I recently had a chance to talk to Aiesha Turman about her exciting film The Black Girl Project and how she’s going beyond the box office with it. With another film about Black women premiering this weekend this one is sure to be a welcome alternative (and it was out first!) What a novel idea, letting Black girls speak for themselves! Find out where The Black Girl Project is screening next at its site.
BTBO: What first inspired you to do The Black Girl Project?
Ms. Turman: The Black Girl Project is both a documentary film and a non-profit organization. I have worked with young people in New York for over a decade, with the past few years being dedicated primarily to high school students. It was in this work, I began to hear the stories of young women, many of whom were outwardly accomplished, but were dealing with a lot of issues from homelessness to sexual assault and depression. I was lucky enough to be trusted enough by them that they would talk to me. Their lives reminded me of mine as a teen aged girl. I was highly accomplished academically, but when it came to dealing with issues, many of which were shared with my peers, I turned inward for fear of embarrassment or disappointing my parents. The non-profit is an outgrowth of the film and my commitment to helping young women reach their fullest potential.
BTBO: Any thoughts right now on how you will distribute your film?
Ms. Turman: I am very interested in the idea of independent distribution. I’ve been inspired by Nina Paley and what she has done surrounding Sita Sings The Blues. I’ve also been learning a lot about independent distribution via Beyond The Box office and will be using many different channels.
BTBO: Are you working with a distribution consultant? If so, with whom are you working and would you recommend him/her to anyone else? If not, are you opposed to it, why or why not?
Ms. Turman: No I am not. I am not opposed to a distribution consultant and may confer with one.
BTBO: Can you talk about who your target audience(s) is(are) for BGP and how you are finding it (them) online?
Ms. Turman: My target audience has been Black women and girls. I’ve found them via Twitter, using my @superhussy handle, and now the @blackgirlproj handle. I also have pages for both on Facebook.
BTBO: Can you talk about how you are using social media to promote BGP?
Ms. Turman:That’s a difficult question, since I kinda shy away from promotion, but my “strategy” began by building relationships with folks on Twitter and extending that to a Facebook page. I also blogged on the SuperHussy site (which is now my media company) about Black women and Black women’s issues. So I created a small presence. When I was out filming interviewees, I’d tweet about that process. I established a newsletter to keep folks abreast of the process as well. As I got closer to completion, I tweeted about screenings and started the @blackgirlproj Twitter account. Several folks from the @superhussy account followed me there. Because I have connected the film to a social justice movement, I’ve acquired more followers. So now, I schedule tweets about screenings, the newsletter, etc. And I tweet a couple of times daily, either engaging someone or posting information, to continue to build an audience. In addition, my PR/Marketing person, Tamara Walker, tweeted about everything surrounding the film and posted press releases on her site and Facebook page. Every interview, screening, etc.
BTBO: Do you have a team that manages your internet presence or do you do it yourself? This includes BGP website design, updates, tweeting, facebooking, etc. If you DIY how do you find time?
Ms. Turman: I sort of have a team. I am the internet presence. Sites, FB, Twitter; all me. To get it done, I set aside a block of time twice a week and pre-schedule posts, tweets, etc. Marketing/PR/events are handled by Tamara Walker, the NYPR Diva, and all of the event fliers, posters, etc. are handled by Nasheim Williams and Craig Spencer.
BTBO: What has been the most useful social media tool so far? Why?
Ms. Turman: I’d have to say Twitter, primarily because of the RT factor. For example, the DC screening was sold out and more seats had to be added because of the RT factor. Also, I’ve been able to connect with really progressive folks and organizations via Twitter. The DC screening probably would not have happened without it.
BTBO: Why did you choose Vimeo for your video hosting?
Ms. Turman: I like the “unclutteredness” of Vimeo and it seems that there are more “serious” folks on Vimeo, less to wade through.
BTBO: What’s next for Ms. Turman?
Ms. Turman: Well, I am working on expanding The Black Girl Project to encompass more of the young women’s stories via film and print. There is the The Black Girl Project organization which, I hope will inspire young women and girls, regardless of circumstance to do/be their best.Of course, there’s Super Hussy Media, where all my productions begin and with that, we are releasing an anthology about Black women and how they gained their knowledge of sex and sexuality. I’m also in the planning stages for my next film project.
BTBO: Any parting thoughts for fellow filmmakers?
Ms. Turman: Parting thoughts…filmmaking is not done in a vacuum. Your idea may be your own, but you will need help. Find organizations, collectives, and collaboratives in your area. Take a class, go to a seminar. I’ve learned that although a lot of the pre-planning can be a solo process, this is really a people business.