S1E6 Episode Notes | Increasing Representation in Filmmaking with Cha Quallis
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It’s so important for young people to have diverse role models in every field. This rings true to our most recent guest Charnelle “Cha” Quallis, who joins us to discuss diversifying the film industry, especially in the editor's room. While there is a recent proliferation of female editors in both fiction and non-fiction storytelling, the industry continues to lack representation from female editors of color. We talk about why we need more diverse decision-makers in the film industry, the importance of championing young talented editors of color, and we begin to tease apart some of the pervasive diversity challenges that continue to afflict Hollywood.
Charnelle “Cha” Quallis is a documentary film editor. She began her career at NBC Sports & Olympics — editing creative and promotional content for broadcast and digital platforms. After six years, she decided to follow her passion for documentary storytelling. Cha has since worked on a handful of PBS frontline documentaries, including two duPont–Columbia University award winners: The Gang Crackdown and Bitter Rivals. Most recently, she co-edited Boss: The Black Experience in Business, which won the Programmer’s Award at the Pan African Film Festival and was an additional editor on When We Walk.
Follow “Cha” Quallis on LinkedIn.
References & Links:
Jason DaSilva's blog on his experience with progressive Multiple Sclerosis.
How an election changed Cha's career trajectory.
Documentary films and the power to create change
Blackface in film and other challenges in Hollywood.
Finding champions who mentor women of color in the edit room.
Full S1E6 Transcript:
As a Black girl, it's awesome for me to say like, I want to be the next Joi McMillion rather than Thelma Schoonmaker. You know what I mean? Like, I can say that now. And that's like, awesome, because two years ago or three years ago, that wasn't a thing.
Gabriela Acosta 0:18
Hola Hola, it's Gaby Acosta
and me, Jenelle Acosta. We're highschool sweethearts on a journey to be better allies.
Gabriela Acosta 0:26
You're listening to The Way We Lead. Where we talk about inclusive leadership, allyship and advocacy with folks across identities, industries and experiences.
If you're new here, welcome. You can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using the handle @thewaywelead. We're glad you're here. Let's jump in.
Hi, my name is Charnelle Quallis, but my friends call me "Cha" and I'm a documentary film editor. I'm part of the Karen Schmeer diversity, editing fellowship, just kind of diversifying people in the editing room. Karen Schmeer has a fellowship every year where they nominate new new filmmakers who are maybe one feature film into their career and a person is nominated. And they basically get all these cool things like they get to go to like award shows and like screenings and like get introduced to other editors and just kind of just a way to like integrate them into the film world or the documentary film world and give them an opportunity that they may not have had without the fellowship. And so with that, they just realized, you know what, a lot of the editors that are being nominated are either white females or or men. So then they started the Karen Schmeer diversity fellowship, and which they're trying to diversify the people in the Edit room or bring awareness that there are more than just white female and male editors in the edit room. So a lot of the candidates are people of color, who are either assistant editors are working on their first film or junior editors, things are just trying to like start their career as editors.
Gabriela Acosta 1:59
That's awesome. I love that they do that. And it seems like it's something that is so needed in the film world and the documentary world and the editing world. Any media production, honestly, at this point.
Is that how you got into Film Editing?
I started off as a production assistant in sports. And I was like super obsessed with sports, and probably too obsessed with it to the point where I forgot how much I love documentary. During my undergrad, I went to school for TV and Media Studies. And I was so interested in documentary and it was definitely something that I wanted to do out of college. But of course, I panicked. And I was just like, there's no jobs right now you know what I mean? And I need I need a job. And I need to like have something coming out of school. So I went into sports and started to cover stories and do shows and athlete profiles at NBC Sports. And I kind of worked my way up there as from a production assistant to a predator which is like a producer, editor. But then I realized, before the election, I was starting to get a little like tired of, you know, covering the stories of athletes. And I decided to make the change to documentaries after Trump was elected. Because I felt like there were more stories that needed to be told. And he was going to be on a lot of lives.
Gabriela Acosta 3:22
Yeah, I couldn't agree more.
Yep. That's a very fair point. And it's so interesting that sort of that is a turning point for you to want to go into documentaries, why documentaries, specifically, rather than movies or some other type of media?
I mean, I love I love narrative film. I grew up watching movies, I think we all did. And they're magical, right? Yeah. Well, one of the first documentaries that kind of inspired me was among many was Errol Morris, a thin blue line. I didn't know that through documentary, you could actually change lives you know what I mean? Like, unlike Okay, this is what is documenting someone's life. And then nothing's going to happen, you know, I mean, this person is still going to be in the same position. But then when I realized, you know, you can actually make a difference. And like, galvanize people to like, you know, start paying attention and make people aware of issues. I was just like, this is like, way cooler than a narrative film. Because like, I mean, narrative film, you can still do those things. But in documentary, we're actually like talking about real life. And, you know, that's, that's every day, that's our real life. And people are going through things that I couldn't even imagine having to deal with on a regular basis, let alone their stories on screen for 90 minutes. But this is their whole life. And it's amazing how a short 90 minutes to two hours of documentary or document docu series could change the way people who may have been ignorant to a topic, think about something.
Gabriela Acosta 4:58
Yeah, there's so much power in storytelling. It's a theme for me, obviously. [everyone laughs] It's why I became a communications expert and professional and why I went to communications masters program and got into media and started this podcast because I think there's so much power, like you said, in telling people stories, because we see so much of a ripple effect, right. Like, it's not just telling your story, Cha. Like I said this to Janell earlier, you can't be what you can't see, right. So like, seeing an example of someone who, who resonates with you, doing something that you dream of gives you and empowers you to take that step to move forward and try to become what they are. And when you don't have examples of role models like that, it makes it much more difficult, even though it's not impossible, but it just makes makes it harder to understand what that looks like, in practice for somebody who's underrepresented and feels like there just aren't that many folks. And you said something in your intake form that actually really appreciated. You were talking about some of your role models. Can you talk a little bit about that, too?
I was just trying to think women of color who are in the Edit room, and I just remember Joi McMillion as the first black woman to be nominated for an Oscar for editing. And that was for moonlight in 2017.
Gabriela Acosta 6:32
Yeah, it's recent.
Yeah, and that's just like, That's amazing. Right? Like, like it took took a while, but we got there. And, you know, it's it just it's nice to say that, you know, for someone for a Black girl, it's it's awesome for me to say like, I want to be the next Joy McMillion rather than Thelma Schoonmaker. You know what I mean? Like, I can say that now. And that's like, awesome, because two years ago, or three years ago, that wasn't a thing. It just wasn't publicized, I guess because, like, you can't just do a search for like, you know, African American film editors, you know, what I mean? Like, unless they win something as like, or if they, if they reach reach the level of their career where they're winning Oscars, you know, we're being nominated for Oscars are nominated for Emmys, or whatever the award may be, and awards aren't everything, but to be nominated, was just amazing to see that there was a woman of color in that category-a Black woman in that category. And maybe she didn't win Best editor, but Moonlight won, Best Picture. So you know, it's still a win for her, she was a major contribution to that film.
Yeah. And I think talking about having so for you, this is somebody that you can look to and say, Wow, somebody like me, a Black woman who is doing the thing that I want to do, I think that having that representation is so important for two different reasons, right? Because one, you want the younger generation to see themselves in who they could be someday. And I think the other side of this, especially in filmmaking, is so many of the stories and films that we've seen, or in my life, I've seen, might be telling the story of one community, let's call it the Black community, but it's directed, edited by white men. And so it's important to have that perspective in those rooms in the editing room in the production room, in order to make sure that it's told in the right way. So I mean, in your role as a as an editor, how do you act as an ally in the room, when you're say telling a story of of a community other than yours?
The only example I kind of have, one of the films that I was additional editor on When We Walk, which is on that film festival circuit right now, about a documentary filmmaker, Jason DaSilva, he has multiple sclerosis. He was diagnosed in his late to mid 20s, who is in a chair and only has control of his head. And he was a director on that film. So it's easier when you're working closely with the subject, right. As opposed to a lot of the times, the only time we get to see the subject is on is through the lens, and not necessarily never, never really get to meet the characters at all. But When We Walk was a different case, because I saw this person every day, I talked with him every day, and you would edit something, I would show it to him. And we would just kind of like discuss it. You know what I mean? Like, how does this make me feel? Or am I telling this correctly? Is Is this what happened and what was going through your head when it happened? It's so much easier when you have the person next to you. But when you don't, I think it's just like, watching the footage, right and listening to what they're saying. Like the footage never really lies. I don't think at all, you'll hear someone's truth. And you'll hear how genuine or disingenuous they are through the way they speak and the way they carry themselves on film. And some people just tell their own story so beautifully and so eloquently that you don't really need much editing at all, you just kind of need to just let them like own the scene. They're not they're not the charlatans or these like these fake people, they're they're real. They're activist and they're historians. And they're, they're marginalized people in the world that just want someone to listen, we do that we just listen. And we just put it together. And it just works out because of the people that they are.
Gabriela Acosta 10:40
Yeah, absolutely. I think that because of a lot of the stories that you've been you were sharing with me are the films that you've been working on, on all kinds of topics, right, like black business men, on gang violence in the US and in Latin America and on the Borderlands. Like there's how many different topics that are critical to the public narrative right now, especially post 2016 And the things that inspired you to take up this cause? And I'm wondering, from your perspective, is, is this a form of activism for you being a storyteller on these kinds of stories?
it feels really great to go to work every day. And know that you're creating, and you're making something that's going to make people more aware and make people more knowledgeable on a topic or a subject or a current event. Like it's, it's fun. I remember, I used to hate meetings. And now I like meetings, you know, I mean, like, I like it to a certain extent, right? Like, no one really likes meetings. But like, I like sitting and talking about what we're creating and what we're working on. It's so much better than talking about the logistics of something that I don't care about, you know, or something that's not going to impact millions of people's lives are only a few people who watch sports or sitting in a meeting and talking about something that's going to affect or galvanize people or inspire people and make people more aware is definitely a meeting that I want to be a part of. So in a way, even though I'm not on the front lines, like most activists, I am a little like editing activist in a way it feels good to like, put these stories together. And then for people to like actually start petitions or post it on social media, like it just feels good that people are getting messages out there and talking about it. So we're I think we are like many, many activists in a way, I wouldn't say complete activists, because I would I wouldn't take that away from the amount of work that activists actually do.
Gabriela Acosta 12:44
Do you have any examples of tangible outcomes that you've witness? You were mentioning petitions and things like that, that form of activism coming from some of the documentary films that you've been doing? Do you have any tangible examples of like a film that caused that kind of reaction?
Not movies that I've just worked on. But documentaries in general, sometimes there are like social media posts or change.orgs, or any kind of like, push a protest to kind of advocate for characters in documentaries, even certain narrative films, too. There's that as well. Like Ava DuVernay's film series that just came out on Netflix, When They See Us when that film series came out, there was so much positivity around that film series, when I say that, you know, documentary has led to a lot of people on social media, and protesters and people and petitioners advocating for change based on what they saw in a documentary. I think that's awesome. It's just something that that I see happening more and more, like as more documentaries come out about marginalized people around the country and around the world.
Gabriela Acosta 13:57
Yeah, you're talking a little bit about when when we first met about the work that you're doing with Firelight Media, it sounds like the group itself is doing a lot to ensure that there's more representation across the board in documentary filmmaking and directing and editing across the whole spectrum of developing and producing films. Why is that important? And also, how has that affected you personally?
I'm still working with firelight on another film that's coming out in 2020. And I truly enjoy working with the directors, writers and the producers there. They do emphasize, you know, hiring people of color, because a lot of their films are about the civil rights movement, and, you know, marginalized people. As well as making their own films, they also do a documentary fellowship, and reach out to other filmmakers, like first time filmmakers making their first films and helping them partially fund their films, which is also awesome, because in order to make the film, you need money, and it's very hard to get funding, if you don't have the support from other documentary filmmakers or executives that can can help and I think Firelight does an outstanding job with inspiring other filmmakers of color and covering topics about marginalized people.
That's really great in terms of I like that the the focus is on hiring underrepresented folks. So women of color, people of color, to really help tell those stories Exactly. Like you're saying, we're telling a story about a group, that we need a certain perspective on there. So they can really relate to it and be able to have a larger impact on it. It's making me think a little bit about sort of the the documentary space versus the Hollywood and filmmaking space, is there something different between those spaces when it comes to inclusion or access for underrepresented folks in your opinion, like how those two are sort of poised or or the approach that's taken sort of behind the scenes?
I've never like edited a narrative film or like been a part of the narrative film. But I mean, you clearly see even with in Hollywood has this like long history of even as actors and actresses not being represented by the actual race of the characters that they play. I forget the name, but the Nina Simone film where Zoe Saldana is playing Nina Simone. And it, and I love Zoe Saldana, but probably shouldn't have been the person playing Nina Simone. Maybe.
Gabriela Acosta 16:42
and that's so common. It is, why is that necessary? There's so many people out here who can represent themselves.
Yeah. But Hollywood has had a has a long history of that. Right. So it's like, I feel like it's getting better, obviously like last year. And I hate keep bringing up the Oscars, because it's like awards or awards. And they don't, they're really not everything. But it was so great to see Spike Lee finally win, win an Oscar, for screenwriting. And to see, you know, so many films with black actors and actresses, where I think even like two years ago, it was like, Why are the awesome, so white? So we're getting there. It's just like, when is it ever going to be equal are going to be 50/50? Or more spread? I don't know. But I can only say that the only way I think it's it's going up. And I'm excited about it. And I'm excited to see what other like, new talent and people of color kind of take the take the film scene both in documentary and Hollywood. And there's so many so many cool things to like, make stories about so sky's the limit, right?
Gabriela Acosta 17:52
Yeah. Yeah. I would love to see a day when, when a woman or a person of color wins an award of any kind. That doesn't make the news because it's just normal. Like, yeah, How awesome would that be? If we were just like, Oh, good for them. They're really good actress or producer or director. Like it doesn't have to be breaking the glass ceiling of some kind, you know, like, or breaking out in some way?
Yeah, like someone being the first or. You shouldn't be saying first anymore in 2019.
Gabriela Acosta 18:24
The fact that we're having to still stay first, for a lot of this is is really rough to know, isn't
Gabriela Acosta 18:31
Yeah. Especially because where we are and you would think in 2019, we would know better by now. And be smarter about it. But
Gabriela Acosta 18:42
Yeah, but the people making the decisions are still, you know, they're still the folks who made the decisions 50 years ago, right? Like, those rooms aren't any more diverse than they were back then and hasn't really changed because the representation at the table hasn't changed. So if the people making the decisions start to be more inclusive, and, and representative of the people, all the different identities, then it's much more likely that they're going to select people from all kinds of identities. Right now, access to those boardrooms, to those decision makers. It's tough, it's difficult.
It's interesting, because and you sort of alluded to this earlier, that the documentary space, the film space is much more inclusive of women, than perhaps Hollywood might be. So I'm wondering, because you've been in this career for some time, and collaborating pretty closely with some other male editors in the room. What has your experience been with your producers, with your directors, with your, your peer, male editors, as a female editor working on these documentaries?
Luckily, for me, like, of course, you have the guys you think they know it, all right. And that's fair, because they're going to be, that's just who they are. And they're never going to change. But I had been fortunate to work with, with men who see my talent and see what I'm capable of, and have felt very comfortable with Kate, I'm stuck here. And I really just don't know how to edit this and make it powerful, and how about you take a shot out of it, and then we take a look, you know what I mean? Like, I think that takes a big person to like, you know, hand over something, because they don't feel like they can, they can tell the story adequately, or they can, they can do the best job possible. And they know that you have strong edit sense, you know, the story, you know, the material, like here, you take a shot at it. And I, I've been presented with that opportunity by a lot of my male counterparts. And it's, it's awesome, because they respect you and, and that's, that's definitely something that you want. And something that I'm truly appreciated your love, because these are people at the end of each job, can vouch for you and say, yeah, Chad did a really great job here. And she deserves more than this credit, or she deserves to be given a shot or taking a risk on I do appreciate the male editors that I have worked with, who said their ego aside and said here, take a shot at this and have trusted me to tell a good story or to rework the scene. It's worked out. And I'm very grateful for that. It's been pretty good for me and has helped me grow as an editor and allowed me to kind of be humble about my skills and, and confidence.
Yeah, it's so interesting, because my assumption would be that if you're working in the documentary space, you might be a little bit more, let's call it socially aware and maybe more inclined, especially the men in the room to be a little bit more inclined to be understanding and maybe understanding what it means to be an ally. But it doesn't sound like it sounds like that's been your experience with the men that you're working with. But maybe not some of your friends experience.
Yeah, like a lot of like my female editor friends just can't believe that I haven't co edited with one female editor yet. But it's great to have that kind of support from you know, editors who I reach out to and who reach out to me and I've met more through the Karen Schmeer Foundation, and the editing fellowship. And it's been great to connect with people who actually go through the same things that you go through on a on a daily basis, whether it be like trying to land more editing jobs, as opposed to assistant editing jobs and or trouble just editing a scene or just needing a job connection, right. Like, it's nice that even though I haven't worked with very many female editors, I still have that support of a lot of female editors through the the Karen Schmeer foundation as well as New York Women in Film and TV and other foundation.
Gabriela Acosta 23:02
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What would you say is how you would define allyship? What would you want either your male counterparts or counterparts who are white navigating that space to know how they could be a good ally to you?
I mean, I think allies are like genuinely people who care about equality, right. And just like making things fair, making sure things are fair and balanced for everyone not to use the fox fair and balanced. But like actually balance, I think when you see a young editor, working hard and trying to better themselves and trying to take their their career to the next level, I think it's great to continue to encourage them. And that means to give them scenes to cut, give them opportunities to shine, and to show that, you know, they're ready to take their career to the next level. I think when you see someone very passionately taking those steps, you should definitely, you know, welcome them rather than being reluctant because of a credit or not knowing what credit they're going to get or not knowing what credit you're going to get and being possessive of the film. And rather than just like saying, you know what, this person is as great as great at what they do, and they're on the rise. And I need this person to help me make this film the best film possible rather than this is my credit, and they should stay in their lane, you know what I mean? It's, it's, it should just be an we're in this together and we're a team attitude. And I've been lucky to, to have worked with seasoned editors who will take that approach with me, and it definitely helped me a lot. I think that's the best way to show allyship in the editing space.
I think it goes back to kind of what you were, you mentioned before, right? Like Put your ego aside. The credit part is, I think particularly interesting when you're talking about film, because there are literal credits at the end, his name will show up and be seen. And being able to take that ego and put it aside and it's all about opportunity, and being able to look at somebody and giving them the opportunity to try. I think a lot of times and in leadership, you know—and I think that this can apply in that world too— you are in a situation where you don't know whether or not you can trust somebody's work yet. But the problem is, is that you'll never know unless you give them the opportunity and see if that they can be coached or taught or supported in a different way and giving them that opportunity and seeing what you get out of it is so important. But if you don't do it, then you're never going to know what happens. And so I think that that's a great example, that it's just seeing who in the room needs the opportunity and being able to give it to them.
Give your 50th credit, like, you know what I mean? Like what's another one? Why what's if you have to share it, or you or if you choose to share it, like, that's one of many and more to come.
Gabriela Acosta 26:39
Exactly, sharing the wealth, like there's this whole mindset that there's never enough and that you have to protect what you have. And I think that's what leads to a lot of exclusion, actually, because people are feeling like I gotta protect myself, I gotta take care of number one, which is me. And I think that's a false assumption there plenty to go around. I think different environments can exacerbate that feeling. And you you can only have so many positions, so many promotions. But there are so many different opportunities out in the world, in so many different places that people can go and experience that, but they just need a chance. And I think this is something that we learned from one of our last episodes. With a previous interviewee, she was saying that one of the best things that people can do is be a champion in the room for others. And that's definitely what like I'm hearing from you is you just need a champion who's willing to take a chance.
So before we wrap up, we always like to give you and our guests the opportunity to talk a little bit about what are you doing right now? What do you want our audience to know about you what's going on in your life?
I can't really give too many details, but I am working on a doc with Firelight Media that will air on Netflix next year. So that's all I can really say. I'm sorry, I can't give more.
No, that's okay. Enough of a teaser for me. I'm ready. You said Netflix. That sounds great. Let's go in that direction.
Gabriela Acosta 28:21
I'll be looking out for that.
So yeah, I mean, obviously, like, I will reach out to you guys when that happens.
Gabriela Acosta 28:29
Yeah, But I'm really excited about it. And it's something that I've been wanting to work on for a long time. And it's one of the reasons why I enjoy going to work every day so...
Gabriela Acosta 28:39
It'll be it'll be out soon. And then we can talk all about it.
Gabriela Acosta 28:46
Awesome. Is there anything that that you feel like is up next for you like, once this one project is over? Do you have a particular goal in mind of what you would like to be doing next?
I would really like to work on, you know, a doc about the LGBT community or something surrounding that. I've always wanted to work on something about conversion therapy. And the disaster that that is. And that's not something that I personally have experience with. But I just, there's so many states that it's still legal, that just like, troubles me. I would really like to do a doc on that something surrounding that, or focusing on the LGBT community. Or I would also like to do something maybe lighter, you know, it's very hard to get a doc opportunity where it's just kind of light and funny. Cuz like, it depends, obviously, on the topic, but that would be fun too like doing just a fun doc, because you know what I mean, like a doc, that's not so depressing. But like, but like, slightly less depressing, you know? Yeah. So I would, I would totally be down for something like that. I mean, I'm down to edit anything. And I'm inspired by by people just being willing to like, share their experiences and stories. So whatever comes next, I'm going to jump in headfirst for sure.
Gabriela Acosta 30:07
Nice. Yeah, hear that listeners? If you want to be an angel investor, call Cha!
If you need a documentary editor call me!
Know, I love that that because I didn't, I don't know. I didn't necessarily think about it in that way that as somebody in your position, who is going to be working on documentaries and projects that will be seen by the masses, that maybe it doesn't always work out this way. But right, but you can sort of aspire to try and tell the stories that are really important to you. If you see an area for some type of activism or outreach that needs to be done, trying to find it in in that space, and maybe go after those types of projects. But I could also understand the complete other side of just wanting funny light hearted things. Maybe Don't, don't aren't hard to watch and edit and interact with.
Yeah, I mean, I think I've worked on a lot of things that are just like, God, this is heavy. And I just want to not look at this anymore.
Gabriela Acosta 31:16
Yeah, I know that life,
yeah, like I was just watching something today. And I was just like, I need to go take a walk.
Gabriela Acosta 31:25
You solely watch comedy at home.
Gabriela Acosta 31:29
Watch. I remember a couple years ago, I guess it was several years ago. Now I was helping a an editor make a documentary on the Salvadoran Civil War. And I was helping him translate, because a lot of the imagery and the film was in Spanish because it was based in El Salvador. And he spoke zero Spanish. And I was sitting there day in and day out for two weeks straight, just watching like dead bodies and like a murder. And like, I literally like I left those two weeks. And I was like, I need a vacation. I need a lot of self care. I need to process with what just happened. It's like, that's the that's my family. My family went through that. And it felt good to be able to be a part of something that was telling the story of what happened in my country. Yeah, but at the same time, I was like, this is like you said, like super heavy. Just like it It can weigh on you for sure.
Yeah. But the good thing is that now I have a translator for any documentary that I do in Spanish. Thank you.
Gabriela Acosta 32:36
Yeah, you know who to call!
Gabriela Acosta 32:40
Happy to help.
Well, I mean, thanks so much for chat with us. It's really interesting. Because I mean, this is the first time I've ever talked to anybody who does anything like you do. So it's really interesting to hear sort of your world and your your perspective and why you got into it in the first place. It's just really fascinating me in it actually made me think about I've always looked at documentaries as a way of activism. But I don't know, it's it's just interesting hearing it from somebody who's in the room and doing it in your perspective. So I really appreciate you sitting down and chatting with us.
Yeah, I had so much fun. You guys are fun. But no, it was really, really awesome to meet you guys. I can't wait to keep following you guys.
Gabriela Acosta 33:23
Thanks so much. Really Appreciate it!
Thank you, you guys too!
Gabriela Acosta 33:30
What you think of our conversation with Cha?
I like her. She's fun. I think it's interesting talking to somebody who's on the other side of a of a lens. And I really relate to her desire to want to move from not directly but she wanted to move from Sports into something that was a little bit more impactful. And I can really relate to that wanting to go from something that might feel a little bit more, I don't know, I guess less impactful or mundane, or, you know, sort of ordinary to
Gabriela Acosta 34:01
I wouldn't call sports ordinary...
but it's not changing the world. Right? Like...
Gabriela Acosta 34:07
okay, yeah, that's different.
Sports is making money. It's entertainment, right? But it's not. It's rare that something from Sports makes a really large impact. With sports, sports teams, and things like that will donate to causes and stuff. So wanting to go from that perspective to no, I want I want to do something that makes an impact. I want to tell stories, and be on the other side of those things. I think that's really cool.
Gabriela Acosta 34:34
Yeah, I really liked her perspective on being able to share people's like stories and letting them just be who they are. And like the power of just showing people in their almost like organically and their natural state. And that in itself is an act of activism. That's kind of cool. I like that. Because, like, if I think back now until like any of my favorite documentaries, it really is just following people, right? Like people are fascinating. And usually based on their identity or their context, their conflict, whatever they're going through, I learned so much. And I'm much more likely then like later on in my life, to be able to contextualize when something is happening. Like whether it's, you know, a policy that's coming up, or it's a social issue that is, is reoccurring, I can then contextualize it in the connection of that happens to a real person, because I saw it,
yeah, it's able to take something that's really big and actually show what the impact is. Yeah. And the other thing that I was thinking is, so I was really trying to relate sort of the documentary space with the Hollywood space, of how do you make sure that you're telling somebody story? Well, and the thing that I forgot, and asking that is, in Hollywood, somebody is writing the script, right? And the person writing the script, they're making up somebody else's story. And I think that that's why we've seen many things in film and TV, that it's just not the reality, right? So for example, like women being oversexualized, or women obsessing about things that they don't actually obsess about. Yeah. Because it's in that scenario, it's, it's most likely a man sort of fantasizing, so to say about what women do or think. Right, so first, maybe making assumptions about another community. But the cool thing about documentaries, like she was saying, is you kind of just get to let them tell it how it is. And and there's not a lot of readjusting that really needs to happen. Because it's not somebody else making up a story. It's literally them and their story and their emotions.
Which is also why when she was talking about like, essentially, like, the black face or yellow face that occurs and in Hollywood, right, like white folks, white actresses, and actors, playing people of color, it makes me freaking crazy. Because like, there's no need for that there really isn't. But the thing about in, in documentary filmmaking, it's purely authentic, because it's just somebody telling their own truth, versus someone making up what it looks like to be a certain identity, and hoping that someone can step into that and like, Co-opt, a story almost like tell a story that's not theirs, and then do it inauthentically. And in not factually either.
Yeah, there's no pretending when it comes to a documentary. I mean, maybe but the assumption would be that there is no pretending the person is being who they are and living their lives. And so when you're watching it, you're you're not watching the made up version of someone, you know, in a real person on the other end.
Gabriela Acosta 38:07
No, documentarians are journalists, they're there to document quite literally what happens. So there should never be any staging or setup of any kind. If they do, that's not ethical. So in my mind, it's, it's really like, to me the purest version of truth, because, and but there is a certain element of power in the in the editing room, right? Like me, having experience on that side of things of editing. Even this podcast is a good example, like any film or this podcast, being able to have the control of what is said and what is not said, right, definitely gives me a certain power about what kind of story I'm telling. So what firelight media is doing to diversify documentary making is so important, because there is an element of control of the story and the narrative in post post production, which is after film has been, you know, just shot shot, right. As the creator of the film as the camera woman or man, like being in the room, your job is just to take in information. So you do have some control over that in terms of like, where you focus your shots, and what you're listening to. But I think there's a significant element of control in the editing room about how you shape the final product.
Yeah, that's a good point.
Gabriela Acosta 39:35
Yeah. And so it's important for people of color and underrepresented folks to be in the room, telling the stories of people of color and underrepresented folks. It's not rocket science, like you should have representation of people who get what it's like to live in that life, so that you are telling the story fully, authentically.
Yeah, it's also I mean, from the other side, moving away from documentary moving into sort of the Hollywood space, it, it should be common sense that if you are telling a story about a certain community or identity, and you look around, and you don't have examples of that identity in the room, find them. Yeah. And and making sure that the identity that you're representing is represented by somebody of that identity.
Gabriela Acosta 40:20
Yeah, it's not that hard. Like, it feels like almost like, what are you doing? What are you thinking, co-opting people stories? Why? It's so unnecessary!
part of like, and this is just me trying to make excuses, I think, but sometimes I think, okay, like, you also need to be a good actor, or actress. And so if a perfect example, we were talking about it the other day, is there is a show on Netflix that we're watching called In The Dark. And it's about a woman who is blind, and her best friend passes away.
Gabriela Acosta 40:58
Yeah. And my first question was, is the actress blind?
Right? And, and I look back, and I found out No, but they did interview a slew of blind women, but landed on her. And so part of my question in that is like,
Gabriela Acosta 41:15
Why, right. So is it the acting skills? Is it what what did you want from that that you weren't getting? And I don't, I don't know. I don't know what it's like to be in that room and have to make that decision and why you would do the things that you would do.
Gabriela Acosta 41:29
You know, like, was it a logistical question? Like, because if it is, there are ways around stuff. Like, just because it's, it requires more coordination doesn't mean that it shouldn't be done.
Right. But I mean, the other thing is, in this space, and I equate it similar to being in business, right, where it's, I would love to have an extremely diverse, let's say, management team, right? That's a goal of mine, I want to have a diverse management team. But I also need to look at the plain of people I have and see who's most qualified. And so it's my job to make sure in that moment that my bias isn't getting in the way of each person sitting in front of me, telling me that one person is better than the other. And so I would assume that in this space of picking, casting, who's going to be playing who there's a level of that professional aspect as well of, can you act? Well, right, I think that that's an important one. I don't know how complicated complex that is. I don't know the other people that were in the room that were auditioning what that looks like. But the other argument would be, you can't tell me that in every single situation that we've been seeing for so long that you cannot find one person to portray the identity that you're trying to portray.
Gabriela Acosta 42:52
Yeah. And there's also no excuse to portraying like one dimensional characters of color, or women like, we are very diverse and complex creatures and all of us are unique. Like, why are the these folks being typecast over and over in the same types of roles? Right, like, there's a lot of questions that I have about Hollywood. So maybe what we should do, is look for someone who either works in Hollywood as a recruiter, maybe like somebody who, who does the interviews.
Does Hollywood have recruiters?
Gabriela Acosta 43:27
Well what's, there's another word for this? I'm doing it wrong.
Gabriela Acosta 43:31
Yes. Is Is anyone out there or do you know of anyone who
Do you work in Hollywood? I don't know how to Hollywood!
Gabriela Acosta 43:38
We don't know how to Hollywood, we have questions. Obviously, we have a lot of thoughts. This documentary conversation has led us to a whole rabbit hole about Hollywood. And we got we want to talk about it. So...
If you work in Hollywood. If you have a friend that works in Hollywood or Hollywood adjacent, I don't know. I just call it Hollywood. Hollywood seems like the right word for that.
Gabriela Acosta 43:58
I do want to talk to somebody who is a professional actor, actress, especially if you're a person of color or somebody on either side with the roles like the casting side, or someone who's an actor or actress who's experienced. You know what, what it looks like to navigate all that?
Come hang out with us!
Yeah, I'm super curious.
Educate me because I'm probably wrong. And I would like somebody to correct me.
Gabriela Acosta 44:27
Lols. Send us a voice my mom, Leo, it's a little bit vulnerable to put yourself out there.
It's this like simplest step. Let me tell you what they are. Because it's mad easy. So if you you've got a something to share with us, and you want to be anonymous, I'm happy to do that. We also can leave your name out just right, then your message, please do not use my name. And we will just use your voice. But if you head to our Contact Us page on thewaywelead.com. If you scroll past our comment or question form to contact us, there's this nice little app that's called speak pipe right on the page, it's super easy to use, there's a big orange button that just says start recording, all you have to do is push the button. It will ask you to confirm whether or not your mic is active. And if it is, you can record, listen to your own recording before you submit it and then submit it. So you have a lot of control In this. You can record something and then decide not to submit it if you decided it's too personal. That's fine.
But just give it a try!
Gabriela Acosta 45:33
Give it a go.
Gabriela Acosta 45:34
be brave. I want to hear from you guys. I want to hear your thoughts, your opinions. If you had a feeling in this episode, or any episode that we've had so far that made you go uggh like that didn't sit right with me.
Can you make that noise again?
Gabriela Acosta 45:49
Gabriela Acosta 45:50
Please let us know. We want to hear your feedback, your thoughts or comments, also questions for future episodes.
I mean, we've got some great people coming along. And it's been a lot of fun getting guests. But we also want to hear from you on what you'd like us to talk about or a subject that you're interested in hearing more maybe finding an expert on.
Gabriela Acosta 46:08
Yeah, the whole point is that this is our goal is to make this a conversation and we want to hear from you.
You! we like you hang out with us more.
Gabriela Acosta 46:19
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Gabriela Acosta 46:24
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Gabriela Acosta 47:02
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Gabriela Acosta 47:03
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Gabriela Acosta 47:08
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Gabriela Acosta 47:16
Y'all are the best. We appreciate you. This episode was edited, written and produced by me Gaby Acosta, and I'm joined by my lovely co host
me Jenelle Acosta!
Gabriela Acosta 47:27
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Gabriela Acosta 47:33
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Gabriela Acosta 47:52
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