Cedric Beal, founder of CMB Productions, had the opportunity to interview Tyshun Wardlaw who directed the feature length documentary Growing Up Milwaukee. This is a film meant to show people that in every dark cloud there is always a silver lining. It premiered at the American Black Film Festival last week. Here is a look into our conversation.
CB: You said you’re about to get more into “narrative” when it comes to filming. Could you elaborate more on that?
TW: Yes. So I do have a production company, Wardlaw Productions, which is in its fifth year. And within Wardlaw Productions I plan on creating more narrative films. This is my first feature, but I did create a short narrative film about human trafficking that was also about Milwaukee. But that experience alone just really gave me what I needed as a filmmaker on the narrative side because I wrote the script, produced the script, I directed, I hired the actors, basically all of the fundamentals…On the narrative side I would like to have my company be a vehicle for producing and creating original content for independent films, whether that’s for networks or whether that’s for creating our own content…And also just as a woman business owner, just having that ownership, which right now, even after everything that happened in the media over the summer, you know companies are starting to get it that we are underrepresented in the industry not only on the director’s side, but really on the ownership side. There’s not a lot of black women that own television production companies, and so, I am Midwest based [with a] Milwaukee and a Chicago office…where I can utilize both cities to be able to create those projects independently for my company as well as for studios.
CB: As a young filmmaker, what would your advice be to people who want to be where you are?
TW: You have to think about the small things before you even get to the Sony level or the Tyler Perry Studios level. Your foundation has to be solid, for lack of a better word. Build your foundation. Get resources from local agencies about business, and it may not necessarily have to be other film production companies. It is great to be able to seek them out and say, “Hey, can I just kind of learn about you starting the foundation of your company?” But really, business is business, and when you have a solid foundation, you’re able to whether the storm when you go along. You want to know how to keep your accounting right, you want to know, on the business side, if you’re orchestrating and creating the film that’s being produced by your company, do you pay your bills on time? People want to know that like, “I can work with CMB Productions because I know that they produce quality work from start to finish.”
CB: What were your intentions in making this film? Who was your target audience, and what was your desired outcome?
TW: The target was also, just in general, youth because I want to inspire. To continue to allow the youth to tell their story because they’re going through so much, and it’s different, and I don’t care what city it is. Business could be growing up Chicago, growing up Philly, growing up New York, like, the same premise is still happening nationally, internationally with what these youth are dealing with and especially growing up black in their cities. So, I wanted to be able to first reach the youth, nationally and internationally, and then second, the outcome just with allowing people to know that all hope is not lost for the city of Milwaukee. And then also encourage the city of Milwaukee to know, like, “You know what guys? Once again, we are working very diligently to help change the narrative of what’s happening in our city..”