Interview with Joslyn Rose Lyons
Director Joslyn Rose Lyons talks Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival official selection of Looking Glass for Virtual Lineup 2021.
Joslyn’s short film Looking Glass, starring Los Angeles-based artist Jallal, has been positively received, premiering at SUNDANCE London, and has picked up numerous awards at film festivals that include The American Film Award, IndieFest, TopShorts Best Female Director, The Berlin Flash Film Festival, Shorted Film Festival, One-Reeler Short Film Competition, The IndieFEST Film Awards and Focus International Film Festival amongst others.
Looking Glass is set to screen at the Los Angeles Pan African Virtual Film Festival 2021, which will take place February 28 through March 14, 2021, and will be entirely virtual.
Film Festival co-founder and award-winning actor and activist Danny Glover is set to serve as the celebrity ambassador for the 2021 PAFF. PAFF is the largest Black History Month cultural event in the nation featuring over 200 Black films and 100 fine artists from around the world. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has designated PAFF as an official qualifying film festival for live-action and animation short films.
The Los Angeles based festival is normally held at the Cinemark 15 Theatres at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, but due to the pandemic, the festival will take place entirely online. This year’s PAFF will feature 84 female directors, including Joslyn Rose Lyons Award Winning short film Looking Glass.
We talked with the director of Looking Glass, Joslyn Rose Lyons:
What was the inspiration behind the making of Looking Glass?
Looking Glass stars Los Angeles based rapper/actor Jallal and features appearances from an ensemble cast of amazing friends and artists from the Bay including DJ Umami, Ryan Nicole-Peters, DJ Ambush, and embraces the struggle to overcome complacency, while visually embodying the spirit of Oakland’s creative community.
At the time of conceptualizing this piece, I had just finished reading a book called The Big Leap which explores the concept of taking that courageous leap from your ‘excellence zone’ to your ‘genius zone’ so this was a concept also present when I wrote the short. I am working on a script for a narrative feature with similar themes, so this was in some ways proof of concept. I have always been fascinated by the idea of time. Looking Glass was in some ways my love letter to time.
What were some of the challenges of making Looking Glass and filmmaking in general?
It was challenging to make characters that embodied concepts such as fear and doubt, hopes and dreams. I wanted to create characters that would be symbolic of these themes. I used unique storytelling techniques, and made different creative choices that bent the rules of this world, leaning into magical realism.
Being an artist can be challenging, creating your own way, believing in your vision when others don’t see it yet. But you just have to keep believing in your vision. Pressure makes the diamond, friction forms the pearl. So it’s all needed in order to make great work. Having chemistry amongst my crew, cast, it’s key, and I’ve been so lucky to work with such amazing talent, we are all part of the bigger creative vision.
What genre of filmmaking do you like to work on and tell us about some of your recent projects?
I am inspired by creative process, the inner journey, and the intersection of things, where the essence of the story lives in music, art, athletes and activism, and filmmaking and social justice. I am a producer on Truth to Power, which also is screening at this years PAFF. The documentary profiles the courageous voice of Rep. Barbara Lee and features powerful interviews with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Van Jones, Danny Glover, Corey Booker and Alice Walker.
One of my creative partners is former NBA Champ Matt Barnes (Showtime Sports’ All the Smoke) and we produced a show for Uninterrupted (LeBron James’ digital platform) called Same Energy. The series features Matt Barnes, Marshawn Lynch and 2Chainz and explores in-depth conversations about mental, physical, and spiritual strength.
I directed a documentary for Academy Award, Emmy Award and Grammy Award Winning Artist and Activist Common and his non-profit organization Imagine Justice, dedicated to empowering communities and fighting injustice wherever it appears. One of my favorite quotes by 2PAC: “I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.”
That’s what I would want my films to do, create that spark that ignites that. I think we are drawn to things that allow us to feel freedom. There has always been this feeling of freedom when I’m directing. Cinema allows me to play in my own shadows and inspires me to keep searching for the light.
What are you most drawn to about directing?
Directing allows me to let my imagination run free like a wild horse, and in that process, I find a sense of freedom. I think we are drawn to things that allow us to feel freedom. For me that’s what cinema does. It is a form of creative play, and when we are playing, that’s often when the most inspiring ideas can come. Cinema allows me to play in my own shadows and inspires me to keep searching for the light.
Your short film Looking Glass was also a Sundance London Entry, and has picked up numerous awards in the festival circuit, and is now set to screen this month at the Los Angeles Pan African Virtual film festival. Tell us more about the journey with this short film?
Looking Glass was in some ways my love letter to time. The short film was in some ways also a proof of concept for a feature I’m writing. Looking Glass stars Los Angeles based rapper/actor Jallal, and features an ensemble cast of amazing friends and artists from the Bay including DJ Umami, Ryan Nicole-Peters, and DJ Ambush, and embraces the struggle to overcome complacency, while visually embodying the spirit of Oakland’s creative community.
At the time of conceptualizing Looking Glass, I had just finished reading a book called ‘The Big Leap’ which explores the concept of taking that courageous leap from your ‘excellence zone’ to your ‘genius zone’ so this was a concept also present when I wrote the short.
I shared the short with Sundance Collabs and their artist in residence, Peabody Award Winning Director, Writer Trey Ellis (HBO’s The Tuskegee Airmen, True Justice) saw the short and Sundance London contacted me, inviting me to premiere the film in their first virtual festival. That was an honor. I’m honored the film will be screening this month at the Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival Virtual Lineup.
The official selection of Joslyn Rose Lyons’ short film “Looking Glass” is available at https://www.paff.org/films/looking-glass/