Young Filmmaker Interview: Brittany Fennell

DadminFilm World, Young Filmmakers

Casey Drogin cover photo

Name: Brittany “B.Monét” Fennell
Age: 99…just joking, I’m 25
Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland

Random Facts About Me: I love Twizzlers.
One sentence about why I make films: I want to tell the stories that I don’t see in the media, I want to be part of a legacy that forwards the landscape of people of all walks of life.

Links to Brittany “B.Monét” Fennell’s Work

Short Animated Films:
Rise Up October 2016 (Trailer)
Q.U.E.E.N. 2015 (Trailer)
The Gift of Life 2015 (Commercial)

Additional work by Brittany Fennell can be found:
Brittany “B.Monét” Fennell’s Website

INTRODUCTION

 

With a strong voice and a sensitivity to social issues, Brittany Fennell, also known as “B.Monét”,  has a way of striking directly at your heart through her film work. She has an intimate way of tackling themes that can easily be overly generalized. In particular, Brittany focuses on having women and young girls tell their stories. For her, it is important that men, children, but especially, women and young girls, understand the importance of releasing their pain and living out their life’s purpose. She believes that young girls and women need to realize that they are more than their painful experiences and broken relationships and that they too, can be victorious.

Brittany graduated from Spelman College with a B.A. in English and then continued her education at New York University as a thesis graduate student majoring in film and television with concentrations in both writing and directing.

Her award-winning, short film Q.U.E.E.N. is a direct example of Brittany’s voice, style and strong ideologies and explores trauma, friendship, growth and healing. Q.U.E.E.N. has gone on to win numerous awards and accolades including Best Film in the Student Film category as well as receiving the first Donna Joyner Green Student Film at the North Carolina Black Film Festival, and won both the Silver Whiskers and the Golden Whiskers awards at Indie Works. Q.U.E.E.N’s public premiere took place on ASPiRE’s popular original series ABFF Independent.

Brittany is currently developing Q.U.E.E.N. into a feature length film.

THE INTERVIEW

 

1. Can you give us some background on how you first got into filmmaking?

I’ve always been a storyteller at my core. I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I have tons of journals from my childhood. Originally, I wanted to be a journalist. I wrote for the school’s newspaper in high school and took television production, photography, and documentary classes as well.

I have always been drawn to telling the stories of the hopeless and the voiceless. When I studied abroad in Italy during my matriculation at Spelman College, my creative writing professor suggested that I consider filmmaking based upon my writing. I did my research and decided to become a filmmaker instead of a journalist because film encompasses a range of storytelling that journalism does not.

 Imani actress Nyemiah Supreme in a scene from Q.U.E.E.N.

Imani actress Nyemiah Supreme in a scene from Q.U.E.E.N.

2. When I ran into you at Cucalorus you were screening your amazing film Q.U.E.E.N. Can you share with us about this project as well as your filmmaking process? I’m curious to learn about your collaboration with the lead actress. I think I remember you saying she was not an actress?

Q.U.E.E.N. tells the story of a teenage girl with a troubled past who uses writing as her muse to say all the things she is too afraid to say. Through self-discovery and a little bit of courage, Imani faces her biggest fear at a rap battle. I was very drawn to doing a piece that shows triumph and recovery as opposed to victimization and fear.

I wanted to create a story that could show a teenage girl overcoming an extremely tough issue plaguing her life. I am very interested in showing women of color as victors, not victims. Nyemiah and I worked very closely together on this film. This is her first film and it’s a very special piece for the both of us.

If you want to be great, you must practice your filmmaking craft all the time. You must put in your hours, for instance, to create content all the time, no matter what the length, to watch content everyday, to be on sets, to read scripts, to sharpen your skills. Be rigorous with yourself.Brittany "B.Monét" Fennell

3. Are you now working on any projects that you can tell us about? You’re DPing on a project called Little Sallie Walker, right? [NOTE: DP is Director of Photography – Mr. Ed]

Currently, I’m working on several projects. I’m DP’ing a feature-length documentary entitled Little Sallie Walker which tells the stories about black women and how they played as children. It is a captivating return to childhood. A diverse group of black women, many of whom are sharing their stories for the first time, reveal with vulnerability how they have lived with play.

We’ve been fortunate to interview the first black woman to professionally skateboard, Stephanie Person Skater, and a host of others! Additionally, I’m in post production on a short film about dreams and in pre – production for a short film with the Bureau of Creative Works.

4. How was your college experience at NYU majoring in filmmaking? [NOTE: NYU is New York University – Mr. Ed] Many young filmmakers are unsure of which path to take after high school. I decided not to go to college and I’ve loved it, but I know plenty of individuals who have gone down the film school route and loved that as well. How has your experience at NYU been for you?

I’ve always been a creative soul and I’m glad that I went to Spelman College to study English followed by New York University to study Film and Television. A college setting exposes you to many views, philosophies, and theories. I absolutely loved my undergraduate experience. I was fortunate to learn a tremendous amount about my heritage and I was surrounded by intelligent, talented, and beautiful African-American women from all over the globe.

Brittany Fennell receiving the 2015 North Carolina Black Film Festival First Place Award in the Student Film category

Brittany Fennell receiving the 2015 North Carolina Black Film Festival First Place Award in the Student Film category.

In contrast, NYU’s film school has exposed me to filmmaking and filmmakers. Culturally, I did not grow up with film in my everyday life. I appreciate that my film knowledge has expanded and diversified due to my studies and work at film school. However, with that said, I do hope that film schools, in general, will work on enlarging the representation of people of color in film as well as diversifying their faculty staff. It’s important for people to picture themselves in every capacity of film both on screen, behind the camera, and in academia.

5. Do you recall any stories about unexpected or surprising things that have occurred on a production of yours?

During the filming of my short film Q.U.E.E.N., the cast and crew had an amazing time! In between takes of the rap battle scene, we would all dance to the latest songs and have contests. It was a surprising gem. I feel this energy and joy is captured beautifully in the footage of the crowd scenes of the movie.

Protest scene from Brittany Fennell’s film, Rise Up October

6. What is one piece of advice you would give to a young filmmaker who wants to start taking their first filmmaking steps?

Find an amazing mentor who is invested in you as a person but who also wants the best for you. It’s great to have someone show you the ropes. Go after your passions with full throttle.

If you want to be great, you must practice your filmmaking craft all the time. You must put in your hours, for instance, to create content all the time, no matter what the length, to watch content everyday, to be on sets, to read scripts, to sharpen your skills. Be rigorous with yourself. Listen to your heart; let it be your sounding board. You will get loads of advice, but at the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you.

Kira Bursky

The Interviewer

About Kira

Kira Bursky, the founder of Big Little Filmmaker, is a nineteen year old filmmaker who has been pursuing her dreams for the past six years. A graduate of the Interlochen Academy of the Arts where she was a student of the school’s filmmaking program, Kira was a 2014 National YoungArts Finalist as well as a Presidential Scholar in the Arts Semi-Finalist and received the top prize for Best Overall Film at the 2014 All American High School Film Festival for We’re Okay.

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