Talamieka Brice is the producer, writer and director of “Five: A Mother’s Journey,” a feature length documentary. The film explores her journey of motherhood as she reconciles her past growing up in Mississippi with raising a son who turns 5 during the events of 2020. She is also a painter and designer, and, along with her husband Charles, owns and operates Brice Media, a marketing and advertising company in Ridgeland.
Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in Kilmichael, Mississippi, and I went to Montgomery County High School, which is no longer there. It’s one of those that fell into a consolidated district due to population decline.
After that I went to Jackson State University. I had planned to go to Mississippi State University. I had my dorm room and everything. And Jackson State sent me an offer for an academic scholarship for a full four years.
Initially I wanted to be a computer animator, and the place that had the closest thing to it was Mississippi State. So then when I got the offer from Jackson State, I saw that you could major in art, and computer animation was part of it, so I was sold.
At what moment did you discover your interest in working in film?
My first job out of college was working at the Planet Weekly newspaper in Jackson, which is no more. We worked right across from a film studio. The guys there were pretty cool, and I liked what they were doing, and I was able to also be around the music scene, so it was an interesting time. I met a lot of interesting people there, but I never really pursued it full time until I went to the Magnolia Film Festival, which funny enough, was founded by Ron Tibbett, one of the people that we had interviewed at Planet Weekly back when his film “Citizen Shane” was playing at the Crossroads Film Festival in Jackson.
Fast forward to a few years later, and I met Michael Williams, a filmmaker from that area who had picked up the mantle for the Mag after Ron passed away. And he invited me to be a judge at the festival. So I went there, and all the movies were really cool, but I didn’t see any that really spoke to me. But when talking to the filmmakers, they were very positive and encouraging and were like, “You can do this too.” So that’s when I really started thinking about filmmaking seriously.
At what point did you realize you could take steps to pursue your dream from Mississippi?
For a lot of the art that I’ve created and a lot of the things that I’ve done, Mississippi has always been my home base, so I’ve never really thought of it that much as an obstacle. I know why people say if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. But I think it’s really if you can make it in Mississippi, you can make it anywhere.
What type of training have you had and where?
I haven’t had any formal film training. My husband was a photojournalist with the Army, so he was a bit of my teacher. When he went and did his tours in Afghanistan, he learned a lot about film. And he worked with the public relations department at the National Guard over there off Riverside Drive in Jackson. He was actually more into film than I was. So I kind of learned on my own. My husband was my main teacher.
But Michael Williams, he was also very instrumental, and I leaned on a lot of my filmmaker friends like him to learn a lot more. And they were really receptive for filling in the blanks from the things I didn’t know.
What was your first film job?
My first film job was making the documentary. My husband, through our company, he took care of most of the video stuff. I would be his assistant when we would get a corporate job. I would set up stuff and run cameras a little bit, but I never really did it that much until I just jumped into working on the documentary.
What are your current and recent projects?
I did the documentary during the pandemic, surprisingly. I jumped into it full-fledged in May 2020 because a lot of my corporate gigs had dried up. I just had an art show opening and didn’t even get a chance to close it. I was like, well, what am I going to do now?
So, I jumped into filming the documentary from May until the end of September, and it was released in June 2021. Since then, it’s been in 25 festivals across the world, and won about 21 awards. We recently won an award in New York at the Love Wins Film Festival. It had a premiere in New York, which was awesome. It’s always amazing to see your work recognized on a big stage, after the amount of work that goes into producing a project like that.
I also recently started work on my second film, “Water.” It’s a reproductive justice documentary that centers on the stories of those most affected by restricted abortion access, and the organizations that support women and pregnant people in their reproductive journey. I’m making it in conjunction with SHERo Mississippi.
What has been the most surprising thing about working in film?
It’s how it’s given me the ability to combine all of my art forms. The first thing as an artist I was ever recognized for was writing. So, I was able to use my writing, and my actual voice because I did not have the budget for a narrator. I had to use my own voice. And everything else that I had learned about storytelling I had learned from art, like how to make the visuals move and how to make your graphics play a part. Even down to choosing fonts. I’m a big font nerd. All those choices that come down to making a compelling image, really. That’s the main thing about film, and it feels like home. It feels like I’ve found the place to fully be me, where I can combine all my talents.
Has there anybody else that’s been an influence on your career?
Besides my husband and Michael Williams, there’s also filmmakers I look up to and admire. I’m a huge Quentin Tarantino fan. Also, Spike Lee, of course. But I never really could fully connect with him, considering, you know, where he grew up versus where I grew up. It was easier to make the connection this past year, which was my first trip to New York. I met with a college buddy who took me around to all the places, and it was so cool being able to be in front of the Apollo and Malcolm X Boulevard and Langston Hughes’ brownstone, all these places that I’d seen in film and to put them actually in perspective. I even went to the cemetery where Malcolm X and James Baldwin and Paul Robeson and all these other great artists are buried.
Do you think being from Mississippi has helped you stand out in the film industry?
Yes and no. There a lot of times people don’t realize the amount of art that comes out of Mississippi. You know, like the amount of grit, the amount of talent, the amount of storytelling. Everyone has an idea what Mississippi is, which is totally different from the reality of who we are. I also think the fact that the film touches on a lot of Mississippi history, that’s also a part of national history as well, has kind of made it stand out. And then just the perspective of a black woman from Mississippi stands out in many ways, because people, if they even realize Mississippi has black people, which surprisingly some don’t, always have this perception of who we are.
If you could create a scene built around one location in Mississippi, where would that be and why?
I think Offbeat, the pop culture store in midtown Jackson would be great. I’ve known the owner for years. To see his rise from artist to DJ to entrepreneur and how pivotal he’s been in the community is incredible. I’d love to show what a treasure of a place Offbeat is. I think it’s a testament to Mississippi, to our grit and stamina.
What was your favorite moment when you were working on your project?
My kids’ reaction to seeing themselves in the film. They were younger then, actually around the age of 5 and 2. When the credits are rolling in my film, there is a scene of the kids interacting with the camera interviewing me and in typical fashion, my son gets annoyed at my daughter because he feels like she’s taking a longer turn than he did. That’s kind of funny, and I’m glad we captured that. And in the way that, although they see mom and dad draw all the time, but to have the cameras around and to see by their own paintings and their faces and their reactions, and get that on film, that’s some of my favorite moments. Absolutely.
They’re a big part of the story. It’s called “Five” because my oldest had just turned 5. When I turned 5, my father introduced me to a lot things about the world, and it was the first time going to school by myself. And I knew from my own history and a lot of the things that I’ve seen growing up in Mississippi, I had all these worries about how the world would treat my son, when he was able to go to school too.
What would you say to encourage a producer to bring their project to Mississippi?
I feel like the people of Mississippi are like none other in the world. Our people are our biggest asset here. There’s always somebody that knows somebody that knows somebody. They can help you get what you need. And our locations and our scenery are second to none. And we also have a strong film incentive. But to me, there’s no place richer for creativity and creating art than Mississippi.
What do you do when you’re not working on film?
Painting, designing and trying to maintain my kids’ blankets and their juices. That’s mainly what I do.
What are your hopes for the film industry in the state?
I would hope that the film industry is more welcoming of more diverse stories. There’s a lot of stuff that’s happened in the state of Mississippi, a lot of stories yet to be told. I think being more open to diverse stories and more things that challenge you, that is how we grow.
What advice would you give for somebody looking to start in filmmaking?
Just do it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I mean, being an artist, I still don’t think I ever get my paintings 100 percent right, according to what my own high standard is. But it doesn’t mean that I’ll ever stop painting, you know? Even with this film, I look at this film as a piece of art, as something that I’ve created. If I could go back, you know, and look at what we left on the cutting room floor, I could probably make five different films out of the footage we had. It’s just about believing in your story and your voice. And to just do it and learn from your mistakes and the things you didn’t like and take that into the next project.