To better understand an independent movie producer's role, I sat down with Tamala Baldwin, a movie producer of the hit web series Bubbly Brown Sugar.
Dr. Neva, let's start by telling us a little about you and why you got started?
Tamala: Hey! Thank you so much for having me. I am so excited to be here. So, why did I decide to become a filmmaker? I guess there are several reasons. I wanted to create stories that highlighted black women in a way that I could identify and relate with. I remember when I was flipping through the television, and there would be a whole bunch of women yelling and just any kind of stereotype that you can think of. That is all that you would see. I know that throughout the entertainment history, that is pretty much what happens across the board, but it's usually balanced by seeing other types of images. At that moment, I was not seeing any other shows that painted black women a certain way. I thought rather than complaining about it; I should fill the gap and be the change.
Dr. Neva: Is this your passion?
Tamala: I'm an artist. I sing, write, dance, and tell stories. That is pretty much what I do, I tell stories with my vessel, with my body. So, it is definitely my passion. Writing is something that I loved first. I remember being a little girl, writing my own episodes to The Cosby Show and A
Different World. I was in high school, writing sitcoms and showing them to my English teachers and asking for feedback. This is definitely my passion. I only started writing again seriously about 2 or 3 years ago because something happens. We are conditioned to think
that, "Oh my gosh, you won't be able to survive if you pursue a writing
Dr. Neva: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start in the filmmaking industry?
Tamala: The advice that I would give is that you must be tenacious. You have to be hungry and hardworking.
Unlike any other industry, if you put in the time and build, you can expect an x-amount of results. But when it comes to art, any art, I believe, there is no guarantee. You have to be dedicated and just hungry and persistent. Also network, I think it's really important to network and develop relationships. Developing relationships and networking is also an art. Do not be the one that goes to the meeting and hands out business cards and be like, "Hey, I'm an actor."
People remember how you make them feel. Connect with people as you try and build your career. Persist, persist, and persist. You are going to get tired. What is going to keep you motivated in the long haul.
Be tenacious and be the hardest working person in the room and be kind.
Dr. Neva: What degree, if any, or certification should one get?
Tamala: I do not have a degree, but I think it is important to train. I have taken screenwriting classes. I do take acting classes, and singing, study. It is up to you. A lot of people that I do know do not have degrees in film. I know that Deon Taylor, who I do love his work, does not have a film degree. But it depends on your goals and your money. I sometimes think that if you are the kind of person that can self-study and teach yourself, then go for it, but people do like to see training on your resume, especially if you're looking for a job. You can get a BA or an MFA in filmmaking, screenwriting. You can get certifications in that as well, so it depends.
I do not have those. I do not have those. I do have my MBA in media and business, but I am just training. Independently.
Dr. Neva: What are some obstacles they should prepare for?
Tamala: With anything that you are trying to do, you are going to encounter hurdles. So, I guess the obstacles you may encounter are that it is not a solo kind of journey when it comes to filmmaking. You really have to rely on other people to make things happen. It isn't really an obstacle, but if you're the kind of person who likes to do things alone, you will have to release that because when it comes to producing film, TV, you're going to have to get used to working with other people. Trusting other people and relying on other people to help you execute an idea.
Dr. Neva: How long does a process take for you to see a financial turnover? So, you know, in other words, I am asking about the money.
Tamala: How long until you see a financial gain? I do not know. I am still waiting. I think the point is to create a product. With any other business, you do not worry about making money until you have a good product. So, become great at writing. Become great at creating great films, and then I think the money will come. You cannot put out a crappy product and then be like, "Why don't I have a lot of money?"
The same principle applies to filmmaking and showbusiness. Focus on telling a great story and creating a great product.
Dr. Neva: And, finally. What advice would you give to upcoming artists and upcoming film producers?
Tamala: Establish relationships. This is definitely a relationship game. Work hard. That is with anything. But I feel like, with this industry, we have to work extra hard. Develop cool relationships. Get involved with networking groups and organizations and start chiming in, in the conversations. And if you are a writer, continue to write, write, write, write, write, write, you have to write. You have to write and produce and get things out there.
If you are new, take on projects that pro-bono. Collaborate with people to get your name and some credits out there.