The Making Of A Great Filmmaker

Updated: Jul 23, 2019

After working for many years in the industry, Jennifer Sharp has become a well-rounded filmmaker with expertise in various areas of production. From composing her own scores to editing feature films Jennifer brings a lot of skills to the table. She directed and edited the feature film, “I’m Through with White Girls,” which won 12 awards and critical acclaim. She edited the feature film, “Millie and the Lords,” which was acquired by HBO Latina. Her scripts have been selected by the Austin Screenwriting Competition, Nashville FF writing competition, and won a grand prize at the IFP Market. She also Art Directed the feature films – “A Haunted House 2” and “Within.”

DS: When I clicked on your video link about the making of UNA: A Great Movie, I was in a cafe and my tablet rang out the words "If we Black people don't make films about Black people, then who will?" Everyone around me cringed. It was lovely. Why is that though? Why does that statement make people uncomfortable?

JS: It makes people uncomfortable because when it comes to race, people are on the defensive. Many (not all) feel that they are not part of the racism/prejudice problem because they personally don’t think they are prejudice; and they don’t want to feel lectured to. They are sick of the ever so present diversity and racism debate in the mainstream right now, and when they hear that, it makes them say “oh no, not another victimization of the black man conversation.” What they are failing to do is selflessly listen with empathy. What they fail to see is that refusing to take part in the dialogue only perpetuates the divides. What they fail to admit is that these systems, stemming from a racist past need a complete overhaul.

DS: After decades of hearing that if we don't like stereotypical comedic films that center Blackness as a joke, then we should 'start our own Hollywood', why is it threatening if we simply do create our own narratives?

JS: It’s threatening because it threatens the status quo. It threatens to make us all uncomfortable. We are comfortable seeing black people as comedians and entertainers. We are comfortable seeing black men as sexual stallions and women as objects of sexual desire before we see them as intellectually equal to certain other races. As long as we are not telling our own narratives, we can fit into the comfortable place society has carved out for us. But that’s just the people who are threatened. I believe that there is a strong contingency of people white, black, latino... all races who are ready and eager to see different narratives and change the definitions that keep us different, into definitions that make us all humans.

DS: What film and filmmakers inspire you?

JS: School Daze by Spike Lee was revolutionary for me and hugely inspirational when I was young. The musical numbers were something I had never seen in a Black Film!! Charlie Kaufman is a genius and his movie Synechdoche, although it had little commercial success, I believe is the truest portrayal of life I have ever seen in a movie. Terry Gilliam and Monty Python has always made me appreciate the importance of using humor to be able to reach more people on deep and divisive issues; and how that is possibly more effective than a straight forward drama that deals with the same issues.

DS: What was the biggest challenge in making this film?

JS: The biggest challenge (out of many) would be producing a movie in Mexico and having to find an entire crew in a country, where I knew absolutely nothing about the film industry. I had many situations where I had to speak fluent Spanish, and I wasn't sure if I could handle those situations. But mother is the necessity of invention for sure, and when I needed to up my Spanish speaking skills to have an hour long meeting with the mayor of the town, I just did it. The brain is pretty amazing! Money is also a big challenge because I made the decision to run up my credit cards and spend everything I have on this movie, and my challenge was reminding myself daily that money really is a meaningless construct that has way too much weight on our short life. My challenge was changing my relationship to money so that I didn’t see it as so important and I didn’t let it be a reason to not achieve my dream.

DS: What would you have done differently?

JS: The only thing I would do different is that I would have done this ten years earlier. I wish I wouldn’t have allowed myself to be so constrained to the way the system works and fear for so many years and decided to just do it myself a long time ago. But maybe it’s taken me this long to develop the tools I needed.

DS: Any advice to young artists thinking of making their first films?

JS: Always keep creating. Create from your own truths. If you’re gonna make a bad film or fail, it’s better to do it young while there’s time to learn from it and grow. Also pay attention to how you fit into this world. If it’s not working for you, maybe it’s because you are different and need to define your own path that isn’t how everyone tells you it should be done. There are no defined rules, there is no correct path. If you thrived in school, go to film school. If you were never stimulated by school, don’t go to school and figure out the best way for you to create. We all are different, and the more honest and reflective you can be about who you are and what your patterns are for growth, the sooner you can get on the path that will lead to your success.

DS: Do you have other films on the horizon?

JS: Yes, I’m in the development stage for “The Skins of Our Fathers” – A feature film exploring the complications of a relationship between a white man and a black woman when the racist histories of their fathers lies just beneath the skin. Told in the vane of a romantic comedy.

Una Great Movie has 3 upcoming screenings: 1. Charlotte, NC Thursday July 18th , 7pm Opening Night film at Cineodessy Film Festival,

2. New York City

August 12-18 will screen at NYLatino Film Festival,

3. Washington DC August 15-17 will screen at DC Black Film Festival,

DS: How can we follow your work?

JS: Go to the website and subscribe to the mailing list to keep posted and follow on social media: Instagram: @jennifersharpfilms Twitter: @jensharpfilms Facebook: unagreatmovie Youtube: Una Great Movie