Filmmaker, photographer, and producer Francesca Andre was recently named to the Connecticut Magazine's 40 Under 40 Class of 2018. She graciously agreed to answer a few questions for us about her career, her experiences, and her award-winning short film Charcoal.
Have you always been interested in telling stories? What inspired that interest?
I was raised by an amazing storyteller, my grandmother Inocia Lefranc, who used to share many beautiful Haitian folktales with me when I was a child. Storytelling is in every fiber of the Haitian culture - I have vivid memories of elders telling riddles to children while eating roasted corn. These are the memories of my childhood that I cherish the most, these are the stories that we don’t see or hear about Haiti, and that’s what inspired me to become a storyteller.
What kind of formal and/or informal training/education do have in the film/photography field?
I have a Masters in Film and Television from Sacred Heart University.
How did it feel to learn you had been chosen as one of CT Mag's 40 Under 40?
Excited, grateful, hopeful. Pursuing film and photography as a career can be very challenging in many ways, so to be recognized for my work/craft is a tremendous blessing.
Was Charcoal your first film that you worked on? Can you talk a little about your other work and how it prepared you for Charcoal
Charcoal is not my first film, I have worked on other projects that were also very female centric. My background in photography has helped me a lot with setting the mood for Charcoal. I filmed the project myself and had a lot of creative freedom. My background in photography helped me a lot in asserting my voice, knowing how to frame each shot. Since I was also the writer, director and director of photography (not intentionally, but due to lack of resources) I had no choice, but to trust my own voice and make do.
As a black woman you're a "double minority" in an industry traditionally run by white men, why was it important to tell this story through your lens?
I am very knowledgeable about the topic and it’s a story that I wrote and wanted to tell. I have been in many spaces (some by choice and others due to life circumstances) where my voice was not heard. So through storytelling, I found strength and dignity. My intention is to create characters who are strong and who embrace their voices, as I learn to teach myself to trust and unapologetically own my voice. My story matters, stories about women matter, and stories about black women matter.
What was it like bringing Charcoal to life? What issues and struggles, if any, did you face on set? What lessons can you give to up-and-coming filmmakers who have a story they want to tell?
Piecing it together, trusting where the characters were taking me, and letting go of expectations were all challenging. Directing the film and being the director of photography was a little exhausting - I wish I could have just focused on directing. As far as advice: Keep on going, trust your voice, and remember that you matter and your stories matter!
What has the film festival circuit experience been like for you? What have you learned from the experience of submitting to and attending festivals? Obviously, Charcoal has been doing exceptionally well, did you expect that level response?
I didn’t expect that level of response, but I am grateful to all the festivals and people who supported the film. It has been an incredible journey and I am excited to create more and more and more .
What's next? What's the next project, what's the next story you're dying to tell or do?
The next project is about depression, through the eyes of an artist who struggles to find her voice and her space in this world. It’s a very personal story to me. I am looking for producers, collaborators to join me in this exciting creative journey.
Charcoal was chosen as one of the Top 3 films of the Nasty Women Film Event in New Haven, CT. You'll be able to check it out during the 2018 NH Docs festival taking place May 31st through June 10th.