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Creating The Future We Want 2022
Interview

Cat White 
Founder and CEO
Kusini Productions

Tue, 1 February, 2022

19:00 – 22:30 (GMT)
creating the future we want: tickets

A celebration of female-led stories brought to life by up and coming production companies | created & run by independent female producers

Cat is founder & CEO of Kusini Productions, a platform dedicated to creating opportunities, changing the narrative and championing the voices of Black women and girls. 

 

Hello Cat thanks for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping during these very strange times?

 

Hi! Thanks for talking to us! We’ve been really well thanks, I hope you have too!

 

Has this time at least offered you any new and creative opportunities?

 

If anything we have actually been busier than ever. We have made five short films since Farewell She Goes and have three more on our slate as well as two feature films and a series. We’re about to expand our team and are preparing for 2022 to be our biggest yet.

 

Congratulations on Creating The Future We Want event which comes to Gatsby's Mansion, how did this initiative come about?

 

We were approached by the brilliant team at Candid Broads Productions who had the idea of partnering with two other female-led production companies and creating a celebratory event. The timing was perfect as we had already been planning this for our own work. In the end however, it is even better to celebrate alongside two other brilliant companies who are also changing the game. It has been such a joy all working together from start to finish and I know that this event is the first of many for this group of powerhouse women!

 

Creating The Future We Want and the support it is offering The Page One Project is incredible but it seems that the burden to offer access and opportunities for filmmakers from disadvantaged/underrepresented backgrounds seems to fall on smaller independent filmmakers. What more can the established film industry in the UK do to change this? 

 

I totally agree with this. Kusini Productions are pretty unique in that we pioneer diversity and support wherever we can. We work with a mental health and wellbeing co-ordinator on all of our film sets now. We push for diversity in all its forms and ensure that we place as much importance on giving people a chance to put a foot in the door as we do just working with the same people over and over again. To name just a few of some of our recent projects, on Fifty-Four Days we worked with as many Black creatives as we could. On Ceres we worked with a 90% female-identifying crew. 

 

The more established film industry needs to make a conscious and consistent effort to make things more equal. It shouldn’t be down to us younger and up-and-coming creatives to do this. The larger and more established companies need to pave the way and get out of their comfort zone and actively reaching out to pull others up.

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What does it mean for you to be able to premiere Farewell She Goes at the event and how did you get involved with this short film?

 

We are so excited to share our beautiful short Farewell She Goes at this event ahead of a large charity gala we are holding later this year in support of incredible charity Womankind Worldwide

 

In terms of how we got involved, I’ve always wanted to see more work that centres on the complexities of choices that women face and favours nuance over black and white. Abortion and the right to choose is a topic filled with complexity. It is close to my heart for personal reasons and also just has not been explored enough. I’ve wanted to create something that addresses this for a long time. I researched and discovered something that practically no one knows – abortion was legal in Britain until 1803. My collaborator Isabella Speaight (the wonderfully talented co-founder of Backscatter Productions) and I had long wanted to make a movie loosely based on the friendship between Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray. We performed a piece from the film for our drama school showcase and have been obsessed with it ever since!

 

You’re as likely to find us at Kenwood House as Soho House..! There is that incredible portrait of them that just never ceases to fascinate me. The idea was born from there. We searched for incredible writers who could capture the heart of what we wanted to convey and found the insanely talented BAFTA Rocfliffe winner Claire Tailyour who wrote the script for us. The film tells the story of two half-sisters at the turn of the century stood at the cusp of the ocean. One of them is pregnant, and they try to decide what to do. Exploring something as urgently relevant as abortion through the eyes of women who lived two hundred years before us gives a whole new relevance to the importance of this topic. It’s also just beautiful to centre female friendship!

 

What was it about Claire Tailyour’s screenplay that interested you as producers?

 

Claire writes with such a beautiful subtlety. It is stripped back and really gets to the heart of the emotions. I think also we just loved how closely she listened to what we wanted from the script and came up with something that was very true to that.

 

What where the biggest challenges you faced making Farewell She Goes?

 

Well we were filming right in the heart of the 2020 lockdown at a time when all of the major productions had gone dark and no-one really knew what was going on. Because it is all filmed outside and we knew we could manage with a skeleton crew we forged ahead anyway but it was quite scary doing something that hadn’t been done at that point!


Also filming on a beach inevitably had its moments! We were beholden to the tide!


How important is the relationship between producers and filmmakers during post and pre-production?

 

It’s essential. The most important thing is communication and keeping those channels open and available. I find that almost all problems I have run into before and after shoots revolve around breakdowns of communications. I’m a firm believer that any problem can be resolved by talking about it!

"I am particularly proud of the fact that as well as producing films we also focus on initiating real societal change."

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Have you always had a passion for filmmaking and how did Kusini Productions come about?

 

I started with Kusini Productions out of a deep-rooted desire to change the way that Black women were perceived. Particularly in film and TV, we’ve seen such a wave of ‘feminist’ work – strong and authored by these incredible women, but I noticed that actually this was a wave of change that white women were riding – and it didn’t necessarily translate to others. Kusini Productions takes its name from 1976 American/Nigerian film Countdown at Kusini. This film was the first major motion picture ever produced by an organisation of Black women. No longer willing to accept the degraded images of Black people – and especially Black women – being foisted on them, they decided they would raise the money themselves, from among themselves, to make the kind of film they wanted to see.  That’s the ethos behind my company and the projects we take on. We are the change. I am particularly proud of the fact that as well as producing films we also focus on initiating real societal change. For example, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, we launched a fund offering three grants of £500 each to small-scale community-led projects that would make a different to the Black and British community. The response was overwhelming and from there we have just flown. We now frequently work with Olivier, Emmy and BAFTA nominated and award-winning cast and crew and feel that we are only just getting started!

 

How much has your approach to producing changed since you started?

 

The biggest skill I have learned (and I am still working to cultivate this skill) is to say no. I think as women we are programmed to please, and that is to our detriment. If it makes you feel good, and it serves you – then do it. If you are saying yes for anything other than that, then you will most likely regret it later. Life is short, your time is precious – it is amazing how powerful it can be to take control and say no.

 

What has been the best advice you have been given?

 

It’s such a cliche, but when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. There is always a bright side, it isn’t over until you want it to be. Hang in there, keep going – and make something sweet out of every bitter turn life throws at you. We have the power within us to change the world!

 

Are there any top producer tips you would offer any emerging filmmaker? 

 

Trust in the power of your own voice! I feel I spent my first years as a filmmaker being deferential and apologetic but actually I am more than competent enough. No-one else has your particular skillset. Why shouldn’t it be you?!

 

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Creating The Future We Want?

 

I hope people will leave feeling truly inspired, connected and excited for the future of the industry.