“You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built into the human plan. We come with it.” – Margaret Atwood. Yup. Storytelling is at the heart of what we do and we have a soft spot for people who tell it like it is. Enter straight-talking documentary filmmaker and multihyphenate Jerome Bailey Jr, who’s dedicated to doing just that. Sharing the right kind of stories and touching lives in the process. MC, editor
For people who don’t know you or your work, how would you describe what you do?
I’m a documentary filmmaker, speaker and media entrepreneur. I trained as a journalist and fell in love with documentaries in grad school. I love using film to show the beauty of everyday people. Right now my biggest project is directing and producing Sinner, a full-length feature documentary highlighting the African heritage in the Bible.
Tell us about what led you to storytelling and filmmaking. Why does it matter to you?
When I was younger I wanted to be Tupac; even now I perform poetry. But deep down, my main goal was always to tell stories visually. Hip-hop is very visual, and it resonated with my life experience. Then in high school I was introduced to cameras and I realized that I could tell stories through film. I never looked back.
With all the civic and political unrest – from the Women’s March to #FakeNews – how important is it for you to create something that gets people’s attention but also documents the truth?
There is so much going on right now. People always need truth and light in a dark place and while many will reject the truth, many embrace it. I hope to get people’s attention by telling stories that resonate with me, so that people can connect and recognize the compassion in how I show my subjects.
What barriers/challenges did you face in the early days, and how did you get past them?
My biggest barrier early on, was learning the process of making good work. Initially I created quite a bit of content but I didn’t have much feedback or hands-on teaching. I decided to go to grad school at Columbia in New York and that’s where I really learned the craft of journalism and documentary filmmaking.
With filmmaking and speaking engagements, you seem to be on the road a lot. What’s your secret to staying power and time management?
I don’t really have a secret. It’s tough to manage my time and projects while I’m traveling, but I know that what I’m doing has purpose because of my faith. I’m constantly praying to make sure that I’m giving the people who I serve my best.
What about staying motivated? How easy does it come to you?
It could be a song I hear that gets me excited. Or it could be the slightest look on a person’s face. I’m always thinking about creating. I used to constantly see work and say to myself, ‘This story should’ve been told this way’. Eventually I came to the realization that, if I have a point of view, I should be expressing that view through my chosen art form. This is a golden age of storytelling so I’m always motivated to not miss out on the moment.
What would you say is the most impact you’ve seen your work/personal efforts make?
I strive to tell stories that inspire people and open their minds to an idea or perspective they have never thought about before. People have told me that my films and lectures have inspired them to take action towards a cause. Hearing that is very rewarding, because it’s another reminder that stories change lives. I’ve also had a few news stories go viral and literally turn people into mini celebrities, so that’s always fun.
Who are some of your biggest inspirations?
Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler are huge inspirations to me right now. Their ability to transition from project to project and tell so many stories in one movie, from a perspective similar to my own, lights a fire in my belly to create.
And what you would you say some of your biggest lessons have been, since going out on your own?
As a media entrepreneur, I had to start prioritizing my time, so I could create passion projects and not get lost in client work. It took me a while to learn that I’m an artist before I’m a technician. And that’s really hard to learn when you’re trying to pay the bills, but I had to find peace with my work.
“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama. What advice would you give to someone about finding a cause to get behind, or a way to bring about change?
I’d say, find a mission to serve others first. Sometimes we want to get behind a cause to make ourselves feel good and we end up empty. Once you’re committed to serving others, you will continually find purpose and peace with your work.
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