A black tradeswoman must choose between keeping her job or taking a stand against discrimination.
Interview with Director Dawn Jones Redstone
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I worked as a union carpenter and then taught construction to women for a total of 15 years. My co-executive producer wrote her doctoral thesis on the experience of black tradeswomen. We combined forces to create a compelling film about what it can be like for women of color working in the male-dominated industry of construction.
But also, as a director, I am always interested in just telling a good story. This one made a whole lot of sense given my background in the trades.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
First of all, I’m pretty sure you’ve never seen a narrative film about a tradeswoman. If you have, it was Flashdance and riddled with the male gaze. This film, directed by a former union carpenter (me), will annoy you, wreck your heart, make you laugh and then show you how badass black tradeswomen are.
Hammers and saws are involved. Plus, lead actor sidony o’neal (she prefers all lower case), will knock your socks off.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
In the face of racism and sexism, our lead character arrives at a moment of crisis in her career in the trades and realizes she will have to take action or risk losing her job. The crisis, the doubt, the decision, the resilience—all of it is both personal and universal.
How do we respond when pushed against a wall? When do we resist? When do we keep our head down? How can we survive with our dignity intact?
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
I tried writing the original version of the script based on a sexual harassment experience of a woman interviewed by my co-executive producer, but it wasn’t working. Kjerstin Johnson came in and we re-wrote it to tell a story that was more centered around the work and the lead character’s capabilities.
Also, I had written a dream sequence in the original script and we had left it out when we re-wrote. Right before production, I realized I missed it and we agreed to shoot it, knowing it might not work and we could always pull it out. But in the end, it’s critical to the pace, touches on tradeswomen history and helps us pass the Bechdel test! Audiences love it.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
People are often very moved by seeing the sh-t this woman has to go through to earn her paycheck! We won Best Short Film at Portland International Film Festival and Best Narrative Short at the Worker’s Unite Film Festival in NYC! Feedback has been good.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
We’ve screened for quite a few tradeswomen including in Chicago at the international tradeswomen conference. It’s very powerful for people to see their story on the big screen, but I really thought they would pick it apart more. I tried to be meticulous about holding true to what it’s like on the job and I guess it paid off.
There were definitely moments along the way where an actor wanted to do something differently or the editor wanted to cut something that seemed insignificant, but it was critical that a tradesperson could watch it and feel it’s accurate. In terms of the film community, I wasn’t entirely sure how it would be received so it’s been incredible to win some awards!
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
We want to be where good stories are!
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We have some decisions to make about next steps because we are getting lots of requests to screen the film as a teaching tool and we have some interesting/innovative opportunities in that direction. But bottom line is we just want as many people as possible to see it. Sales agents, buyers, film festival directors, journalists and funders (for my tradeswomen feature film) are all welcome here!
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I want to open people’s eyes about the women of color and women in general who are building our cities. I want them to feel something for our main character who is good at what she does, but struggle to find her place. Working in the construction trades is one of the few careers where you can potentially earn well-above a living wage without having to go into debt or pay for college. We need the industry to learn how to embrace ALL of its workers so that the trades are accessible to those seeking to work in the industry—even non-traditional workers.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What micro aggressions have you seen/given/received at your workplace?
Would you like to add anything else?
We have a website: www.sistainthebrotherhood.com
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I’m working on a feature length tradeswoman film.
Kjerstin Johnson and I are working on a potential web series.
Roberta Hunte is working with Kate Duffly to dramatize stories of reproductive justice issues from women of color.
We are moving stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Sista in the Brotherhood
Director: Dawn Jones Redstone
Producer: Roberta Hunte
Writer: Dawn Jones Redstone and Kjerstin Johnson
About the writer, director and producer:
Dawn Jones Redstone is an award-winning filmmaker interested in telling stories of personal transformation and emotionality. She is also a journey-level carpenter who has spent years documenting the tradeswoman experience. (co-executive producer, director, co-writer)
Roberta Hunte is an educator, facilitator, consultant, and cultural worker. She is an Assistant Professor at Portland State University where she teaches courses on reproductive justice, inequality, feminisms, and the African American experience. (co-executive producer, producer, author of inspiration for film)
Kjerstin Johnson is an award-winning writer and editor. Kjerstin is the former editor in chief of the magazine Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture. Her writing has been widely published. Kjerstin also teaches writing and editing at Portland State University. (co-writer)
sidony o’neal is a writer and artist based in Portland, OR. Her work has been presented in North America, West Africa, and Europe. (lead actor)
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): all of the above
Funders: Regional Arts and Culture Council in Portland and 256 Kickstarter backers with in-kind donations from Pro Photo Supply, Koerner Camera and Oregon Tradeswomen.
Made in association with: Hearts+Sparks Productions
Release date: We had our festival premiere at Portland International Film Festival in February 2016.