Courtesy of Sewra G Kidane
Growing up in Harlem and Washington Heights, Sewra G Kidane became interested in filmmaking at an early age. As she recalled in a recent interview, “When I was around 11, I used to watch Leonard Nimoy’s show Lights, Camera, Action! about how movies were made and who did what! It was something that completely fascinated me! I made my mind up then, that’s this is what I wanted to do when I grew up!”
After taking video production classes for young people in junior high, Kidane majored in film production in high school at Art & Design in NYC. She went on to study television production at Emerson College in Boston. She quickly gravitated toward post production.
“My work-study job in college at Emerson was checking camera equipment in and out and it was there, that I started editing,” recounted Kidane. “I ended up being one of the online editors who operated the finishing edit suites. We would do the final edits for the senior TV class from their EDLs [Edit Decision Lists], titles, music, adding dissolves, EFX — and this was all on tape. Editing was something that instantly felt native to me and something I loved doing. And once I found out you could do this for a living, I was all in.”
After graduating, Kidane apprenticed at one of the top post-production houses in New York City, working on television commercials. Soon she was promoted to Editor, cutting beauty commercials for Pantene and Cover Girl. She made the decision early on to focus on fashion-based projects.
“I had made the decision to only cut fashion based work and fashion films,” she noted. “And I had to start all over in my editing career. I started working with fashion film director, Charlie Wan, cutting his work, and it was great! And I wanted to do more work like that! My reel at that point was tight but I still wasn’t able to get in the door for whatever reason.”
She soon set her sights on stepping behind the camera to helm her own projects. She soon set her sights on stepping behind the camera to helm her own projects. “I got into directing because I had reached a point with my editing where I wasn’t cutting the type of creative work I really wanted to work on,” admitted Kidane. “My mom raised me to create my own opportunities rather than waiting on someone to give me one. So I came up with an idea for a fashion film that would give me the kind of footage and story I wanted to cut.”
She explained what drew her to working on fashion related content. “Fashion/Style is just the common denominator in everything that I enjoy doing. I mean, If I’m going to sit for 8-12 hours looking at the same footage over and over and over and over, I would much rather it be a fashionable image I’m poring over!” she acknowledged.
“When I was thinking about changing careers, I thought about everything that I genuinely enjoyed doing and had skills in, to help me decided which direction to move into. And it kept coming back to fashion. I’ve always enjoyed fashion since I was young… the entire spectrum of it. From the designers to fashion shows, to my favorite models and especially personal style — it’s a fascinating galaxy!!!! My grandparents were very stylish people! My mom makes her own clothes and is a great example of style and taste. I used to model in the past. It’s something I’ve always been around, even before I knew I was in it.”
Courtesy of Sewra G Kidane
Her latest project, Proclamation Punctuation, is the embodiment of that passion. She explained how the film came about. “I went to the La Jolla International Fashion Film Festival to meet some fashion film directors, so I could cut their fashion films! And I saw some really great and memorable films. But I was like, ‘I can do better!’ I went there with the intent to cut films but I left there wanting to direct one.
Kidane turned to a former co-worker to help her realize her vision. She explained, “I wanted to do something completely original and different — something no one had ever seen before. I had a moment one day where I realized I used a lot of exclamation points and thought that would be a fantastic idea for a fashion film! I wrote every thought and line that came to me and fleshed it out. I only knew of one person that would really do the script justice, my friend, and colleague, Yvonne Durant. She and I worked together in advertising. She’s a copywriter as well as a novelist. She has such a way with words!!! The woman is brilliant with prose! Not to mention, she’s also quite fashionable and stylish! Ms. Yvonne clicked with the concept and the script immediately! It so perfectly explains why you should have no shame in your abundant use of exclamation points!”
She described the tone of the film, saying, “Proclamation Punctuation is a very clever film! It has a pleasurable dry sarcastic humor to it! I wanted it to be eccentric right up to the point of being extra! I wanted the audience to laugh with our Exclamation Point, and not at her. Leading lady, Miss Ayo Janeen Jackson did such an amazing job! Her performance commands your attention while she recites her soliloquy! Everyone who’s seen it can easily relate to it when it comes to their own personal use of exclamation points! And it empowers them to use more of them!!”
Given her love of fashion, it’s not surprising that Kidane also had a successful jewelry business. She described what she gets out of that creative outlet that she doesn’t necessarily experience in filmmaking. “With beading, it was my meditation. The repetition of my pattern work helped quiet my mind. It helped me to think and ponder. A lot of creative inspirations came to me in those moments. That’s how I got the idea for Proclamation Punctuation, while I was beading. The creative outlet that it gave me, and miss, was sitting still was ‘built into’ my work as a jeweler. With film, I feel like I’m always on the move… 24 frames per second literally!”
Kidane is continuing to move at film speed. She talked about her latest projects. “Recently I directed Destination Ooshie, a fashion film for resort wear designer, Ooshie. Directing that was a lot of fun, because cutting it was exactly the kind of work I love to do. I did an art film for Hycide magazine; ‘Fifty Four Eleven: An ode to the ‘round the way girl.’ It’s a tribute to Black girls in my neighborhood, Black girls in my family and friends. I’m also working on my follow up fashion film, ‘As Above;’ an enigmatic suspense fashion film based on the 2nd Law of The Universe. I’m cutting it now. A lot of the same crew from ‘Proclamation Punctuation’ also worked on this film. Cinematographer, Michael Cooke came back. And, my key dope team players; my stylist Chandra Moore and my hair/make-up artist Jenique Belle worked on it too. It’s really different.... and stunning.”
To find out more about all of Sewra G Kildane’s projects, visit her website at http://www.sewrakidane.com.