact, all the actors were going to be people I knew and that means no one had any acting experience to make this look like a real film.  That was my intentions but clearly God said no, you can do better.  After, the first lead actress dropped out I decide to hold audition’s.  Over 20 women were supposed to come and audition but only five showed up.  Out of the five women I not only decided to cast for the lead role, but also fill the other two spots that included myself and a friend.  The three women auditioned so well I had to put them in the film.  So, it looks like everything is finally coming together! But a week before our first table read the lead male actor drops out.  The show still must go on! So, Kentrell, a local actor/model filled in during the table read (more on Kentrell Later) which was a success.  Shortly after that I had an audition for the lead male role and an actor by the name of Charles Viney Jr. stole the audition.  I looked over at the director, Kirby Williams,  and said he is our guy! Good news right!! We have the leads and supporting cast covered.  HAHAHA, that’s what I thought.  But then I received a message from our 2nd lead actress and was told that she will be unable to be a part of the film anymore.  By this time, it was October and originally, we were going to shoot in June so I was like WTF… I became afraid that the other actors would drop out but thankfully they hung in there.  Feels like my back is against the wall and I was determined to have this short film shot and produced in Houston.  Even if it took me YEARS!! I was not moving to Atlanta until it happen! (I shot the film already so I can talk a little shit).  So, I stepped out on faith once again in hopes to find the third actress.  Third times a charm right!?!??!

 

So, I posted up on different actor’s groups on Facebook but the response was like waiting for paint to dry.  I was minding my own business when I walked into Sunshine’s (Black own vegan/vegetarian restaurant off of Old Spanish Trail in Houston) where I ran into Kentrell! The actor/model who filled in at the table read.  He asked me how was everything going and I told him about the 2nd actress that dropped out.  So, he gave me his contacts of other actresses! Mind you I first met Kentrell three months earlier in Atlanta at a film festival.  Through Kentrell, I was able to SECURE a lead actress by the name of Courtney Bryant!  In the words of many black folks “WON’T HE DO IT” LOL.  Everything was set in place and principle photography began the 3rd weekend in January of 2018.  Friday night we shoot for around 6 hours for two scenes.  Saturday’s shoot was 10 hours and Sunday was 12 hours.  We had to cut a few scenes from the shooting schedule due to lack of time.  Oddly enough, after we shot scenes one and two on the last day of shooting.  I was not really feeling it, and when I began editing, I SHO NUFF (translation: I surely enough) was not feeling it one bit.  It was not because the actors did bad but more of poor writing on my part.  At least that’s what I felt.  I needed something to grab the audience and the initial writing felt boring!  I actually wanted to rewrite both scenes before the shoot but decided not to.  So, I went back to the drawing board to rewrite, then rewrite and rewrite some more.  About a month and a half or two months later we shoot scenes 1 and 2 again.  From March to the end of June I worked on post production and marketing.  I want to give a special thanks to Chloe Felton.  She was the script supervisor, acted in the opening scene and also helped market the film on social media.  I am truly thankful for the team that was created to help me get this project off the ground.  I have sent entries to five different film festivals and wait patiently to see if the film was accepted.  In the meantime, I will began writing on my next project.

 

In conclusion, make sure you set out to achieve your goals by first envisioning your vision, then write your vison and act on your vision.  “Fear comfort and embrace the unknown”--- by LaToya Okungbowa (disclaimer: I have no idea if this quote has been taken but I am going to do like Christopher Columbus and claim it anyway!)