B. Monét has the pedigree of a qualified, top-notch writer/director and the talent and ability to see things with both grace and accuracy. Besides having a B.A. in English from Spelman College and a MFA from New York University in Film and Television with a concentration in writing and directing, Monét is one of the 2019 inaugural film directors of the Queen Collective, a partnership with Queen Latifah, Procter & Gamble, and Tribeca Studios to showcase filmmakers who have a passion for representing underrepresented stories in their projects.
Ballet After Dark is a 13-minute documentary short which follows Tyde-Courtney Edwards, a young woman who found the strength to survive after being brutally attacked. Edwards has since created an organization that uses the power of dance as a form of healing therapy to help other survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence.
BET.com spoke to B. Monét, whose film was available on Hulu and now featured on BET, about discovering this remarkable power of dance as a pathway to recovery, her passion for filmmaking, and why it’s important to use empathy as a tool in her storytelling.
BET.com: How did you meet Tyde-Courtney Edwards, the subject of Ballet After Dark?
B. Monét: My friend actually did an expose on Ballet After Dark in the summer of 2018 and after I read it, I was just flabbergasted because I’m from Maryland and I love any opportunities to shoot in the DMV area, especially about documenting women’s stories. I asked her to put me in contact with Tyde. We spent almost three hours together when we first met and luckily I met her in the nick of time. She was at a place in her personal journey where she wanted to give up on Ballet After Dark. It was this interesting divine thing that happened where I came in and we collaborated and made this thing together.
BET: What was going on with her that caused her to want to give up on this project?
B. Monét: It was what most entrepreneurs deal with when you don’t have a steady income. It’s not always consistent and it can get to you. Even the strongest people can just have a moment in which they feel a bit burdened by the inconsistency of the workflow. I think it was driving her crazy. She said she wanted to do this great thing but needed more help, more assistance and it’s still a burden because it’s just her.
BET.com: Do you think creating this film helped her in any way?
B. Monét: I’d say Ballet After Dark helped to give Tyde exposure, not only with Tribeca but with other festivals. She’s also an ambassador for Athleta because of the film and she’s doing a lot of workshops domestically and soon internationally. It’s so great that she can still do this work and for people to know more about her.
BET.com: What did you take away from your conversation with director Dee Rees and Queen Latifah at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival?
B. Monét: It was such a whirlwind experience. We were on People TV and nightly news. It was such a surreal experience that is still shocking to me. With most programs and fellowships they never give filmmakers this amount of exposure and publicity and it just showed us how your life can change in a matter of seconds. It was a beautiful experience that will always hold a special place in my life. Then being on stage with my really good friend Haley [Anderson] and Queen Latifah is right next to me and I’ve loved Dee Rees since Pariah. It’s still like ‘did that really happen?’
I’m thankful that the Queen Collective program is allowing for new voices to shine through. A lot of the directors we typically know about are men so I think it’s great that this program walks the walk and talks the talk and is helping new voices of people of color and women. It checks all the boxes but it’s also doing the work that other programs should model.
BET.com: What defines you as a filmmaker?
B. Monét: The work that I leave behind will show people of color and women as victors and not victims. I’m very into making sure that I’m not creating trauma porn with our images so for me as an image maker it’s really important to show the interior world of people of color and for people who are watching their stories unfold to feel a bit of empathy that that may not have had before. It’s important for me to lend empathy through the screen.
I also use a lot of vignettes in my work; these artful moments that maybe beautify trauma. The only reason I do that is because I don’t want to re-traumatize someone who has already dealt with enough. I don’t think that’s helpful to recreate trauma.
BET.com: What new projects are you working on that we can look forward to next?
B. Monét: Yeah, I’m developing Q.U.E.E.N., which will hopefully be my first feature film. I’m also developing a lot of other projects which are focused on women of color and hopefully will be moving into the narrative and T.V. space. I’m very excited to develop longer projects. I’ve done over 10 short films so for me it’s important that I challenge myself by getting into longer formats.
(Photo: Amanda Picotte)