“My mother always tells me, God is not ever going to push you off of a ledge if God’s not ready to catch you…” -Shanice Parker.
Shanice Parker’s mind bleeds the strength inherent to women. It’s that strength that she saw in her household from her mother and sister that led her to thirst for more of those images. In a society that dwells on the stories of a man’s struggle, the storyteller in her couldn’t help wanting to portray the woman’s. Shanice says, “I felt like I so badly wanted to see females doing the things that men do and being respected for it, because I love my black women, and especially my black women from the hood. Those are the stories that haven’t been told. It’s so important for me to tell our stories. Stories of women succeeding and standing tall at something that somebody would say a man would do better. I believe it’s my calling to depict these stories because they need to be heard.” The idea of that image is what pushes Ms. Parker’s visions as a Director. Teaching herself the ins and outs of the production industry, Shanice has transitioned from her college days of psychology and communication studies to focusing in on her passions. Unbeknownst to her then, it was her extracurricular activities in college that fueled her energy to become the director she is today. Leading her own color guard team fostered her into a leader and creative that then primed her to master the skills of being a director, producer, editor, cinematographer, writer, and a host of other titles that come along with owning your own production company. As a woman who believes, “if one door closes, you better open it up for yourself,” it’s Shanice’s hope to bring her visions of the strength of the woman from the unknown and unheard to the scenes of our television screens. While on that journey she sits with us for an interview, and we take her from behind the scenes to center stage. Check out our interview with Shanice Parker where we uncast the Director, and get to know the thoughts of a woman breaking barriers and stereotypes in a male dominated industry to live out her purpose.
Shanice you have fallen in love with directing and producing. Typically that has been a male dominated industry, however, the image of that industry is starting to change. There are more and more women, and women of color who are succeeding. We have Mara Brock Akil, Shonda Rhimes, Ava Duvernay, and Issa Rae amongst others. What does that mean for you coming up as a woman of color in this industry?
I appreciate them. I want people to understand we’re coming in, we’re not going anywhere. We’ve been around for a long time. Our names are being accredited for what we do, our work, and our resilience. You always have to show love to the people that’s been doing it before you.
These women have made some pretty big impacts in the industry, what impact do you hope to have in the industry?
Hmmm… honestly, two people I really look up to in terms of developing my business and my brand is Diddy and Jay Z. I personally don’t feel like there’s another woman doing it like them, or if they’re doing it like them it’s not being shown.
What about Beyoncé aka Queen Bey?
Beyoncé, listen, I love Beyoncé don’t get me wrong, she’s a boss in her own right absolutely. But in terms of production. I’m not talking about from an artist view, in terms of production, especially with Diddy, these are people that I look at and go, I want people to feel my presence like that. They’re looked at as bosses, and in the same breath Beyoncé is a boss. I will never take that away from her, but she’s a first-class entertainer. Not to say that she won’t transition into that boss persona, but in my opinion, I don’t think there’s another woman doing it like I want the world to see. I want somebody to look at me and be like wow, now that’s a boss firsthand.
Ok.. Ok.. Well you’ve definitely taken some steps towards being that boss, firsthand. You’ve taken on projects with the BET Live Experience, the BET Hip Hop Awards, working with Yandy Smith, Rick Ross THE Boss, and the cutie Dave East. How did you build up these connections to have so many amazing opportunities?
I’d say perseverance of believing in myself. Listen, I’ve been doing this 2 and a half years. There’s a lot of people who’ve been doing this a lot longer and haven’t been on the scene. I believe that it’s because they told themselves that they weren’t worthy enough or maybe they told themselves they needed more time to gain experience. But, I fully believed in myself, I felt like I’m talented in what I do, I’m very capable, so yes, I’m going to get on the scenes. I’m going to connect with different people through networking. When you network with people you have to be bold, you have to believe in yourself, you have to believe the words that are coming out of your mouth. When you talk like that other people have no other choice, but to believe you. You set the tone for yourself. That’s the only reason I got into those rooms because I believed in myself and I networked with people and I spoke with truth behind my voice and who I believed I was and who I know I am. Networking is very important, but the importance of networking is to know yourself. Then go into these rooms and you know, spit hot fire, for a lack of better words. *laughs* Just be real in what you’re doing.
Which of these events or which person was most memorable to you and why?
Rick Ross. The Rick Ross experience had to be one of the… “WOW” moments for me. I was so close to him, and it wasn’t just like being close to him. I was close to his words. I was first hand in a room with this man to hear the words that he was saying. One thing that stood out to me was when he said, “You deserve to be here.” And it wasn’t specifically directed towards me, it was to everyone in that room. He said, “You deserve to be here, and if you’re in this room this was made for you.” Hearing those words from somebody who we all know as successful, and great, and a boss in his own right, to hear that from him it was like wow, it’s a fact I do deserve to be in this room. I was made for this. It felt so good, I felt like the true boss that I am. I walked outta that room like I was on top of the world.
Sounds like those words were the foundation for bigger and better things to come. You’re now in a stage of your career where you’ve released your first short film, titled Benny & Chris. Tell us about that experience and how you grew from it?
Creating my film, I literally had to do everything. Not to say I had to act in front of the camera, but in terms of writing, in terms of directing, filming it, editing it… I did all of that. And, it taught me how to be patient with myself. Partly because, there’s times where you believe you’re great, in which you are. You believe and you push yourself so hard that you don’t give yourself time to breath and to realize that you’re human. You need to relax, you need to settle yourself, you need to pace yourself. Calm down in times of adversity. You want to be this perfect kind of person at all times when you’re trying to build something. Especially when you’re passionate about it. I didn’t want to be that person with an idea that didn’t fulfill it. So, I feel like for me my film taught me a lot about myself, and a lot about what I was willing to do to get to where I wanted to be.
In your movie Chris is a good guy, a college student, & he chooses to pursue the “bad girl”. Kind of proving true that in the opposite fashion of the good guys always finish last, the good girls finish last too. Do you think your film displays the truth about relationships in today’s society?
I feel like this movie displays the relationships that do not hit the screen. I haven’t seen it before, personally. And it’s not about finishing last, I think this is the thing that people get caught up with in relationships. Relationships are learning experiences, they’re experiences that teach you about yourself. With relationships, there’s a situation where you find a boundary between losing yourself within the relationship and finding yourself within the relationship. Society has these depictions of what a relationship should be, but the reality of it is, do we really see our relationships on TV ever? I don’t necessarily think that Benny and Chris’ relationship goes against the relationships in society, but I do think their relationship goes against what we see on TV. We always see the girl holding it down for the guy, we never see the guy holding it down for the female. It’s just not shown very often and you want to know why. It’s because there’s not a lot of women writing these stories, or producing these stories, or directing these stories. That’s why. There’s a lack of women’s voices. In this movie, you see Benny, and yes, she’s dealing with Chris, but she’s so protective of herself. A lot of times women, they fall victim to caring so much about the guy that they stop caring about themselves. And that’s the problem. Ladies, I just want all ladies to understand when you do get involved with a guy always protect yourself. Always remember who you are when you enter into that relationship and who you want to be when you leave, or if you ever leave. Remain yourself, because we get lost.
Ladies, out there reading this you better take notes!
Yes, Yes. *laughs*
Let’s switch over to the art of directing. With the controversy that surrounded the likes of Nate Parker and Bill Cosby and their scandals, do you feel that people should view the individual separate from the art?
That’s the thing the art is a message, so they should be viewed differently. The art is a message. It’s not the person. Let’s get this straight. Nate Parker had a movie about a strong black man within a time period that we personally probably couldn’t even live through. And that message he had within that movie was important for everybody to see, but because of the scandal, the message got shifted to this man’s personal life. We’re not here for his personal life, we’re here for the message, that’s it. We are an audience for the movie. And, it wasn’t just him that had to put that movie together, there were directors involved, there were cinematographers involved, writers involved, editors involved, PA’s involved. There were so many people involved in that artwork that they took away because of one person. That’s wack. For Bill Cosby too, he had a message for the black household. What we all wanted, that two parent household with all our siblings in the house. That was what black folks wanted. His personal life had nothing to do with what the message was and that’s what I don’t agree with. I don’t think we should attach the person with the art, because it’s not just them that put together the art. There’s so many people that were involved with that.
I definitely think there’s a thin line. I don’t think one person should bring down the whole ship, and in my opinion art is art, if it’s good it’s good. However, the other side of the argument is that by supporting the art, essentially it is still streamlining money into the individual’s pocket in some sort of way. It still supports them. So, it’s a matter of how strongly do you feel about the crime or allegation. I see both sides of the argument, so again, I think there’s definitely a thin line.
The only thing I would say is that we have a tendency to want to categorize things and we have a tendency to want to connect. When your face is within that artistry and you have something behind your name like a terrible allegation, people don’t know how to differentiate the face acting versus the actual person. I feel like that’s where people get caught up. I just want people to look at the art independently from the person.
I think it depends on how personally that thing hits the person, based on that spectrum then they’ll react differently.
Yeah, I agree.
So, on Twitter you said, “You can’t rush things, a foundation must be built, take pride in your build up.” What other advice would you give to those struggling with pursuing their dreams?
Recognize that your dream is a commitment, it’s a relationship, it’s something that you should take pride in. At that time when I wrote that tweet I even felt like I was rushing it. I was like Yo, Shanice why aren’t you here yet? And, what can you do to get here? Then I had this epiphany like why am I rushing this? Be resilient in your story and keep building because a house without a foundation is going to fall apart. It’s going to be weak. Let’s say if Spike Lee said, Yo, Shanice I wrote this movie and I want you to direct it, right? And I’m in charge of the footage and everything, if I’ve never experienced moving footage, I wouldn’t know how to prepare for a bigger production. That’s all I’m saying. Keep on doing what you are doing, but believe in yourself, have faith in yourself. Know that there’s going to be times where you have to do things that you normally wouldn’t do, but DO IT. Never stop. You have all of your life to do what, sit around and say, oh well I tried. This journey of being a director& being an entrepreneur it’s not easy, but you know what I make it look good. And, you got to make it look good too! You have to, and even in those times where you’re like this is the downfall, you have to take the good out of it! Please, always find the good out of it! You may be like this didn’t happen the way I wanted it to, alright, but what did you get out of it? That’s what it’s about getting stuff out of all of your lessons whether it’s a good one or a bad one.
What’s next for Shanice Parker?
More movies. And, I’m looking for more clientele for music videos, that’s what I really want. Also, at some point in my career I am going to push Billz Productions out of New York. I want it in LA, I want it in Miami, I want it everywhere. There’s so many other people I want to work with. Billz Productions has a long way to go. Shanice Parker, Ms. Parker the Director has a long way to go and I’m ready for it!
Be sure to check out Shanice Parker and her company Billz Productions on her social media pages; Instagram @BillzProductions, Facebook at facebook.com/BillzProductons, Twitter, @BillzProduction, and on her website www.billzproductions.com.