This week’s Spotlight focuses on American, independent screenwriter and director, Dee Rees. Recognized by Filmmaker Magazine as one of “25 New Faces of Independent Film” in 2008, she has written and directed many short films. Her latest, “Pariah,” having played at over 40 film festivals including Sundance, won the Audience Award at the L.A. Film Festival among 25 other Best Short awards. Dee Rees had written the script “Pariah” as a feature length film but adapted it as a short in order to complete her thesis project at NYU’s graduate film program. After it’s substantial success she went on to making it a feature. “Pariah” her first feature film premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and won a considerable amount of awards such as seven NAACP Image Awards, the John Cassavetes Award at the 2012 Independent Spirit Awards, the 2012 GLAAD Outstanding Film Award and “Breakthrough Director” at the 2011 IFP Awards.

x950Nashville native Dee Rees received an MBA at Florida A&M University where she then went off to market panty liners in Cincinnati, Ohio. After being laid off her job, Rees relocated to New York City were she continued working in marketing for Schering-Plough. It was there working on a commercial shoot that she realized she had an interest in filmmaking. Dee Rees pursued her interest by enrolling in NYU’s Graduate Film Program and interning for film director Spike Lee, who then became her personal mentor. While interning as a script supervisor on his film “Inside Man,” Rees started working on her own script for “Pariah.” A story about a Brooklyn teenager struggling to find her identity while in a desperate search of sexual expression; risking heartbreak, family and friends. Making her film helped Rees find her own identity, sexuality, and feeling okay to speak up for herself.

We want to support all young filmmakers out there because we know how difficult it is being independent filmmaker and getting your voice heard. We also want to encourage you by providing a platform such as ÉCU Film Festival to open the doors to bigger audiences, accolades and potential distribution.

x950-2We chose to spotlight Dee Rees here at ÉCU because she is a clear example of someone with a drive and determination for following her interest. And that is what we want to encourage all you fellow independent filmmakers out there. Even though Dee Rees is now currently developing a new HBO television series, it was her independent screenwriting and directing that brought her to the spotlight. So we invite you to follow your dreams, make your films, and submit then to the festival. Submitting your films to ÉCU Film Festival could be the start of your independent film career.

And don’t forget to keep your eyes open for any future work of Dee Rees, as she could be the next Major Female Independent Film Director.

Natasha Fisher

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