There are so many talented folks working in the Atlanta film industry, we should learn more about them! In this regular feature, CinemATL asks "5 Questions" -- hence the title (clever!) -- of one of Atlanta's talented film professionals...
Interview by Eric Bomba-Ire.
For the past 12 years, Angela Barnes Gomes has held a reputation as a kick-ass African-American Female 1st A.D. but recently has made the not-so-easy transition to directing in this industry where it's too easy to be pigeonholed in a department. From her early years in East Cobb, Angela graduated from UGA before moving to L.A where she also graduated from the Director's Guild of America's Assistant Director Training Program before moving back to Atlanta in 2006. She recently directed episodes of "The Quad" (BET) and "Life in Pieces" (CBS).
Angela took the time off her busy schedule to fill us in on her transition in five questions.
1. Going from AD to Director -- what are the challenges?
The biggest challenge is shaking off the old title. It was tough for people who knew me as an Assistant Director to see me in a different light. People didn't start taking me seriously as a director until I stopped taking 1st AD jobs, which was tricky without a trust fund.
2. Are you able to leverage your AD skills to get a director slot?
For episodic TV, a big concern when breaking new directors is whether they can handle the intricacies of a large, fast-moving production. I dealt with big crews, complicated logistics, and big named actors all the time as a 1st AD, so that stuff doesn't intimidate me when I'm directing. All I have to worry about is how to tell a good story.
3. How do you balance the long working hours and being a mom?
I have the world's greatest husband, who also is in the business on the reality side. We try to tag team who is working so one of us is always the stay at home parent. We've been lucky and only had a few days here and there with any overlap, but both of us have had to pass on opportunities in order to make it work.
Whenever I have to leave town for work, I do a lot of video messages and Facetime with the kids as well. I make picture calendars for my youngest so he knows exactly when I'm coming back. I also try to send them pictures and video whenever I'm shooting anything that would be cool to a 5 and 9-year-old, mostly to show them what their mom does all day, but sometimes just for cool points. I directed a show for Nickelodeon last year that was one of their favorite shows. I got video of all of the actors giving them a shoutout. They loved that.
4. What are the biggest obstacles to being taken seriously/getting hired as a female director and as a female African American director?
Perception. Most directors are white men, so when someone who is not a white man shows up as the director, there is often push back.
Sometimes it's blatant, like assuming you don't actually know what you're doing, which usually presents as being questioned about every decision, or mansplained to death. Sometimes it's just a vibe where the crew needs you to prove to them that you're worthy of the job, whereas they'll just assume a male director is competent unless he shows them otherwise.
I've walked on sets and had people assume I was an extra or hair stylist. Last year I walked on a set and the producer, whom I had only communicated with via email up until that point, met me at the time and place he had requested, and still assumed I was the choreographer when I showed up.
People are used to what they're used to, so when something is different, they need a moment to get used to the new thing. People are used to white guys as directors, but thanks to women like Ava Duvernay, Mira Nair, Dee Rees, Patty Jenkins, Melina Matsoukas and Tina Mabry folks are gradually getting used to seeing women, especially women of color, as directors. As the hiring of directors becomes more inclusive, crews will get used to that, and having a director that's not a white dude will be no big deal.
5. Ghostbusters: original or 2016 remake?
Original all the way. Can't beat Bill Murray, although Kate McKinnon could give him a run for his money. She's brilliant.
You can follow Angela on twitter and instagram @loveangelagomes.