By Joslyn Rose Lyons
I knew, from a very early age, that I wanted to make movies. I didn’t know how I would do it, I just followed my passion and it’s continued to lead me on this path.
Documenting the creative process has always inspired my work. I created The Museum of Light, where artists such as Robert Glasper, Rafael Casal & Daveed Diggs, and Pharoahe Monch talk being alchemists and the courage to create. My first documentary, “Soundz of Spirit,” (Common, Saul Williams, Andre 3000, CeeLo Green) similarly explored the creative process and spiritual connection. Seeing artists in their element, along with my passion for music, is often the spark or light, that guides the direction of my work. It led me to produce the first Music Matters Grammy Showcase with PJ Morton, and Mack Wilds at the Creative Artists Agency, and content for HBO, OWN, and Vh1.
I’ve learned that it’s important to exercise different creative muscles. Earlier this summer, I produced the BET Experience Celebrity Basketball Game with Nick Cannon, The Game, and Chris Brown and I’m currently producing two documentary films; “Tale of the Tape” (history of the mixtape in hip hop w/ Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar) and “Tale of Four Cities” on gentrification in Inglewood, Oakland, Brooklyn, and New Orleans. I’m producing these films with my long time collaborators Malik K. Buie at Red Summer Photoplays Inc., and Theron Smith at Kings County Cinema Company.
One common theme with many of the projects I work on, is that they are often predominantly a male cast and crew. However, I don’t see myself as a woman in film first. I see myself as a creative, and it’s this energy that draws me to unique opportunities. Documenting Erykah Badu’s creative process while recording the New Amerykah Part II on her Vortex Tour Bus was so inspiring, as was directing videos for Talib Kweli, Chad Hugo (The Neptunes), and being the first female director for E-40, and Too $hort. I directed an in-studio acoustic performance with RCA recording artist Mali Music where women such as Wendy Raquel Robinson and Brely Evans defined ‘What it means to be beautiful’.
One of the greatest challenges I’ve faced in my field, whether it’s hip-hop content, sports shows or music videos, has been wanting to be seen as a Director or Producer first, and as a woman second, when it’s so often seen the other way around. The way I’ve learned to overcome this is by allowing the passion that I have for my work– that same passion that has motivated me to create and inspires all of the projects I’ve been a part of – to be the driving force behind my work. When you are seen as a woman first, and not for your talent first, your creative abilities are often shelved. I’ve had to prove my artistic abilities, my skills, even at times my intentions, just because I’m a woman, in order to be seen as a professional.
When someone is truly passionate about what they’re doing, it’s undeniable and that shows. My colleague Saul Williams once posted this quote and it really resonated: “An artist, if he’s unselfish and passionate, is always a living protest.” -Pier Paolo Pasolini