Emma Grazette is a natural producer who loves being taken on a journey with a story. We chatted to her about what it takes to be a filmmaker, the power of diversity and the importance of uncovering the untold histories.
D&CFilm: You’ve had a really interesting career – what is it that attracted you to filmmaking and documentaries?
Emma Grazette: I’ve always loved being taken on a journey, my first loves were theatre and literature – I studied English and Caribbean literature at university. What I felt most passionate about then (and still do now) is showing the other side of picture, the counter-narrative. This interests me on a personal level because of my dual heritage. I grew up living in Britain and so that side of my heritage is a lived experience, my dad is from the Caribbean, and though I’ve visited many times, this heritage still feels harder to access. I began to realise that the other side of the story can be harder to find because it’s often purposefully omitted from the mainstream narratives.
Without both sides of a story how can you have a true understanding of anything? Through film, (narrative as well as documentary) I aim to explore other perspectives and create a fuller picture, particularly of Caribbean and African diaspora history, which is not just black history, but our shared British history.
D&CFilm: What are the skills you need to be a filmmaker?
Emma Grazette: There are so many depending on what department you want to be a part of. Collaboration is one of the best parts of working in film, you get to work with so many talented people with entirely different skills. As a producer my aim is to bring together the right team for the project and help facilitate them working well together. Aside from that I think you have to be really curious and love learning and communicating.
D&CFilm: How did the Black Voices of Somerset film come about and where does it fit with your filmmaking – are there issues, themes, or styles you pursue?
Emma Grazette: The Black voices film is a response to The Brewhouse’s “Homebrew” initiative, which was a call out for visual artists to express an untold side of Somerset. The hope was to create a space for the contributors in the film to speak about their experiences of being “other” in the setting of rural Somerset. Hopefully better understanding of how this can feel may breed more empathy in those who themselves have not had the experience (by other I mean LGBTQIA+, ethnic minorities, people who have moved from abroad etc).
D&CFilm: How do you go about research and how long does it take to make a documentary?
Emma Grazette: It totally depends on the depth you are going into with any given story. The research will also be different depending on the subject matter, with this film it was just a case of contacting a range of people and seeing who would like to be involved and speak.
D&CFilm: So far what’s been the most revealing moment for you as a filmmaker?
Emma Grazette: Realising I don’t need to be able to do everything – that’s why we work collaboratively. Though I know there are amazing filmmakers who do all parts of the process themselves.
D&CFilm: Which aspect of making a film do you prefer – is it the planning, the research, the filming, the editing, or promoting?
Emma Grazette: I love it all, the whole process from conception to delivery – I’m a natural producer, I really enjoy bringing all the moving parts together. I’m developing larger projects at the moment and looking forward to working with directors so I can stick to producing.
D&CFilm: What’s the role of the artist / filmmaker in society?
Emma Grazette: I think a filmmakers/ artists duty is to reflect the times and situations they find themselves in. The best films master the unity between writing, sound, visuals as well as capturing the zeitgiest, in an engaging and emotive way. I think film has the power to instigate powerful change in the world, but I don’t believe achieving that can be attributed to a single filmmaker, it’s such a team effort and everyone adds something to the mix.
D&CFilm: You’re part of the BFI’s New Producers Lab 2020. How did that come about and what does it entail?
Emma Grazette: I just applied and was selected. It entails a small group of emerging producers getting together and learning from more experienced producers. The lab covers funding strategies, pitching, production, sales and distribution – the whole process.
D&CFilm: What advice would you give when pitching for commissions?
Emma Grazette: Try to convey your passion for the project – your unique angle on the story you want to tell.
D&CFilm: Black Voices of Somerset fits into the global Black Lives Matter – how important is it to capture individual stories in places like Somerset and the South West to be part of that?
Emma Grazette: I think it’s important to platform and elevate diverse voices everywhere. We don’t stand a chance of better understanding the world and each other if we are focused on just one type of perspective from one demographic of people. I think there’s huge strength in diversity.
D&CFilm: What can you tell us about what you’ve got coming up?
Emma Grazette: I’m currently working on several projects, all are concerned with black history. One is a visual exploration of a period in Jamaica’s history and addresses black resilience and resistance. This is being supported by the Independent Film Trust. I am also developing my first narrative film and have been accepted to study an MA in film producing at the NFTS from February.
top image: Emma Grazette (centre), with Luke Hagan (left) and Jonas Hawkins (right) after winning the documentary live pitch during Two Short Nights at Exeter Phoenix in 2019.
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