Your new movie Monae's Room
- in a few words, what is it about?
It's about an obsessed woman that can't get over
her past, and her room serves as the source for her obsession. The story is
told with spoken word and music.
What were your inspirations when writing Monae's
Room, and to what extent can you identify with Monae and her
Room is the sequel to my second short film What's the
Bill Winer?, and it is telling the story from the perspective of
that woman Bill screwed over. Bill in that film is based on a real man,
and I made that film for me. This film is similar to that one in that
Monae represented where my head was at the time, and the journal she
writes is real, and that phone call in the end is based on an actual email
I got from said man. When I read that email I realized what a real jerk
this man was, and I felt silly for ever pining over him in the first
place. That email was my closure. That is what Monae felt as well; that
was the closure she was looking for all along. It wasn't that she finally
spoke to David, it was that she realized he wasn't the person she dreamed
up in her head; he was a horrible person and showed that in the end, so
when she realized it she was able to finally move on.
I also wanna say something important. When women make films like this, a
woman pining over a man, people like to criticize it, but when men write songs
about women that have wronged them no one complains. Donít watch this
film with that thinking. Donít focus on the fact that Iím a woman, and
that Monae is a woman that is heartbroken over a man. Focus on the art and
the little things that went into creating the art; appreciate that, and
LISTEN to the overall message after youíve seen the ending. I also wanna
point out I wrote this script two years ago. I love that I can make art
from these kind of situations and be able to show it to the world, but I
also hate how people (friends particularly) see the film and assume I have these feelings still and want the same dude. Itís risky
making personal films like this because it invites people to be nosey, or
live vicariously through you because they want you, or because they are
lonely and wish or hope that you are still heartbroken. First, donít ask
who a woman is dating anyway, kinda rude. Second, I actually been pining
over a different one for over a year now, lmao. And third, I wish I could
tell the person, if you like talking about the guy so much then date him.
Other than that, just watch the film and enjoy it.
To some extent, Monae's
Room reminded me of your earlier movie On
- at all a fair comment, and would you like to elaborate on this?
think it's a fair comment. Both films are driven by music, and both films
show a young woman stuck in a room, needing to leave to gain sanity again
but can't. In both films we see a woman on-screen who's dealing with inner
demons, and we are watching this inner struggle play out on screen. These
films are ones that deal with the human psyche. These to me are the best
films to watch, and I want a hand in making them; it's about facing your
fears and getting out of a room, which, that room being a metaphor for the
mind. In most if not all my films, I plan to use music and/or spoken word,
and I plan to use slow-paced editing and fast-paced editing. This way of
storytelling to me is unique and memorable, and no one else is doing it. I
would encourage people to follow my social media sites and what I'm doing
if you like On
Her Way and Monae's
Room. That has become my signature
style, and I plan to keep with it in my next films.
How would you
describe your directorial approach to Monae's
Room, and what kind of a challenge was it to have only very
limited locations at your disposal?
to try and get Delea Mowatt (Monae) mad so that she could show that
intensity on screen. The good thing is people have told me she doesn't
overact. She gets mad naturally like a person does in real life without
the melodrama that so many films have in them. Some people are looking for
that melodrama and expect it in Monae's
Room. Well you're not going to get
melodramatic acting in Monae's
Room. Working with one location was easy
for this story. The story called for it and anyway I prefer one location
to many locations. I like things to be simple and quick.
Room, some of Monae's inner monologues are set to music, almost
like lyrics to a song - now what were the inspirations for this particular
The film is
also inspired by Drake's song Marvin's Room, off his Grammy
award-winning album Take Care. I always listened to that song that
summer when I was going through that time, and I always thought, I wonder
what this song would look like as a short film. Well I wrote it and
directed it two months later. I encourage anyone to listen to
that song. His music and music like that in general is a huge inspiration to
my film-making. I'm a huge fan of hip-hop music and paid tribute to
that genre in this film. Hip hop IS smart, it is articulate, it is
talented, educated and it is intelligent. Hip hop is great. I also write
songs sometimes in my spare time, and poetry, and so I was happy to infuse
spoken word and music, two loves of mine, to this film. We won Best Genre
Blend for this film at Stories by the River so some people like it too.
Music like Drake, J. Cole, Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar are inspirations
of mine. If I could sing and play instruments, I'd be a musician. And I
thank Sean J. McCall for coming up with a great song that captured the
same feel and atmosphere as Marvin's Room. That song IS the film and those
monologue parts are my favorite parts of the film.
JD Achille, Delea Mowatt
What can you tell us about your cast, and why
exactly these people?
was great working with Delea Mowatt and JD Achille. Delea was toned down.
She's authentic. She doesn't try too hard to be dramatic and that fits the
character, who is low on energy and mentally-drained in the first place.
The character of Monae is based on me. Delea resembles my look and has my
toned down personality. I wanted a certain look and a certain personality
and awkwardness too. I wanted the character to be an older character. I
also want to stress how great it was to have that brighter, funnier side
of JD Achille to play Kelly as her younger sister. I wanted someone who
looked younger than Delea. I hadn't worked with JD before Monae's
she was ready to go and needed no coaching. We need comedy relief at some
points in a dark film if we are expected to let our guards down anyway,
and JD provided that and more.
Do talk about the shoot as such
for a bit, and the on-set atmosphere!
was a two-day shoot, and I like it a lot when we have minimal people on
the set. The first day was chaotic at least for me. The second day there
was less going on and I was more at ease. It was less crowded and so I
could concentrate more. I work very well under pressure, but I tend to
enjoy the experience if it's less crowded and more relaxed. The look and
feel of the film came to me when we turned off the lights and lit the
candles. We were in the dark for a while and aside from me tripping over
things, it was a cool experience.
What can you tell
us about critical and audience reception of your movie so far?
film has won two awards so far, for Best Genre Blend, and I got one for
Best Newcomer, at the Shawna Shea and Stories by the River film fests and
that was exciting. We are still circulating it to festivals so we will see
what else happens with that. Women have come up to me and said yep, that
was me once, great film. People love the music and spoken word; those were
my favorite parts too. The film also has gotten more views on my Vimeo
than my other shorts. Now of course you canít make art without the
criticisms too. For example I've gotten feedback from some saying the
acting wasn't dramatic enough, but you can't please everyone. I was also
told the lighting was "mismatched" too, which I disagree with.
The colors are one of the best parts of the film. We were nominated for
best Color Correction at Stories by the River. I was told by others that
they liked the colors and the more authentic acting. I got the whole
ďYou need more anglesĒ once too. You get crazy shots in blockbusters
though, and the story and characterization is lacking. In older movies
(and my style is more traditional), you have less crazy angles, as itís
more simplified, and the dialog, story, plot and characterization is
clearly superior. Iím also very happy with my director of photography on the film William Smyth. He is a professional and gets paid
a lot of money to do this. He does this for a living. He is very good. I
think he did a great job and we work very well together. He works
with me and doesnít care about money and materialistic things like that
and this guy gets paid mad money to do this. He believes in me and my
projects. I always remember when a person either does or does not believe
in me, and does or does not work on my films when I ask. I remember that
and THAT is what means the most to me. Will believed in me, the crew did,
the cast did and I would help them right back if they ever asked me to.
future projects you'd like to share?
shooting the fifth short film of RMC Pictures titled
January, which is a spiritual short sequel to Monae's
Room. Like many
of my shorts this one is led by music and told with poetic spoken word,
and has a wintry feel. It's about love, betrayal and loss, and a guy gets
choked to death, and I tell it all without dialog in less than 15 minutes.
website, Facebook, whatever else?
up Raeshelle Cooke on Vimeo, Youtube and Twitter @RMCPict to view the
shorts Iíve started with. Also watch Monae's
Room on there too. Also
feel free to follow my business blog of my brand RMC Pictures
at RaeshelleCooke.wordpress.com. And contact me if you like my work and want
to collaborate with me; I write, direct and edit. Iíve also invested in
sound and a camera as Iím starting this business, and Iím more than
willing to share and help on othersí productions.
Anything else you're
dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
you know I never like to end an interview without making an important
statement :D I'm a filmmaker but I'm a black woman first. I am passionate
about race relations and I talk about it a lot. I have MANY interests and
passions. This is who I am as a person and I am not ashamed and I will
continue to speak on race. There are people that seem to think that
filmmakers should adhere to the sensitivities and ignorance of others in
order to keep the peace, or to gain or keep fans, to keep quiet about
topics they think are sensitive. Again, I'm a black woman first. I was a
black woman before I became a filmmaker, and I'll be a black woman after
I've been a filmmaker. If I "lose fans" because I'm being
myself, being real, being honest and caring about my experiences and my
culture, and talking about things that's important to me, then they
weren't fans to begin with and certainly not people I'm trying to hang out
with. I don't make films to GET fans or to GET people to like or accept
me, and if youíre a filmmaker reading this, neither should you. That's a
horrible reason to start making films or to keep making films. I make
films because I like to make films; simple. I love to write because I'm
good at it, simple. If people follow me cause they like my films then that
is just the icing on the cake.
Do not lose your identity or make others make you feel ashamed for being
who you are and speaking on what's important to you, JUST because you
happen to like making films and people happen to view them. DO speak on
what's important to you. If anything, being a filmmaker and having the
talent to do this just gives you even more of a reason TO speak on
important topics; it gives you a platform to relay important messages, and
it gives you a real chance to seek change. You are NOT to ignore that
blessing, no matter what you just happen to do for a living.
for the interview!