Photography: Andy Madeleine
Amandla Baraka is Here To Change the World of Film-Making
A sit-down with the self-taught director who is challenging a male-dominated field by creating a space for women to amplify their own voices.

Amandla Baraka is a creative force to be reckoned with. As a self-taught director and photographer, it’s clear that Amandla’s own creativity, ambitions, and yearning for networking with like-minded creatives are a driving force in all that she does. Getting her start in fashion photography,  she eventually rose through the ranks and landed in filmmaking. The Jersey native spent a year directing short video content for Pyer Moss before she was hired to direct the “Focus Breathe-In” Global Adidas campaign. From there, she was hired to direct two music videos for RCA signed artist, Wesson Desir, and has gone on to produce three visualizers and a music video with the band Salt Cathedral

But her passion didn’t end there. After being thrown into the male-dominated field of filmmaking, she sought out to create a safe space for women to showcase their own talent. Her brainchild, Film Girls Social Club, is a supportive solace for the female mind to flourish. She’s creating the blueprint for her own success. 

We interviewed Amandla last month for Miilkiina and discussed everything from FG-SC to how the only way she feels truly represented is by representing herself. 

Why do you do what you do?

I do all of this because, for most of my life, I have felt unseen and unrepresented. The only way to truly feel represented is to represent me. 

How have you navigated feeling underrepresented? 

As a black woman, I feel misrepresented more than anything. In that regard, my only advice is to be yourself as loudly as possible.

Tell us about your upbringing. Does it influence your work?

There are so many layers to my upbringing I don’t even know where to start. My mother raised me. She was a very young single mom, and for a long time, we lived with my grandmother in Montclair, New Jersey, until she got her own apartment in East Orange.

I moved between the suburbs and the inner city my whole life. Those two parts of me are in constant battle. My father’s family has deep ties in Newark, NJ. His father was a famous poet and a leader in the black arts community, and up until his passing, held a lot of influence over me. The more I get to know my grandmother in all her glory, as an adult, I realize she is the one I looked up to all of this time. All of these parts of my upbringing influence my work. It is hard to pinpoint when and where.

What about your most recent project, Film Girls Social Club?

Film Girls Social Club can be broken down into two parts. There is the FG-SC that supports and shares the work of women making films and taking photos. Then there is the production part of Film Girls, which is still growing and currently operating through one person – me. The goal isn’t to prove anything to the world about women being behind or in front of the camera. The goal is to support women and cultivate a finely curated selection of films to share on our platform. I am in the stages of building a new website to execute just that.

Why do you feel like this type of platform is important?

When I originally put together the first FG-SC event in 2015, I was simply looking to network with more women who work in the film and photography industry. I didn’t go to school for filmmaking, so I wasn’t close to that many people with my interests. That is why I called it a social club. It wasn’t meant to make a big statement; it is simply meant to call together women with refined taste in film and photography – whether you work in the industry or not.

What are the criteria for the projects FG-SC chooses to produce?

The most important thing I am looking for is concept. If my mind is blown away by a concept, I’m all in. Aesthetically, I look for innovation. The quality of the camera isn’t as important as the intention behind it.

We’d love to discuss your experience photographing at Pyer Moss. Would you say it’s helped shape what you’re working on now?

Working at Pyer Moss taught so much about how to advocate for myself at the proverbial “table.” Watching Kerby negotiate and grow his business was incredibly inspiring. Conversations were being had that I didn’t even think people would be open to. It made me feel like it’s ok to be myself at that table.

What I have to offer as a black woman is enough. I also worked on so much outside of photography—I produced, directed, and designed presentations. But that is one of the positives of working in the startup world: you get to see the blueprints, and sometimes you create them.

As a multi-hyphenate, do you find yourself leaning towards one creative outlet over the other?

I don’t really consider myself a multi-hyphenate (even though I technically am). It’s just a result of my curiosity. My goal has always been to become a filmmaker, and I’m now getting opportunities to direct. It’s a blessing to be able to live my dream. So to answer your question, I lean towards filmmaking.

What’s your ultimate camera/lens lockup?

I would use the Sony A7R and Zeiss 24-70 Zoom because it’s little enough for me to tote around, and I can switch between video and photo as I wish and not worry about quality. I am currently a Canon girl but thinking about switching.

Is there someone that you look up to professionally?

Jenn Nkiru. The way she has been able to tell her stories is inspiring. 

What’s your favorite Jenn Nkiru film?

I love the film she made for Kamasi Washington. The colors, textures, and concept. I was blown away. She also went to Howard University like me, so I look at her success, and it makes me hopeful.

Would you say film-making an important part of story-telling?

It’s like putting a face to a name. It visualizes a concept, person, or culture for you. It creates understanding through sight and sound. That is why I love it so much.

So, what’s next for Amandla and FG-SC?

I have been directing more than ever lately. FG-SC is technically like my producing partner when I work with big clients. This allows me to hire producers through FG-SC, who, in the future, I’d like to be permanent. I am currently working on a website that allows me to screen films made by women. I think the first iteration of this will be pretty lo-fi, seeing as I’m the one putting together the website. When I can afford someone skilled at this, then it should be even better. 

Photography: Andy Madeleine
Amandla Baraka is Here To Change the World of Film-Making
A sit-down with the self-taught director who is challenging a male-dominated field by creating a space for women to amplify their own voices.

Amandla Baraka is a creative force to be reckoned with. As a self-taught director and photographer, it’s clear that Amandla’s own creativity, ambitions, and yearning for networking with like-minded creatives are a driving force in all that she does. Getting her start in fashion photography,  she eventually rose through the ranks and landed in filmmaking. The Jersey native spent a year directing short video content for Pyer Moss before she was hired to direct the “Focus Breathe-In” Global Adidas campaign. From there, she was hired to direct two music videos for RCA signed artist, Wesson Desir, and has gone on to produce three visualizers and a music video with the band Salt Cathedral

But her passion didn’t end there. After being thrown into the male-dominated field of filmmaking, she sought out to create a safe space for women to showcase their own talent. Her brainchild, Film Girls Social Club, is a supportive solace for the female mind to flourish. She’s creating the blueprint for her own success. 

We interviewed Amandla last month for Miilkiina and discussed everything from FG-SC to how the only way she feels truly represented is by representing herself. 

Why do you do what you do?

I do all of this because, for most of my life, I have felt unseen and unrepresented. The only way to truly feel represented is to represent me. 

How have you navigated feeling underrepresented? 

As a black woman, I feel misrepresented more than anything. In that regard, my only advice is to be yourself as loudly as possible.

Tell us about your upbringing. Does it influence your work?

There are so many layers to my upbringing I don’t even know where to start. My mother raised me. She was a very young single mom, and for a long time, we lived with my grandmother in Montclair, New Jersey, until she got her own apartment in East Orange.

I moved between the suburbs and the inner city my whole life. Those two parts of me are in constant battle. My father’s family has deep ties in Newark, NJ. His father was a famous poet and a leader in the black arts community, and up until his passing, held a lot of influence over me. The more I get to know my grandmother in all her glory, as an adult, I realize she is the one I looked up to all of this time. All of these parts of my upbringing influence my work. It is hard to pinpoint when and where.

What about your most recent project, Film Girls Social Club?

Film Girls Social Club can be broken down into two parts. There is the FG-SC that supports and shares the work of women making films and taking photos. Then there is the production part of Film Girls, which is still growing and currently operating through one person – me. The goal isn’t to prove anything to the world about women being behind or in front of the camera. The goal is to support women and cultivate a finely curated selection of films to share on our platform. I am in the stages of building a new website to execute just that.

Why do you feel like this type of platform is important?

When I originally put together the first FG-SC event in 2015, I was simply looking to network with more women who work in the film and photography industry. I didn’t go to school for filmmaking, so I wasn’t close to that many people with my interests. That is why I called it a social club. It wasn’t meant to make a big statement; it is simply meant to call together women with refined taste in film and photography – whether you work in the industry or not.

What are the criteria for the projects FG-SC chooses to produce?

The most important thing I am looking for is concept. If my mind is blown away by a concept, I’m all in. Aesthetically, I look for innovation. The quality of the camera isn’t as important as the intention behind it.

We’d love to discuss your experience photographing at Pyer Moss. Would you say it’s helped shape what you’re working on now?

Working at Pyer Moss taught so much about how to advocate for myself at the proverbial “table.” Watching Kerby negotiate and grow his business was incredibly inspiring. Conversations were being had that I didn’t even think people would be open to. It made me feel like it’s ok to be myself at that table.

What I have to offer as a black woman is enough. I also worked on so much outside of photography—I produced, directed, and designed presentations. But that is one of the positives of working in the startup world: you get to see the blueprints, and sometimes you create them.

As a multi-hyphenate, do you find yourself leaning towards one creative outlet over the other?

I don’t really consider myself a multi-hyphenate (even though I technically am). It’s just a result of my curiosity. My goal has always been to become a filmmaker, and I’m now getting opportunities to direct. It’s a blessing to be able to live my dream. So to answer your question, I lean towards filmmaking.

What’s your ultimate camera/lens lockup?

I would use the Sony A7R and Zeiss 24-70 Zoom because it’s little enough for me to tote around, and I can switch between video and photo as I wish and not worry about quality. I am currently a Canon girl but thinking about switching.

Is there someone that you look up to professionally?

Jenn Nkiru. The way she has been able to tell her stories is inspiring. 

What’s your favorite Jenn Nkiru film?

I love the film she made for Kamasi Washington. The colors, textures, and concept. I was blown away. She also went to Howard University like me, so I look at her success, and it makes me hopeful.

Would you say film-making an important part of story-telling?

It’s like putting a face to a name. It visualizes a concept, person, or culture for you. It creates understanding through sight and sound. That is why I love it so much.

So, what’s next for Amandla and FG-SC?

I have been directing more than ever lately. FG-SC is technically like my producing partner when I work with big clients. This allows me to hire producers through FG-SC, who, in the future, I’d like to be permanent. I am currently working on a website that allows me to screen films made by women. I think the first iteration of this will be pretty lo-fi, seeing as I’m the one putting together the website. When I can afford someone skilled at this, then it should be even better. 

One thought on “Amandla Baraka is Here To Change the World of Film-Making”

  1. What up Amandla! I ASSume your Moma, “TJ,” and/or Grandmother Alice have mentioned me over the years. Tell your Grandmother I ain’t her friend anymore because she abandoned me over 20 years ago. Last time I saw her was at your baby shower @ your Aunt Joy’s house in Montclair. Your Grandfather Malik promised he was gonna show but never did. I guess he thinks I’m an infidel. Fine friend he turned out to be. No disrespect, he and I had some good times. Only your Aunt Latifa made any attempt to contact me over the years. Save for her, they all abandoned me. However, God’s will shall be done.
    A jazz buddy of mine who resides in South Orange, recently emailed this profile on YOU to me. Young lady I’m so proud of you!!! You look just like Taraja, spittting image. Please tell Grandma Alice and Grandfather Malik I still love them even though they “threw me under the bus.” What was my crime?Tell me!
    Anyhows, I’m expecting BIG things from you. Your career looks very promising as a photogragher, filmmaker and director. You come from great roots!!! Not only Grandma Alice and Grandfather Malik, but I know on your paternal side Amiri Baraka was (or is, depending on your spirituality) your grandfather. I never met your Dad, however, I know he’s the Mayor of Newark. Doing a great work as far as I can tell.
    Me and my wife, Sylvia, attended the Montclair Jazz Festival in 2019. A cousin of mine, who was 13 at the time, plays the piano, and he played with Jazz Kids. He lives in South Orange. As you may know, the festival didn’t happen the summer of 2020 because of Covid. However, I pray that it’ll happen this year. Pray!
    Please tell ALL I extend my blessings, and “the Styme” is doing well. God has been gracious!
    Please convey my Mothers’ Day wishes to Grandma Alice, Moma TJ, Aunt Latifa, and Aunts Joy and JuJu.
    Funny how life turns out. Stay well and I’ve been praying for YOU!
    Big Love, Uncle Styme

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *