If you were an aspiring actress and found a thousand women who looked like you applying for the same role, would you be inspired to quit or to get those thousand women jobs that would help them get their voices heard? Terra Renee made the second choice, became an aspiring filmmaker, founded an organization to support women of color, and hosted an event to showcase their works. This is how African American Women in Cinema (AAWIC) was born, and 21 years later that one-time event is celebrated every year and continues to expand and grow with members, sponsors and partners to help filmmakers tell the stories that touch us in ways that inspire change in our culture and ourselves.
Terra always knew she wanted to pursue entertainment as a career, but when Dr. Nancy asked her who her inspiration was, Terra answered, “Dr. King.” She went on to explain that although Dr. Martin Luther King wasn’t technically in entertainment, he was so powerful that even though he never held public office, he has a national holiday named for him. More recently a conversation Terra had with a director of a peace organization led her to adopt a new role model, Mama Sarah Obama. At 96, Mama Sarah founded a school for Kenyan children who had been orphaned by the HIV/Aids epidemic. Terra said that if she could create something that powerful to look back on at the age of 96, she will have achieved her purpose.
The Joy of Walking in Your Purpose
Terra said simply, “I’m not a complainer.” When she sees an issue that needs solving, she sets about doing it. So when she saw a thousand women who needed jobs, she wrote a screenplay and founded AAWIC. Recently she hosted an event to give voice to women who suffered from the recent mass school shootings. She said that they have turned “their pain into power,” and she has joined their purpose with her own, providing opportunities for women of color to showcase their work and get it in front of audiences. Dr. Nancy agreed with Terra that it’s fun and joyful to work with others to create change and help support other women. And Terra called it liberating with an energy so strong that you can feel it when you meet someone who is walking in her purpose.
African American Women in Cinema (AAWIC)
Terra invites women and men of all colors to join AAWIC, especially filmmakers. She notes that technology has changed the entertainment industry drastically since she founded AAWIC. In those days, independent filmmakers had to rent a theater and sell enough seats to keep it showing long enough to attract a studio. Now, with YouTube and social media, filmmakers can drive traffic and do much on their own. However, AAWIC also helps in many ways: through the annual event, spotlighting at Sundance and other award shows. Terra also announced a partnership with On-Network, which pays licensing fees and promotes filmmaker’s content on their promotional platform. This gives more visibility and income possibility than the per-click requirements of other website platforms.
Listen to this conversation for more of Terra’s personal story, more about the book she is writing to support and inspire other entrepreneurs, and the documentary she is currently producing that will be featured at Sundance. And go to Terra’s website to learn more about AAWIC. It’s a registered 501c3 if you’re looking for a worthy mission to support and tax-deductible gift. And for aspiring filmmakers, a simple membership can help you get your story told and your voice heard.