Underwire Winner Naomi Grant Is Reframing Black Girls On Film

We spoke with the award-winning writer, filmmaker and entrepreneur about her film Future First

21 December 2018

What did you want to say with Future First?
Future First was sparked by the media's renaming of cornrows as ‘boxer braids’. I wanted to create an empowering film that reclaimed our contributions to society, that didn’t portray women as victims to cultural appropriation, because the women I see all around me are strong and mighty. I wanted to showcase black women in a different light: as beautiful, intelligent and confident beings - something we don’t often see in the media.

Who wrote the spoken word piece for the film and who inspired it?
I wrote the spoken word piece as a way of redefining what society says of black girls. I wanted to tell a liberating story that’s also relatable, which is why I included central images in every black girl’s life, like resting their head on their mother’s lap and braiding their hair.

How did you go about marrying the images to the words?
That was primarily the editor, Azeez. We were very in sync on this project, and he understood the vision from the outset!

How did you choose your crew?
The crew came about quite coincidentally for this one. I met one of the photographers, Benjamin, at a networking event last year, and then we met up to discuss our aims for the film. Azeez, the DOP, interrupted the meeting to drop something off to Ben; he saw the references and decided to come on board with the project. I also got my brother, Joshua, to do photography, who I worked with for 50 Shades of Melanin.

The films feels like a great exercise in resourcefulness, especially in terms of location. Could you explain how you work resourcefully?
As a producer, I’m always thinking of how to get things for free and stay within budget! I think it is so exciting to be a creative in London right now because there are so many things at our disposal - you just have to go out and find them. Filming outside is a great way to save money on lighting and location. I always try to see what is around me and what I have access to in my immediate circles before reaching out externally to get anything.

What was your biggest challenge when making Future First, and how did you overcome it?The biggest challenge was definitely the weather! We filmed last year in December, and the majority of the scenes were outside. At times it was both raining and freezing, but the women in the film were amazing and kept their spirits up, which in turn kept the crew going.

Tell us about the collective that you founded, LAMBB.
LAMBB is a production company that seeks to redefine images of black and brown people in the media. We take our online action offline by facilitating workshops for youth centres, schools and universities. I created the company in response to the world. We are existing in a time of temperamental politics where marginalised groups are being pushed to the outskirts and being told their voices do not matter. I wanted to create an organisation that celebrates those voices, and authentically tells our story. This prompted the workshops; not only do we want to spark conversations online, we want to spark action.

What is the biggest lesson that you learned from making this short film, and where do you hope this experience will take you to?
That when you get people on board with a vision, you can achieve anything. I learnt that having a unified vision is what achieves goals. Collaboration is essential in film, and working on a set with talented, young people is truly inspiring. I hope this experience feeds into the building of my company, and I hope to always find inspiring, driven people to make magic with.

Watch Naomi's award-winning short film Future First here.