Kicking off week 2 of the #BlackFemaleFilmmakerSeries, I talked to Joyce Fitzpatrick. Joyce is a triple threat within the industry – writer, director and producer housed in Los Angeles.
How long have you been in the industry and what made you want to go into this field?
I’ve been in the industry since 1991, which is a long time. Being from the midwest, I watched a lot of tv and movies, read tons of books and learned to play lots of instruments. There wasn’t much to do in Indianapolis, but I truly enjoyed my childhood and teenage years growing up there. I love old movies and watched a lot of “good” tv and “bad” tv. However, I noticed there wasn’t a lot of diversity on the three big networks at the time. Cable was just starting and I felt that one race was consistently represented in every genre but not Blacks, Hispanics, Asians or indigenous people. You’d only see us in stereotypical roles and situations, i.e. living in poverty, or as slaves, killers, butlers or maids.
I wanted to see more diversity in all genres from the pioneer days, to suburbia, to outer space, but it didn’t exist, except on Star Trek..Lol. That motivated me to want to get into telling stories about black lives that reflected various experiences and genres. That’s why I went into the film and television industry. I wanted to speak from the experiences that I knew and learned about from my life and through family and friends. I know there are so many great stories out there and I can’t wait to see more and more of them from creatives of color.
Have you ever dealt with imposter syndrome in this industry? If so, how did you overcome that?
I’ve worked for different entities with male bosses and they have often made me feel like I did not belong in the position I held. Even though I worked very hard and often harder than my peers, and I’ve tolerated berating & condescending remarks, I stayed confident, strong and patient. To this day, I thank those individuals who tried to make me feel inadequate because they made me even more confident and stronger in my abilities than I ever thought I could be. I’ve learned that when others try to make you feel less than, they are really feeling that way themselves and you shouldn’t let them intimidate you. That’s it!
What would you identify as your most successful moment up to this point in your career?
Wow….I’ve had a few successful moments in my career that I think about from time to time. I really can’t pinpoint just one moment, but there have been a few situations that I’ve felt blessed. Having an audience see my work in a movie theater or on a television network was a great feeling. It feels good to know that your work has made it that far.
There is one memory that I always keep close to my heart. It was the very first time I wrote a comedy sketch for a national television show titled, “The Newz” for UPN. This was a long time ago because UPN is now CW. Back then, I was flown out to Universal Studios to see my sketch performed live by the comedy ensemble from the show in front of a live audience. If you google “The Cat From Hell” on the tv show the NEWZ you can watch it. It was a surreal experience and anyone reading this who is a television writer, you feel strange when a live audience is laughing at your jokes. I just stood on the sidelines near the stage and just watched the audiences responses. They laughed so much and I enjoyed it, but it felt really strange. I think it was because this was the very first thing I EVER wrote and it made it on national television network. I can’t explain it, but that was one of my most memorable moments working in this business.
How would you describe your artistic style?
My artistic style when it comes to directing is about telling a good story with amazing backdrops and wardrobes, like in “Black Panther.” Now, I do love old movies where the women are dressed to kill in amazing dresses and gowns with vivid colors aka technicolor like in the “old” days. But I also think there are amazingly talented DP’s out there who can see how to interpret my story in ways that I may not even imagine. I also like bigger-than-life action which also involve dramatic and amazing back drops, like old sleepy towns, sweeping valley and beautiful country sides. At the end of the day, I just want to tell good, fun, scary or heartfelt stories that move people and make them think and if style plays a huge part in that, then great.
I’m not a big fan of romantic comedies, but I actually wrote one called “African American in Paris” which was an award-winning screenplay, and it follows the “Walter Smitty” style of storytelling which involves great locations about Europe which help to tell the story.
Do you have a film bucket list? If so, what are you still wanting to do?
I would love to make some fun and memorable horror films and mysteries. Or even some fun comedies because I’m not too serious. I like to have fun, so if I could do lots of projects that make people scream, laugh and watch my films over and over again, I’m good.
What would you say to other Black female creatives wanting to break into the industry?
Get out and just get started. It is such a great time in history to be black and female. What I would like to see more of is women of color helping each other. I still see a lot of “crabs in the barrel” syndrome. I’ve been at events, on sets with most of the stars you see today and I hate to say this, but I’ve gotten death stares from these people for no reason and particularly women. It’s really sad. I’m not a stalker, but I see some of these actors on some of our most popular shows at film festivals, Hollywood functions, etc. and they just stare you down. Unless your Ava Duvernay or Oprah, they look at you like you shouldn’t be there, but the thing is you are, so why can’t we chat?
It’s crazy. I just keep my nose to the grindstone and keep letting my work speak for me. I also try to help other up and coming women of color in this industry, because we have all needed a helping hand at some point in our careers and why not help someone who you know is talented. Hey, if they’re more talented than you, don’t be jealous. Pull them in and maybe collaborate with them and create something wonderful!
Why do you feel is it important to have our voices represented in this industry?
The industry needs to reflect the dollars it takes from its consumers and most of those are people of color. We have tolerated not seeing ourselves in Hollywood for far too long and I think the timing couldn’t be better, but people have to stay on it. It’s important that if you are going to start a fight, you have to finish it and it’s a long battle. I loved “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians” and there needs to be more of that and I hope Hollywood is watching and listening to its consumers.
Anything else you would like to share?
I think it’s great to share our experiences that include the good and the bad because this Hollywood life isn’t all “Glitz” and “Glamour.” It’s a business and a harsh one at that, and people need to know about it. It will eat you up and spit you out if you aren’t grounded. I think the “Me too” movement is showing us that. But, it is still one of the most attractive careers out there. It has it’s attraction, but it can bite too.