The Colors Behind The Pictures You See

Interviews Velissa Robinson

Published on March 2nd, 2015 | by Melody Cade


Bad Hair – A Documentary In The Making

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Velissa Robinson is a LA-based writer, director and graduate of University of Southern California’s school of Cinematic Arts. She has worked with B.E.T. Network and Tyler Perry’s 34th Street Films but found a home at Sundance Institute’s Documentary Program. Palette is excited to talk to her again about her upcoming project.

Q: Whats your documentary about?

Bad Hair is a character driven film about an entrepreneur building her natural hair empire in the city that #cantbreathe. It accesses the natural hair movement through the life and business of Karen Tappin-Saunderson of Karen’s Body Beautiful. Through her, we’re able to dive into the depths of the natural hair movement, it’s significance and nuance.

Q: Talk a bit about the ‘natural hair’ movement. What’s the community like?

It’s a whole world. It’s a whole universe with it’s own queen(s) [Solange and Viola, lol]. It has it’s own language, experts, merchandise and way of being. It’s diverse, but distinctive, still. I’m blessed that this movement is happening in my life time and my daughter will only know a world with all of these beauty options. It’s complex though, as movements are and this film doesn’t shy away from those nuances. Bad Hair accesses it from a place of wanting to highlight the feminism and ambition around embracing yourself in a society that doesn’t. At the same time, it lays the foundation for a discussion that’s deeper.

Q: What’s your goal for the Indigogo campaign? What’s the money needed for?

Ugh! The goal for the Indiegogo campaign is very high.  On one hand it may discourage people from donating. On the other hand, the lowest perk is $1. The goal isn’t to have people donate a ton of money- but a large amount of people to donate what they can. That’s why it starts out at $1. In terms of what I wanted to accomplish with the campaign, it’s set to finish my budget. That’s very non- traditional for documentary and very, very non traditional for crowd sourcing. Mostly, people try to crowd source for a slice of their budget or a particular activity. I’ve been fundraising for this film the traditional way for four years with 0% success. Zero.

When I went to New York to shoot this film, I knew I had something special right away and I knew I wanted to get it out into the world while it was still timely, so the amount is to finish the film, from “beginning” to end. The money is needed for a full time editor to get started ASAP, travel to finish shooting, the ability to bring on a producer (I’m working all alone on this currently), sound, music, festivals, deliverables and finishing funds. It’s everything. Filmmakers usually don’t ask for what they need. Women filmmakers are known for not asking for what they need, and it’s scary to be dangling out there asking for such a large amount when most people don’t- but it’s do-able and time to be honest about how much films cost.

Q: How are docs changing? Style?

Documentary films, filmmakers and audiences are becoming more and more sophisticated. The expectation for a documentary to be beautiful, entertaining, informative and compelling are very high. The way human beings are connecting with characters in films and television is more geared to who they are, and less aspirational- meaning we long for more complex characters in a way we never have before. Bad Hair is a very intimate film for that reason. It’s a very cinematic film for that reason, so it will speak to people, and the core of emotions surrounding the subject matter that have not quite been unpacked. The style is cool, but it’s just a tool to elevate the story to a more reach-able place.

Q: What are your hopes for your doc and the message it has?

In terms of the film, my largest hope is that it can reach a diverse audience. At the end of the day, it’s a film about a woman balancing family and business in order to build her empire with obstacles in her way. That should be universal- and if I can leverage the power of story and character to engage people who are outside of the demographic of my main character, then I think a deeper, wider discussion can happen. In terms of the message, I have one dream for the response to this film, only one. If people can walk away from the project and understand what’s happening with natural hair and the Black aesthetic in America and abroad to be more complex than they understood it before, I will be happy.

To support, follow this link: *Bad Hair Documentary*

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