Alana Smith, a senior television and film major from Sacramento, California, felt instant gratitude for her journey as a filmmaker after being awarded first place at the Reel HBCU Film Festival competition hosted by the National Black Movie Association for her short film “The Son That Didn’t Shine.”
This summer, Smith was one of six filmmakers chosen to compete in the NAACP Cinematic Short Film Competition in Boston. While there, Smith met with her co-director Clarke Phillips who would be working with her to tell a story about reproductive freedom in the country.
“The producers gave us around six different topics to choose from…but we felt we have the voice and the background to tell that story as two young Black women,” Smith said.
The six-minute film shares the story of a woman who was given abortion pills unknowingly by her husband’s family members after announcing her second pregnancy. After she realized what the pills were, she stopped taking them which landed her in the hospital, giving birth to a deteriorated unborn fetus.
Phillips and Smith pre-planned their film within a week. Initially, they struggled to figure out how they wanted to tell their story. The producers suggested they interview real people to get inspiration for what they wanted their story to look like.
“We had so many ideas and even when we got there, our plan wasn’t fully formed. I reached out to someone I knew who had had an abortion…Once she told her story, Alana and I were like, ‘If we center it around that and talk through the visuals we got it,’” Phillips said.
After script writing, filming, and editing, Phillips and Smith were overwhelmed by the final product. Phillips was shocked by how well the film came together.
“Knowing where we were when we got to Boston, still not having a fully fleshed out plan…Seeing the final piece I was like, ‘Wow, that was divine intervention.’ We lucked out that this person was willing to talk to us, and I couldn’t have asked for more from it, and now we both have a body of work that we can share,” Phillips said.
Smith was amazed about how impactful the story was and that they were able to tell a story that someone could relate to in so many ways.
“I teared up seeing the final product. The goal was to make the audience feel uncomfortably enlightened. It is very personal and intimate but at the same time, it is something a lot of women face,” Smith said.
Smith entered “The Son That Didn’t Shine” into the Reel HBCU Film Festival and was notified that it was a finalist for the competition.
As a finalist, Smith had the honor of visiting the White House and meeting with the first gentleman Douglas Emhoff. Smith and Emhoff shared a conversation about the film industry, and she also received a letter from Vice President Kamala Harris.
Later that day, Smith attended the film festival, watched other films in the competition, and was given a motivational speech from Dr. Trisha Bailey. Smith received scholarships for the Dr. Trisha Bailey Storyteller Award and Warner Bros Discovery Empower Storyteller Award.
“I’m very grateful…to have an award under Dr. Bailey’s name and a media production company that I aspire to work with one day. To be recognized and to have that connection at this stage of my career is exciting,” Smith said.
The short film is the sixth film Smith has directed since being at Howard. Smith said she is ecstatic about her growth and future.
While also the president of the Cathy Hughes School of Communications Council (CHSOC), Smith wishes to leave a legacy by collaborating with as many other schools and organizations as possible to bring back the community in CHSOC.
Copy edited by Diamond Hamm