By Sierra Kelly
Photo By Brad Hammer
Encouraging women in film and producing films about women who need their stories told is what Nikki Love lives for. A writer, producer, actress, and filmmaker, she founded Reel Ladies, a networking community for women filmmakers. Established in 2007, Reel Ladies is predominately online, promoting live events, telecalls, networking, screenings, and showcases for women to network with other women in the industry.
Nikki Love began acting when she was a child, usually doing skits, plays, and pageant shows with a cousin. In high school and college, film and acting became her focus. Later she attended Clark Atlanta University and then transferred to Northern Illinois University. Love was predominately doing plays but was curious about what was happening behind every production. She’d collar directors and producers and ask lots of questions. It was there that she began to form her vision for Reel Ladies.
CW: Tell me about your transition from stage to theater, then model to actress, and now a producer as well?
Nikki Love: I came out here, and I launched straight into film….That really pushed me to creating my own concept….
I started modeling in college….Fashion shows got my feet wet in modeling, and I got a great portfolio. …But it was like working at a part-time job somewhere. I never took it seriously. They started pushing me for more modeling work. I had to make the decision for myself….I stepped away from it….
I redirected my focus from in front of the camera and acting to filmmaking. I started producing my own projects…
I am the queen of getting as much information as I can about anything I do. I dive into books and read, read, read…. I locked myself in my apartment. I got a ton of books about directing and producing, and just read them….
Now, I was ready for features. I did two shorts when I was working for a woman’s group called An Empowered Woman. I learned a lot. I watched other women treating it like a business….It was a women’s group helping each other, uplifting each other, spreading the word about each other. I loved that it was a women’s community for business, and I wanted to mimic the type of support they had for each other in the area of filmmaking.
CW: How is it to break into this business, especially for women?
Nikki Love: I think it’s getting easier….It’s having good business sense. There are different types of businesses, too: retail, merchandise, things like that. In those areas, there are tons of women in businesses. What’s going to be the thing to set your business apart and what is going to be the thing to take your business to the next level?
Most starter businesses fail within the first couple of years. SBC is a small business association. FBLA [Future Business Leaders of America] will hook you up and give you classes. You have to utilize what’s available. There are tons of women’s business groups that really help you with how to get a small business loan and things like that. I think more and more women are doing it. It not just enough to start a business but knowing what’s going to make your business stand out and being able to offer something different….I think that is what it boils down to, just really thinking it through. Especially now with the internet, the internet is booming. You have to establish an internet presence as well….That needs to be a part of your business plan: What is going to get your image on the internet? What’s going to be your internet presence?
CW: What motivated you to start the Reel Ladies organization?
Nikki Love:Just watching the women business owners and seeing how they interact with each other. I would leave there really inspired, empowered by what these business owners were doing. They would all come together and help each other out. Hollywood is so competitive. If I don’t get a part, I’m going to congratulate and cheer for the person who got the part. That’s what we need. We need to be each other’s own cheerleaders….I watched Desiree Doubrox, the owner of An Empowered Woman, and those women and tried to incorporate the same things, same ideas, same principles. It’s not just about networking with each other, encouraging each other, but how to take yourself to the next level and make yourself stand out from the hundreds of thousands of people here in Hollywood and New York and all over. What’s going to make someone spend money on your film from the next one? What can I do that is going to be different?
We do vision boards, we do movie nights, we do happy hour events and we do producers’ round table workshops. We have great speakers that come out. Not only do we tell women information about the business, but ask: What’s your journey? What’s your story like? What did you do? You can get inspired by hearing someone else’s story. It’s a combination of all aspects. These women are juggling kids, and family and work and film projects. You gotta go home and feed the kids, take care of the hubby, and do it all again the next day. I really want to tap into that. How are they maintaining? What happened? What mistakes did they make? What would they have done differently? What’s coming up next? How can we promote them? And how can we encourage them? That is the whole idea of REEL Ladies.
CW: How long has Reel Ladies been in existence and what programs are offered?
Nikki Love: We’re coming up on our fifth year. We started off doing just radio shows and networking events, and now we have our online community and our website where you can create profiles, upload trailers and put up casting notices and crew calls. We offered that platform for women to promote themselves, network with each other, utilize each other’s resources. We do our Reel chat sessions online every two weeks, and we have a themed topic. We did the topic of opening credits: the title credits, the sequence credits. That’s the things that will set your credits apart from what everyone else is doing…We’ve done poster designs, or we just talk about our projects. We have our producers’ corner. We’re trying to take the producer’s company to the next level. We have established people working $20 million films, and we have people starting on shorts. It is a way for them to get more information. We’ve had developmental execs come out and speak. We’ve had studio people and indie producers. We’ve had people talk about their campaigns, distribution and different things within the field.
We’ve got a script club where we provide a platform for women writers to talk about their scripts. We’ve had women submit their scripts and get feedback from all over. Our group consists of make up artists, directors, writers and actresses. They’re getting feedback from everybody. They get detailed coverage from one of our ladies who offers her services and will do coverage on the scripts.
We’re starting our Actors chat program. We’ll be giving them casting notices and interviews with casting directors.
Every program is about helping them do better and taking things to the next level…We’re doing a once a year showcase where people do shorts, music videos, trailers. We select shorts that look very promising and showcase their work, give them a platform and introduce their film….The filmmakers run it. Unlike a film festival where they show a lot of films and the filmmaker gets ten seconds of time. We take an hour. We have another one of those coming up in the summer.
CW: What are the requirements to join the organization?
Nikki Love:The website is free. You create a profile, upload a picture, chat with each other, do your status updates. To become a member, we have a platinum membership. Sign up is not available right now. It won’t be available till the end of the summer because we’re incorporating more programs. We do have a platinum membership available for $75 to $200 a year. You only have to pay a yearly members’ fee of $10 or $15.
Then we have our producers’ corner where we come out to producer corner events….Some of our speakers have referred people. They are working on some really good projects.
CW: What are some of the goals and plans you have for Reel Ladies?
Nikki Love: To have our own mini awards luncheon, spotlighting filmmakers. We want to feature women filmmakers who are not being talked about like the top photographers and top editors….We’re trying to launch that by next year.
We’re getting ready to launch our Chicago chapter because that’s where I’m from….We have women on our website from all over. That’s the beauty of it….We’ve got women filmmakers from New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Europe and Russia.
CW: Tell me about your new film project, Tears of a Clown? How important is it to learn about postpartum psychosis?
Nikki Love:The film is not just about postpartum psychosis. It’s about forgiveness. Most people can’t fathom a woman that killed their child. There is no compassion, no forgiveness. There is no understanding.
When a lady who served twenty years in jail came home, the newspaper said: Baby Killer Returns Home. Even though she had suffered from postpartum psychosis, she was being treated as a murderer.
I wanted to do a story about a woman coming home….We hear the stories about women committing these crimes, that they are horrible, horrible people. They are real people. They’re women. They’re moms, and they just happen to be going through an untreated medical condition. How do we as a society get help to embrace them and bring them back into the fold?….As a woman, how do you get back on track after something like this? That is what this story is about.
We’re confident in this film. It’s going to do well. We have the support of a lot of the key people in the postpartum community….This film is bigger than me. It’s real. These women want me to tell their story, inform me and connect me with people. I’ve been learning a lot about postpartum psychosis being in the trenches with these women even though I don’t have kids.
Some women have three kids and postpartum. They’re trying not to take medication because they don’t want to be medicated taking care of their kids, and they definitely need medication to be able to take care of their kids. It’s a huge balancing act.
They tell these women: Congratulations, you’re having a baby: joy, joy, joy. The reality is your emotions are going to swing out of control sometimes you can’t gain control of them. You are going to be depressed. and you are going to be crying. Some women may not experience it at all. The vast majority of women who have suffered from postpartum psychosis were suffering from the baby blues, and it spiraled out of control. It can, in some instances, lead to death or suicide of either child or mother, if not treated. What most people are unaware of is that this illness is treatable
CW: Do you have a friend or someone who has suffered postpartum psychosis?
Nikki Love: I didn’t know anyone who had postpartum psychosis. The idea came to me because I was wondering what was going to happen to Andrea Yates when she got home. Right now, she is in a mental facility. The more I looked up cases about women who have killed their children and saw what I saw behind the scenes, the more I wanted to tell the story. They need compassion; they need treatment. Most of all, they need someone to listen to them when they say something is wrong. …The next day, the following day or weeks later, someone ends up hurt. They commit suicide or they commit murder.
I spent two years interviewing moms…..A lot of women are scared to talk about it. When they do talk about it, they get dismissed or it gets blown off.
On the website for the film, www.TearsofaClownMovie.com,we have cases of postpartum. Some make the news and some don’t….It was once called the baby blues. It’s just started getting diagnosed and people just started talking about it within the past few years.
CW: What does being courageous mean to you?
Nikki Love:To me, it’s a woman who gets up everyday and gets into the trenches, facing trials and tribulations. She’s not running from it; she’s not hiding it. It is courageous to keep pressing on. “I press toward the mark for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Women press on; that is what we do. We’re living for your family, we’re living for our child, we’re living for our husband… But you’re getting up everyday, whether you have been crying or laughing. You have joy, and you press through regardless.
Visit “REEL Ladies” A networking organization for women in film
About the Author:
Sierra Aileen Kelly, a 28-year-old African-American mom who inspires and encourages others. She has a Bachelors in Arts degree from the University of South Carolina where she majored in English, with a concentration in Public Relations and Advertising. She is currently pursuing her second bachelors degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Ashford University.