Updated: Aug 5, 2019
When i was in undergrad, I pledged Alpha Psi Omega, a theatre fraternity. One of our big brothers used to make us greet him with the song Roses by Outcast when we had done something wrong.
I grew to hate that song, but I looked forward to seeing what new futuristic song or attire André 3000 would come up with next. It never occurred to me that Outcast and other artist like Janelle Monáe was a part of the growing movement of afrofuturism.
I wasn't familiar with the term afrofuturism until graduate school, however, still lacking in knowledge. With the work of Celia C. Peters, I am that much more interested.
Dope Sista went to Celia to tell us more about the role of afrofuturism plays in the world of Sci-fi.
Celia is a filmmaker and visual artist who grew up in Toledo Ohio. She is the child of two quantitative people, a doctor and lawyer, who were great parents and let her explore and learn whatever she was interested in. The encouraged her and believed in her even when they had no idea what she was talking about. It has been a long circuitous road for Celia, but she has finally landed where she is supposed to be, and doing what she needs to do.
Celia has done short film work thus far and is now developing her first feature film. It's a near future afrofuturistic film called GODSPEED
Her sci-fi stories are about women and POC characters, which typically involve physics, math, cosmology and more. As a visual artist, Celia's work is diaspora-inspired and afrofuturist in it's aesthetic; it's graphic, geometric and recently, more and more photo based. You'll find my film and visual art at www.artisticfreedomltd.com
CH: Afrofuturism is a term I hear a lot right now in sci-fi circles and there is a renewed interest in writers like Octavia Butler. Would you define GODSPEED as afrofuturistic?
CP: Definitely. It's set in the near future, in 2040 or thereabouts. The story is about a mathematically inclined, brainiac Black woman who creates an algorithm as a passion project, and it changes her reality. The story is tech-involved within a futuristic context where technology is already more advanced than now. It also involves the presence of life from beyond this solar system, which hugely affects the journey of the story's main character, Brandy.
CH: Who are some of the artist that have inspired you and influenced your personal style?
CP: Grace Jones, Sade, David Bowie, Josephine Baker, Maya Deren, Alfred Hitchcock, Jacob Lawrence, Kasi Lemmons, Charles Burnett, Ingmar Bergman, Lorna Simpson, Salvador Dali, Gordan Parks, Carrie Mae Weems, Art Smith, Prince, Tricky, Massive Attack, Portishead, Roni Size, Zora Neale Hurston, Boy George, Elizabeth Catlett, Robert Mammlethorpe, Alexander McQueen, Sly and Robbie, Bob Marley, Giorgio Moroder, Tangerine Dream, John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, Jean Michel Basquiat, Roxy Music, Adam Ant, Stanley Kubrick, Wong Kar Wai, and many others who are eluding me at the moment.
CH: Wow! That is such a creative and inspirational list of artist. Tell us a little about your first project and how you got started as a filmmaker.
CP: My first film was a short film called "Commuters." I shot it while I lived in New York City, guerilla style. No permits, in the Astor Place subway station. It was about a homeless woman who had shot up on the platform and was in a nod, and the reactions of the commuters getting off and on the train. I had actors planted in with the real subway riders, which was a trip. It was a real learning experience and I'm really glad I had it in NYC.
The story was inspired by me seeing someone who had OD'd and was out in that same subway station. I felt so conflicted, trying to figure out the line between my responsibility as a citizen and the person's freedom to make their own choices for themselves.
CH: What advice would you give to people contemplating shooting their first film or video?
CP: DO IT. It's ok to start small, to start with a concept, a story teaser or a scene. If you're going to shoot a film, make sure you write your script with the idea that you are writing to tell a story visually. Show, don't tell! But, actually making film is the best way to get better, regardless of the equipment you have. You can make beautifully composed, moving and meaningful images with the disposable camera or a high-end 4K camera.
But, make sure your sound is tight! Bad sound quality ruins a film no matter how great it looks. There's something about the way our brains process sound and vision.
But most of all, get started already. Be fearless, make mistakes, learn from them and get better. Keep growing in the craft. Keep telling your stories better and better. The world needs your voice!