The Reel Effect’s monthly editorial column features stories from film, television, and media professionals. Giving creators of color the opportunity to share some of their biggest wins, drops gems, and be as honest as possible about working and navigating their career within the media industry.
This month we feature film director, writer, and producer Muhyi Ali! Read more about her journey navigating the television and film industry below!
What is your job title/occupation/field of work?
Film Director, Writer, and Producer
How long have you been working in this position or field?
How would you describe your journey in the media industry so far?
Fruitful. Full of many highly valued connections with people from all walks of life. This journey is ever-flowing and fluid.
What has been your biggest lesson of your career thus far?
Don’t worry about people liking you, be good at what you do and the right people will. I think in the business of media and entertainment we are focused on networking based on who we are and who we think people want us to be, when creativity is all about the product and what you can produce speaks volumes greater than a facade.
How has your perspective changed from the beginning of your career until now?
I truly thought I was going to make my one great picture someone would sign me to their production company and I would be directing large scale big budgeted projects with an unlimited amount of money, or atleast more money than I knew what to do with. I learned very quickly that consistency is the name of the game. It didn’t take one short film, but so many more to reach the level of me comfortably calling myself a Director. My mindset changed and in turn the value of my work did as well. I couldn’t see my work as great as it was due to the distraction of not being where I’d wanted. It hadn’t yielded the result I wanted so it wasn’t valuable to me. Art is meant to express, to educated, to shift, and all of my projects have done that in full. For this reason I am very successful as a Director and producer.
What do you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
I wish I knew how often I would have to reintroduce myself in this field. It get’s draining to consistently have to do that and disheartening to think “they still don’t know”. I have had to rework this way of thinking to something more along the lines of “oh well let me put yall on to this dope ish that is me”. If I’d had that mindset at the beginning of my career I would be able to formulate more genuine connections as opposed to walking in with the feeling of defending myself.
What is one piece of advice you have for recent graduates, current students, or newcomers to the industry?
Never say “I want to make films” Just go out and do it. Connect with any and everybody you can, because everybody has a story and you can learn something from even a fool. Take every chance you get to advance in every way and trust you’ll meet the right people on the way.
What advice has helped you the most on your journey?
Be you. Be true.
How has the scope of media changed from the beginning of your career to now and how have you adjusted/pivoted?
Tiktok is a BEAST! Inexperienced creatives are finding new ways to pump out content faster than you can think now and I went to school for this! Craziness. I had to update my way of thinking about content in a way that was beneficial to the mass amount of resources I now had. I didn’t have to rent out the most expensive cameras and equipment to tell a compelling story and connect with my audience. Once I unlocked that perspective, it was amazing the amount of access I had as a creative. My dreams became so much more reachable.
What has been the worst piece of career advice you have received throughout your career?
That you can’t have a family and be in the industry. That networking is all about being in the right place at the right time. That you have to live in NY or LA to be successful — people have spoken a lot saying absolutely nothing of value.
Is there an incident that you would like to share to warn or educate someone else in this industry?
Be bold. Stand on your vision and find people who align and support the vision as well. They may not see it or have a clear picture, but they don’t always need that to support you. Trust yourself because people will try and come in and spew their opinions disguised as facts of the industry. Take what you can, but ultimately follow what feels right for you, and only you, no matter what.
What is one thing you would like to thank the media industry for? (For example: thank you for giving me the opportunity to connect with a group of likeminded creators.)
I want to thank the media industry for existing and allowing me to see myself in many ways and connecting me to myself and my community.
What is one thing you wish the media industry was better at doing?
I wish the media industry was doing a better job of telling authentic stories of marginalized people. It’s disheartening to enter Black History Month or any month really and want to engage with the mass Black image and be consistently reintroduced to traumatic stories of oppression or stories of enslavement in order to be awarded or given attention. It is exhausting because there are so many aspects to this being. We deserve all of our stories told in full with the dynamic elements that exist.
Is there anything else you want to include in this article?
I would be nowhere without my community and my success is their success. I am here for them and because of that I’m never walking alone.
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