Behind the Lens - BET Womens History Month

Incase you guys haven't guessed, I LOVE shooting/filming stories on powerful and inspiring people. After the Body Issue of Women and the Body Issue for ESPN , I was assigned to direct a series of commercials for BET Network's BLACK WOMENS HISTORY MONTH. Right. Up. My. Alley.

The tag line was 'WHO'S GOT NEXT?' . It was a call to action from three inspiring and successful African American women to the younger generation of dreamers/thinkers/doers.

The first was an ex-principal ballet dancer from Alvin Ailey, ALICIA GRAF MACK

Stunning. Graceful. Eloquent. I can't say enough about her. We shot in an authentic ballet studio downtown and I wanted to keep the camera moving at all time, so the Cinematographer, Jack Shanahan was working with a MoVi Rig to really feel like we were with her, dancing and feeling her movement. I wanted to emulate a spotlight feel, especially with her beautiful hair halo, so overall I think it worked out pretty well! I wanted her to dance forever.  

Director - Sophy Holland / DP - Jack Shanahan

Next we filmed African fashion designer Kelechi Anyadiegwu who founded Zuvaa, an online fashion marketplace, for African textile prints and fashion. Zuvaa (which means sunshine in the Shona language from Zimbabwe) was created while she was still a student and at the age of 26 has ended up on the Forbes 30 under 30 in 2016.  She was great - her boldness really shone through the camera and we used a creative office with lots of light to really emphasize the color pops and bright patterns that surround her daily workplace. 

Director - Sophy Holland / DP - Jack Shanahan

I started Zuvaa because I wanted to see change in the fashion industry. As an African-American Woman of Nigerian Heritage I grew up with African textiles, they were always an integral part of my culture. Growing up, I often found it difficult to find modern and trendy African Inspired pieces. I created Zuvaa to fill this void.
— Kelechi, Zuvaa CEO

Lastly, and by no means least, we filmed Nadia Lopez. AMAZING.

She founded a middle school in Brownsville Brooklyn (the poorest neighborhood in NYC) named Mott Hall Bridges Academy. She mentors her students in a unique and inspiring way, and started a fundraising campaign to send her students to visit Harvard and Stanton and help with scholarships, raising 1.4 million in just 3 weeks. The success story hit the media and she consequently received the Medal of Distinction from Barnard College, visiting Obama at the Whitehouse, wrote the book 'Bridges to Brilliance', and being honored alongside Michelle Obama with the Change Agent Award at the Black Girls Rock show (also on BET Network),

Director - Sophy Holland / DP - Jack Shanahan

Why open a school? To close a prison
— Nadia Lopez, Educator

It was great, I got to observe (and film) a small group teaching session she did with some young girls, and her coaching sessions with another larger group, and lastly her Cheer Squad practice. As a Brit, I have no idea what a Cheer Squad is, but they were apparently champions at it, and I loved the shouting and stomping in unison. The one thing that struck me most was the politeness and eagerness of the children. Every single kid held the door open for crew members without teachers being present, and the rooms were full of smiles and questions. It was probably the most engaged and inspired I've seen any groups of Middle School children and it definitely moved me. 

Watch her new TED Talk about her education ethos here. She continues to inspire in every way possible. 

The three pieces were written by an awesome female writer named Rosa White, and Creative Directed by Roderick Beltran. Produced by RipCord Creative. 

See the BTS video below, narrated by Rosa and produced by Ramon Peasant.