Six emerging BME filmmakers from the West Midlands have been given the opportunity to fulfil their creative potential as part of a six-month artist development programme called BACK IN. We reported on this exciting venture, hosted by Punch Records, last year, and took the opportunity to interview one of this year’s filmmaker’s Sara Myers.
Sara Myers is an independent filmmaker with a background in youth and domestic violence. She went back to study her craft as a mature student and has achieved success despite not discovering she had dyslexia until her late 30s. Passionate, intelligent and with a keen eye for a good story, she wants to create films that challenge perceptions of culture and society. Here she discusses her journey and being selected for filmmakers talent development programme BACK IN.
How did you get into filmmaking?
I’ve always been a storyteller. Even as a child, I’d always tell these elaborate stories and wanted to write. I used to go to the Big Issue writing group. They said I was pretty good. So they put me on a journalism course, but I couldn’t cope. I’m dyslexic and this has always been my greatest challenge. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 37. In 2015 I made my first ever short film with no budget called ‘Four Voices’ showing the female presence in gang violence, in 2017 I made another low budget film ‘Red’ about black female mental health and suicide. I returned to university in 2015 as a mature student and studied creative writing and art and visual culture, I learned the craft of creative writing, scripts, pose, poetry. I embraced it and the rest is history.
What made you apply for BACK IN?
I wanted to connect with other visual storytellers and learn about the industry from successful people, so that I could develop my own style and niche.
What’s been the best part about being on the programme?
I’m loving it. Meeting Femi Oyeniran was brilliant. Hearing how he’s made it in film and as an actor/director is something to learn from. Listening to the voices online you think nothing is happening or black filmmakers are being shut out. Whilst there is bias and racism there’s stuff happening but you’ve got to know about it and BACK IN makes us aware and gives us a seat at the table.
Outside of filmmaking do you have another job?
Well, I work in youth violence because my professional background is as a domestic violence and sexual violence, trauma and sexual exploitation practitioner. I used to train the police and the courts. I love the job in terms of educating people. I was doing some guest lecturing and then we were on programme where we were delivering workshops to practitioners around youth violence and I felt there was a gap, and nobody was talking about girls in gangs. So I made ‘Four Voices’. This film looked at four different stories, but they were all interlinked by this one event, which was a rape, which was my specialism. So I was really able to bring out the emotion and everyone said it was a strong story, even though the editing was really bad. Once I came back from Italy I thought, no I’m going to do this properly. So I went back to university as a mature student and I studied visual culture and creative writing.
That was a brave thing to do. How was that experience?
I’m a grandma. I was 43 and felt like I’m starting again. I went through the Open Uni because it was accessible and I met people that were like 67 on their first degree. I got all the dyslexia support that I needed and I had a one-to-one tutor. I used to have to write professionally, but professional writing and academic writing are just two completely different things. The first year I came out with a good grade but I struggled. The second year was my creative writing model and I just excelled. My professor was really encouraging and would send me competitions. She really invested a lot in me and the insecurities started to go a little bit. I started to get more and more confident.
So tell me about the project you plan to do for BACK IN.
It’s a feel good comedy. I’ve never written comedy before, but it seems like I’ve found my niche.
It’s a black female production team with a strong black female cast. There’s a group of friends, one of them dies, so the story starts at her wake. She’s basically throwing a lot of shade from the grave by the way of a letter that’s read out and she’s outing all her friends’ business. So they go on retreat with her white lesbian lover to find themselves, forgive her and heal.
Do you have the support of family and friends to pursue this as a career?
My partner’s got terminal cancer and I wanted to make the film because he’s pushed me to do it. He’s been my biggest motivator. He’s my biggest inspiration, so I’m like yeah, I’m going to do this, I’m going to show him that I didn’t sit on my bum, I didn’t say what if. A lot of people talk with no action. I didn’t want to be one of those people, so I came off social media, and I just invested my time in making films.
Who are the black characters or stars that have stood out to you in film?
Gabrielle Union in Being Mary Jane. I thought that was truthful black girl dysfunction and I loved it. I loved it because I could relate to it. I love things that I can relate too,
What do you think of the current state of diversity in the film industry?
It’s pants but with that said it’s getting better slowly I think Black Panther broke the bar and now the floodgates are open it’s a brilliant time to jump on the wave and make things happen. Representation matters because we exist in this world. For me, as black women its always the same narrative. We’re often portrayed as the downtrodden baby mother, we’re the hoe, but we’re more than that. I think the potential that we have and the excellence that we have and the voice that we have, we don’t get a platform for it. So when we do, we need to just completely bask in that and take it to another level so the younger generation of girls coming up are inspired.
Follow Sara @sarzworld
For more info about BACK IN visit punch-records.co.uk