Make Daydreams Come True: Filmmaker Nikki Roberts on Cannes Acclaim And Diversifying the Industry Tuesday 18 September, 2012

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Dreams are dangerous; some people go to great lengths to protect themselves and their loved ones from their visions. Whenever you dream of your fantasy job, partner, or vacation, do you rudely bring yourself back to reality by saying (or maybe even demanding), “Life isn’t like the movies”? Well, what if we have if we […]

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Nikki Roberts

Dreams are dangerous; some people go to great lengths to protect themselves and their loved ones from their visions. Whenever you dream of your fantasy job, partner, or vacation, do you rudely bring yourself back to reality by saying (or maybe even demanding), “Life isn’t like the movies”? Well, what if we have if we have it backwards? Filmmaker Nikki Roberts, Co-Founder and CEO of Rocketlight Films, believes we should take our dreams seriously enough not to let practicalities get in the way, and not the other way around. In her own words, she has been “making daydreams come true,” as an accomplished independent filmmaker whose works have been noted nationwide and internationally with official selection at Cannes Film Festival for the collaborative project, Botes Al Amanecer.

In this interview, Nikki discusses her path to filmmaking, why she wants to make diversity in the film industry commonplace, advice to aspiring directors, inspiration from movie classic The Goonies, and what living unchained means to her. Nikki shows that life can be like the movies; the rich, juicy ones with high drama and true character evolution — work hard, build your dream team and don’t let reality or those lost in the hatrix get in the way.

What led you to filmmaking?

I think I was always interested, in entertainment in general. I always wanted to be apart of it since I was young. I was first a fine artist, then that evolved into film and video. I shot my first  “movie” of sorts on one of those large HVSF camcorders when I was like 10. My neighborhoods friends and I tried our hand at making a campy horror movie; kind of like Goosebumps or Are You Afraid of the Dark.

Congratulations on all your success with Botes Al Amanencer! How did the idea for the film come about?

The project was a collaboration. The producer and the writer of the film sought me out to direct his first production. Botes Al Amanencer (Cans at Dawn) was the result. The film has personal meaning for the writer as it touches on the hardships he faced growing up in L.A. and the many times he had to help his mom make ends meet by dumpster diving for cans.

What has been your proudest accomplishment for Botes Al Amanencer?

Being able to tell the cast and crew the film was selected some high profile festivals, like the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, The Festival de Cannes,  the HBO NY Latino Film Festival, and so one. The film continues on a healthy festival run thanks to our Executive Producer Jose Yenque. Seeing their joy gave me joy. Along with those highlights, the film has gained wins in several L.A. film festivals.

What do you think is the greatest misconception aspiring filmmakers have about the independent film industry?

That all you need are great ideas and the ability to write and frame-up a shot. Every filmmaker needs to have a business mind too. There are a lot of sharks and pitfalls out there, and filmmakers need to be savvy and learn the law, learn how to read a contract, and learn how to manage money, well.

What would you like to see both mainstream and independent filmmakers offering more of to black women?

To give more opportunities to do more than just niche films. Race and gender are so dangerously linked to earning power. And the assumption is that Black Women Filmmakers aren’t bankable. Award winning; yes. Notable; yes, but none of this equals money to a money business. We just haven’t seen that yet. I believe we will.

What’s one of your favorite lines of dialogue from a film? 

“But right now, they got to do what’s right for them. Because it’s their time. Their time! Up there! Down here, it’s our time. It’s our time down here. That’s all over the second we ride up Troy’s bucket.” – Mikey, The Goonies

What’s your greatest aspiration as a filmmaker?

Hmm… haha. Of course, to win an Oscar, or some other shinny accolades, that in and of its self will say volumes. But, the main thing is to always have work, and to be able to make a living off of what I love doing: telling stories, working with actors, working collaboratively to make daydreams come true. ( I cut this out: And if doing all of this helps people.)  Most of all, if doing all of this helps remove the barriers for women of color in the industry then the ups and downs are all worthwhile. I dream of the day when diversity commonplace – that will be a big deal when it happens!

Finally, what does living unchained mean to you?

Putting faith to work, creating without limits, and being strong enough to dare to be what you want, even when peers and society tell you otherwise.


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