Nakia Stephens – Women To Watch Behind The Lens

Filmmaker Nakia Stephens is on a mission to elevate minority women in film

Nakia Stephens -Screenwrither 1

With both an award-winning film and an award-winning web-series under her belt, Screenwriter and Producer Nakia Stephens is rapidly making a name for herself on Atlanta’s rising film scene.

Stephen’s production company, Damn Write Originals, was founded in 2014 after graduating from Savannah State University and already has catalogue of shorts, features and web series.

 

Nakia Stephens - CoverHer latest project Cream X Coffee contributes to the new era of streaming by winning Best Webisode at the Bronze Lens Film Festival in August.  

“We have these contradictions about how we feel about interracial dating and I wanted to touch on them. People are multi-dimensional, whether they want to admit it or not,” Stephens said about society’s view of interracial dating.

In such a male-dominated industry, Stephens believes women are thriving even though they face many obstacles in more technical roles of filmmaking, such as editing and directing. “Our stories are usually being told from the perspective of someone else…not us, she said. “Us (women) in the independent film industry, we’re finally taking off.”

While the filmmaking industry has certainly demonstrated its bias against women producers, Stephens’ greatest obstacle to date has been more so her age. She clearly notices a shift in attitude when her colleagues and industry peers find out she is only 24. Yes, you read that right, and she’s the latest form of #blackgirlmagic, creating content with a cause greater than herself. “I combat the age bias by working harder than others are willing to, creatively staying one step ahead and being and infinite student of the craft; that way my work (not my age) will speak for itself.”

Stephens is passionate about independent filmmakers and hopes in the future people will realize indies take the biggest risk in filmmaking, often times speaking truth and being unapologetic in their content.  

Nakia StephensMost independent filmmakers with great ideas and great concepts run into obstacles such as funding and opportunity, leading many to crowd-funding. She hopes the world will soon understand the importance of independent films and embrace them. “I just want to make sure my content and the content of my peers is seen and that we can benefit from it to make more content.”  

She credits her movie-buff grandmother and a screenwriting class at alma-mater, Savannah State University, as her inspirations for stepping into filmmaking.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications in 2013, she dove head first into the film industry. A year later her feature film debut “MUSE” sold out the Plaza theaters in Atlanta. “It’s a rarity for filmmakers to do a feature for their first film,” Stephens said.  The film tells the tale of a recent college graduate struggling to deal with the real world; money v. passion, ex-beau v. new beau, friends v. family.  

The origin of her stories come from her everyday conversations and constant travels around the world to Ghana, Beijing, Paris and other. “It’s my duty to connect people through stories,” she said.

Stephens is inspired by her “fairy God-mothers,” Mara Brock Akil (Being Mary Jane), Shonda Rimes (Scandal), Gina Prince-Blythewood (Love & Basketball), and Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou). Her grandmother also serves as an inspiration to her works, similar to her short film “Sugar Water.”

Inspired by Spike Lee’s “Crooklyn,” the film was a personal memoir of a young girl and the life lessons of love, happiness, and wisdom taught by her grandmother “Peach,” similar to Stephens and her grandmother.  

Nakia Stephens - Screenwrither 3The film received Best of Festival recognition during the Black Women Film Network Film Festival in March. “It means a lot and it lets me know what I’m doing is important and means something,” she said.

She is currently working on a crime drama called Catt House about a journalist who goes undercover at a suspicious all girls school. “I’m excited about this project. Structure-wise, it’s a mix between ‘Orange is the New Black’ and ‘How To Get Away With Murder.”  

From what we hear, her best work is yet to come. “She has a way of talking about great black social issues and giving them a great plot funky twist; from Suga Water and LUC to Cream X Coffee. I really think she is growing and expanding her horizon every day,” said Cream x Coffee Cinematographer, Jairus Burks.

Despite the success she has experienced thus far, she is focused forward towards future opportunities.   

“I want to create content that elevates women and minorities in film. I want to give a true new authentic side to our stories.”



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