Raeshelle Cooke: Original Visionary Filmmaker
Award-winning Filmmaker & founder of production company RMC Pictures, Raeshelle Cooke writes about the many misadventures of love, with music and spoken word often leading the narratives. She also writes social commentary on the current state of the country and human nature in general. She particularly likes to put women of color on the big screen and tell their stories. Raeshelle’s won 3 film awards, one from the LA Film Awards; she had a film (Mt. Washington) screen at the Reel to Real Film Promotion featuring Omari Hardwick in NY in 2018; and her new film Wrath City screened across the country and was even accepted to the Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2018.
In this edition ABOG interviews the Iconic Original works of Raeshelle Cooke who is currently burning up the film festival circuits with her dramatic takes on “Real Life” situations that are impacting the world today. We caught up with Raeshelle shortly after she was named for the 2019 “Women In Film” award from the Shawna Shea Film Festival, to be presented to her on October 5th.
ABOG: Raeshelle, welcome and congratulations on being presented the “Women In Film” award. What does this award mean to you, especially as it relates to your journey as a filmmaker?
Raeshelle: I hadn’t submitted any films to any festivals this year because I’ve been working on my film “Woke”. So to be presented an award was really awesome; I was not expecting it. SSFF gives out the Women in Film award every year and I’m really honored they gave it to me this year. They said they wanted to give it to me because they see me working hard in film, and not many women are filmmakers either, a lot are actors but not filmmakers, so they wanted to acknowledge my hard work. That really means a lot. It just showed me that you never know who is watching you, so make sure you go hard and stay consistent. It pays off.
ABOG: Tell us a little about yourself and how you decided to embark on a career in making movies?
Raeshelle: I’m a writer-director of short-form dramatic film content. I love making music-narrated films about love, but more recently I’ve been making films with a sci-fi element, films that make social commentary on issues black people face, but I try to tell these stories in a clever way with some misdirection. I got started making movies in college, but I’ve always been a storyteller since I was a little kid as it was a way to escape our life back then. After college, I kept going with the filmmaking and haven’t stopped since.
ABOG: Do you have any current filmmakers/directors that inspire you?
Raeshelle: I’m really inspired by people like Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Serling, and Jordan Peele, as far as the story and directing and writing goes. I love the way they told their stories and it’s the way I naturally think about story and want to tell mine. I love mysteries, suspense and twist endings. I love whodunits. They’re just really fun to me, figuring out what happened, or thinking the story is taking you one way but then, in the end, it was something else all along. You always remember The Twilight Zone and The Planet of the Apes (70s version) and Alfred Hitchcock because the way they told their stories were so different and interactive, and fun, and clever, and unlike anything else out in the theaters or on tv. I grew up watching those old movies and shows because that’s what my mom watched; she likes mysteries too. I love unsolved mysteries too, True Crime, things like that. I try to see all of Jordan Peele’s movies too, all just for enjoyment. But yeah, writing for me is like therapy and it fulfills me, so once I started making films out of college, I never stopped. With each year, I want to get better and better; make movies that are more challenging than the last, more daring, groundbreaking, and…just different and memorable.
ABOG: When considering a project, what are determining factors when finally deciding “Okay, this is something I really feel would be worth putting out there?”
Raeshelle: If it’s a story I really want to tell, if it’s something that would be fun to tell, if it’s something that I want to say and been dying to say, whether the topic is on a social issue or love. If I feel passionate or emotional about a subject, I use art as an outlet. Many times in the past it was, Oh, this guy I was dating screwed me over. Then bam, here’s a film about how I feel about him and what he did to me. More recently though, it’s been less of that and more so, “oh, this is what’s happening in the world – people are doing this or saying this and it’s not right. This would be so funny and clever as a story. People would learn a lot from this film. Ha ha ha, I cannot wait to write it and make a film about it and have people watch and see their reactions”. Then I can’t wait to talk to them at film festivals. Things like that.
ABOG: How much if any of your personal life experience is related to your film projects?
Raeshelle: All of it. The films I do now about social issues are based on things real people believe and have said, and my real frustrations and thoughts on those topics. Those films are about real life and how awful human beings can be and how funny it is all at the same time. Hypocrisy is hilarious to me, especially when it looks silly and people do not know or realize how silly they look while they’re being hypocritical. For example, I made a film (Wrath City) about police brutality and Black Lives Matter for those “All Lives Matter” people, who look ridiculous when they say that. I made a webisode recently (for the web series One Law) about the 2016 election, and how these feminists shout “I hate men!” and “Not my President” while at the same time, it was women who voted for trump in droves, and it’s women who gain the wealth and riches and power from those same white men they’re shouting at because these same white men are their spouses and fathers for God’s sake, so that’s funny to me, the hypocrisy of the whole thing. So I never understood what they’re so angry for. All of my past music-narrated love stories though, those were also based on real life situations, breakups, heartbreaks, etc. Instead of stewing in my emotions, I just made films and it was always therapeutic. I don’t need or want to get into the stories and inspirations behind them though because they were based on men who were below me and who I had no business being with. These guys were always broke and didn’t have their lives or families together, and it is embarrassing that I ever went out with them. I’m thinking of 2 men in particular who I dated from the 2012-2015 period. They were older too so you’d think they’d be Grade A catches but they weren’t, and I understood completely why they were divorced. I don’t really make films like that anymore because I’ve been writing a lot of social commentary mainly now, more challenging films. Also, I’m in a different place mentally and spiritually. I’m a different person now than I was back then. I was a stupid 20-something year old. I was dumb in my early 20s and didn’t know my worth, and losers who were weak and broke saw that and hung onto that. Now, I’m older, wiser and more confident. I’m doing well in film, I got promoted/a way better job, and I’m working on businesses and will buy a house soon. I’m not the woman I was when I made those films or while I was “dating” these ridiculous “men”.And thank God too cause this woman I am now is the woman I was meant to be all along. And imagine if I stayed with those bitter, old dudes. They’d definitely expect me to take care of them. No thank you. Thank you God for protecting me from them.
ABOG: If you had the opportunity, who would you most like to collaborate or work with on a project?
Raeshelle: Taraji P. Henson. She’s extremely talented and has a range of emotions she performs with that fits the characters in my films. As far as emotion and strength, she embodies everything my movies are. It’s weird how I started watching her in Baby Boy and now seeing how far she’s come since that, it’s really amazing. I like her personality too, she seems down to earth, so I’d definitely like working with her, with Shonda Rhimes as an Executive Producer!
ABOG: What advice would you give aspiring filmmakers on pursuing a career in the movie business?
Raeshelle: Whatever part you want for yourself as an actor, make the movie yourself if no one will give you the part. You can make your own content and even distribute it yourself nowadays. You don’t have to wait for others anymore, or settle for being an extra, or work your way from being a PA to Director anymore. We’re living in different times now. If you want a part for yourself, or if you want to direct a movie, make the content yourself if no one else will give you a shot. Aside from that, if you’re just starting, go to film festivals and talk to the filmmakers, and get on their sets and start learning. Help them out. The good ones will remember and return the favor.
ABOG: People would be surprised to know?
Raeshelle: I absolutely hate hair in my food. I will throw the whole plate out and gag like crazy if I find one little hair in my food. And if it’s a long hair? Oh God. Oh Lord Jesus, forget it, I will die. I will leave the restaurant and never come back and leave a review. That is the most disgusting thing in the entire world to me. Finding hair in my food is the grossest thing ever to me in the entire universe, grosser than anything the average human could think of. Whatever you think is extremely gross, I’d bet a million dollars that to ME, finding a hair in my food is way grosser than that thing you’re thinking of.
ABOG: What projects are you currently working on?
Raeshelle: A new film called ‘Woke’! A black woman is the last black woman left in the entire world because the other black women were killed off due to a “race war”. When she looks through these futuristic news goggles, she finds out what this “race war” actually was. It’s a fiction, a sci-fi, a love story, and it talks about the relationship between black women and white men, and black women and black men. It basically calls out fake woke people and is the official “Eff y’all, I’mma do me” film for black women. I definitely think it will be groundbreaking and will piss some people off, but it is definitely needed, and I look forward to releasing it in 2020. I’m ready!
ABOG: Raeshelle, ABOG Salutes you for being an “Original Visionary Filmmaker” and look forward to your future projects, but also seeing your mark on the world with your body of works! Much Love & Success!