Black Girl Magic on Film with The House of June

[Editor’s Note: House of June has been on the block for a minute. I don’t remember where I first got wind of them, but I threw this interview Alex’s way for obvious reasons. Sadly, that 1/2 of our resident #reelydopegirl squad will be on hiatus for a minute. Something about saving the world and grad school. In the meantime, get to the know the Southern Storytellers of House of June and enjoy! -d]

How did the three of you meet? Was it some act of the universe, or a “oh hey, she’s cool” kind of moment? At what point did y’all collectively decide to start this whole thing?

AMBER: Ebony and I met in a set lighting class at Georgia State University. We were two of three brown girls. After she told me she writes, I told her I hate writing but I love cinematography. So it was more “Hey girl hey, let’s make a film.”

TEMPEST: I met Ebony at the Atlanta Film Festival. It was definitely some act of the universe because I wasn’t going to go, but decided last minute I spent too much damn money on this pass so I got my butt up and went. I then watched and listened to Ebony speak regarding film, women in film, and being a black woman in film. We exchanged information, I met her and Amber at a Starbucks, and the rest is history.

Obviously your art focuses on the void that exists for people of color and women in roles that aren’t your typical Tyler Perry fare. At what moment did you realize that you needed to fix this?

AMBER:I personally realized the need for more developed characters and narratives during my stint as an actress. We have haves so many lives that aren’t reflected in cinema. We are always thrown in heavily used, boxed up archetypes.

TEMPEST: I found out at the age of 21 that I could be a filmmaker. I was then encouraged by my first mentor to follow my dreams: helping real women like me and young girls see that we can create our own images, in our own films, and make a difference for women period.

EBONY: I grew up watching John Hughes films and Alfred Hitchcock (Spike came later). Hitchcock films are my mother’s favorite. And Hughes absorbed me – I saw my inner self in his work: idiosyncratic and searching for more. However, I didn’t see myself. I didn’t see my hair, my nose. I didn’t hear my “language.” I didn’t see black love, black exploration of life. So, I started to write. I wrote what I didn’t see.

Teaser for Fried Ice Cream
Teaser for Fried IceCream

As a Southerner, I appreciate arthouse and indie culture grabbing a foothold below the Mason-Dixon. Do you think that this geographic location sets you apart from the tons of arthouses in places like Brooklyn and the Lower East Side in NYC?

AMBER: Yes, I think there’s Southern Gothic themes that, of course, you wouldn’t experience in a Northern film.

TEMPEST: Yes. Only because there are influences below the Mason-Dixon. I’m from Chicago and everything is different there: from culture, to music, to the kinds of films we watch and support. In the South you have more room to explore the art-house and indie culture.

EBONY: I totally think being a filmmaker in the South who uses art house and indie filmmaking qualities sets us apart from our peers up North. For starters, I don’t think people expect those aesthetics from us. I see being a Southern filmmaker as an advantage. Our backdrop for storytelling has a sense of freshness to it that filmmakers from up North don’t have.

Another thing that sets y’all apart from some of the bigger collectives is the focus on womanhood. The idea of cuntiness comes to mind. How do you each define cuntiness, and how does it relate to womanhood and your work?

EBONY: It relates to womanhood for obvious reasons. The root word is “cunt”. The word is considered vile but the origin of it isn’t. It relates to my work because I really love being a woman and so I’m inspired to create stories about estrogen.

TEMPEST: I define cuntiness as being my sister’s keeper: being a support system for my team of women and friends, being yourself and being the person you are supposed to be regardless of what society or anyone has to say. Standing in your cuntiness and owning it.

One of my favorite sayings to come out of this year is “Black stories matter.” It’s something so obvious, but something that took a while for the rest of us to realize. What’s one particular story that influenced your choice of creative pursuit?

AMBER– I wouldn’t say there’s one current story that I focus on. I think naturally as black filmmakers, undertones of our struggle for equality are present. I think Black Lives Matter in places of space, fiction, narrative, European art cinema, science fiction, etc.

There are so many worlds we can create with film, and likewise, so many characters. I think it’s lazy that we don’t see many female/male star-pirates or astronauts or immortals; with a healthy dose of melanin giving life on screen. This argues that we have no future or they don’t view us in their future. We should create our own.

TEMPEST: There is no particular story that inspired me to be a creative. It was when my mentor showed me how to make a commercial and a small documentary that I then realized I want to make the stories that I never had. I realized I could teach the same lesson I learned to young girls and women.

EBONY: What comes to mind first is studying and learning of the Harlem Renaissance. As a pre-teen, knowing that there was a dope group of black people who came boldly before me in a time of such angst empowered me. I literally felt then, as a young artist, there wasn’t shit I couldn’t so. Zora told me so. Cullen told me so.

HOJ_B6_Screenshot_2015
E1 of The Shrink in B6

Let’s talk more specifically about the art that you produce. How did The Shrink in B6 come about?

TEMPEST: When I joined House of June they already had The Shrink In B6. I was just super excited and blessed to be a part of such a phenomenal show.

EBONY: The need for the series came from needing content. We wanted to create something for web. The idea for the series came from friends coming to my B6 apartment and sitting in my living room shooting the shit, purging and feeling safe enough to do all of that with me.

What are ya’ll currently working on? 

TEMPEST: We are currently working on revamping House Of June, as well as several productions we are gearing up to do. We are perfecting our baby Fried IceCream so next year the world can witness GREATNESS!!

EBONY:  Introspectively we’re looking on ourselves as a company entirely and assessing how to FAIL FORWARD. Fried IceCream didn’t happen this year due to partially being green but also not being ready. We’re working on committing to being a stronger brand and strengthening how we approach projects. Mos def we have some really new dope content coming, but we’re not rushing the process for the sake of appearing to be relevant. We want longevity, so this is our time to bang out the chinks in our armor.

So what does the rest of 2015 hold for HOJ?

TEMPEST: The rest of 2015 is all about upgrading, learning, and starting our philanthropy projects and giving back to the community in a major way.

EBONY: We’re using the remainder of this year to interview new crew and do community engagement events to show our gratitude to the communities we film in and whom feed us artistically.

How can folks get in touch?

TEMPEST: You can always reach us through our website: www.thehouseofjune.com


 

oawash_avi_2015alex is a nerd in that un-cute way, like the comic book guy in the simpsons. just don’t get her started on science fiction or nonfiction documentaries. otherwise, she enjoys things that require an acceptable amount of commitment such as web-series, role-playing games, and cats. @oawash_

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