Nancy Stricklin seems to never be at a loss for words especially with a resume that lists such occupations as songwriter, novelist, and poet. And let me add she’s a prolific painter too. But if you think she stops there, think again. This one-woman creative machine has now expanded her artistic empire by branching out into filmmaking, first with her 2010 debut “Detour”, a drama she wrote, produced and directed which screened at the Side Walk Film festival in Birmingham and The San Diego Black Film Festival in California. She followed that up with another short, 2011’s “Time Calls” which is set to premiere at Sidewalk next month and has a full length feature film in the works.
I spoke with the Arkansas-born Stricklin who has lived in the Magic City since the age of 8 about becoming a filmmaker and what I found was a passionate artist with an infectious laugh who has big dreams and loads of talent to match. And with an immeasurable enthusiasm, eagerness to learn and respect for the craft, this rising indie film director has definitely positioned herself as one to watch in the movie industry.
BME: You’re new to filmmaking…one wouldn’t know it after looking at the trailers for your films, you definitely have something special.
NS: Thank you, thank you.
BME: You’ve made your mark as a songwriter, author, poet, and painter and now as a filmmaker, is it what you envisioned it would be?
NS: It has been crazy fun. (laughs) I never understood the amount of work that went into making movies, every little detail. I guess with me being the writer, director, producer, casting… because I do so much since I’m just starting. But I love all of it, the long hours, the writing, meeting people, working with different people. It’s been great.
BME: When you finally did it (made your first film), what was your reaction?
NS: I think I was like wow, I actually made a movie! (laughs) I actually made a movie (pauses) and it’s good! At least I thought it was good, you know. (We both laugh)
BME: “Detour” and “Time Calls” are both shorts that you’ve written, directed and produced, any plans to make a full length feature?
NS: I’m currently writing the script for my feature and I plan to start filming in January.
BME: Can you tell us more about it, will it be another drama?
NS: It will be a drama. I can’t give too much of the plot because I’m still writing but it’s going to be based around relationships and it will be filmed here in Birmingham.
BME: “Detour” played on the festival circuit, what plans do you have for “Time Calls”?
NS: Ahh, the same, just to hit the festival circuit and try to attend as many as possible and learn as much as I can. I went to the San Diego Black Film Festival last year and I learned so much and met so many people, so I see that going to festivals and networking is a really big part of my learning experience as a filmmaker. So I’m going to try to get selected into as many festivals as possible just to get it out there.
BME: Most filmmakers have their own style (of storytelling), when moviegoers see a Nancy Stricklin movie, what do you want them to take from it?
NS: I want them leaving saying wow that was really good, I didn’t know this or I didn’t realize that, or man that was shocking. I really want them to be emotionally affected by it.
BME: As an artist, in terms of expression, what do you get to do with films that you don’t get to do with the painting, or the songs, novels and poetry you’ve written or are you finding all those art forms to be connected in some way?
NS: They are and that’s what I love about it. You know all these years, trying out these different artistic things…I thought with movies I get to incorporate every last one of them. The writing with the books which is my scripts, the music which is the movie score and being apart of that and seeing what works and what doesn’t work, even the casting, the characters of the book, just everything…the visual arts which goes into set design and things like that. So everything comes together.
BME: You came to my attention through the On The Set Summer FilmCamp as the screenwriter for this year’s film, “The Hop Off”. What was it like working with Camp founder David Tucker, Jr., the kids and Kadeem Hardison?
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NS: It was my first year and I really didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never worked with children before. It was fun and interesting. Seeing how fast they picked things up and how interested they were and how seriously they took it, I was really surprised and impressed. Dave is really cool. He really knows how to keep the situation balanced yet get the film done in a timely manner and Kadeem Hardison, I didn’t know what to expect with him either and he was very cool and laid back, talked with everybody, real down to the earth, just a regular guy. I definitely plan to be apart of On the Set again.
BME: I admire your outlook on life. You state on your website that anything is possible and only you can stop yourself in life, using yourself as example of going from a degree in Sociology at UAB to becoming a filmmaker. Where does that optimism come from?
NS: I guess when I always see other people in the world who do things that I like or aspire to do, I always think well if they did it, who’s to say I can’t, what makes them different from me? I feel like if it’s already been done, anybody can do it because everything has to be learned and since everything has to be learned, it can be learned. You can always be a leader and think outside the box and always try to think of ways to start something new or create something new. I think anything is possible; you have to take the time to learn it.
BME: There’s someone out there reading this who would like to be to do what you’re doing. What would you say to them?
NS: I hope they’re motivated by what I do and not be afraid to step out and try new things regardless of what they know and who they know at the moment.
BME: Let’s talk about the future, you state also that you’d like to one day win an Oscar. Can you expand on that?
NS: Yes. (laughs). I would love to win an Oscar for writing and directing. There has never to my knowledge been an African-American woman who has ever won an Oscar for writing and directing. So it’s wide open for me to be a pioneer in what I’m trying to do. I just want to make great movies. I want to make classic movies that never get old because the subjects are so relatable and so continuous.
*Nancy Stricklin’s first film “Detour” is available on DVD.
*Her latest project “Time Calls” will screen August 27 at the Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham at the Alabama Carver Theater
*You can learn more about Nancy Stricklin and her works by visiting her website.