Independent filmmaking has always been the driving force behind new cinematic boundaries, and the up-and-coming filmmakers of today are no different. Interdisciplinary short-film series ‘Draping’ focuses on the under-examined subject of black femme identities and centres the voices of these identities in its examination of a myriad of complex issues – ranging from mental health, to queerness, to colorism, spirituality and motherhood.
We’ve been lucky enough to interview co-creators Kennedie King and Tiffany Ike and took the opportunity to ask them a few questions about their inspiration, the process of film-making on a micro-budget, and the necessity of black female voices in the media.
The series looks at the significance of the durag in black women’s lives. What is your own experience with the durag as a cultural artifact?
We both grew up wearing durags. It’s not often you hear about young girls participating in durag culture as it was and remains a very male-dominated space — in looking at how the durag became branded as a symbol of masculinized style via Hip Hop in the late 90s and early 2000s — but we both enjoy a laid edge or two! Growing up, durags were the norm. For one, it was the only kind of head scarf that would stay secured throughout the night. Secondly, it just made sense and was never questioned.
Which filmmakers and artists do you draw inspiration from?
Tiffany: As someone who consumes as much film and television as I can, I am constantly gaining inspiration from everywhere and everything. I have a love for storytelling and appreciate the creative ways in which many filmmakers and writers build worlds and concepts that are just breathtaking and I am always trying to do the same. I definitely focus on the details of a film or show, from wardrobe to the cinematography to the music and sound effect choices to the body language that sets characters apart, I love noticing how those elements influence the story or character’s development. I love watching all genres of film, especially psychological thrillers but still working on horrors (as I am not a particular fan of knowingly scaring myself) and I absolutely love black sitcoms and the culture that it presents. I am truly a fan of the entire art form of visual storytelling and gain inspiration from it all.
Kennedie: I am definitely a Julie Dash fanatic! I saw Daughters of the Dust sometime before getting to college but I never really knew how impactful of a film it was until my sophomore year when a professor assigned it for an extra credit review. That film is so beautiful, it makes me want to cry. The ancestors would be so happy. She continues to be a favorite in her direction of various episodes of Queen Sugar. Funny Valentine by Dash, a film that has seems to have disappeared, however, was what first got me hooked on this idea of film and how it can be used as lense into the multifaceted experiences of Black women. Cheryl Dunye, my current and most well-loved inspiration, is also such a gift. I love the way she has gone about revolutionizing the documentative narrative, let alone the representation she has provided for queer black women. Her earlier short films feed all of my lil queer black girl heart’s desires! Lastly, I think I was reared on the canon of Black classics (another very male-dominated space) — your Spike Lee’s, Eddie Murphy’s, Gordon Park’s, John Singleton’s, Forest Witaker’s etc.
Could you talk a little more about the interdisciplinary nature of the series?
We wanted to try our hands at everything. This is both of our film directorial debuts, having come fresh from the world of theatre.. and really love movies! So we were like, “why not.” We wanted to be able to figure out where we fit as directors in the world of film… you also don’t get to see Black women depicted interdisciplinary artistry very often, and our whole goal with this project is to do exactly the opposite of what audiences typically see.
We also wanted to flex and just do as much art as possible. As student artists it’s very hard to commit to a project, due to lack of resources and support, but we really just wanted to go for it! So we decided that in as many ways as possible we were going to make films that incorporated at least one other intersection of art: be it fashion, dance, music, poetry etc.
You both perform poetry as part of your multidisciplinary work – in what ways did this influence you artistically?
Poetry is actually how we both met. We both were accepted into a Hip Hop and Urban Arts scholarship program entitled First Wave through the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that emphasizes art, academics and activism. Coming into the program our focus was poetry but it soon grew as we bonded over film and other art forms. Our foundation in poetry can definitely be seen throughout our work in this series as many of the practices of creating poetry are woven into our concepts. Poetry gives us a capacity for language that other artists may not have and has informed the way we write scripts and aid the visual. We make sure everything we create is important to us, has purpose, gives people a voice, and every once in a while we through in a couple of metaphors because metaphors are great.
Filmmaking is an expensive business, and can often seem impossible to get into. How did you find working on a micro-budget film, and what advice can you give to those wanting to make their own?
We are technically babies in the game and are just learning the ropes ourselves, so I’m not sure we have much profound advice to offer at this point. But the biggest thing so far has been community support. People are really excited to hear these stories that we as a youth have to offer; and you can’t get their help if they don’t know about it. We have slid into sooo many email inboxes and have just asked folks to take a chance on us, on our art… and if what you are doing has value, it will make room for you. We really believe that.
So let folks know you have value, and demand space. Apply for grants and scholarships and just continue to plug yourself hardcore.
‘Draping’ is a brilliant example of intersectional womanhood at its finest, but mainstream media is rarely so representational. How do you feel that media representation has developed as of late, and what actions do you think need to be taken in order to increase visibility?
Tiffany: Let Black Women/femme identified individuals write their own stories. Put Black Women/femme identified individuals on Production Crews. There are so many folks out here with so much untapped talent.
Kennedie: Yeah, give us the steering wheel and we will inherently be able to write in a way that speaks to the intersecting identities we hold. Media has definitely been making strides in terms of intersectional representation, but I feel it’s done so in very one – two dimensional ways. It feels like the industry is holding steadfast to more stereotypical representations of identity rather than allowing stories to be authentically told. Also… I wish we would just tell more stories about Black Women and nonbinary that aren’t contingent on their relationship to the patriarchy, because those stories are just as important without that link.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us. Lastly, we’d like to ask you both: what’s next for the project? How can our readers keep up with ‘draping’ and yourselves?
There’s so much more ‘draping’ to do! We will be kicking of the series with a premiere of the first film on May 13th at the Madison Central Public Library in Madison, WI. Because it is a seven episode short film series, we hope this premiere will help gain more support and funding to be able to complete the project. We are in it ‘til the project is complete! You can keep up with the draping series @drapingseries on all social medias and on our website (where folks can also donate) at www.drapingseries.com. You can keep up with us as well on our personal social medias: Tiffany Ike: @ikespeaks, Kennedie King: @miss.kennedie
If this revolutionary project interests you, be sure to donate if you can! Much Ado would like to say a huge thank you to Kennedie and Tiffany for speaking with us, and to Clare for facilitating the interview.