Fundamentals for Mujer Filmmakers by Mai Nolasco

Fundamentals for Mujer Filmmakers by Mai Nolasco

As the heiress of a pizzeria, my film legacy falls extremely short. There are only so many documentary skills I can learn from the constant novelas playing in my kitchen. So, I decided to venture out on my own, not continue anthropology, and instead get a masters in Media/Documentaries studies. While trying to figure out my way into the film world, I learned there are a few fundamentals that’s a mujer of color should be aware of.

Here is my list and I hope it comes in handy for you all:

1. Find/build a community

Find a safe space where you can share ideas and concerns without being judged for them. Instead, you will be encouraged. Surround yourself with people that want to see you succeed and are willing to join you on these projects if you need an extra hand. This career doesn’t come with a guaranteed job, so a familia (however you define that) is necessary for support.

2. Learn pre-production, production, and post production

Will you need all these skills? Most of the time: yes. (But I promise that over time this will become simple. You have to learn the rules to know how to break them.) You need to be up to date with editing programs, cameras, and audio. You need to know how to pitch your own ideas. This doesn’t mean you have to become a pro in everything, but being a one person team will come in handy.

3. Build a strong online portfolio for yourself

If you don’t have gigs to fill up your portfolio, then organize your own shoots. Go to local festivals and take photos. Offer to take photos or film for free for your friends.  Explore styles and/or create projects for yourself. Get creative and build a strong portfolio that can easily be seen online. Extra tip: print business cards with your website address.

4. Branding is important

Branding today has taken on a completely different meaning from whatever Mad Men shows us. Branding is pretty much what people get from your social media and/or when they actually meet you. If, for example, you work on a lot of nature-related projects, that becomes part of your brand and someone might think of you first when working on a similar project.

5. Self-care

You have to take care of yourself. Understand it’s a good thing to indulge in what makes you shine. The more comfortable you are in your own skin, the more comfortable you become around other people, and the better you are in telling their stories.

6. Know that critique is part of self-development

In order to become good at our crafts we have to be able to seek criticism and grow from it. Albeit, not all criticism is good. Look for constructive criticism and make sure it comes from someone with good intentions.

7. Be informed of the networks that are Latinx based

There are many networks that are latinx based and could be offering a job. These are great places to apply to and/or pitch your own stories to.

8. Respect the story and its audience

At the end of the day, good work shows. Create quality content that both respects the audience and the story your telling.

9. Don’t look around

I learned this when I attempted to be an artist. Nothing stops your own progress like looking around to see how other people are doing and comparing yourself to them. Everyone’s course is different.

10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

No one starts out knowing everything. Asking for help is a sign of strength and will only help you in the long run.

These are the tips I’m constantly reminding myself of, but they don’t always apply to everyone. You take from it what you can. Even if we don’t come from Coppolas or Barrymores, our stories matter. We should be the producers, filmmakers, directors, and photographers of our own narratives.

Mai is a feminista filmmaker from New York. She interviews and showcases the wonderful work of different feminists of color who are active in their community. 

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