Queen Latifah using new initiative The Queen Collective Shorts to build up women filmmakers

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Queen Latifah

Speaking last week at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, multi-hyphenate entertainer Queen Latifah talked about how she is using her latest endeavor, The Queen Collective Shorts, is to lift up women filmmakers and advance gender and racial equality behind the camera.

“Mudbound” director Dee Rees hosted the hourlong discussion, which was followed by the premiere of the collective’s inaugural output of short documentaries, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

During the panel, the rapper, actress, label president, author and entrepreneur discussed the origins of her film production collective, where she hopes it will go in the future and how it fits into her multifaceted life’s work.

Developed in partnership with Flavor Unit, a TV and film production company Latifah started in 1995 with producer and manager Shakim Compere, and Procter & Gamble, the women-focused collective selected, financed, produced and distributed two documentary proposals as part of its initial class.

“For us, giving people the opportunity who may not otherwise receive one is what we’ve been doing from day one,” Latifah told the Tribeca audience. “[These people] can be so creative —they’ve got more creativity in their pinky than people who have masters degrees and doctorates, and when you see that kind of talent you can’t walk away from it.”

Latifah personally mentored both of the winning directors for the collective’s initial year, Haley Anderson and Brittany Fennell. Anderson directed “If There Is Light,” a look at one family’s move out of the shelter system, while Fennell helmed “Ballet After Dark,” which trails a black Baltimore woman who survived abuse and now using ballet as therapy.

Both short docs are now streaming on Hulu; click here to see them.

“This was such an unforgettable experience because as women of color we’re … getting support from other editors, directors, Tribeca staff,” Fennell told the panel audience. “I don’t think women of color always have a seat at the table and I think this program is so different because it arranges opportunities for people to do that.”

Latifah said idea came after sitting on a summit panel for women with Proctor & Gamble’s chief brand officer Marc S. Pritchard. She said she realized there that something had to be done “to really represent women and girls honestly, truthfully, naturally” in both advertising and behind the camera.

In the future, Latifah said she’d like the number of produced projects boosted from two to five and for the work to create a “halo effect,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

She said she’s already started to see the rippling impact of the collective’s work: After the initiative was announced and she returned to the set of Fox’s “Star,” Latifah said women started stepping “out of the dark shadows” to express interest in directing and ask whether the Queen Collective would be supporting the production of more films.

“This resonated with people which tells me there are so many women out there who are waiting for an opportunity and are waiting for something like this — someone who understands what they’re trying to accomplish,” Latifah said.

During the panel, the Oscar nominee also talked about how she’s developed her successful, long and eclectic career. She called her mother, Rita Owens, a guiding light who reinforced that she shouldn’t put all her eggs in one basket and that she should always have something to fall back on.

The Tribeca Film Festival continues through Sunday, May 5.






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