Black women filmmakers: Determination personified

Gail Choice | 3/16/2011, 5 p.m.

Nubia Rahim stands outside a public office building on a busy street in Los Angeles with a clipboard in her hand and a prepared short speech about her film, asking people for their email addresses so that she can build a large contact list that will enable her to notify them about her first feature film.

The film, "Pedal Power," tells the story of a 16-year-old girl determined to let the world and her family know she's not a lost cause.

Rahim says her bicycle actually inspired her to write about a young woman who decides to win her self-respect by doing the thing she does best. And now with script in hand, the real work begins for Rahim.

Joyce Fitzpatrick made her way to central Montana from L.A. so that she could research the life and times of Mary Fields, also known as 'Stagecoach Mary.' Fitzpatrick says she happened to read about Fields while thumbing through an old Ebony magazine.

Deeply inspired by Fields' life, Fitzpatrick decided to produce a documentary about her search for the pioneer, feeling as though Fields' spirit was driving her on. Little did she know she would eventually criss-cross the United States discovering Fields', and the times she lived in.

With her documentary completed, and loaded with information, Fitzpatrick sat down and wrote a feature-length script dramatizing Fields' fascinating life. But writing the documentary was a cakewalk compared to her challenges now.

Most Black female filmmakers write, direct, and co-produce their first films, be it shorts, or feature films. In this article, we'll take a look at two up-and-coming filmmakers who have parlayed their work experience in television production into a feature film world that will challenge them every step of the way.

Desire, talent, persistence, and nerves of steel are at the forefront of creating a film, but make no mistake, an independent filmmaker is a small business owner. Sometimes the business aspect overshadows the filmmaking process, because financing a film and everything that goes with it, is a major issue.

Fitzpatrick says she refinanced her home in order to invest in her film. "How can I expect for others to invest in my vision, if I'm not willing to invest in it myself?"

Rahim, a successful television producer, who is originally from Atlanta, is currently fundraising for her film. She says she hears a lot of 'no's'--for every one yes, she'll hear 10 no's.

She is also doing a Facebook campaign, and one person she contacted told her Facebook is not the place to solicit funds and that she was not giving her anything. Rahim said her feelings were hurt, but she didn't let that negativity stop her.

Even when she was outside the office building gathering emails, Rahim said after each no, she had to motivate herself to walk up to the next person to ask for their email. The young filmmaker says she's learned not to take it personally; you just have to keep going, notes Rahim, who says she's actually learning to enjoy the process, because it gets her one step closer to completing her film.