Making Black history: two film creatives on artistic labor, celebrated heritage, and homage to their predecessors

The visionary costume designer 

Photo by Winter Taylor Coleman

Costume Designers Guild-nominated creative Derica Cole Washington didn’t get her start in Tinseltown conventionally. A chance social media connection with Oscar winner Ruth Carter led this Cincinnati native from her intended career in museum curatorial work to the silver screen. A lover of monochrome color palettes, the designer began creating detailed mood boards on Pinterest which led her into spaces with the crème de la crème of filmmaking. With a summer 2021 hit in Janicza Bravo’s Zola in her rearview and a possible CDG honors in her near future, Washington is carving out space for herself in an industry where not many people look like her. 

“I think just seeing that she was a Black woman made me feel like, okay, that’s a career,’’ Washington says of assisting Carter. 

Her first project was a film named Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014), by the incomparable Spike Lee. It was that experience to which Washington credits her love of filmmakings’ collaborative process.

“[It was the] best experience of my life,” she says of her time shooting the self-financed film. “[I] learned so much! More than what I ever could’ve in any class because it required me to see everything. We had hardly anything. No fancy trailers. Guerilla style filmmaking.”

Washington emphasizes the value in making lateral connections with her peers but cites veteran, fellow Black costume designer Francine Jamison-Tanchuck, as one of the trailblazers in Hollywood who she sees as a big source of inspiration. 

“One of my all-time faves is Francine Tanchuck. She did one of my favorite movies, A Low Down Dirty Shame. She also did Boomerang.” 

For her next big project, Washintgon says she hopes to tell a story that hasn’t been told before. 

“With Hollywood doing so many remakes I’m ready for something new for our generation. Zola was something we hadn’t heard, from a perspective we hadn’t heard. More of that.” 

On her top costume design moments of all time:

B.A.P.S. Also again, A Low Down Dirty Shame. What she did with the Fremi… Genius!” 

On her top costume design moment of 2021:

Zola!”

The self-made filmmaker 

Image courtesy Jones' IMDB 

Director Christian Nolan Jones is no stranger to lateral connections himself. He built his current production company, Woodside Drive from the ground up, combining the resources he’d acquired through his relationships with other independent artists. Not to mention the skills he sharpened working as a creative without the financial backing of a major studio. 

“Out of necessity, when you’re in the independent space, it’s a little tough to get projects off the ground,” Jones says of his multi-hyphenate career, “so you kinda have to wear different hats until you can find people you can collaborate with. So yeah, I write. I direct. I edit.”

Jones found his love for storytelling while in his Atlanta high school (TK) when he began writing music video treatments for local artists. The extracurricular pastime spawned a natural curiosity in cameras, and once he was enrolled at Howard University, he used his $500 scholarship money to purchase a Canon T2i. The rest, as cliché as this sounds, is history. 

His first short film, Print Shop (2018), tells the story of a Black man in Philadelphia who makes ‘rest in peace’ t-shirts for neighborhood victims of gun violence. He leans into this heavy subject matter because they are stories that need to be told, and he cites Academy Award nominee John Singleton’s similar body of work as an influence on his own films. On the subject of inspiration, Jones also sees legendary photographer Jamel Shabazz’s photos as a framework for his craft: 

“I think that I have an affinity towards what he captures on camera in terms of the beauty in a gritty environment. Really casting Black faces in an authentic environment.”

His latest film Glitter Ain’t Gold (2022), produced by Oscar-winning musician Common, will premiere in March at SXSW. “I just wanted to make another film,” he says. “This is the fastest I’ve ever written and produced a film, so we’re all super excited to have [Common] behind us. That’s really empowering.” 

On his dream directing job:

“I would love to direct an episode of Snowfall. That’s my favorite show.”

On being inspired by current Black filmmakers:

Issa Rae and Barry Jenkins are my north stars. I aspire to achieve half of what they are doing right now.” 

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