USA, 2001, color, 17 minutes.
Originated in digital video (NTSC). Dolby SR.
I have always been a storyteller. Even as a child growing up in the South, I told stories, whether it was directing my siblings in plays I had written, performing short monologues at the dinner table or spinning crazy, exotic tales for the hell of it. I guess it was inevitable that I would end up in Los Angeles hoping to bring my stories to a greater audience via television and film.
It’s so hard. That’s my response when someone asks me what it’s like to be a filmmaker. Your story is never timely enough, marketable enough, or large enough. Take those rejections and multiply them by three if you’re a Black filmmaker, times ten if you’re a Black female filmmaker. While Hollywood touts its strides towards diversity, our stories (unless they are broad comedies) too often take a back seat – except in February.
But I continue to be motivated by those who have come before, those who have told their stories independently. Some of the most remarkable films have come from the Black indie filmmakers, Eve’s Bayou, Daughters of the Dust – these inspired me to take the bull by the horns and do it myself.
The Wedding Dress is my directorial debut. I wrote the short romantic comedy based on a crazy experience from my own life that saw me hiding a wedding dress in my closet for two years. When I brought this story to the screen, I could have cast any actors, because the story is so universal. But I consciously chose to cast two African-Americans because it’s so rare to have African-Americans as leads in romantic comedies and to see us without stereotypes.
The journey to bring The Wedding Dress to life was most difficult as all independent filmmakers know. So why do it? Why be a filmmaker?
Because it’s also so rewarding. Seeing the audience react to your work, striking an emotional chord with a complete stranger is worth the barriers you fight to overcome. Independent filmmaking has given me the joy I sought since I made that initial trek to Los Angeles. This is why I am here; this is who I am.
How did you come up with the idea for “The Wedding Dress”?
As they say, write what you know… The truth is I had a wedding dress hidden in my closet for two years. For 730 days, I imagined (and feared) what would happen if my boyfriend found it. Once we moved in together, well, it became too much, and I finally showed him the dress. He thought it was funny and we did get married – in another dress however.
What was your biggest challenge?
Of course money was an issue for me, but the greatest challenge was finding my lead actor. After several casting sessions, I still had not found an actor who could bring to “Warren” the right amount of charm to make him a lovable loser. I needed the audience to believe that “Toni” would stay with this guy for 1½ years. Once we pushed my start date for the third time, desperation set in. On the verge of a breakdown and in the midst of a psychotic episode caused by a two-month-almost-100-auditions search for the lead, I told my producer that I was going to approach people in the street. She thought I was kidding. Two days and 50 bewildered strangers later, I found Anil Raman shopping for sweaters at the mall.