Terra Renee was born to a family involved in activism, but entertainment was her own idea for a career. The two drives collided when Terra discovered a thousand other women who looked like her auditioning for a very small part in a TV show. Being young and naïve didn’t stop her from instantly realizing that she MUST create jobs for these women. She started writing a screenplay until friends urged her to apply for a grant. She won the grant, which was presented at a luncheon. That luncheon introduced her to another young woman who told Terra that she loved her grant application and wanted to be her publicist. Terra couldn’t imagine why she would need a publicist, but went along, and out of that meeting, African American Women in Cinema (AAWIC) was founded to be a one-time event honoring different women of color in cinema. Twenty-three years later, it is a fully functioning organization helping support women of color to take on roles of filmmaking “from soup to nuts” as Terra says.
Ironically, while writing that first screenplay, Terra took courses in film directing the School of Visual Arts as part of her search. She says that she met a Vietnamese man there who offered “to break her into the business.” When Terra laughed in disbelief, he introduced her to his friends who were producing short films. Terra worked with them in every capacity getting valuable on the job training, and when one of the friends got funding for a feature length film, Terra was hired as the first woman and woman of color associate producer. And when the director submitted it to the Cannes Film Festival, it won an award. The synchronicity of the work, the grant, and the award happening in conjunction with the founding of AAWIC all happened with such an “ease” that Terra says she knew, “This is what you were called to do, and you finally found it.”
YouTube University—A Safe Place to Learn
Terra has talked a lot about the opportunities technology has provided women in past interviews, but in this one, she mentioned how she consults YouTube University on a variety of issues. She says that while some people find it isolating, Terra says, “It’s a very singular space, and it does not allow room for anybody else. That makes it a very safe space emotionally.” So, if she can’t reach a friend on the phone, she types in the subject that is bothering her and says that she finds, “a litany of videos from women who face the same issue.” She is puzzled that women have been taught so differently. She says that she doesn’t know if they expected us for the next million years to be in the kitchen and raise the children or what. While she thinks there’s nothing wrong with that, she adds, “But God gave us so much more. And we have a responsibility to contribute.” Terra says that it’s also our responsibility to create safe spaces emotionally for one another, reinforce the positive attributes that we have and not focus on the negative. “Balance, in my mind,” Terra says, “is the key to life.”
Women’s Perspectives that Inspire Terra
Terra said that she is encouraged by the women’s groups she has attended recently and the willingness to put differences aside and support each other. She mentioned one in which women announced that they were running for office and could use some help. And others replied that they didn’t have much but offered three or five dollars. Another example was a group of young women in technology who were reaching out to support one another and listen to each other’s issues. And finally, Terra told of being in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when President Biden spoke and how amazed she was to hear women who were born and raised in Tulsa, who had never heard of the Tulsa massacre. What inspires Terra is the new level of visibility for things that have been hidden for so long, and the flame it has sparked. She says it’s about understanding one another without prejudice, engaging, and from that dialogue, putting together an action plan. Terra thinks this is all very powerful, and exclaims, “Oh, Dr. Nancy, there’s another movement!”
Current Activities Giving Voice to Women in Activism and Entertainment
Terra has expanded her offerings over 23 years. In this conversation, she mentions several:
- An educational series the last Friday of each month where various prominent leaders in the industry talk about various careers. This month, a sound recordist who worked on Michelle Obama’s, “Becoming” documentary is talking about sound as a career.
- On the Clubhouse App, a weekly filmmaker series every Monday at 6:00 pm talking about the process, so new filmmakers won’t get discouraged and quit before we can see their talent.
- The next film festival will take place online Nov. 4-6, 2021.
- Talk with Terra podcast, every Thursday at 7:00 pm on RudyRadio.com.