By Shelly Prevost
In the last few years there has been a dramatic rise in the number of films written, directed, and filmed in the East Bay. Not only indie films, but blockbuster films such as Black Panther, which was written and directed by Oakland-born Ryan Coogler, featured scenes shot in Oakland. At $1.3 billion worldwide, it’s one of the highest-grossing films of all time. Before “Black Panther”, Coogler wrote and directed another East Bay story, “Fruitvale Station”, which was about the Oscar Grant shooting. Another local favorite, Daveed Diggs wrote and starred in “Blindspotting”, a story about gentrification, race relations, gun violence and class, and features Oakland as another character in the story. Richmond native Justin Tipping wrote and directed, “Kicks”, a movie shot mostly in Oakland. Add to this writer-director Boots Riley’s, “Sorry to Bother You”, also featuring Oakland, and you can see a trend developing in more authentic stories from the East Bay being told by local people of color. The motion picture industry, long criticized for its lack of diversity, highlighted by the #OscarsSoWhite hash tag and the controversy surrounding its lack of people of color in film, behind and in front of the camera, seems to be moving in the right direction. This might make one feel more optimistic.
Unfortunately, the film industry has another, less noticed but even more severe lack of diversity. Last year for the 86th time in the Academy’s 91-year history of awarding Oscars, the membership nominated an exclusively male slate for Best Director. Only once has a woman, Kathryn Bigelow, won Best Director. None of the previously mentioned films above were written or directed by women. One realizes there is a larger battle still being fought to open access to more female voices in film.
On the front lines of this battle is our own Richmond Film Collective. Founders B.K. Williams and Erica Milsom formed the collective to provide a space for local filmmakers to support each other and make their voices heard.
What is the film collective? Er