This is another message from Sherri James the producer of the film of our book Far From the Tree...
Many of you know from the previous blog that Jessica and I have begun fundraising for Far From the Tree. Prior to starting what I call the "no-is-not-an-option" fundraising cycle, we invested 4 1/2 months of our time into developing an organized production plan that will ultimately deliver a product that is technically superior, dramatically compelling and financially profitable. A curious by-product of the "no-is-not-an-option" fundraising cycle is that it makes one incredibly self-reflective.
This self-reflection has caused us to unearth the fundamental motives behind our desire to turn Far From the Tree into a movie. After all, when no is not an option, you need some strong fuel to keep going after you get the obligatory no's that inevitably come with any fundraising process. Some of what I discovered was pretty basic. I want to create good entertainment. I need to continue fulfilling my dream of being a movie producer through making my third feature film. And, I enjoy doing work that feels like play.
But one of the drivers I uncovered was that I care deeply about the way Black/African American women are represented in cinema. These images travel all over the world as statements about who we are. And, I feel compelled to take some responsibility for which images get pushed out through cinema.
Now, don't worry…I'm not going to get on another soapbox. But, I do want to share with you why Far From the Tree is such an important story for me. As a child, I went to the movies a lot and my favorite films were E.T., Star Wars and Big. The fantasy in those stories was captivating and I remember wishing I could live out some of the things that were being shown to me on screen. But, no matter how much I loved those movies, it never made sense to me that not even one of the characters in these really fun worlds looked like me.
Of course, at ages 7, 8 and 9, I had no way to articulate the intricacies of race, discrimination and prejudice. I just knew that something wasn't right.
I didn't revisit this feeling until I was out of film school. Today, one of my favorite movies is Stepmom, which starred Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts. I saw this film shortly after graduating from film school. What struck me most about Stepmom was that, except for the cancer storyline, that movie could have been my story. And, I began to wonder, "Why couldn't a story like that succeed with African American women in those roles?" The thinking in the industry is that stories like that with African American characters won't find an audience. But, clearly those stories happen in our world because it had happened to me. So, why wasn't I seeing those stories show up in our storytelling? That bothered me. And, you know when something bothers you, that's the universe's way of calling on you to do something about it.
Cut to ten years later. I now have the talent, resources and expertise to take responsibility and deal with the things that bother me. Far From the Tree has given me the opportunity to positively contribute to the images of Black/African American womanhood. We love the Frazier women – they are real and highly relatable. We know these women. They are our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our friends.
For me, this story must be told. No is not an option.
Labels: African American Women, books, filmmaking, movies, women