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NYFA Faculty Jennifer Sharp On Diversity in Film & Creating 'Una Great Movie'

NYFA Faculty Jennifer Sharp On Diversity in Film & Creating 'Una Great Movie'

September 22, 2022

NYFA Instructor Jennifer Sharp behind the camera After graduating from an acting conservatory in 2000, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking instructor Jennifer Sharp quickly learned that as a Black woman, there were a limited number of acting roles available for her. In an interview with, she said, “I could either be Halle Berry or the ghetto girlfriend.” After coming to this realization, Sharp pursued independent filmmaking to regain control of her career. The NYFA filmmaking instructor studied acting and wrote her first short film with the intention to serve in the lead role. However, something changed. According to Sharp, “ I ended up directing it, and I never turned back ... I realized I belonged behind the camera.”

Sharp’s most recent feature film Una Great Movie, tells the story of Zoe, a Black screenwriter fighting to hear her voice over the Hollywood machine. Zoe, who is writing a story about a character named Susan, changes the script after speaking with studio executives. The script, originally about Susan’s reflection on her past relationship while on vacation in Mexico, turns into a romantic comedy with an all-white cast. Director Sharp shared with NYFA that in Una Great Movie, comedy was a vehicle for truth. She says, “I used comedy to reflect on relevant contemporary issues and shine a light on the absurd reality of the filmmaking industry.”

Sharp commits to creating the kinds of films she wants to see. The lack of representation during her own childhood negatively impacted her own perception of herself. As a result, Sharp works to ensure the next generation can see themselves in her projects. She says, “I’m thick. I’m not a skinny white girl…that influenced me as an artist. When I make movies, I don’t want to show just one body type. I don’t want to perpetuate that. I want to show beauty in all sizes.”

The director pulled from her own experiences with studios and rejection to build Zoe’s experiences, “For the most part, every bit of feedback Zoe receives in the film comes from lines straight out of rejection letters I saved.”

A still from Una Great Movie

The representation of Black people in Hollywood has improved in the last couple of years, but Sharp noticed a trend: many of the films were biopics or “revisited history.” With Una Great Movie, Sharp challenges stereotypes and places Black people in the present. By doing this, she creates a space for Black characters to exist in new ways outside the confines of history and martyrdom. “My film opens the door to (recognizing) Black people travel, and Black people can swim. It’s important for everyone to see [Black people] as humans doing human things. We just happen to have a different color than the people usually doing it. And that’s diversity – and that’s how we evolve.”

Una Great Movie is available for streaming on Amazon, Google Play, Tubi and Youtube.

NYFA congratulates Faculty member Jennifer Sharp on her groundbreaking film!

Please note: NYFA does not represent that these are typical or guaranteed career outcomes. The success of our graduates in any chosen professional pathway depends on multiple factors, and the achievements of NYFA alumni are the result of their hard work, perseverance, talent and circumstances.

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