What color was your doll? Was her hair straight and blonde? Her nose upturned and pert? Did she resemble your older sister? Did she dress like a movie star?
Was her name “Trichelle?”
Christina Bryant thought about dolls as she read a short article about “Trichelle, Kara and Grace.” The three, with long flowing hair, are sold prepackaged in designer clothes and accessories. Mattel markets the dolls to “celebrate the diversity of African-American Girls and encourage positive themes.”
Many of us read the article and moved to the next page. Bryant made a documentary. Her film, “Sold,” expressed some the questions and much of the frustrations she felt as she researched black dolls.
Bryant, a 2007 graduate of McKeel, naturally expressed herself with film. Television Production classes at McKeel Academy led her to a Film Production major at Ithaca College. Early jitters in front of the camera helped her find a love of being behind the camera. Classes in film theory, production and scriptwriting have helped her start developing her own cinematic voice.
Born out of her work on “Sold,” Bryant’s Senior Thesis is “Jemila’s Tale,” a short film about a young girl whose library runs out of fairy tales. Currently raising funds for the production, Bryant sat down to answer a few emailed questions:
Lakeland Local: How did “Sold” come about?
Christina Bryant: While “Jemila’s Tale” is fiction, “Sold” was based on my own inquiries of a Yahoo online post about Black Barbies. In three months, I researched Barbie and Black history, visited a doll museum in Philadelphia, interviewed young Black girls, and delved into my own identity as a Black female. I’d say the film is more a reflection than anything else.
LL: What about “Jemila’s Tale?”
CB: As a cinema student at Ithaca College in Ithaca NY, my final course as a senior involves making a thesis film. This film is to be the culmination of all my skills developed at Ithaca. The story for the film came to me in March when I decided that I really wanted to work on a fictional project that talked about representation. Fairytales have often been cited for excluding people. I thought what if a little Black girl decided to make a story with characters that looked like her. At the time, I was still in the midst of producing “Sold”, a project for a documentary course.
As for now, my team and I are working on the preproduction for the film. This involves casting actors in/around the Ithaca area, assembling a student-only crew and building sets/ designing costumes while juggling a full course-load. As we mention in the pitch, we are creating a live fairytale in a little girl’s room. The funds we raise are going directly to art supplies, costumes, and 16mm film costs. It’s a mighty challenging feat on a student budget with a production timeline of less than four months. However, we are confident that with generous donations, we can bring our vision to life.
LL: As a filmmaker, do you consider yourself primarily a writer, director or producer? Or do you hope to juggle all the duties to make your own films?
CB: Film has taught me the art of juggling many hats. I think it depends on what the project calls for. All of the short films I’ve produced at Ithaca have been fueled by personal events in my life. Sometimes it’s too close to home, so I feel that only I can write and direct it. Other times, I’ve happily stepped back to collaborate in a supporting crew position. In the professional world of feature length filmmaking, I stand back with much more of an appreciation. I say if in the future, I am called to write, direct, or produce a project, I will. In the meantime, I want to find work in film festivals. I’m currently a volunteer film programmer with the United Film Festival based in Los Angeles and it is a great opportunity. Even though I’m not involved in making a film, I watch. There’s something magical about seeing someone’s project for the first time and knowing that you can possibly get a much larger audience to see it. That’s the great thing about film. I can participate in so many ways because I just care about sharing well-crafted stories.
LL: Would you say you see yourself concentrating on documentaries, fiction projects or a mix?
CB: Again I try to follow where the inspirations of a project take me. “Sold” for instance, could not have been a fiction piece. I didn’t want it to be clean or scripted because that wasn’t how I felt at the time. “Jemila’s Tale” is a mixture of the remnants of the frustration I felt while making my documentary but with some softening fictional distance. Why not show a little girl creating her own story in order to talk about representation in fairytales? Whatever method best gets the message across, I think.
LL: Do you still consider Lakeland “home” and plan to return here after college or do you plan to move elsewhere to make films?
CB: After college, I would like to travel across the US and the globe. Lakeland was the perfect place to grow up for me. It’s familiar and not too big or too small. However, I feel that if I have the opportunity, I would like to stay for extended periods of time discovering the film opportunities of different cities.