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Interview: Shola Lynch and 'Free Angela' - From Thought To Screen (Premiered On BET Last Night)

Interviews
by Zeinabu irene Davis
February 27, 2014 10:17 AM
11 Comments
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Zeinabu Davis: Well, I’m glad that she trusted you with the story and that you honored her, you know, in such a powerful way with it, so thank you.

Shola Lynch: And let me say, it’s not the story she would tell in the way she would tell it.  But at the same time, she didn’t ask me to change anything. You know, if she had told that story, it would have far more of the context and the politics and the movement, and less of her personal story.  So she would have diminished the relationship with George. She probably wouldn’t have included the kinds of the things that, in a way, humanize her.  She’s a young woman.  You know.  This was who her love was at the time.  

Zeinabu Davis: Yeah, I totally get it.  But that’s why it’s a film.  It’s not a book and it’s not a talk. It has to stand up in a different type of way, you know?

Shola Lynch: Yes, exactly.  So I like to say this is her life, and she goes, well, no, it’s your movie.

Both: [laughter]

Shola Lynch: Just to make clear the distance, you know? She’s an academic, she understands that intellectually.  You know?  It’s not like she’s calling me up all the time trying to control the whole production.  Honestly, she just gave me an opportunity, and I would send her e-mail updates every six months for eight years.  [laughs]

Zeinabu Davis: Yeah, right.

Shola Lynch:. That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Zeinabu Davis: Hey, no, but I feel you, I know what you’re talking about.  I teach at UCSD, and a question that I get from my students is how do you balance being a mom and a filmmaker? Like, they don’t see that as a possibility, and I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on that.  

Shola Lynch: Whoo!  Um, you know, it’s interesting, my husband and my children have never known me not working on this Angela Davis project.

Zeinabu Davis: Wow.

Shola Lynch: Never, yeah.  I met my husband when I was thinking about it as an idea,  and he’s like, literally, through the dating process and marriage and kids – our whole relationship has happened within the time of making this film.  My kids, think Angela Davis is my friend – they’re like, oh, wait, you know, Angela.  They see her name all the time.  They see her image around the house.  You know, all that stuff, so it’s interesting.  I have been committed to this project, so when I start something I have to see it through.  I feel that way about parenting, and I think that I’ve been lucky to have a good partner, who really is a partner.  And so, you know, commitments ebb and flow.  It’s a balancing act, and what I mean is all these things are important.  In some weeks parenting takes precedence, and on some weeks and days filmmaking takes precedence.  That also includes  my husband’s career and his needs out in the world.  I try and talk to my children as much as possible so they feel part of the process.  So they know that Mommy, Daddy, and the kids are the team, and we are going to be team players, you know?  Some days it’s going to be about them, and then some days it’s going to be about them being good so Mommy and Daddy can do X, Y, and Z.  Kids think, they understand, if you tell them what’s going on – they will play along; it’s all fun for them.  

Zeinabu Davis: Right, exactly.  

Shola Lynch: They will play along. Is it always perfect?  No.  Do I wish there was more time in a day?  Yes.  Is it hard?  Yes.  But is it worthwhile?  Absolutely. But there is no one easy answer, I’ll tell you that. [laughs]

Zeinabu Davis: No, there isn’t.  I think sometimes people think it’s cut and dried, you know, that okay, you do this and then you do that.  It’s just like what you said.  There are some days where, you know, you don’t do any kind of filmmaking.  There are some weeks when you don’t do any kind of filmmaking. It’s like, okay, well, that’s just the way it is, you know?

Shola Lynch: Mm-hmm, exactly.  That’s absolutely true.  I am just so lucky that in the downtimes when I wasn’t raising money or wasn’t able to be working on the film, that’s when the kids would take precedence – and so it is an ebb and a flow.  It’s constantly keeping your eyes open about who needs what when and shifting the priorities.  Daily, weekly, hourly and then to not feel bad about it.  Like, my workday often has to end at 5:30 when I have to go pick up my daughter at school.  So that’s what I have to do.  I can’t beat myself up over it to get what I can get done, and I have to be realistic about my goals.  This is where being a producer helps.  You have to produce your life.  It’s not just your work life.  You have to be realistic about what you can accomplish.  If you’re realistic and you can reach those goals, then you feel like, okay, I’m doing it.  It might take a little bit longer than somebody else, but because you have to be so efficient, it may happen a little bit faster.

Zeinabu Davis: That’s so true.  Sometimes all you get is an hour, maybe a half an hour.   But I’m amazed at what I can get done in that time; it sure wasn’t like that before I had kids!

Shola Lynch: [laughs].

Zeinabu Davis: Yeah.  Before I had kids, it would take me two hours to do it.  Now, I have a half an hour, it’s going to get done in a half an hour.  [laughs] So, it’s like, okay.  Yeah. Totally. Thank you so much.

Shola Lynch:. No problem.  Thank you.  I mean, Shadow and Act has been so good to us.  Like, everybody – all of you.  So thanks for writing about the film, and taking different points of view.  I appreciate that.

Zeinabu Davis: Oh, no, you know, the pleasure is mine, and just thank you for sticking with it and getting it done because I know, as a filmmaker, that it wasn’t easy. I wanted to do this interview with you because I can’t let another person who’s not a filmmaker do this, to talk to you about it.  If we write our own stories, I know the kinds of questions and I know the kinds of things that you may have gone through with it, and it’s important for me to make sure that that get out and that people understand what that’s about.

Shola Lynch:  I appreciate that. And you asked earlier what I hoped for.  I hope for a good box office.  I’m tired of people telling me there’s no audience for stories about women and no black women, especially.  You know what I mean?  I’m so sick of that.  There’s more than one black audience for sure, and even this is broader than just a Black audience.  I think this also attracts a more diverse audience.

Zeinabu Davis:  Well, you’re doing it.  I mean, you did it with the Chisholm film.  When I went to Target, and I saw Chisholm was available for sale, I was like, what?  It was like, a black – a black documentary by a sister in the big-box stores?  I was like, whoa.  So you are continuing to break ground for us, and I just want you to know that it is appreciated.

Shola Lynch: Thank you.  I appreciate it.  Sometimes I wonder whether it’s all worth it [laughs].

Zeinabu Davis: I know, I know.  I hear you.  But it is, it is.   And we might not tell you, we might not tell you enough, but just know that it is, and you are appreciated.

Shola Lynch: Thanks for that.


Zeinabu irene Davis is an independent filmmaker and Professor of Communication at University of California, San Diego.  Her current work-in-progress is a feature length documentary, Spirits of Rebellion: Black Cinema at UCLA

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11 Comments

  • marie-francoise | April 9, 2013 6:50 PMReply

    What a wonderful inspiring piece! All aspects were delved into... idea, process, production and finally getting your 'baby' out in the world. I'm sure the doc is amazing but this interview was insightful all on its own. Thank you shadow & act for making this forum possible...

    As a mother and a filmmaker/actress I especially appreciated the conversation about being a mom and being an artist. It felt very hopeful and positive. I also really loved when Shola said: "I’m tired of people telling me there’s no audience for stories about women and no black women, especially. You know what I mean? I’m so sick of that." ME TOO!! I was fortunate enough to meet Shola many years ago in Minnesota at an IFP event right after her first doc came out and she was friendly and approachable. I've also had the huge good fortune to know and work with the inimitable Dr. Zeinabu irene Davis -- thank you sis for providing such a thought-provoking in depth interview! I'm off to see the film this weekend :)

  • Lia | April 8, 2013 4:59 PMReply

    This interview is so inspiring, full of true creative wisdom...

  • Bee | April 7, 2013 9:23 PMReply

    Great interview. Can't wait to see this!

  • Terri Francis | April 6, 2013 4:18 PMReply

    Wow wow what a beautiful beautiful interview. Thank you so much! Yes, power to the people.

  • Charles David Brooks, III | April 6, 2013 12:15 PMReply

    It is difficult to read page 5. Did she talk about Angela days in Brooklyn, NY?

  • T. | April 5, 2013 4:51 PMReply

    Oh, my, my, my!!!! What a beautiful interview. I felt like I was listening...watching two great sistahs who have been on the journey and decided to share some of the "inside story" about filmmaking!!! What a pleasure and an honor---to you both. The interview flowed so well--just the right amount of questions and the questions perfectly asked which gave us a wealth of info in Shola's answers. Thank you. I liken this interview to a "page turner" in a great work of literature...with each advance to the next page, I wanted more! I was touched by the analogy of a Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, we have those in our families who don't know how much breadth and depth they have to tell us. The true griots. The main theme of the film is not so much about family---well for me--it is rooted in family and relationships. I don't believe Ms. Davis would have survived without her family. The inclusion of the family relationships was really a plus in reading this interview. I can go on and on and on. And I will. I will tell every person of interest about this interview and about the documentary. Again, thank you. Well done. And shout outs to all who made the film possible. What a gift to us all!

  • urbanauteur | April 5, 2013 4:26 PMReply

    Big shut out 2 you,Zeinabu, and @ Ohio(film dept) Univ-John Butler-Mabel Haddock-Robert Banks,jr..;-)

  • Sergio | April 5, 2013 12:16 PMReply

    FANTASTIC interview!

  • sergio | April 5, 2013 1:23 PM

    One of the great things is that you really had the time to talk to her. Nowadays they give you usually 15-20 minutes to talk with a filmmaker. You really need time to get into and discuss the filmmaking process which make your interview with Shola (whom I've met before and is just a energetic terrific person) so unique.

    See you soon here for the L.A. Rebellion film series!

  • Zeinabu Davis | April 5, 2013 1:04 PM

    Thank you so much Sergio! I really want people to know and honor Shola's accomplishments as well as to learn and share about Angela Davis and the Power to the People movement, especially since it is still so relevant to things going on today. We had a sneak preview of the film last night here in San Diego. Shola, Angela, Jada and all would have been proud. A documentary film brought people together from nearly all the colleges and universities in San Diego! It was a diverse crowd - elders, kids, Black, white, Latino and Asian. We had a long and fruitful discussion afterwards.

  • Zeinabu Davis | April 5, 2013 1:04 PM

    Thank you so much Sergio! I really want people to know and honor Shola's accomplishments as well as to learn and share about Angela Davis and the Power to the People movement, especially since it is still so relevant to things going on today. We had a sneak preview of the film last night here in San Diego. Shola, Angela, Jada and all would have been proud. A documentary film brought people together from nearly all the colleges and universities in San Diego! It was a diverse crowd - elders, kids, Black, white, Latino and Asian. We had a long and fruitful discussion afterwards.

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