Women Directors of Tribeca 2022: Meet Erica Alexander – “The Great Retribution”

Erika Alexander is known for her acting roles in “Unmarried life “- won two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actress and Comedy Series – “Get out, ” The Cosby Show ”and Black Lightning and co-produced the documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble. “The Great Retribution” is her directorial debut.

The big payoff“Screening of the Tribeca 2022 Film Festival, which takes place from 8 to 19 June. The movie is directed by Whitney Dow.

W&H: Describe the film in your own words.

EA: The Great Payoff is a documentary on reparations for African Americans, directed by me and my white husband, co-directed by Whitney Dow. The film follows the historical stories of Elder Robin Rue Simmons and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee as they move separate reparations initiatives for African Americans. We are witnessing Elder Simmons implement an groundbreaking local bill in Evanston, Illinois, as the first tax-funded reparations bill in America. And rap. Lee has been fighting for 30 years to pass a bill to study nationally in Congress.

W&H: What attracted you to this story?

EA: My skin attracted me to this story. I am a black woman born in America – this story is an American Molotov cocktail. It’s all about $ Benjamin, honey! Mixed with slavery, race, bias, prejudice and justice. This attracted me like the galactic tractor beam of the Death Star. America’s basic systems and foundations are built to thwart, attack, and torture blacks. I’m just another person in a long line of black Americans trying to dismantle these systems. I use my skills as a storyteller to help create a captivating conversation, to illuminate the visionaries who work in it, and to energize the movement.

W&H: What do you want people to think about after watching the movie?

EA: Go tell it in the mountains! Reparations now!! Change is a verb for action. So do something. Get involved, educate yourself. Be for it.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

EA: Money, money, money. Money!! This is always the biggest challenge. We were grateful to find committed financiers who are committed to social justice, but there are not enough of these good people to go around. We spend so much of our time collecting money and doing nothing. You know that many people, corporations and institutions advertise and pay in words, praising the justice and progress of blacks, but this often does not lead to much progress in marginalized creative communities.

It’s like we’re radioactive. “We do not fund the media. Especially movies. Too risky. ” Well, it is more risky when the media is not funded and the vacuum created is left to be abducted by malicious players and platforms. We need deliberate investment and daily reinvestment in our creative communities and new independent media sources. And we need those who propose to create funded projects to be held accountable for the results. In this way, we can all build a path to economic independence and organic sustainability.

W&H: How did you get funding for your film? Share some ideas on how you made the film.

EA: A private investor gave us the first funds to start this film and our first, John Lewis: Good Problems. If it weren’t for her, we would have failed early because we had to start shooting the first shots to show the interest of other investors.

Flower farm [the media company Alexander co-founded] is underfunded and undervalued, but we are not discouraged. But in order to survive and thrive, we will need infrastructure to move deliberately and take advantage of our momentum and success. We are currently raising funds project by project. It’s not sustainable, but we never give up, so the turmoil is real.

W&H: What inspired you to become a director?

EA: I’ve been acting for almost four decades. Show business is everything I’ve done as a paid professional. Storytelling is in my DNA; I can’t stop thinking about stories. It’s not a curse, but sometimes it’s a burden. Wherever I go, I see “history”, I hear “history”. So, damn it, I have to make a “story”. Making movies is the way I started when I was discovered at the age of 14 to star in a Merchant Ivory movie [1986’s “My Little Girl”]. I didn’t know then that my destiny was already sealed. But now I know that no matter how I move forward in the world, it will be nurtured by my love, passion and gift for storytelling.

W&H: What is the best and worst advice you have received?

EA: The best advice: pull your ass – I gave this advice to myself.

Worst advice: Stay in your lane. I am an off-road vehicle and a calm city driver. I never respect the speed limit and ignore the stop signs. My fuel source? The sun and the moon. If you don’t like it, beep!

W&H: What advice do you have for other women directors?

EA: I have to admit that I haven’t always had the best experience as an actress with female directors. I think my very presence threatens or challenges their authority. So, this may be specific to me, but I’m just going to say, “Suck it.” If another powerful woman is in the room, she should not dim her light to shine. In fact, you will need it to give you your A-game. So, greet each other with an open palm and shake hands with your partner in battle. Then keep doing it. Pull your ass.

W&H: Name your favorite women’s film and why.

EA: I have to say that due to the limited opportunities – especially in the genre – given to women, I can’t say that I have many favorite films directed by women. But I Love and respects many women directors: Ava Duvernay, Nancy Myers, Julie Dash, Penny Marshall, Lana Wachowski, Catherine Bigelow, and Gita Gandbhir, to name a few.

W&H: How are you adjusting to life during the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you support creativity and if so, how?

EA: The plague experience is great acting ammunition. We see how people are really people. However, the actors were identified as “key workers” at the start of the pandemic. I returned to work in September 2020, before the vaccine [rollout]. So back to the fire to tell a bigger story that will outlive us all in birth and death.

W&H: The film industry has a long history of underrepresenting people on screen and behind the scenes, and of reinforcing – and creating – negative stereotypes. What action do you think needs to be done to make Hollywood and / or the world of documents more inclusive?

EA: What steps can be taken to make Hollywood and the world of documents more inclusive? Fund more Color Farm Media, please. If I could take some time to promote the creators of colors, I would be omitting not to ring my own horn. But, yes, this is a problem. We need people to invest in America’s next big thing.

Creators of color… in 2018 there were more colorful children born in America than white children. They will want to see themselves as a narrative, not next to it. And I must say that the current archives and storybooks will not grow old well. They are not designed to withstand the storm, the cleansing rains of women’s empowerment, unrestricted diversity, and the aging of colonization and its suffocating grip on global audiences. If America is to succeed in the next century, it must be reborn, renewed, and fully realized. I don’t know about you, but I would like you to make friends with the new colorful world of creative people on the rise.

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