Producer and director Onyx Keesha and screenwriter B. Danielle Watkins just wrapped filming The Higher Spirit, which like We Need a Little Christmas is a holiday film that centers queer people of color. Before the film premieres in Las Vegas on December 10, Keesha and Watkins sat down with Tagg Magazine to talk about their journey as filmmakers and their work.
How did each of you get your start in the industry?
Keesha: My background is actually in theater. My art is my ministry, and I knew that if I wanted to touch more people, I needed to go to a media that could reach more people. So I went to film school…and then I moved to Atlanta, and started to make content right away. I learned more on set than I did in school and I have been working in film ever since.
Watkins: My background is slightly different. I was a published author before I became a filmmaker. So I put my novels out and I began to write for a show in Atlanta. But I did not make my first film until 2014 when Onyx was founding a film festival.
How did the two of you begin collaborating?
Watkins: In 2013, I began writing for a web series and Onyx’s production company was a part of it. So in the midst of that, we met, and then I was brought on to the board of her production company. And we have worked together ever since. If you look at both of our filmography catalogs, probably 97% of them are together.
Can you tell me more about your upcoming LGBTQ holiday film, The Higher Spirit?
Keesha: We created this film because we are aware that the times we are living in right now are difficult. We wanted to make sure that we are a part of people feeling really good and having hope. When we initially started this project, we were going to go direct to market. But as the film grew, we realized that direct to market is going to be something for next holiday season. However, we knew that we still wanted to touch our community with it. We thought the best way to do it was to set up a holiday tour, so we’re visiting different cities to screen the film, socially distanced and with masks. The Las Vegas premiere will be December 10, and the other cities are being finalized.
What advice do you have for Black LGBTQ filmmakers, writers, or producers who want to break into the business?
Keesha: The advice I have is always: just do it. Shatter those glass ceilings. Just create. Just start. Do not overthink it. This is not about perfection, this is about art.
Watkins: My advice is always: Don’t worry about what people don’t like. When somebody says they’re not interested in your story, you don’t need everybody to be interested, you just need somebody.