“In Austin it’s hard to find black spaces”- Tia Williams
Last week TFF MAG had a chance to chat with a FAB indie filmmaker by the name of Tia Williams who is getting ready to film her Austin based series “Gentrified”. Over the sound of Houston rain we chatted about her experiences as a Black woman in Austin, the hardships that come with being an indie filmmaker, and her hopes for the future of the show which aims to bring light to cultural diversity.
Gentrified will be filmed this summer and is currently raising money for production costs via Indie Go Go. The cast and crew will also be hosting a fundraising party on March 3rd at Cheer Up Charlies in Austin. Enjoy our interview and stop by to show your support if you’re in the area!
Tell us about how Gentrified came about and what inspired you to create the show.
A failed night out. In Austin it’s hard to find black spaces and black DJ’s. On my 28th bday we went to a place to celebrate and there were none of us in the room at all. I mean literally NONE. We spent the whole night looking for places with people of color. It made me want to write something to really explore the black experience in Austin. At the time I’d quit my job and so I had a lot of time. When I sat down to write it just came out easily. I wrote 60 pages in two days.
That’s amazing! Tell us about the characters on the show..
Coretta- She’s the main character in the show. She’s dealing with the loss of her grandmother which is something we all experience at some point. When I sat down to write it I was in a relationship with someones who’s grandmother has passed. I wanted to explore what happens when we lose the anchor in the family.
Coretta is trying to keep the house that was left by her grandmother. It’s tough because she battles depression and work is hard. and people knock on her home door to ask if she wants to sell the house constantly. I also wanted to use her character to talk about mental health and depression and anxiety.
Her brother Aaron deals with things differently. He’s privileged and he’s more of the responsible character. He’s in a high rise and he’s recently married and established. His wife becomes a bit of an antagonist in the series. Who wants to get married and have to deal with drama with their sister in law?
Her BFF Dania is a queer black woman who has recently had to resign from her job due to issues with abuse with her stepfather. Her charter is used to explore homelessness.
What has post and preproduction been like for you and what can we expect from the series?
Five episodes, each episodes is ten minutes with a lengthier finale episode. When it comes to the film community, people have to understand how much it costs and how much time it takes. Some of us have full times jobs and work 40 hours a week. People don’t understand how much stuff costs. This time I want to do it right and I want to make sure I can pay people. People work full time and asking them to do something for free doesn’t set right with me.
Over the span of my film career I was lucky enough to come across Maureen Lomo and she reached out to me over the years and I asked her if she would help with the series. Her and I started breaking things down to the nitty gritty.
We are currently accepting funds via Indie Go Go. We have great perks. If anyone wants to make a tax deductible donation they can do that through the the film school here in Austin. If you want to donate we also have PayPal and we will be having a fundraising party on March 3rd. We had a great venue offer to let us use things for free. Every dollar and donation goes towards everything we are doing during preproduction.
Who are you most like as a writer and who mirrors your style?
I wanted to get into film and be a director. I didn't want to write. Me writing happened by accident. In the seasons to come i’d like to bring other writers on board.
Where do you want the show to go and where can people see it?
From a long term aspect, the goal for me is TV. I also have my eye on Issa Raes platform Color Creative TV. I see what it’s done for other black creatives. There was another series out of Austin that made it to her channel. which is really cool.
The first thing we will do is start off with a festival run. We will also have some local screenings before we put it on any platform. I would like to partner with other creatives in Texas and create a space where we can show things locally first.
What’s the overall message of the show?
Resilience. It doesn’t all have to do with gentrification. I think the characters go on this journey from being these broken individuals to being in a place where they’ve gotten their power back. Staying strong is the overall message.
What advice would you give indie screenwriters on staying inspired and motivated?
Keep working on your craft. Things are gong to be bad until they aren't. You’re not going to wake up and be great, you have to practice. It takes time to get good. Find like minded individuals and keep those people around you. That is the number one thing I can say.
You cannot do this on your own. We all need a tribe, we all need support. Hold on to people who want to do the same things as you!