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Janicza Bravo photo, wearing a cardigan sweater, standing in front of a body of water, looking off camera to the right. Surrounded by neon green frame.

Episode 2

Janicza Bravo

Maori is joined by filmmaker Janicza Bravo. Their chat encompasses everything from accountability and friendship, to her hands-on creative process and the importance of choosing your battles, to her latest feature Zola and a shared childhood obsession with Barbies! Get into it.

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Janicza Bravo photo, wearing a cardigan sweater, standing in front of a body of water, looking off camera to the right.

Janicza Bravo is a writer and director based in Los Angeles. Her background is in theatre. Her film work has screened at AFI, BAM, Carnegie Hall, SXSW, Sundance and Tribeca. Bravo’s feature film debut Lemon premiered at Sundance and was distributed by Magnolia Pictures. Her second feature, Zola, premiered in competition at Sundance and will be distributed by A24 domestically and Sony International. Variety named her a director to watch in 2020.



Produced by Patrice Worthy and Farrah Rahaman

Edited by David Adams.

Engineered by Mike Mehalick.

Music supervisor: Rashid Zakat.


  • Theme song composed by Vijay Mohan and remixed by David ‘DJ Lil Dave’ Adams.
  • Additional music in this episode: “Solidarity” by Helsinki Headnod Convention


Show notes written by Irit Reinheimer

Show Notes

Zola (directed by Janicza Bravo 2020)

Juneteenth” Atlanta (FX, 2016)

Houston” Mrs. America (FX, 2020)

“The Lake House” Forever (Amazon Video, 2018)

Why ‘Zola’ Filmmaker Janicza Bravo Isn’t Sweating the Sundance Premiere (Angelique Jackson, Variety Magazine, Jan 23, 2020)

Hood Feminism (Mikki Kendall, 2020)

Candace Owens: “A Timeline of Cardi B & Candace Owens’ Political Debate” (Heran Mamo, Billboard, September 10, 2020)

Deana Lawson

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)

Suffer Rosa

Janicza Bravo’s Top 10 (Criterion Collection, 2017)


Maori Karmael Holmes (00:00:02):
You’re listening to Many Lumens where we talk about and find meaning in the intersections of art, social change and popular culture. I’m your host Maori Karmael Holmes. In this episode, I speak with filmmaker, Janicza Bravo. We chat about everything from accountability and friendship, to her hands on creative process and the importance of choosing your battles. We also talk about her latest feature Zola and our shared childhood obsession with Barbie’s. Welcome Janicza. Thank you so much for showing up to do this second episode of our new show, Many Lumens. I really had a good time talking to you at Sundance. And as you know, I’m a huge fan of your work. And I was really thinking about how Sundance feels like a decade ago.

Janicza Bravo (00:00:59):
Are you sure that wasn’t five, six years ago or in the last 200 plus days? I have aged. I I’ve thought about our conversation a lot this year. It was, it’s probably one of the best conversations I’ve had, I would say in, in my life around work. And you asked me questions that I hadn’t ever thought about or that no one had ever asked me. Uh, I think we touched on this a little bit that I feel I’ve heard, I’ve heard either Justin Simeon or Ava DuVernay say this, or Melina Matsoukas, where sometimes you’re in these interviews and no one’s asking about your references or your process. Like it’s so much about being in your body and working. And, and so you had asked me questions that were sort of like fantasies of the kind of questions I wanted to, I wasn’t, I’m not going to say I wasn’t prepared for them. I just had never been asked them. So I really had to, you really had me on my toes, you know, as you’re thinking about how to respond to questions [that] no one had ever really ever floated by me, you know, outside of like the intimacy of my collaborators or friendship. Thank you.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:02:25):
Thank you. Well, I, you know, in preparing for this, I was trying to think through what didn’t I get a chance to ask last time. And also, you know, I know for myself, I hate when people ask me the same questions that thousands of other people are asking me. So it was really trying to think through what could I have done differently this time that would not be, especially since Color of Change, released that interview as a podcast. So I was like, well, we can’t have the same interview out in the world twice. So anyway, thank you so much. So, you know, my understanding is you started in theater, you write direct and have very serious credits as a costume designer. Um, as a director, you have, I believe eight short films to feature films and numerous episodes of television. And I was wondering if you imagined that you’d be this accomplished or that this was how your career would look a decade?

Janicza Bravo (00:03:12):
No, no. I think that two decades ago, I’m 29. Okay. Let’s go back there, to 29. Uh, I had just been living in LA for about a year. No, I, I thought that I would be directing, I didn’t know that I’d be working so much in film and, and or TV. I had imagined film had been, this is going to sound sort of goofy, but how I thought I would get to do theater. So I went to theater school. I really wanted to be a theater director. Most of my friends who walked out of school as directors in theater or in film were people who had money. And I say that to me, they got to, they got to like stand in that job, but not have a job. You know what I’m saying? I’m a director, but they don’t do anything else. And, and somebody was paying their rent and, and you know, they had allowances and, and I got out of school and I was like, I am a waitress and a store employee.

Janicza Bravo (00:04:23):
That’s what I am. And I’m also a director, but that felt really, that didn’t even really feel like a top three in a way. Right. And so I really wanted to direct theater, but it’s so challenging how you arrive at that. And so the option was to consider grad school and then that’s how I would get there. But like, I’d already had a massive debt from going to undergrad. So it’s like, is the idea that I should be like half a million dollars in debt, like before 30? Is that the swerve that I’m looking for here right now? And so I thought film, it felt somewhat more accessible because my friends who were directing, they were saving money and making small things. And, and also it felt more accessible because you, you left with something tangible, right? Like if you direct a play independently, all you had was the stories or memories of that.

Janicza Bravo (00:05:17):
Then I guess the photos, but like that doesn’t say. So I thought if I could somehow traverse like the film, the film, a video music, video space that then I would be able to somehow get back to it. So at 29, if I’d been asked, like, where are you going to be in 10 years? I would assume that I would be directing theater. Um, I don’t, whatever the off-Broadway version is in Los Angeles, I’d be directing theater here. And maybe sometimes I would get to work in film. But my thinking was that in my, if I looked at someone had asked me, like, what do you think your whole life will look? And I’m like, my whole life will be that I will have directed four or five films and that I would have mostly done theater. And I think I’m fully on an inverted right now. So I don’t know if I’ll get to go back to the theater and especially right now, whatever we’re inside of. I really don’t know what that looks like. Yeah. So no, the answer is no,

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:06:23):
I’m curious, are you a person — cause I am not [this type of person] — but do you have three or five year plans, do you think in that way?

Janicza Bravo (00:06:31):
I don’t. I actually feel it’s a luxury to think like that. I heard this interview this weekend with Gloria Steinem and she’d said it so beautifully because I don’t really think in the three, five, 10 I’m I’m sort of like a, what’s the Saturday plan. No, today’s Tuesday and I’m looking at Saturday. Um, and she’d said this thing about being able to plan or consider in that way is actually a luxury and like implies, implies maybe for some people like having, because you have, you can consider in that way. And a lot of people who are poor that have less are really just thinking in the day to day and I, while I am more financially comfortable in this moment than I’ve ever been in my whole life, I think that I am always still a little bit of a poor kid. I think I’m always going to be a little bit of a poor kid.

Janicza Bravo (00:07:27):
And so, you know, I’ll always have money anxiety for some reason, unless I’m married a billionaire, but I’m sure I’ll still be like stressed out. I’ll be like, it is only a billion after all, but just always have a little bit of like agitated anxiety around tomorrow. Um, so I really am thinking more. I maybe have like a year plan maybe. I mean, right before we started this, we were talking, the three of us were talking about being in this moment and trying to do your work and trying to plan for future work. And I find it, one of the scarier things is looking at what future work looks like. You know, I, I have committed to future work, but it’s so much in dot. Right, right. And I don’t totally know how to make myself comfortable with like, not from plans. Yeah.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:08:31):
I think there are some people — I totally relate to what you’re saying about…my mother would be horrified if I referred to myself as a poor kid, but I didn’t feel —

Janicza Bravo (00:08:43):
But I’m also like my parents aren’t listening to this,

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:08:46):
But I mean, I, I didn’t feel solid. Right. You know, and that, I relate to that. I felt like, you know, I was very clear about what things cost. I was that we didn’t have it. I was clear that I needed to work to have things. And so I share, I understand that, but I also know people who have similar backgrounds. I think the planning for them is this kind of security. So I think it’s a personality, it’s a disposition, but I hear what Gloria is saying around the sort of freedom to do that as well. There is a kind of luxury in that, but I also think for some personality types, it’s a necessity.

Janicza Bravo (00:09:18):
Yeah. That totally makes sense. I wonder if it’s also rearing, right. Like, I don’t know that I saw my parents plan like that. And if they did, they didn’t invite me into, it really felt like we were looking at the day to day. And I have only recently, like in the last year or two become comfortable with talking about not having had. And I think some of it is obviously shame. There’s tons of shame around that. But I also, my mom would be so sad if she knew that I talked about it in that way, because I think implying that you didn’t have also means that maybe you were lacking and I certainly wasn’t. And I don’t know if you feel that way too. Like there was always food. I always, you know, I got air Jordans cause I wanted her Jordan, you know, I we’re not offend Tommy Hilfiger and like, we were good, but there wasn’t access right there. Wasn’t like I knew when I was asking, I felt, I felt sometimes bad about asking for things because I knew there was a counting, you know? Uh, but yeah, so my mother would be mortified. And if she were ever, I would never like say it in a space where I’m like, maybe she would find that [inaudible] find that you can’t say that because I’ll have a lot of explaining to do. Someone told me to say that

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:10:41):
I have a, this is sort of related. Um, I’m curious for you, I was talking with a really good friend about their partner’s child, who they’re becoming very close to. And we were thinking about this child doing something that we relate to, which is world-building. And so I was curious for you, what kinds of toys you played with around eight or nine? Because I think that’s indicative of a kind of capacity to build. And so just wondering what you were playing with.

Janicza Bravo (00:11:09):
Wow. What a great question. I was a collector of Barbies and we are best friends. So I had at my cap, I had 110 Barbies and two Ken dolls. I had the one, uh, I didn’t have the really nice mansion that like opened. I didn’t have that one. I had the mansion that was three stories and had an elevator on the side. Um, and like a cardboard back, you know, with like a tub, but it’s like drawing. And then I had, I think two or three skippers, um, and I did full

Janicza Bravo (00:11:55):
Scenes scenes that would play out for, for days, weeks. And, and my parents knew that they had to leave the thing set up because we were mid scenes, you know? Uh, I think I remember mostly like stalls having sex and not obviously understanding the, the, uh, what, what is the term like the actual, like mechanics of how like intercourse happened? Because I had like, before, around this time probably been introduced to soft core porn, which I am by way of like watching red shoe diaries late at night, a satellite. So I had like, you know, I don’t even think Skinemax existed, but like whatever, wherever red shoe diaries, I think it was HBO or Showtime. So that like, I watched that. And so I thought like sex was just like pressing. So the dolls did a lot of pressing, um, too good deal pressing some people had tissue under clothes cause they were pregnant. Like I got the oppressed led to that. Um, and my parents just like, let me do that without editing me. So I think that, you know, that’s my earliest memory of directing is directing the dolls and their sagas, you know,

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:13:12):
Gosh, I’m, I’m 100000% relating to that. My mother, uh, didn’t want me to have dolls because it, you know, it was not a feminist thing to have these dolls and someone gave her dolls to me. She gave me $50 when I was nine years old and I lost my mind. And so I don’t know that I ever had a hundred, but I definitely had like maybe added 10 more to that collection. And also I didn’t have a house. This is says everything about my mother. I had, um, there was something that converted from an apartment to an office

Janicza Bravo (00:13:45):
Genius. It’s more like a nine to five story. Yes.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:13:50):
And then I would build, you know, their apartments with shoe boxes. And so I like made little beds for them. And I used our hand cloths is like their comforters and, but same thing, I had entire soap operas and also with photograph them and I have, I still have the phone.

Janicza Bravo (00:14:09):
Great. Can you, uh, regarding like the kind of story did you, did you do, um, what do you call it? Did you watch soap operas with your grandma or mom? Grandmother? Not my mother, but I wonder if that’s some of the inspiration of that kind of storytelling because it was like ridiculous. So I feel like general hospital and all my life to live. Like I think really, yeah. It really fueled my kind of storytelling. Yeah. Yeah.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:14:42):
Oh, I’m so happy to hear that. Cause I was, that’s what I was assuming we were talking about for my friend. He was talking about Legos and I think Legos and Barbies have a very similar, um, capacity of world-building so amazing. What was your focus of study in high school and what made you decide to go to NYU?

Janicza Bravo (00:15:00):
I, so I went to a science high school is called Midwood and it’s next to Brooklyn college and I really wanted to be a psychologist or psychiatrist. I’ve been in therapy from when I was little, uh, little being like eight or nine. I had started therapy. And uh, and then by the time I was in high school, I was doing individual therapy and group therapy. And I think my parents, it’s not because they’re particularly open people. I think I arrived at therapy because my mom and stepfather were separating and my mom and stepfather were separating and my mom was getting back together with my biological father. And I think that while no one wanted to talk to me about that, they understood that something was like off it’s rocker. So I think I should talk to someone about how I was feeling, which was like sad and confused.

Janicza Bravo (00:15:58):
That might biological father, who I had not met that much in my life suddenly was now becoming my dad. And so it was very jarring for me. So I started therapy very young and I really liked it a lot. I really responded to it. And so I thought I felt I would have been good at that. And it seemed like kind of a worthy my parents of course, wanted me to be a doctor because that felt like a real job. And I think they still are one. I think they realized the window is diminishing where that could be my next life, because I don’t think they told him they were like, what’s the job you have in this moment. So I, yeah, I wanted to be a psychologist or a psychiatrist and I also ran track and field. And so I really wanted to go to the Olympics.

Janicza Bravo (00:16:54):
That was like, my dream had been running since I was three or four. I had a coach, I apologized for the junior Olympics and I was like, I’m going to do that. But that has a cap, you know, runners and can’t, you can’t do that for the rest of your life unless you’re going to move into being a coach. And so my feeling was I would do that, then it would, you know, cap out at 24 25 and then I would go to medical school and be, you know, a doctor when none of these happened. None of them not, not a single one. None of them happened.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:17:26):
Well, I think there’s an interesting parallel between being a psychologist and a director though, because I think a really good director is basically playing that role with your actors. If you’re doing the kind of acting directing that you do, right? Like if you’re in the Catholic school of like, I’m getting in there with you, you have to be a really good listener and a therapist.

Janicza Bravo (00:17:46):
I think you’re right. I think there is a degree. I mean,

Janicza Bravo (00:17:50):
There’s obviously a lot of psychology and being in space and like being in half bodies where that you have to like play, but yeah, I hadn’t really ever considered that. I think you’re you’re right. Actually there is a certain, there’s a lot of listening and um, and there’s a lot of taking [inaudible]. Yeah. There’s a lot of listening and taking and being, and finding a sort of even, um, for sure. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s not, it’s not too. I’ll tell my parents that, that’s what I got from this. I’ll tell them almost the same. You guys,

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:18:32):
I wanted to move into something that I observe in you, you may not see it, but you seem like someone really grounded in like a sense of who you are. And I see that as a kind of freedom and I wanted to ask you how you got to be so free?

Janicza Bravo (00:18:48):
Wow. That’s great. Thank you. I really feel that too, but I’m meaning, I’ve feel aware of that in a way that I don’t, I don’t know how long it’s been per se, but I am in this like this year, last year, I would say, I really felt aware of my, of a kind of freedom that I had not maybe had access to before. I think that it has taken so long to get here, whatever here is that it has taken long to get to this part of the board game. And I, why I am where I am in this is because I have always been true to myself. It’s because I’ve been comfortable with saying no. And when I look back the moments that I feel bad about or sad about or moments where I didn’t stand up for myself or I felt unsafe, or I felt like I didn’t, I didn’t have my voice. And, and that’s not, that’s like 50, 50, right? I think most of the time I really stood out for myself. Most of the time I was really comfortable with who I was. And I just like, as I near 40, I think if I do get to be here for another 40 years, like this next chapter has to be more of the other thing and less of the one that didn’t make me feel good. Um, and like I said, it just, it took so long to get here. And I feel for

Janicza Bravo (00:20:48):
The first time ever beyond the like, Oh, I feel financially comfortable. I also feel a little bit, um, I don’t want to say set, but I feel like I’ve never, I have never in my life been like, I think I’m going to be okay. And I really think I’m going to be okay. And I don’t know why. Yeah. I just have like a sense of security that I haven’t had before. And I think that having financial security, emotional, mental, spiritual security has just allowed me to kind of be like a little bit, like, it. You know, I’m a little bit like, and if you don’t like it, you should go. I think the thing is, is that I’ve done a lot of editing in my life. Like editing of people, editing the people that don’t feel good, editing the voices that are working for me because you know, this, like in our professional life, we don’t get to edit as much.

Janicza Bravo (00:21:53):
I work a lot of times surrounded by like ghouls. So, so I try to like clean, like ghoul closet in, in the personal space. And I’m, I’m very active about like cleaning, like just today. I was like, Oh yeah, I think that person has to go. So we get that to wrap that out. Like I was like, yeah, that person’s not feeling good. So I think they’re going to have to go. And, and I find that it’s a little bit ruthless or maybe a little bit callous sometimes, but it’s what works for me. You know, I don’t need any naysayers. Like I said, like we just, we have to be surrounded by so many ghouls so often that we do not have a choice of whether or not we want to be around them. So where I do get to choose, I just like, I’m at a capacity for like bad vibes, you know? So it’s, I don’t, I don’t have time for that. So you gotta go. Yeah. So I think that that’s it. I just started editing a while ago and I realized that I am my best when I give a little less about how people see me. And then people also respond to me. Like people actually are like more turned on by me or more excited by me when I’m a little bit like, I don’t care about that.

Janicza Bravo (00:23:14):
So, and I liked her too. I liked that version of me too.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:23:17):
Do you have in your life like council of folks whom you lean upon with your work, like for critique and that you trust to tell you in stinks?

Janicza Bravo (00:23:27):
Yeah, I do. I, I hope that this is something I have a lot of anxiety around there. It’s to your question is too broad for me, or it’s doing too, too light thing. Two lights are kind of going off. And one is, I hope

Janicza Bravo (00:23:46):
That I always have that. I hope that I can,

Janicza Bravo (00:23:48):
Don’t ever arrive to a place that is so comfortable in my life. Like emotionally, financially,

Janicza Bravo (00:23:55):
I want as much as I want. Yeah.

Janicza Bravo (00:23:57):
You could always say yes to me, there was something really good about people saying no. Right. And I want to make sure that I always do have, like,

Janicza Bravo (00:24:04):
You can say no to me or people who are comfortable with pushing me or are just holding me up

Janicza Bravo (00:24:11):
Accountable. Right. Like, yes, I would like to just like walk into every room, just gliding. But I recognize that, like that that’s not actually that useful to me. Um, that kind of ease, isn’t a hundred percent useful. So I do hope to always have a jury of people who do hold me accountable.

Janicza Bravo (00:24:33):
Um, and I do have that.

Janicza Bravo (00:24:34):
I I’d like to have a few more people in that realm because

Janicza Bravo (00:24:38):
I think some of my people are just people

Janicza Bravo (00:24:40):
Who’ve been in my life for a very long time, you know, like my, my best friend of 20 plus years. And, um, and the reason I’d like to have more people is that it’s mostly men

Janicza Bravo (00:24:52):
And it’s people that I’ve known just for so much of my life. And I don’t have, I don’t have a woman in that group, actually. It’s all men. And

Janicza Bravo (00:25:04):
I think that there would be value in having a lady in that space, a lady or two in that space.

Janicza Bravo (00:25:10):
It’s cause it’s like a small group of men and it’s great. Yeah.

Janicza Bravo (00:25:15):
They’re great. Love them. They’re strong. They’re awesome. But um, I can also see how some people you grow out of. And I don’t mean grow out of the friendship. I mean, you grow out of like, this is where I am moving and you’re not necessarily like for instance, my last movie, the protagonist is,

Janicza Bravo (00:25:35):
And of those 405

Janicza Bravo (00:25:38):
People, two of them are white guys and one is my ex-husband and the other is my oldest friend. And with my oldest friend, sometimes when he noted, I was like, Oh, you actually just don’t understand this psychology

Janicza Bravo (00:25:53):
Of this person. And it’s not because

Janicza Bravo (00:25:57):
Ever since my psychology, but I’m like, you don’t understand the 1920 year old

Janicza Bravo (00:26:00):
Girl from Detroit, you just don’t get her. Right. So,

Janicza Bravo (00:26:06):
Well, many of your notes are totally valid, but like some of the things you’re bumping up against are just like who this person is. Okay.

Janicza Bravo (00:26:15):
Um, so it went

Janicza Bravo (00:26:17):
And I was working on that movie. I really felt like, Oh, I needed to bring a couple more people in, but you know, this it’s hard.

Janicza Bravo (00:26:23):
It’s hard. Yeah. It’s very vulnerable. And I it’s

Janicza Bravo (00:26:28):
Have to bring someone into like the vulnerable stage of your work.

Janicza Bravo (00:26:32):
Second draft one it’s,

Janicza Bravo (00:26:35):
That’s the embarrassing part. It’s embarrassing. So it’s gotta be someone else who’s like, I know and believe that it’s going to be good on the other side of it. And so it’s just, it’s a little scary to bring people in because not everyone’s there for the right reasons. Yeah.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:26:49):
Yeah. And I think it gets harder. What I’m noticing with, um, other friends who are in an, a sense similar to yours, that they’re holding on to those of us they’ve known for 10 and 20 years because you can’t, you don’t know why new people are around.

Janicza Bravo (00:27:06):
Exactly. It’s like my best friend since I was 19, I’m like, well, you knew me when my shat, my, my Schatz name, my stick, you know, my farts are bad, you know, I have weird gut stuff. So like, when you note me, I know that there is no other motive. Like he’s not, you never like trying to unconsciously make me feel bad about myself, where like that new person who, you know, I like, and they like me. I just don’t know. Yeah. I just, I don’t really have a lot of friends who do the same thing. I have friends who are writers. I have friends who work in production. I have friends who are producer. I have friends who do a lot of other things, but I don’t have a friend who is a close friend who is also a director. I don’t have that.

Janicza Bravo (00:28:01):
And I think that some of that is [inaudible] and I would like to, there, there are directors who I really like and one friendly with, but we’re not close. And I don’t, it’s sort of like when actors are friends, right. I don’t know how you get past the thing where someone’s like, Oh, I’m doing this now. And even if you don’t want it, it’s like, well, I’m not doing that loser. You know what I mean? Like, even if you don’t want it, like a, friend’s like I’m doing this thing for Netflix. And then I like, felt all weird about it. Not about them, but about myself, where I was like, well, why am I not doing that? And I was like, because you don’t want it. Like, I literally had to be like, Hey, you don’t want this. And I was struggling with, I was having two feelings.

Janicza Bravo (00:28:48):
I was having these feelings in parallel where I was really happy for them that they were moving forward. But then I started to ask myself like, well, where am I? And what’s going on with me? And I think the problem is, is that I think this is about actually like being a woman and being a person of color where I feel I was raised in the era of there’s only room for one and I am working against I’m trying. So I know, I intellectually know and believe that that is not true. But like my first, the first, my first layer of skin is still in that game. So I’m like, I start to just have anxiety that the pods are all running out or there’s not, you know, there aren’t enough kitchens or stones. I don’t know what the word is, but like, whatever it is is that it feels like the door is closing. And I start to have like panic around that. And I think that my contemporaries are around the same age, we’re doing the same thing. And I think we were all kind of reared that way. And so I feel like even if like it’s unconscious, but I think you have this weird, you have competitiveness with people where you’re like, I’m being left behind. I don’t want to be left behind. I want houses too.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:30:03):
Well, I’m having an extra thing because I wanted to be a director. And then I got pulled into other paths because just like not having enough confidence, people telling me I sucked, you know, all of those things and I look younger.

Janicza Bravo (00:30:19):
Well, they’re great. Those people are great.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:30:22):
I’m so thankful for them. But looking at this younger generation, like, and I hate to be like, Oh, I’m so old. But looking at like the pure millennials who are 28, 29, and the opportunities afforded to them after their first film who are black and who are women, I’m just like, I’m so happy for them. But I’m also like,

Janicza Bravo (00:30:42):
Well, but of course I made a first movie a few years ago that people were like, ill, please go away. I just think if it happened now, how, how would that be different? You know, I really, I think I was like, right at the end of like the, no, thank you phase that next year people were like, okay, we’re ready for black girls. They need to be making movies. And I was like, what? I was here. Oh, no one did that. But I, we talked a little bit about this before. I am really so grateful for how hard that was, because it, I learned a lot. It really taught, it taught me a lot about not only my own sense of self and expectation, but I just learned. I learned how to produce, because that was so hard. I really learned how to like, get my own done and how to also be okay with things, not being well-received, which it’s like a really harsh lesson.

Janicza Bravo (00:31:49):
Uh, but it has prepared me for like, you know what, lies ahead in a lot of ways. But yeah, it’s hard to not be jealous when it seems like some people’s roads are paved where ours were just gravel, but there’s also like a tenacity to right. That those kids has, like some of my, I have a handful of friends who are in their twenties and they just seem like really like tenacious and clear and clean and just like their sense of self where I’m just like, Oh my God, if I even had a fraction of that, I mean like 25, 26, if you told me I was stupid, I was like, you’re right. Go to sleep. Like, I am a dumb, dumb. And like, I think of just like some of those people that I dated at that age and how much they like just

Janicza Bravo (00:32:40):
Screwed me over, but I screwed myself over because I let them in and I believe them and then spent so much not constructive time trying to build myself up because I let these turds eat, you know, eat away at me. And like, I just, and I, and they, those, these, some of my younger friends seem to just like, not have that or if they do have people like that, they just know immediately like, Oh, they got to go. And I’m like, gosh, it took me so long to get there. Yeah. You know? I mean, I guess that’s what happens when you inherit something that’s so deeply rotted. There’s almost like no room, right? You don’t even have to not have self-confidence when there’s a clock in times square. That’s like the earth is over 105 days. I mean, you don’t have time. Like if you are 25 and that clock goes up, you’re like, well, I gotta be able to get, we don’t wrap up. We got to close some deals. I got to buy some stuff because I have to be like financially comfortable enough so that when the world is on fire, I can move to the top of the mountain because not everyone’s gonna be able to get there. You know? So I guess, I guess that’s, that’s what you get.

Janicza Bravo (00:33:59):
You’re listening to many lumens brought to you by Blackstar. Welcome back. You’re listening to many lumens brought to you by Blackstar. I want to pivot a little bit. Do you have any advice if you were giving to a, you know, an emerging director who was about to embark upon their first feature? Like, what advice would you give them?

Janicza Bravo (00:35:11):
Hmm, I think that there’s probably two things. One, I wish that you can’t have all of the fights. Um, we can’t have all the fights and I believe that you can have three fights in the process of a bill. You can have a fight in the pre-production stage. You can have a fight production and

Janicza Bravo (00:35:38):
You can have a bite at post-production. So I believe there are three fights you get to have, as my mother would call them, um, fits. Um, that that’s what my mom would say. Um, she would have to call them fits, or she could say you can get fresh. Um, that obviously these are, these are words only allowed to some of us in the, in this world here. But, um, so I really believe you’re allowed three fights. And all that is to say is,

Janicza Bravo (00:36:04):
I think once you, if you kind of ingest that, you’d get allows you to let more things like, kind of roll off your back because

Janicza Bravo (00:36:14):
Something to fight for almost every day, but you can’t, you just like mentally and emotionally, you can’t. And I think if you, and it’s also, it’s the law, it’s long haul long

Janicza Bravo (00:36:24):
Road. And,

Janicza Bravo (00:36:26):
And so I would say that’s kind of like number one advice is that you can’t fight all the fights. And then I would say the second thing

Janicza Bravo (00:36:33):
Is, you know, about trying to find your people, the people you want to build building, uh, you know,

Janicza Bravo (00:36:41):
In theater, it’s sort of like the troupe, right? Like who’s your theater troupe. And, and that it’s okay to walk away from. I think I like started thinking, like I needed to like show up with all my people. I needed to have my DP. I needed to have my editor and my composer. I need to have all those people. And I put a lot of pressure on myself to like, have a team. And so that when I didn’t have one of those people, I felt a little bit, like

Janicza Bravo (00:37:04):
I felt a little, I dunno, discombobulated or something. And so I think it’s okay if like you imagine

Janicza Bravo (00:37:11):
Those people slowly, or if you find those people that it is so important to build

Janicza Bravo (00:37:15):
Your team. I mean, I was thinking about this actually around the, the

Janicza Bravo (00:37:22):
Conversation of like fine, you know, trying to make Cruz more diversified and

Janicza Bravo (00:37:28):
Not the in front of the camera.

Janicza Bravo (00:37:29):
I think the in front of the camera conversation has, has been in this light Geist enough. And I think that there, there, yes, there could be more aggressive change, but I do think that like in front of the camera, that is happening. And so I, but I still feel like we’re a little delayed in the, behind the camera space. And I was thinking about like, when you look at this sort of old guard of filmmakers, right? Like someone like a Ron Howard or,

Janicza Bravo (00:37:53):
Uh, Steven Spielberg

Janicza Bravo (00:37:55):
Or leaving the Colin breaths, there’s like people who have their teams, like they have their teams and how, how hard it is to a master people. So that when you were on day one,

Janicza Bravo (00:38:06):
You’re 50 pages

Janicza Bravo (00:38:07):
Into the conversation. You’re not start day one is not page one and how that is such a gift. And so I think about like, well, how, how do you, how do you talk about like parody behind the camera when those people have their teams? You know, like they know they’ve got their like long running VFX guy, they’ve got their long running costume designer. And it’s really hard to change those people because you’ve like figured out how your, how your whole comes together, which means it starts

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:38:36):
Even earlier. Right. Because those, those teams get assembled when people are in graduate school or undergrad or working as PAs or, you know what I mean? And so we’re not talking about the entry is not there.

Janicza Bravo (00:38:48):
Absolutely. Which is why for so long, I was, I felt really bad that I hadn’t done his own school because I really felt like I had missed out on, on those early relationships, you know, um, the country club, it’s the country club of it. All right. Like I I’m, I met Dan and it was Chad and his friends, Joel, like I just looked in, I didn’t have those people. So I was like, I don’t, you know, I’m like, my kid doesn’t play tennis with his kid. Like I just didn’t have that. So it was like, how am I going to do this? But yeah, I think that the field thinking about like building your team, and it’s also like, when you do think of the movie, the movie, you know, the movie is a very long road. So it’s also like, am I going to want to talk to this person for the next few years?

Janicza Bravo (00:39:30):
Like whenever I audition anybody for a role, I don’t mean acting. I mean, like actually the like crew people or the post people, it’s like, I have to talk to you for how long, because I barely want to talk to you through this 45 minute conversation. So we’re not going to be able to do years because it’s years, you know, I don’t maybe in the streaming space where they’re, green-lighting like smaller movies, maybe those movies haven’t really fast because those scripts are, the scripts already exist. And they’re just as a director for hire. And maybe those do happen in like a year calendar because there’s so much infrastructure, but at least for me, and with original work, I don’t think everything is minimum two years minimum. So you’re looking at two, three, four, five years of making stuff. So you really got to want to talk to those people.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:40:21):
I want to say that I love your television choices. And I’m so curious, you know, one, you get some of the best episodes of some of my favorite shows. So we talked about Juneteenth from Atlanta. You have the Houston episode of Mrs. America. Oh yeah. I love forever. I love divorce. You know, I’m so curious how you evaluate what you’re going to take on.

Janicza Bravo (00:40:50):
You know, I say no a lot. And, um, I’m sure that people who represent me, who collected percentage of that are not always happy about that. Cause I do say no a lot. And I really, if I don’t care, I think so much about like, I mean, I’ve already said this about the job. That’s going to get you the house or the job that’s going to get your parents, the house or the job that’s going to get you, you know, like, uh, how the houses job. And I wonder like, when am I going to get a house’s job? Cause like really the way I’m working, it’s like apartments, but I don’t know. I don’t know that I’m maybe I’m not ready for a house’s job. I think that it took so long to get here. And I really, so I really cherish, uh, cherish the time that I get to spend doing this.

Janicza Bravo (00:41:51):
And I mentally and emotionally, if I don’t care, I have found for myself, I did one job as a it’ll get me this. Like I was like, I need to do this job because then it’s going to do this for me. I’ve done two jobs like this one in the commercial space and then one in the TV space. And they were really hard. It was really hard. It was just really hard to go every day. And it wasn’t even like that long, but it was just really hard. Cause I found I had one foot out the door the whole time emotional and I really, I bet people would be talking to me and I would be fading. And I was like, Jay,

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:42:27):
I was going to ask you, does your body shut down? Cause my body shuts down when I’m not supposed to do it. I’m so sleepy. I’m so, you know,

Janicza Bravo (00:42:34):
Oh, I wasn’t there. I was literally like, is there candy? I mean, I was like gone and I was like, this is dark. And it was so dark. Cause I could like, see I was in my body and I could see myself fading and I was like, SIS, we got to get it together because they’re watching and you’re fading. Um, so it’s very hard for me to be present if I don’t want it. So that’s like kind of, that’s sort of the main, I guess, step one. Um, and being a little bit picky. I’ve also just been really, I have been fortunate. I would say I have been fortunate in the TV space that most of the time when someone is asking me to direct I’m being sent usually like the Island episode. And I say the Island episode, they’re always like, this is the episode that leaves the show.

Janicza Bravo (00:43:29):
This is the episode that’s no longer like in divorce. It was like, we’re not in New York anymore. Or in Atlanta, it’s like, we’re leaving the show a little bit and miss America, we’re leaving the show a little bit. And dear white people, it was also like we’re leaving the campus. And I was like, I always seem to be leaving. It’s always like, this is going away from the thing that we built. And I think that it happened in forever too. It’s like now we’ve left the first two episodes and I’m like, Oh, okay. Um, I don’t really think I haven’t done an episode of TV where someone’s saying we’ve got to go where we are.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:44:02):
Well, you know, I was going to liken it to there’s something particularly in Mrs. America, where these otherwise minor characters for this one episode, get this moment of interiority, which is also something that I see as a through line in your other work. You can see the characters like Nia long and lemon or the house staff and woman in deep. Like these people who we shouldn’t be paying attention to, you make sure that we do. And I feel like these episodes are also these like the, you know,

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:44:32):
Either the minor characters getting the moment or the conventional leads on an unconventional trip they’re going away. And so I thought in this particular episode, it’s like so poetic that the characters name is Alice. And I was like, in some sense, it’s like a Wonderland. And so wondering if that vibes for you at all, you know, and I was like, really? I even wrote to myself, this is not a question. It was just sort of wanting to, you know, sort of bring that up because I feel like that’s what, you know, there’s definitely an absurdity in your aesthetic. And so feeling like you get the absurd episode, even in Atlanta, which is already absurd,

Janicza Bravo (00:45:09):
I think one of the hardest, one of the hardest things about, uh, television directing, I would say perhaps before the last few years, and I think it’s still true because I, I guess what I’m trying to say is there’s, uh, there’s a ton of prestige in the TV space. And I think a lot of the prestige and the TV space does welcome attitude. And when I say attitude, I mean like a director with opinions, right? Or like, they kind of like want, they want POV and they want you to come in and like shake it up. That said TV directing, even in the prestigious space, I think there is an umbrella you enter and there’s an ecosystem, there’s an established ecosystem and you have to find your footing in what those rules are. And I’ve been fortunate that generally when I’m invited, it’s like we do have an ecosystem, but in this episode we wanted this to happen or we wanted, so I’m usually invited in by people who already have a sense of they, there haven’t, they have some sense of my own vocabulary.

Janicza Bravo (00:46:14):
And so when I’m being invited in it’s because there is a little bit there’s room for things to go a little off, you know, off the chain. Um, and yeah, I don’t think only really a couple of times if I had been sent something, that’s like season four and it’s like episode five, but usually it’s also, I also oftentimes in doing like the eighth, the second to last episode or the third episode, and I say those to me and it’s like those first two episodes establish a world. So then something happens in a three or I’m doing the second to last because they’re like leaving before they go back to their end. You know? Um, it seems to be the space that I inhabited, which, and I’m so grateful for it. I mean, I really feel I’ve learned, I’ve been able short, short films, short films I made before I made my features, allowed me to like do this film school for myself and TV directing has allowed me to sharpen, sharpen those tools that, that I’ve taught myself.

Janicza Bravo (00:47:23):
And also because when I’ve made my own work, my work has been so small that, you know, being on a TV show and someone’s like, you want a drone for that? And I’m like a drone or they’re like, we got a crane for three days and I’m like crane, and I don’t even need it, but I’m like, we’re going to use a crane. We’re going to use the cream because I want to know how to use a crane or I want to know like how many people does it take to do that? How does that work? Okay, great. That’s a lot never doing that. That’s unless you have the money, I’m like, it’s a lot of debt. It’s a lot of time on the crane, unless you have the infrastructure for it. Or like, you know, my last feature, we only could use a steady cam for two days and you’re on a TV show where they’re like, there’s always a steady cam there and you’re like, you could, you, you could do the whole episode on a steady cam the whole time, the person who can do that.

Janicza Bravo (00:48:13):
So it’s just allowed me to flex my own muscles. Um, and because my shorts gave me room to fail, gave me room to fail without people really watching. And now obviously in the TV space, like more people are watching, but I have used it as an opportunity also to be okay with failing because it’s not mine, but really it’s more, I would say, maybe failing as a negative and opportunity to experiment and an opportunity to play with tools that I don’t have acts that I haven’t had access to. Um, so that, you know, I, I feel I get better with every, every episode. Um, and then I can take my, my skills to, to my own work or to other TV directing. Yeah.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:49:02):
I want to move forward to talk about your most recent film Sola a little bit. And, uh, back in August eight 24 released a trailer for Zola and people magazine ran a headline with the supporting actress, Riley Chios name instead of the lead Taylor page. And it was such a terrible moment, but also incredible because it illuminated, I think what so many of us have been saying for so long about the ratio of people of color and particularly for black women getting pushed all the way to the sideline, even in their own stories. And I don’t, again, I don’t have a question about it, but I just was curious, um, I loved [inaudible] clap back that they were there right away was so perfect. But just wondering if you had any reflections on that moment and you don’t have to, but also wanted to go into what attracted you to Zola.

Janicza Bravo (00:49:53):
I think, uh, I eight 24 did a great job. They were very proud of themselves, too. I had someone be like someone, I didn’t even know what had happened. I’m not on Twitter, which is wonderful for me. Uh, but I am on Instagram. So it’s like, I’m not on Twitter, I’m not on Facebook, but I’m on Instagram. So I’m like I’m hanging out in some cesspool. But I would say, I think those two are probably like the dumpiest. So I’m ma I missed it. And how I found out about it with someone from may 24, it was like, we dealt with it and I was like, dealt with what we’ve done with it. Don’t worry about it. The people stuff is handled and I have no idea what they were talking

Janicza Bravo (00:50:32):
And then within minutes,
Janicza Bravo (00:50:34):
So that I was like, great, glad you dealt with it. No clue. And rather than asking, cause I was having a thing where I was like, obviously I’m supposed to know what they’re talking about. So just move past it.
Janicza Bravo (00:50:43):
Someone else then sent
Janicza Bravo (00:50:45):
It to me. And they were like, that is so up. And then I like totally caught up and I thought they dealt with it really beautifully.
Janicza Bravo (00:50:51):
It’s almost like
Janicza Bravo (00:50:53):
We couldn’t have paid for better press. Right. Like they were sort of like, so that we released a teaser, a teaser for our trailer and they were almost
Janicza Bravo (00:51:03):
Like, uh, I don’t know.
Janicza Bravo (00:51:06):
It felt like a really great sort of like add on to the thing. That’s what the movie, the movie is about that. And then they did the thing that the movie is about. I mean, at the beginning of the year, I think it’s variety. Is it? Yeah, it was variety had printed this picture of me, but it was a different black woman, um, to being like, we’re so excited about Zola or something, but it wasn’t even me. It was somebody else. And they would like tweet it and put it on their Instagram. And I was just like, I mean, it is not exactly the same. It’s not like they put a picture of a white woman instead. It was me.
Janicza Bravo (00:51:43):
But, um, it’s
Janicza Bravo (00:51:45):
Through a similar umbrella of just like, not all the way considered and not all the way. Yeah.
Janicza Bravo (00:51:52):
That just, it just shouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t have happened in this year. Uh, I kinda love that they did it because
Janicza Bravo (00:52:00):
It means that the thing we’re talking about in
Janicza Bravo (00:52:02):
The movie is evergreen, right? Like this
Janicza Bravo (00:52:06):
Question of whether or not I actually was asking this too recently. And I don’t know if you’re wondering, like
Janicza Bravo (00:52:12):
I was watching, um, Lovecraft country and
Janicza Bravo (00:52:16):
I worked on this TV show, um,
Janicza Bravo (00:52:19):
That will
Janicza Bravo (00:52:21):
It’ll come out this year being the plan next year, that is an Amazon show that takes place in the fifties between it takes place between the South and Texas
Janicza Bravo (00:52:30):
And, and some of the thematics are the same. And I was talking to a friend and we were just like,
Janicza Bravo (00:52:37):
The conversation started because I’d watched Lovecraft. And I was talking about the comparisons to the show that I had just worked on. And then I was on their Instagram and somebody was like, I’m tired of race. I don’t want to see race anymore. And so the conversation, my friend and I were having who’s white,
Janicza Bravo (00:52:52):
I was like, are we, are
Janicza Bravo (00:52:55):
We entering race? Capacity is like written
Janicza Bravo (00:52:58):
It’s are we at, are we about to arrive at like our peak of like too much of this conversation? And, um, I don’t know.
Janicza Bravo (00:53:09):
No, I don’t, I don’t know. I don’t have the answer to that. And what I mean is obviously there’s a lot more room to make more work clearly. There’s like plenty. That’s not about,
Janicza Bravo (00:53:19):
Um, but somehow people start
Janicza Bravo (00:53:22):
Or to get tired when it says too much about women or they start to get when it’s like too much about black people. And so I just wondered if we had entered that. And what that said to me was no, there’s still room. Right. And whoever does that. And obviously it’s not about whether I think there’s room, it’s more like who decides it and who’s, green-lighting it right. Who’s actually like you, and I can make, say, we want to make whatever the we want to make somebody else has to pay for it. So it’s like, are people actually funding those stories? And I think that what people did in 2020, literally in the moment that we were in

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:53:57):
Of an uprising, tell me, no, it’s like

Janicza Bravo (00:53:59):
Only in the middle of protesting, we’re in the middle of being like this woman who was shot in her home and people were like, yeah, but there’s a white lady in the black movie and you’re like, huh, great.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:54:15):
At Sundance, we talked a little bit about the Zola’s story being at the intersection of David Lynch and Cardi B. And you know, I think that for me, feels like it’s the dark absurdist humor of Lynch, which you’re into. And then I think it also brings up this sort of hood feminism to quote, Mikki Kendall, or kind of lower frequency politics to quote Paul Gillray that Cardi. So fiercely embodies. And particularly at this moment, I’m thinking about her interactions with Candace Owens, but what were your references for the film and yeah. If you want to share those.

Janicza Bravo (00:54:50):
Yeah, for sure. You know, most of my references tend to be photographic more than movies. And I think that I tend to, I try to veer away from leaning really hard into movies because I’m a very good copier. Like I unconsciously will copy a lot and do that with accents. Oh yeah. I just like, if I love something, it will, it will embed itself. And not that I’m like, this is my idea, not that, but it will just embed itself and then I’ll re I’ll kind of repeat it. Um, so I try to stay away from watching movies for what I watched was like so insane, right. Where it was like, well, we’re not making Showgirls, but we should find girls. Um, so it was mostly folk there, there were a handful of photos that we kind of stayed in. I really, really like there are these two moments where we kind of try to replicate some of what Deana Lawson does in her work.

Janicza Bravo (00:55:55):
And, um, I responded so much to her portraiture because it felt like it’s sort of like John singer Sargent portraits, but like updated through black gays and black environment. It’s also so much about whether or not it’s black. I don’t know if she’s not photograph black people, but it’s like, it’s also like a Impraise of like where people are at. And what I mean is like, yeah, I had seen photos of a couple in a kitchen that looks like the kitchen that my parents had. And I had never considered that, that I’d never thought that that was worth photographing. I’d never thought through worth cementing that because I’d been embarrassed about the toaster, I’ve been embarrassed about the kind of fridge and that like, she basically like imbued the energy of like John singer Sargent’s work into a tier that had not really ever been documented except for tragic purposes, except for this is how the other half lives.

Janicza Bravo (00:56:56):
And so I like liked the energy of that kind of care. And so she was a really big inspiration for me. And there’s another photographer who I had met who’s Argentinian, um, who goes by the name suffer Rosa, like suffer less. And we are suffering and Rosa, R O S a who’s Argentinian who does a lot of spaces that are empty and D spaces throughout Argentina. Um, lots of, um, night work. His work is just so beautiful. And so I’d really like my cinematographer. And I had kind of like hung out in, in most of their work. And there were a few others, but those were kind of like our tent poles of what we had most admired. And then cinematically, you know, I S I asked the question of a few people where I was like, there are two questions. I was like name a movie that has a black woman in a white woman, his friends, almost everybody said clueless.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:57:57):
Uh, almost everyone. I was like

Janicza Bravo (00:57:59):
One of those, but then there’s also like other kinds of versions of that, where like, there’s like a slave and not a slave, you know what I mean? Like where they’re actually like meeting each other. And so clueless came up a lot. And then the other was like, can you think of, can you name a movie with a black female protagonist, um, who is empowered? And, uh, Pam Greer, a lot of people centered around like movies, starring Pam Greer in this period. And so, you know, I looked at coffee, Jackie Brown, um, as kind of the two we had narrowed in on. And then I really liked killing the Chinese bookie. Cause I had like really great lighting and strip clubs. And, um, of course we looked at show girls just cause like, I, that movie is so out of that, how does that happen? How did they make that movie? Have you seen that movie? Every time I watch it, I’m like how

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:58:53):
I haven’t watched it in forever. So I, like, I had saw it when it came out, but I don’t remember it,

Janicza Bravo (00:58:59):
It seems in it that you’re like, what’s the set vibe, like what’s happening? How are we talking about this? It’s so crazy. But I, I love it. Cause I think he’s quite easy, but I just like, I just like, he feels like an insane person. I mean, it just is like all of the ideas, right? Like if you look at what’s space, one with Arnold, Schwartzenegger where the woman has three breaths total recall. So it’s like a total recall Starship troopers. Like he just, um, it’s like acid, right? It’s like acid meets director makes movies. And I just think it’s such a like celebration of like just really radical.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:59:39):
I was watching a clip from the criterion collection that they’ve done of your films and you discussed not going to film school and openly admitting on set and in production when you don’t know something, which I think is really, really important. But I think in our sort of patriarchal white supremacist capitalist world, we’re supposed to have mastery, which is something that I really despise, right? Like even the language that we use about mentorship and you know, all these things, it does not acknowledge that different people have knowledge that they can share. And it also leaves us without room for play and discovery. And so it’s something that I have been, um, exploring as a manager right. Of employing people and making sure that I say, I don’t know, or I apologize when I’ve made a mistake, you know, trying to break down some of that. And I know there’s one, uh, two filmmakers in particular, Terence Nance, and Jenn Nkiru we’ve talked about trying to decolonize, you know, to use a sort of loaded word, but film sets. Right. Because they’re sort of loaded in this colonial moment and it is all about domination and war, right? Like every word we use, the language, the setup, there are in fact vets who run sets, you know? And so everything about it is so rooted in that kind of hyper-masculinity

Janicza Bravo (01:01:02):
Right. Like, yeah. Kind of like the shift stick almost. I, I liked the way that you used the word that you use the word colonialism. Cause I remember in my first few sets, I, I didn’t know that I could pick people. I mean, this is so good. I didn’t go to film school. Right. And I shouldn’t, but at least consider that or ask somebody. So I thought that, that the crew was so much about my producers are really putting the crew together and you know, I’d had opinions and I had met people, but sometimes people didn’t work or I only knew one or two people who could do a job. And if they weren’t available, then I was meeting their people. Like producers had set me up with, I think it was on my fourth or fifth shore, actually. It was woman in deep. I looked around and besides the black actors who were in it, who were basically like in, they were playing invisible people.

Janicza Bravo (01:01:52):
So besides the invisible people, there was me. And I was like, Oh my God, I’m on a plantation on a plantation. And I’m running it. This, everybody was white. Everyone was white. And I was the only cause it was at the very beginning of the day. So that past isn’t even there. So it was like, you know, we just were loading in. Um, someone had asked me about where was setting up craft services. Cause that’s like another fun thing that happens when I’m directing is that people are always like, where are you putting the chairs? So like I wasn’t sitting in the month, but anyways, so I, I had, it was super early. Someone had just asked me where I was setting up coffee. And then, um, as I was like being annoyed at that person and then looking around, I realized everybody was white except for me. And I thought, Oh my God, it’s a plantation. And I am the master. Um, and, and when I, and when that happened, I was like, Oh, it can’t be like this. And I don’t know if I’m allowed to hire people, but I have to hire people who also look like me because I feel crazy right now. Uh, and I totally interrupted your question, but you were asking about not knowing right. And being

Maori Karmael Holmes (01:03:06):
Well, I wanted to ask you just about, I mean, you’re, I think you’re sort of getting to it, but what are the ways in which you’re subverting tradition, right. And you know, how do you think we can do that? Moving?

Janicza Bravo (01:03:18):
You know, it’s in the TV space, it’s really tricky. And I, I try, but I feel that I haven’t really worked on something yet where this hasn’t happened and it’s always not. Uh, I, my relationship with actors is always pretty solid. It’s mostly like the crew as a lot of the people in most of the television shows I worked in are like older crews. And I find that there’s always a reset for me. And by that, I mean that even if I’ve had a strong day, when I come back the next day it’s as if yesterday didn’t happen and I have to start all over again and that’s really painful. And if I ever get to be in charge of a show or a set like that, I hope to some how like, undo that dynamic. But I do think it has to do with hiring practices.

Janicza Bravo (01:04:07):
You know, I feel like a lot of that is like government. It’s a trickle-down right? Like who’s actually at the top of those ecosystems, as I’m sure. Maybe it’s less about who’s at the top because I think that those human beings are really working at having a sense of control. And so when you’re working with an AED or aligned producer, I think those people feel powerless in a lot of other places in their life. And so when given this job that it is, it is a place for them to like really engage their sense of self and control. And so I think when someone like me shows up, uh, they are really drawn to like being able to control me and, and we tend to not work well together. Cause I’m like, where are you? Um, anyways, so I think in the TV space, that’s harder and in my own work, uh, it’s about who I invite in, you know, my, my crew who, the biggest for me about Zola, whether or not the movie does well or is like, when it exists in the world is that every department had, was a person of color

Janicza Bravo (01:05:28):
Or a woman. And we did that, like, you know,
Janicza Bravo (01:05:34):
Did that, it mattered to me. It really mattered to me. I actually set out just to make sure that it was mixed and then it just ended up being that way. And it didn’t,
Janicza Bravo (01:05:41):
I didn’t notice it until my production designer, like halfway through prep, we left a production meeting and she’s like, teach them. Now everyone’s a woman or a person of color. I stepped back. And I was like, Oh yeah.
Janicza Bravo (01:05:59):
I mean, I just hired who I wanted to work with and who I wanted to talk to. And yes, we, I had, I had met different, you know, I met men for parts where I hired women. I had met white people who were parts where I hired black people. And it just kind of like, I assembled the people that I wanted to spend that time
Janicza Bravo (01:06:14):
With and all ended up being
Janicza Bravo (01:06:16):
That way, which, you know, while working in Florida was presented its own challenges of bringing like, you know, having, uh, you know, a middle Eastern Ady, uh, with like mostly camera crews, like white guys, white, old guys under a female DP. It was like, you know, it had its own darkness,
Janicza Bravo (01:06:33):
Of course. But, uh, I,
Janicza Bravo (01:06:37):
I think that’s how it happens. And by inviting, you know, by getting to invite the people in, I was able to run the world the way that
Janicza Bravo (01:06:44):
I wanted, but it also had
Janicza Bravo (01:06:46):
Its challenges. It wasn’t a breeze.
Janicza Bravo (01:06:49):
And I think that for me, I am still in this bottom. I sound the way that I do. I love the way that I do. And,
Janicza Bravo (01:07:00):
And even with some of the people that I invite in, I have to prove myself to them. You know? Um,
Janicza Bravo (01:07:06):
I was like looking
Janicza Bravo (01:07:07):
Back on some of my relationship with my DP on this actually. And some of the moments where
Janicza Bravo (01:07:13):
I haven’t
Janicza Bravo (01:07:14):
Really voiced this out loud, but like some of those moments where she would be condescending towards me
Janicza Bravo (01:07:18):
And it was, but I believe it was unconscious. And I think it’s just, well, you didn’t go to film school and you don’t know what this equipment is called, you know, because yeah.
Janicza Bravo (01:07:30):
And talking about things in a sort of esoteric way, I’m talking more like
Janicza Bravo (01:07:33):
Color and that how she,
Janicza Bravo (01:07:36):
She was reared in the environment where she went into film school, being a woman. It’s like, you have to know what the things are called to be good at the job. And here I was coming and going, like, I’m going to the job. And I don’t know what the things are called. And you know what? I have no interest in knowing what they are.
Janicza Bravo (01:07:49):
Like. I was like, I don’t want to know what that’s called,
Janicza Bravo (01:07:52):
What it’s called. You bring it to the set. I’ll tell you what I want to happen with it. And that’s kind of like my attitude around working. And I think people are like very challenged by that.
Janicza Bravo (01:08:02):
Like, I don’t, I don’t need to know
Janicza Bravo (01:08:04):
What the things are called to be able to do it because I’m like working.
Janicza Bravo (01:08:07):
I drew pictures based on how I feel,
Janicza Bravo (01:08:12):
Feeling for me, it’s feeling to feeling, we’re telling the through feeling because in, in the world of theater directing, it’s not about the equipment. It’s, it’s, it’s the CA it’s the actors. The actors are literally all you have, you have actors on a stage and they have to tell your story. And to me, when I arrived at film, I was like, it’s the same, it’s the actress on the stage. And you invite the really good set designer, the really good costume designer, the great lighting guy. And they’re going to build a world around you. You’re all gonna build it together. But my job is to make sure that the actors are doing it because that’s who we’re walking. When you walk out of the movie, that’s the first thing. And if it’s not the first thing something’s wrong, right. Like if you’re like, that was beautiful, then it’s like. You know, it’s just like. That’s really like the kiss of death. You’re like, well, that was beautiful. And you’re like, Oh, I really like the score. Oh, those can be on the list, but you don’t want that to be the first, you know, um, again, I answered your question in 88 minutes, so I hope, I hope that was good.

Maori Karmael Holmes (01:09:16):
Oh, that was amazing. Um, I will wrap now. Um, but I thank you so so much.

Janicza Bravo (01:09:20):
Thank you so much. I really, really appreciate it. Like I said, my talk with you at the beginning of the year really stayed with me and it has come up for me a few times over the last, over the last 185 years that we’ve been in quarantine, but I really, really thought about it because you asked this question and I, I, I think I will. I wonder if I’ll ever have the answer to it. I feel like this is something I’ll have an answer to in like 20 or 30 years. And it was, the question was about who the audience is that you are making for who you make work for. And I, I D I have loosely thought about this question and, uh, and I don’t, I didn’t love my answer that I gave you then. And I don’t, and I really just thought about it regarding all of my projects, like who was it for? Um, so I really like that. Thank you. Thank you. [inaudible].

Maori Karmael Holmes (01:10:28):
Thank you for listening to this episode of many lumens, visit us at to subscribe and follow us on Instagram and Twitter. At many lumens, many lumens is brought to you by Blackstar. This episode was produced by Patrice Worthy and Farrah Rahaman edited by David Adams and engineered by Mike Mehalick and Dylan Garvin. Our music supervisor is Rashid Zakat. Our theme song was composed by Vijay Mohan and remixed by David DJ, little Dave Adams. Sending you light and see you next time.