amy wright
Posts

  • 50 Shades of Silence Producer and New York Film Academy Grad Amy Wright Enacting Change One Doc at a Time

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    New York Film Academy Documentary Filmmaking grad Amy Wright hasn’t slowed down since winning Best Short at the March on Washington Film Festival at the White House. While busy at work creating a documentary with Emmy-winning media personality-turned-activist Darieth Chisolm, the young documentarian and producer took the time to catch up with the NYFA Blog to share her insights into the important issues behind her documentaires, what’s coming next, and how to revolutionize the mainstream narratives around people of color.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey, what drew you to documentary filmmaking, and why you chose New York Film Academy?

    AW: I had a pretty roundabout journey that led me to documentary filmmaking. First and foremost, I’ve always loved documentaries. As a kid, I would watch nature documentaries with my grandfather, so there was always that positive feeling associated with docs.

    I studied theatre in high school and undergrad, so the arts was always a part of my life. However, after graduation I moved to New York, went to grad school at LIU for education and became a high school special education teacher. I enjoyed being in the classroom and working with kids, but there were a lot of issues I saw within the system — issues that affected the kids I worked with the most (underprivileged, of color, immigrant, disabled).

    It started getting to me and I knew that I was going to leave the profession. I just didn’t know what I was going to do next. Then one day, I was in Union Square when I saw a bus stop ad that said “Learn Documentary Filmmaking,” and something just clicked for me.

    At the time, Netflix had started expanding their catalogue of docs, and I was watching docs multiple times weekly. I think at that point I had just watched The Black Power Mixtape and was completely inspired. I saw it as a path back to the arts, but also as a way to change the things I couldn’t accept in the world.

    I went to the next available open house, learned about the doc program, was completely sold on the idea of learning by doing, and a month later I was resigning from the DOE! I finished out that school year with my kids, came to NYFA the following September and never looked back.

    Amy Wright and Andra Swift at March on Washington Film Festival

    NYFA: What inspires you most as a filmmaker?

    AW: I think what inspires me the most is seeing grassroots movements enact change. Or even a single individual. There’s something so motivating about seeing one person, or one group who believes in something so fiercely, use the medium of film to change the world for good.

    I think about films like Blackfish and I wonder if the filmmakers knew when they were first conceiving the film, what an impact it would have on whales in captivity. The idea that I could share something through film that is so important to me, particularly Black American stories, and it changes a system or even just people’s way of thinking about an issue — that’s what keeps me energized and inspired as a filmmaker.

    NYFA: You’ve mentioned that your thesis film, Legacy, was inspired by your grandfather. Can you tell us how Legacy came to life and a bit about your experience of production?

    AW: During the gauntlet that is the second semester of the NYFA docs program (lol), I had settled on doing a doc on the education system, because I was already so invested in the lives of disabled students of color. But as we learn in production, there are lots of roadblocks and challenges to getting the type of access that we need, especially within the time constraints of the semester. I was struggling to come up with a plan B.

    It just so happened that I was on my way to JFK airport when I passed by these stables that I had passed a million times before, and I saw a sign that read “The Federation of Black Cowboys.” And I knew that was my story.

    Something about working in docs makes you look at the world a little more carefully. It felt like I was meant to see, really see that sign. Add to that, as a child my grandfather would take us all to the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo (a Black rodeo), and the Black Cowboy Parade in Oakland every year, so it seemed like a no-brainer for me to pursue it.

    50 Shades of Silence via IMDB

    NYFA: The Black Federation of Cowboys talks about its mission to promote and share knowledge of the “Black West.” After your experience of making Legacy, what is the Black West for you? AW: For me, the Black West is wherever the people are. Post slavery, I know for many freed men and women, the West represented a place with no chains or borders, and an escape from the oppressive South. Of course, we know that during that time there wasn’t really a place where a Black person could live without the looming fog of white supremacy and terror. However, the West was romanticized as a place where a man could be free, and forge his own way ahead, and Black people grabbed at that opportunity and never looked back. Which is how legends like Bass Reeves, “Stagecoach” Mary Fields, even outlaws like Nat “Deadwood Dick” Love, could go out and forge their own way ahead, despite being born into slavery. Today, the descendants of that cowboying tradition carry the Black West wherever they are, be it Oakland, Compton, Tulsa, Charlotte, Philly, or even Brooklyn.

    NYFA: Legacy screened at DOC NYC and also won Best Short at the March on Washington Film Festival at the White House, which is amazing! How did this come about, and how did that moment feel?

    AW: I can’t talk about this without first mentioning our [NYFA New York City campus] documentary chair, Andrea Swift. This woman has this amazing knack for putting her students in the right place at the right time, introducing us to the right people, and overall just setting us up for success.

    My class (of 2015) was the first to screen in the DOC NYC U program, which was just an incredible opportunity. And if I do say so myself, being up there with NYU and Columbia … NYFA Docs were pretty strong! So that experience alone, screening at a major doc festival so shortly after graduation, was surreal. I even posted about it on Instagram, and Ava DuVernay liked my post and commented … my head just about exploded!

    During DOC NYC, Andrea introduced me to one of the programmers, Opal Bennett, who also happens to program for March on Washington. She suggested I submit. I was thrilled just to be accepted to March on Washington — I had no clue it was a competition. So you can only imagine my shock when a few weeks after learning I was accepted, I found out that I had won for Best Short.

    Then, to add to the excitement, we learned that we would be screening at The Obama White House! The actual screening was very bittersweet for me, though: The day I learned that we’d be screening at The White House, I called my grandfather to invite him. We lost him very unexpectedly later that day. So for him to have been a huge inspiration for the film, but not be able to attend that special screening … it was a pretty emotional day for me.

    “Legacy” Trailer from Amy Wright on Vimeo.

    NYFA: So many times we see Black culture and Black women especially portrayed on film — and behind the scenes — in subservient or tertiary roles. As a minority woman director, what are the stories you see that still need to be told?

    AW: I think right now there’s an active push to present images that counter the mainstream narratives about people of color and women of color. I mean, right now we have Black Panther, this huge blockbuster about a non-colonized Black, African people. That in and of itself is revolutionary. And it was shot by a woman! A whole action film, shot by a woman.

    Visibility is key. Personally, what I would like to see are more stories about people of color that have nothing to do with the fact that they are people of color, because in many ways, unapologetic Blackness is inherently political. So it’s cool when we see things that show, “Hey we live normal lives and experience human emotions just like everyone else.”

    In Detroit, right now, there are people who have repurposed the empty lots for beekeeping. They happen to be Black. That’s so dope to me, that as a people we do these incredible, regular things just like anyone else. That’s what I’d like to see more of.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    AW: Right now, I’m writing and producing an exciting project with former NBC journalist Darieth Chisolm called 50 Shades of Silence, in which we chronicle her terrible experience with revenge porn and her mission to have legislation passed to protect victims and punish perpetrators. We were recently featured on Dr. Oz and The Today Show with Megyn Kelly — you should check us out!

    Also, I have been developing another (currently untitled) documentary feature about the Shreveport six that’s really near and dear to my heart. In 2010, six Black kids drowned in the Red River in Shreveport while trying to save a friend. That friend survived. It’s a tragedy that shook an entire community, and there are rippling effects of that tragedy in Shreveport to this day. But more to come on that … I don’t want to give too much away.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Amy Wright for sharing her story with our community. Learn more about 50 Shades of Silence here.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Master Class Professor Jeremy Xido’s Film Selected for Spotlight on Documentary at IFP Week

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    New York Film Academy Documentary Filmmaking master class professor Jeremy Xido’s newest documentary “The Angola Project: Detroit” was selected for this year’s Spotlight on Documentary at IFP Week in September.

    “The Angola Project: Detroit” will feature alongside over 145 documentary projects at the IFP Week event in September in Brooklyn, with nonfiction media spanning formats from feature film to web and television series. As IndieWire notes, this year marks an impressive expansion in IFP Week’s programming, with additional slots for exhibitions, guest speakers, screenings, and more.

    The Angola Project: Detroit TRAILER 2017 from CABULA6 on Vimeo.

    Jeremy Xido co-wrote and directed “The Angola Project: Detroit,” which draws on his live-performance piece “The Angola Project.” The film is centered around Xido’s return to Detroit for the first time in 20 years to perform, and, as Xido states on his official website, “The film will be a collision of the mythological Detroit in my artwork and the contemporary city currently undergoing another round of radical change. Having left as not much more than a boy, I return as a young father, hoping to find personal reconciliation and a sense of home for me and my family. But I arrive to a city engaged in a fierce battle over it’s identity. The fashionable hype around Detroit’s great turn-around is tempered by the United Nations’ citation of human rights abuses for denying citizens access to water. Bold construction projects are offset by an unprecedented number of evictions. It is a city suspended between hope and fear: the profound hope for a better future and the numbing fear that rewards reaped by some will just be the next cycle of suffering for others.”

    Xido’s work on “The Angola Project” has also inspired his TEDx Talk:

    The film also features NYFA documentary graduate Amy Wright as an associate producer. Wright is an award-winning documentarian in her own right: her film “Legacy” won Best Short at the March on Washington Film Festival, which was held at the White House in Washington D.C.

    Quoted in Filmmaker Magazine of their feature film programming, IFP Executive Director Joana Vicente says, “This year’s feature film program doesn’t shy away from tackling the controversial and key issues of our time. Art often reflects the times we live in, and this slate certainly represents a multitude of points of view and perspectives on America today. Through the lens of race, religious expression, disability, female empowerment, immigration, truth, political correctness, radical inclusion and disenfranchisement, our artists pull no punches sharing their stories, demanding attention for the visions they share.”

    For more information on the IFP Week Screenings, click here.

     

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • NYFA Doc Grad’s “Legacy” Wins Award at the White House

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    The tradition of cowboying is alive and well—in Brooklyn. In former New York Film Academy Documentary student Amy Wright‘s film, Legacy, which premiered at DOC NYC in 2015, Wright takes a glimpse into the lives of the men and women who comprise The Federation of Black Cowboys. From trail riding in Virginia, to giving riding lessons to kids back in Brooklyn, The Federation ensures that the legacy of America’s forgotten black cowboys will live on for generations to come.

    amy wright award

    This Wednesday, July 20, Wright’s film was recognized and awarded Best Short by the March on Washington Film Festival, which was held at the White House. The March on Washington FF strives to increase awareness of the events and heroes of the Civil Rights Era and inspire renewed passion for activism. The festival uses the power of film, music, and the arts to share these important stories.

    “I accept this award in honor of my late grandfather, who was the inspiration for the film,” said Wright. “I’m so glad to have been able to share the legacy of black Cowboys with the world.”

    In her film, Brooklyn’s own Federation of Black Cowboys ride the trails, transport inner city kids off the streets and onto horses, and work to preserve and celebrate the legacy of the forgotten 1/3 of old west cowboys who were Black. Wright shines a light on the lesser-known aspects of Black history. Her journey with the Federation of Black Cowboys, from urban Brooklyn to rural Virginia, reveals the nuanced intersection of Black culture and American iconography.

    “The making of Legacy has been a whirlwind experience, from pitching it in the one year NYFA doc program to its screening today at the White House,” added Wright.

    “These cowboys have character in every sense of the word, from their quiet integrity to their colorful personalities,” says Andrea Swift, Chair of the Documentary Department, New York. “Seen through the lens of Amy Wright’s camera, scions of the American West like Captain Lee, Rabbit, Momma, Bug, Magic and Mountain Man fill the screen and the imagination with an unconventional vision of life on the range—if the range was Brooklyn.”

    Wright’s film is yet another shining example of the high quality, award-winning films that haven been produced with the New York Film Academy’s Documentary Program.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • NYFA Grad Interviewed on SHOT 97 to Discuss Her Documentary ‘Legacy’

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    The culture and tradition of Cowboying is alive and well…in Brooklyn. And it’s as Black as it ever was. This was the subject of New York Film Academy documentary graduate Amy Wright‘s film, Legacy, which recently premiered at DOC NYC, along with four other NYFA films.

    legacy

    Wright’s journey with the Federation of Black Cowboys, from urban Brooklyn to rural Virginia, reveals the nuanced intersection of Black culture and American iconography.

    “These cowboys have character in every sense of the word, from their quiet integrity to their colorful personalities,” said Andrea Swift, Chair of the NYFA Documentary Department. “Seen through the lens of Amy Wright’s camera, scions of the American West like Captain Lee, Rabbit, Momma, Bug, Magic and Mountain Man fill the screen and the imagination with an unconventional vision of life on the range — if the range were Brooklyn.”

    This week, Wright was interviewed by SHOT 97 radio and, for those who missed it, we got you covered!

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    November 20, 2015 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5853