AMP: Grassroots²

Angelique Webster, Independent Filmmaker

What do you do? I make stories with moving images and audio. I’ve worked with young people on media literacy and documentation. I’ve also worked with recovering addicts, homeless people and other people on the so-called margins because I believe everyone has a story. So I use media as a way to get these stories out that we all need to hear. You might not be able to relate to everything but we have more in common than we don’t so our stories can be a tool for connection and ultimately change.

What is your why? I’ve always always been interested in people. I grew up in a family where everything was in story form. My grandfather was from Alabama with little education and he told the best stories. If you wanted to keep up, you had to come legit with a beginning, a middle, and an end and you had to know how to captivate your audience. There were a lot of us in the family so the strongest storyteller always got the floor and that was almost always my grandfather. It took me a long time to realize that I was a storyteller and that I appreciate good storytelling. My combination of being interested in people and the excitement I feel in telling and hearing stories drew me to film and video. I didn’t come from a family that said you can be a filmmaker. Art wasn’t high on the priority list because people wanted you to make a living. I wasn’t fulfilled doing these other things after college. I wanted to do more and I wanted people to see it and so I started telling stories with a camera. I did a lot of work with cooperative media and I saw a lot of validity in doing that work. It wasn’t until my daughter was born that I began to look at my own story and how it could help shape her life. The pivot was when my daughter was born. Things can live on and I didn’t want to have her deal with the same intergenerational trauma. Shit happens but theres a possibility to overcome and we can do this. My daughter was the dynamite that made it possible to share the most vulnerable time of my life. And it has been so good for me and my family as well as my audience. If you don’t talk about it, shit keeps happening. I do what I do because I want her to be free. And I want us all to be free.

What work are you most proud of? I never thought that I would publicly talk about my sexual violence that happened 30 years ago. But when I was getting this MFA, the documentaries that touched me were intimate family stories. I wrote an experimental script that outlined the first 25 years of life. People wondered if it was triggering but it was more like like bricks off my back. I thought about my mother and how she sacrificed her life so I can live. For years, she kept this to herself. I thought it would be good to get her vantage point to see how it affected her. The film allowed her to see that I was okay and now she’s free to tell her story to the world. The idea of talking about the abuse started as an insecurity but it became my strenght. It was for my daughter and my mother. My daughter knows me while I am in the light like Olivia Pope and them but when she’s older I want her to really see all of who I am including my most vulnerable moments.

How has your work been different during these difficult times? My work has always been real. The media projects I take on are no different than they were before. Technology boost has helped us to be more connected because people have more access. I’ve always worked with “underdogs” and addressed shit we don’t see or value. Nothing has really changed. It doesn’t matter who is president–now it’s just more prevalent and it’s out there but it’s always been there for our people. But the accessibility to see the work and more people doing the work of looking at things that we don’t want to see make it more appealing.