The Reel Effect is thrilled to shine a spotlight on the exceptional talent and stories from the 2023 Black Girls Film Camp cohort of teen directors.
Over 200 young women applied, and these 10 teen directors were chosen and given the opportunity to write and direct their own short films! Their films were produced by Black Girls Film Camp, a 501c3 non-profit organization founded by Dr. Jimmeka Anderson and Sierra Davis. The camp provides a 16-week film program, where the teen directors learn about television and film production from industry insiders. These ladies also experienced an all-expense paid trip to LA to visit the campus of USC, learn about their film program, and meet entertainment professionals like Ava Duvernay, Shaun Robinson, Salli Richardson Whitfield, and many, many more!
These teen directors have not only impressed us with their incredible skills but have also earned prestigious awards for their outstanding work. From Best Cinematography to Most Impactful Film, our winners are making waves and breaking boundaries in the world of filmmaking. As we celebrate their achievements, we invite you to dive deeper into the world of these promising young directors and get a sneak peek at their remarkable films. Get ready to meet the rising stars of the film industry!
Taylor Brooks – “Your Own People”
Biography – Black Girls Film Camp Alumni Taylor Brooks is currently a senior at Arundel High School. She’s always had a passion for the arts and found a love for filmmaking during the COVID-19 pandemic. Taylor’s goal in the film is to showcase the successes and unity within the Black community that might be overshadowed. She finds constant motivation from her African-American role models like Ava DuVernay, Tyler Perry, and Salli Richardson to create films focused on the Black experience. During her time with BGFC, Taylor learned not only how to write, direct, and produce her own film, but how to navigate such a complicated industry as a Black woman. Thanks to BGFC, her short film, “Your Own People” has already won multiple awards at film festivals. In school, Taylor is an honor roll student and a member of the Black Student Union. She hopes that her films will serve as a reminder to Black girls that they can achieve anything they set their minds to.
Film Synopsis – Makenna, a 16-year-old Black girl, is a smiley teen who loves Barbie dolls, wearing big shirts with shorts, and listening to Taylor Swift. One day, she spots a new neighbor moving in across the street so she decides to lend a hand. This new neighbor is Lyric, also a 16-year-old Black girl, who is from Philadelphia and wears baggy clothes. They greet one another in Lyric’s driveway while simultaneously shooting each other with judgmental looks. Lyric invites Makenna into her house to help her unpack boxes and they both walk into Lyric’s new bedroom, which is mostly empty, except for some neo-soul music playing from a speaker.
Both girls start opening their respective boxes. Makenna asks about Lyric’s family as she opens her box and Lyric begins to explain her family situation. Makenna pulls out two posters from within the box and unrolls them, one is of Malcolm X with Martin Luther King Jr., and the other is Erykah Badu. Makenna looks up at Lyric and, in a trance, envisions her as a Black Panther. Lyric snaps Makenna out of this trance and asks her to hand her the Malcolm X poster. Makenna looks between the posters and Lyric, unsure who she is talking about. Lyric looks skeptically at Makenna and envisions her in a preppy private school outfit. Lyric snaps out of her trance and describes Malcolm X as “the guy with the glasses” so Makenna knows who she’s talking about. Makenna finally hands Lyric the poster and asks Lyric why she has these types of posters, implying that they are different than the ones she has. Lyric explains that she thinks her posters are unique to her, but they shouldn’t get off on the wrong foot because of this. She states that they should not judge each other just because they are different.
Both of the girls apologize for judging each other then decide to walk to the gas station to get snacks. As they walk out of Lyric’s house, Makenna runs back to her bedroom to retrieve her wallet. When she arrives in her room and finds her wallet, she notices a white Barbie doll propped up against her clock. Makenna holds the Barbie doll and sighs to herself. She puts it in her drawer and walks promptly out of her bedroom. When she meets back up with Lyric, they begin walking to the gas station and laugh about how different their tastes in music are.
Awards Won – Behind the Scenes Award
Social Media – @tayin4k_
Click below to watch “Your Own People”.
Addison Belhomme – “A Thin Line Between Black and White”
Biography – Black Girls Film Camp Alumni Addison Belhomme is a 16-year-old filmmaker from the South Side of Chicago, IL who started her own film business, “Director’s Eye”, in 2020 during the pandemic. Her goal is to use film as a powerful tool to speak up for the unheard. Addison has worked on four films outside of her BGFC project; a documentary she co-directed called “One Step at a Time”, which shares the inspiring story of the Studio One dance theater on the South Side of Chicago, she has collected B-roll for a short feature film based on Chairman Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party, and she was an Assistant Camera-Woman for two short films completed during 2023 Flip the Script Summer Program. She completed the role of videographer for Chance the Rapper’s organization “Social Works” 2022 Spring Fashion Show, and also represents Mrs. Michelle Obama’s Girls Opportunity Alliance’s “Get Her There” global campaign! Now, she has written and directed her first solo short film, “A Thin Line Between Black and White” through the Black Girls Film Camp!! Her passion is to tell visually compelling stories that provide audiences with a glimpse into the distinctive, dynamic, and impactful experiences of today’s young Black girls.
Film Synopsis – Ayanna is a teen activist in Chicago who never backs down from a challenge. After a classmate of hers is told to cut off her locs in order to compete in a wrestling match at her school, Ayanna posts a video calling people from all over to protest this injustice with her. After seeing that her protest video hasn’t gotten the attention she’d hoped, Ayanna comes home one day after school and her uncle informs her that he’s bringing over a special guest to dinner. Ayanna has prolific visions of who this guest is and what’s going to happen at this dinner. The doorbell rings and it’s revealed that the special guest is in fact, a white woman, and her name is Kathy.
As an activist, Ayanna immediately doesn’t like this woman. Kathy represents the opposite of what Ayanna is fighting for. The dinner begins, awkwardly as Ayanna is not shy about expressing to her how she feels about this situation. Soon enough, Kathy proves to Ayanna that she may know more about Black history and culture than Ayanna thought! On top of that, Kathy revealed that she shared Ayanna’s protest video on her social media page and got it to over 1 million views. In the end, they all come together, and bond over passion for this important cause.
Awards Won – Best Cinematography
Social Media – @directorseye_08
Click below to watch “A Thin Line Between Black and White”.
Terryn Pinder – “Desquamated”
Biography – 2023 Black Girls Film Camp Alumni and high school senior Terryn Pinder is a burgeoning filmmaker who desires to make her mark as a trailblazer for creative girls who are untraditional in their storytelling. Terryn is honored to have been selected for the 2023 cohort of Black Girls Film Camp, creating the first horror film on the BGFC film roster. She is thrilled to have had success sharing her unique story and creative talents with the support of the camp and the community at large.
Terryn’s film, “Desquamated” has garnered seven official film festival nominations, receiving two wins for Best Silent Film and Best Trailer at the New York Tri-State Film Festival, which opened doors for her recruitment to her dream school, Full Sail University. Terryn’s goal is to continue to bring new, fresh, and diverse stories into the spotlight and provide opportunities for different perspectives to be showcased in the media.
Film Synopsis – A young girl named Adena gets tired of the bullies making fun of the way she looks. Using her knowledge of science she figures out how to change her appearance, but at what cost?
Awards Won – Most Original Story
Social Media – @terrynpinder
Click below to watch “Desquamated”.
Jaida Cox – “Full Circle”
Biography – 2023 Black Girls Film Camp Alumni Jaida Cox is driven by her vision of a limitless future. As a burgeoning student filmmaker, she has begun to understand the importance of community, the value of effective organization, and the power of learning problem-solving techniques. Black Girls Film Camp has enhanced that knowledge, allowing her to be more confident, personally and creatively. Jaidais was thrilled to complete her film, “Full Circle” through the camp and was honored to win both the “Best Music” and “Viewers Choice Awards”. Her goal is to continue creating, utilizing, and building upon what she learned as a Teen Director with Black Girls Film Camp.
Film Synopsis – Teenage Amerie (Marleigh McKay) has just moved to a new city and is the new girl at school. She quickly discovers that her unique tastes and style won’t allow her to fit in with the “cool girls” there. In hopes of being accepted, Amerie abandons her personal traits to adopt the ‘costume of cool.’ She must decide who she wants to be as she painfully discovers the cost of giving up her identity to take on someone else’s.
Awards Won – Audience Choice Award, Best Music Award
Social Media – @jaidmv
Click below to watch “Full Circle”.
Gabriella Stafford – “Advanced”
Biography – 2023 Black Girls Film Camp Alumni Gabriella Stafford is a student at New York University majoring in Film & TV Production with a minor in Entertainment Business. Her goal is to become an entertainment producer who shares stories that inspire and educate audiences. An amazing student, Gabriella held various positions in high school including being a treasurer in her school’s Technology Student Association, The president of the National Honors Society for Social Studies, and an Ambassador in Girl Scouts. She is currently a freshman at school and is excited to start her new film journey in NYC.
Film Synopsis – This documentary features interviews with three Black girls from both gifted and non-gifted programs. Through an in-depth interview, the narrator explores practices that keep Black girls from populating pre-college courses and how they are affected once they enter that space.
Click below to watch “Advanced”.
Hannah Merriweather – “How Did You Get Here?”
Biography – Hannah Merriweather is a 2023 Black Girls Film Camp Alumni and a senior at Hickory Ridge High School. She is passionate about film and directing. Hannah hopes to continue to create stories that accurately portray the success and struggles of her community. Her short film, “How Did You Get Here?”, created in Black Girls Film Camp, is making its rounds on the festival circuit. Hannah recently received an honorable mention for Best Original Script at the Athens International Monthly Art Film Festival. Hannah is currently working on a documentary about body image and is interviewing women of all ages to share their stories.
Film Synopsis – Rose’s road to recovery hits a roadblock when she’s forced to confront the uncomfortable truths behind her eating disorder. As she navigates the complexities of a recovery hospital, she is faced with the tough question “How Did You Get Here?” Rose must decide to tell the expected answer or reveal the misunderstood moments from her childhood that contributed to her body issues. Will she choose the easy way out, or risk it all to find true healing?
Awards won – Alumni Award, Best Writer Award
Social Media – @it’s_merriweather
Click below to watch “How Did You Get Here”.
Lanaa Dantzler – “Five Angry Black Girls”
Biography – 2023 Black Girls Film Camp Alumni Lanaa Dantzler is a student at the historic Creative and Performing High School in Philadelphia. Her dream is for her work to provoke self-reflection and share racial literacy through filmmaking. Dantzler is a member of the CAPA Social Justice Leaders and the Black Student Alliance. In BGFC, Lanaa directed her first short film “Five Angry Black Girls.” An emblem of the power of Black female friendship.
Currently, she is working on a personal and heartfelt documentary for her former elementary school. Lanaa’s passion is to educate at a magnitude that cannot be ignored, in a medium that she loves.
Film Synopsis – The Rebel, The Genius, The Athlete, and The Stoner are all unfortunate frequents of Saturday detention. The girls are visited by the magical “oppression extractor” Ms. Suzie and have to find a way out of the challenging situation.
Awards won – Best Costume Design, Red Carpet Award
Social Media – @lanaa2as
Click below to watch “Five Angry Black Girls”.
Jaela Ellis – “Uncensored”
Biography – 2023 Black Girls Film Camp Alumni Jaela Ellis is a senior at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. Her goal is to study film and television production in college and work to create more space for Black, female, creatives in the film industry. She is enthusiastic, ambitious, and passionate about film and her community. She is active in her school as the President of the Black Student Union and a part of the Student Council, as well as a member of her school’s media and film production clubs. Black Girls Film Camp has changed the way that she thinks about filmmaking and the role of Black women in the film industry. She is so excited to see more representation of Black women on screen and behind the camera and to be a part of telling Black women’s stories.
Film Synopsis – Jaidyn is a Black girl who is met with countless overwhelming microaggressions at her majority-white school. When her white project partner asks her a question in class, Jaidyn responds normally, but her project partner calls her “rude” and “aggressive”. Her best friend also tells her she was being rude and this causes her to question her response. As these instances progress throughout her day, she gets more confused as to why people are targeting her and calling her aggressive. Even though she represses her true thoughts and reactions and tries to avoid being “aggressive”, she is still receiving the same reactions from her classmates.
Despite her mom telling her not to let it bother her, Jaidyn decides to make sure that she is extra nice to everyone the next day. She tries everything that she can to prevent these reactions by changing the way she dresses and acts. Still, her white peers tell her that she is being “angry” and “aggressive”. Jaidyn finally reaches a breaking point after being called out by a teacher for her behavior and goes off in front of her class. She gains the confidence to express her true feelings despite everyone else’s opinions, and the few other Black girls in her class show her support and validation by clapping at the end of her speech.
Awards won – Best Director
Social Media – @jaela.ellis
Click below to watch “Uncensored”.
Avery Kelley – “The All Aroundz”
Biography – 15-year-old Avery Kelly is an award-winning creator, writer, director, producer, and philanthropist from the south side of Chicago, currently residing in Atlanta, GA. She is also the founder and CEO of “Inspired Melanin”, a production company centered on producing positive Black stories. Through her production company, she created the “Tweendom Talk Show”, a live-streamed virtual talk show that inspires youth to be creative, live life outside the box, and have fun doing it. Avery also produced the award-winning documentary, “Soul Train, Soul Change”, highlighting how the iconic television show Soul Train broke barriers in the entertainment industry while being a significant part of the Civil Rights Movement. Avery also created and co-directed the documentary “One Step at a Time”, which highlights how for more than three decades, a dance studio on Chicago’s South Side poured greatness, love, and excellence into the lives of many youth. In addition to her work as a filmmaker, Avery’s philanthropic endeavor “Love Carries On” was created to collect duffel bags and luggage tags for foster kids in need, raising over 100 bags to donate to local child welfare agencies in the Chicago area, with a goal of supporting children across the nation.
Avery is also a 2023 Black Girls Film Camp alumni. Her most recent project, created in the camp, is the award-winning short film “The All Aroundz”, which focuses on sisterhood in the Black community and highlights double-dutch culture. Avery is excited for the future, and looking forward to accomplishing many of her dreams.
Film Synopsis –The All Aroundz focuses on the story of two women, LaNiya Jenkins, and Toya Charles. The two grew up as the best of best friends, jumping double Dutch together, and creating their very own team, The All Aroundz. The two spent all their time at The Spot, the local Rec Center that served as their home away from home. Then…the two had a huge fallout. But fast forward 30 years later, the women are reuniting for the first time, after learning their beloved safe space, The Spot, may be shutting down. The two now have to put their petty feud aside to work together to protect the place they love, bringing their old team back together and saving The Spot and their sisterhood.
Awards won – Best Overall Film, Best Collaboration
Social Media – @askaveryk
Click below to watch “The All Aroundz”.
Kalina Thomas – “Identity”
Biography – Kalina Thomas, an accomplished alumni of Black Girls Film Camp, currently thrives as a student at Annapolis High School, where she is enrolled in a distinguished magnet program with her major in Film and New Media. Her unwavering passion for the cinematic arts is driven by her aspiration to instigate transformative change within the film industry, embodying the very change she wishes to witness. Juggling her academic commitments and her desire for filmmaking, Kalina is an active participant in Annapolis High School’s Black Student Union, an engaging and enriching club.
A standout in her film career, the most enjoyable of Kalina’s cinematic journey is her involvement with Black Girls Film Camp. The experience has allowed her to interface with professionals in the field, gaining invaluable insights that have inspired her. Her aspirations revolve around the roles of a proficient film director or a skilled editor, each role being a beacon for her creative vision. Kalina’s adventure into crafting a short film stands as a highlight in her career, signifying the first big step of many.
Film Synopsis – After struggling with anxiety for years, 17-year-old Shoye discovers that she’s a member of the LGBTQ community. Overwhelmed by fear of rejection from her family, Shoye has a vision of her loved ones abandoning her after she comes out. However, Shoye finds solace in a podcast, The Observation Podcast, hosted by a man named Keeon Hill, who shares his thoughts and offers his support to listeners struggling with their identity.
Encouraged by the podcast, Shoye decides to confront her fears and come out to her family. As Shoye tries to navigate the challenges of being a young, queer woman, she must also confront her own anxiety and self-doubt. With the help of the podcast host, Shoye learns to embrace her true identity and find the strength to stand up for herself, even in the face of rejection and misunderstanding.
Awards won – Most Impactful Film Award
Click below to watch “Identity”.
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