In 2011 I wrote an email to master painter Ulrick Jean-Pierre, but it came back undeliverable. In all of the conversations I was having related to filmmaking and the lack of positive representation of people of color in the media, here was a beautiful story yet to be told. I was brand spanking new to filmmaking and I had no idea what I envisioned, but I felt there was something there. It would take my mom and I years to find and reconnect with Ulrick (as he had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina.)
In 2016 my co-producer Stephanie Malson and I got the green light to take a trip to New Orleans to see if what I felt was really something. It was more than something. It was everything. Ulrick Jean-Pierre is an amazing artist and human being. I feel humbled and blessed that his story has become mine to tell. Every step of this journey has come at a cost, but for every sacrifice there has been an even greater reward. That something has turned into a feature length documentary in progress about Ulrick and his incredible body of work (ulrickdoc.com – website for the film.)
As I wind down on my last day in Kansas, I’m reflecting on what we’ve accomplished on this shoot, and the inconceivable knowledge that we really interviewed Edwidge Danticat! That we are about a month away from the end of principal photography. That we have added an incredible new team member, who we have yet to share with you, but will soon. That I get to be the one to tell this story. That I have an enormous responsibility of representing for my culture and offering a counter narrative to the simplistic and often bigoted rhetoric that is passed around about Haiti and her people. That we have a team of collaborators who are passionate about this film and that are committed to seeing it completed in excellence.
I am blessed. Simply blessed. This reflection is as much for me as it is for whomever takes the time to read my lengthy goings-on. It is for the days when I feel like an imposter, for the days when I need to pay my rent, for the days another door slams in my face. This reflection is to remind me that I come from an incredible people who will never be stopped, who continue to rise from the ashes…time and time again. This is my battlefield…or my playground, whichever way you want to see. On the journey of independent filmmaking some days it’s a battlefield and some days you get to play. This week we got to do a little bit of both.
My original email from 2011…
I hope this email finds you blessed and thriving. I’m not sure if you remember me, but I’m Gladys Bruno’s (formerly St. Phard) daughter.
Congratulations on your beautiful and powerful work. It was really phenomenal rediscovering you through your work. My mom has updated me from time to time about your work and accomplishments. I also appreciate that you
have kept in touch with her over the decades. I know you two haven’t spoken in a while.
I wanted to reach out to you as I am making my way into new artistic endeavors. I’m an actress and producer living in suburban Philadelphia. I was hoping to connect with you to learn more about your journey. I hear so much talk about the absence of positive stories about people of color in the
media. I am looking for opportunities to introduce a larger audience to some inspiring people.
I don’t have any plans at this point, but you keep coming to mind. I would like an opportunity to connect, and if you are open to it, see if there might be something there. In case you want to check out my company, the website it is…(My old company.)
I’m so happy to hear that you have had a profound and positive impact on the artistic community and the world.
Tax-deductible contributions to the film can be made by check to our fiscal sponsor, Allied Arts Foundation with notation “Ulrick Documentary”, and sent to: Allied Arts Foundation, 4111 E. Madison Street, Suite #52, Seattle, WA 98112.