Myrlande Charelus hasn’t release her first feature him yet, but you better believe that her name will be mentioned in the same breath and in the same sentence as cinematic luminaries like Euzhan Palcy, Frances Marion, Dorothy Arzner, Julie Dash, Sophia Coppola, and Myrlande’s personal favorite Ava Duvernay. While at Howard University, she was part of the crew of several productions, including a short film she wrote and directly. She recently spent some time in Haiti to film 4:53, a project with which she worked with the prolific Abdias Laguerre. She wrote the project and serve as its director, and it won’t be her last.
Kreyolicious: So, you’re at Howard finishing your MFA in Film. What has the experience been like?
Yes, well I recently graduated from Howard, where President Obama and Cecily Tyson were keynote speakers. I have now earned my MFA and hopefully someday I will have my [doctorate] in Third World cinema.
My experience from Howard was nothing to what I expected. I have built great relationships with some of the best people such professors and students I have met. Haile Gerima-I would say is my biggest accomplishment attending Howard—one of the hardest professors who’s ever taught me. However, my journey through film school would have almost been nothing without him. I have gained a mentor. He’s also a big deal in the black film community. He is a big deal to have as a mentor.
Above: Filming scenes for her film 4:53 in Haiti.
Kreyolicious: You have a project entitled 4:53. That’s rather intriguing. How does that number relate to the plot, or should I take a guess instead of asking? Is it an apartment number, a suite number, a set of digits significant in a milestone of the characters’ lives?
4:53– that’s my baby! My current project! The number signifies the time the earthquake struck down Haiti back on January 12th, 2010 at exactly 4:53pm. 4:53 can represent a circumstance or event that dramatically changes your life. It is a figurative earthquake! The story itself focuses on a boy proud of his heritage who is forced to leave his mother in Haiti to live with his ashamed father in the US. I wanted to play with culture, self-identity and colorism.
Above: Back in DC, the fledging filmmaker has a moment of reflection.
Kreyolicious: The last time I interviewed you; you professed admiration for Ava Duvernay. Do you still look up to her?
Yes, I love Ava. One of my professors is a great friend of hers. Ava visited Howard while I was still a student. What she is doing in the film industry is everything I want to do. I am not sure if you have ever heard of Array? It is a platform she uses to promote indie films.
Kreyolicious: Yes, I actually have heard of Array…Have you read any worthwhile books besides your school textbooks that you feel give you a good handle on filmmaking and screenwriting?
OMG! Yes- I mean, I read a lot of books, for different reasons. You have to understand I am also a writer—so I read a lot. I read a lot, but I read based on the project that I am working on. With 4:53– I did not have to do a lot of readings. Rather I visited Haiti and interviewed some people who were affected by the earthquake.
Kreyolicious: What would you like to say to aspiring female filmmakers?
If it is your calling, go for it! If it is for the money, you’re wasting your time. My biggest advice would be to find your voice, filmmaking is mostly a man’s career. So is almost everything else. But don’t let that stop you from going after your dreams. Study your craft inside and out. Therefore, other people won’t feel the need to tell you how to do your job.
Kreyolicious: We will keep hearing of you no doubt. What’s next after this project?
This is what I want to do for rest of my life. So eventually, you will hear a lot about me. I am currently in post-production for 4:53, a project I plan to finish by next year. I am taking my time with it. At the same time, I am currently mastering a short-script. Hoping to go in production by next year.