Raeshelle Cooke of Massachusetts – Award Winning Filmmaker
What’s the best part about your work?
1) Being able to tell a story about love, loss and life through beautiful music; 2) sharing stories about women that look like me, without all the stereotypes and foolishness; showing that we are humans like everyone else, who live and feel like everyone else. There are many layers to our beings. We are artists, lovers, music lovers, hopeless romantics, boss women, and unintentional activists. I love showing all these layers in my work.
What challenges have you’ve faced in this industry as a woman?
There have been times where a guy would tell me they’ll help me make a film if I date them. That was early in my career though. Needless to say, I laughed and made the film myself. I’ve also heard the whole “it’s difficult for black women to make a film. Read a book instead.” I heard that ridiculous advice 11 films and 3 awards ago. I don’t allow anyone to victimize me based on my race, and tell me what I can and can’t do. And I don’t think about my gender much at all. But I do notice certain things of course, and I handle them when they happen and move on.
In the age of #MeToo & #TimesUp, what do you hope to see happening in the future for women in our industry?
What I want to see happen in the future for women in our industry is, I want to see more black female directors, and black women in lead roles. They get less opportunities and I want to see them become more successful in the industry, and showcase their artistic talents both in front and behind the camera. In my films, I always have a black female lead and tell our stories and share our thoughts and feelings. There’s no one more oppressed than a woman who is black. I want to help lessen that. As for #MeToo, I want to see them become more inclusive of black women. I don’t feel that that is the case right now and because of that, I have not related much, and I feel out of place. I want to hear and see support for our stories. I feel the same about feminism, and women’s marches etc. I feel it’s important to not be afraid to speak up and say these things, and that’s why I tackle these feelings in a couple of new films that’s coming out soon.
What’s one way you would suggest people “Change the Lens”?
More women need to become writer-directors, and direct your own movies, assemble your own crews, and distribute your own content. Push your own content out there if no one else will. Don’t wait for things to change. Do it yourself. That’s how I go about my film career.
What advice would you give to a new female filmmaker?
Assert yourself on the set. Don’t let them talk or run all over you on set. Don’t be afraid to be a “bitch”, as they would label it. Embrace it and push your content. Get in the same rooms as the men and represent yourself.
What goals do you have for this year?
To shoot 2 new films this year, and package them into episode samples and take them to the American Film Market in Santa Monica in November to pitch a tv series idea. Get in those rooms with the men and represent myself. Continuing to push my content. But also enjoy myself and travel. I’ll be in Orlando in March, Memphis in May and hopefully Atlanta in September, with other trips in between. It’s important to live as much as you can. That’s what fuels content for the filmmaking. And film is not the most important thing in the world to me anyway, so it’s easy to take my own advice on that.
What women in the region (New England) inspire you?
Eileen Slavin is an editor in the Region who I’ve known for years now. When I first met her, she would take photos on the sets of my films, then we started bonding on the basis of editing. I’d always email her and ask her for editing tips as she’s a great editor. Then we became friends. She’s editing feature films now and is doing her thing, and I love that she doesn’t ever compromise who she is. I’d definitely say Eileen inspires me!
Upcoming Events or Announcements? What are you working on?
In the spring-time I’ll be shooting a film called “Woke”. The film basically sends the message to black women: quit saving everyone but yourselves. Do what makes you happy. It’s a response to men like Hidden Colors director Tariq Nasheed, a filmmaker who stays hating on me because I don’t let men from either race posses me. We’ve gotten into it a couple times and now it’s time for me to hit him and men like him with a film. Then in the summer or fall, we’ll be shooting The Richest Woman in Foolope County, a film that talks about generational-wealth building and real estate investing. It also touches on the ignorance of perceived wealth. Also, I may be involved in a Director’s workshop in April. And my last film Wrath City will be screening at the Rhode Island Black Film Festival, also held in April. It’s setting out to be another good year in film. The different between this year and last is, I intend to stay focused and not let things that don’t deserve my energy to rock me off the boat this time.
How can your fans find you!? Facebook.com/raeshellecooke
My film work: www.vimeo.com/raeshelle