In our latest episode on JARO’s podcast, Indianapolis-based filmmaker Kimberly Stephens spoke with Tomeka Winborne about her journey in the film industry.
Stephens, who recently had her national acting and directing debut with the True First documentary series, weighs in on the challenges of being a filmmaker, future projects, and what makes it all worthwhile, despite the hardships.
As a self-taught woman filmmaker in a male-dominated industry, she offers valuable advice to aspiring filmmakers. “Sometimes, you can be your own worst critic. Even if you may not have the camera equipment that you would like to have, or have the staff of people you’d like to have, the important thing is to get the project off the paper and have it visually seen,” she said. Indeed, being unable to afford the highest quality camera equipment should never deter creatives from pursuing their dream. There have been a rise in Award-winning films shot entirely on an iPhone, such as Sean Baker’s Tangerine and Stephen Soderbergh’s High Flying Bird, which is currently streaming on Netflix.
“If you believe in what you’re doing, you’ve got to get out of the starting block. Make sure your project is of good quality. It’s a growing experience, so it may not be perfect the first time. But the more you do it, you’ll get better at it. Get started. Be forgiving of yourself,” said Stephens.
Stephens’ voice as a filmmaker lies in telling stories about ordinary humans who have done extraordinary acts. The True First documentary series, which recently aired on Urban Movie Channel, sheds light on such unsung heroes. In it, Stephens portrayed “Stagecoach” Mary Fields in the first episode of the series, who broke barriers in the 19th century by becoming the first African-American female star route mail carrier in the United States.
Previous projects by Stephens include short films such as Two Days ‘Til Sunday, which explores a teenage girl’s internal struggles with Christianity following the devastating Charleston church shooting. Her short film The Diner was inspired by the shocking election of Trump, and follows a Trump supporter who must confront everything that he hates. “I do my most creative writing and projects when my soul is stirred by a social event that is unsettling,” she explained.
In the future, she plans on creating films featuring topics that are often considered uncomfortable. With Uncomfortable Truth, Stephens will tap into the lives of women and men who have dealt with tragic situations, yet are still finding a way to serve this planet and help others. “Through my filmmaking, I want people to know that what we have to say is relevant. As woman, our souls are full of beautiful things and we make a difference on this planet,” said Stephens.