InspiHERed By spotlights phenomenal women in the Black queer community—everyone from artists to activists. Each week ELIXHER features someone whose personal journey and individual craft inspire us to dream bigger, laugh harder, and love deeper. This week we chat with not one but two incredible women making moves in our community, Niq Lewis and Alex Lloyd of gravyCake Productions (GCP), a brand spanking new production company.
ELIXHER: Tell us a little about yourselves and your background in film/television production.
NIQ: I’m a film school dropout with a background in editing, camera operating, on set lighting and castings for reality TV. I’d always been a lover of films and television and the role that each plays in our current society. Spike Lee’s ‘When the Levees Broke’ sparked my inspiration to create docu-style projects. I was working in Louisiana post-Katrina, comparing the propaganda that the news fed us, versus what I was really seeing and experiencing. Currently, I cast for shows on Fox, The Food Network, Spike TV and OWN; that pays the bills. My heart is in filming and editing.
ALEX: I was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, I’m a Sagittarius and I believe in aliens. I began as a chef and got my degree in Culinary Science in 2002. Five years later, while in an LGBT Studies program at the University of Maryland, College Park, I’d heard of a short film called ‘Pariah’ with a black, lesbian lead character. From then on, I was obsessed with queer images in film and on television. I moved to NYC in 2010, determined to amplify a reflection of myself in those mediums. I had the chance to intern with Nekisa Cooper, producer for the film ‘Pariah’ after working as a production assistant during some re-shoots before the film went to Sundance. Television news production pays the bills.
ELIXHER: What inspired gravyCAKE productions?
GCP: One night, during one of our brainstorming sessions, our munchies went into overdrive. The snack of choice was one of Alex’s heavily frosted cakes. We joked about our fat kid ways and how we like our cake with gravy. It was rather whimsical, but it stuck. As did the metaphor ‘having your cake and eating it too.’ Do things in excess, be a glutton for life, living, art, music, fashion, creativity – whatever! If you love it, own it and push it to the limit, spare no expense at the cost of being happy.
ELIXHER: Tell us about your docu-web series ‘i am QUEER in BROOKLYN.’
GCP: i am QUEER in BROOKLYN takes notice of queer people in the borough of Brooklyn, New York who are creating differently, loving enormously, living wildly or barely surviving, hustling, grinding, coming out, discovering themselves, taking chances, impacting, influencing and changing the world around them through their artistry, musicianship, fashioning and lifestyle. All of our participants sit comfortably under the LGBTAQ (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, allies/androgynous/asexual, queer) umbrella, embracing one or more terms; sometimes embracing none – which, as we define it, is queer within itself.
ELIXHER: How often will an episode be released and what topics will they explore?
GCP: Episodes will air every 3 weeks and work as mini-docs; following one or more Brooklyn queers and exploring their lives in the areas of music, fashion, art and lifestyle. We profile DJs, singers, stylists, business professionals, fitness trainers, filmmakers, models, painters…just to scratch the surface. Episode 1 premieres February 22, 2012, featuring DJ Mursi Layne.
ELIXHER: Issa Rae, creator of ‘Awkward Black Girl,’ once said that productions on the web is the “way to go” especially for “minority content creators” because there’s no “gatekeeper.” How do you feel the Internet has opened doors for queer filmmakers of color to create content that speaks to our communities?
GCP: We believe the web series genre has become an even playing field for all filmmakers. Specifically for filmmakers of color, producing a web series gives you the opportunity to retain creative control; something that slips easily through your fingers once you get big name networks involved. There are folks out here making movies on camera phones. With HD recording, amped megapixels and YouTube, anyone can showcase their work. The Internet can turn something small and menial into a viral phenomenon. Queer filmmakers of color have the opportunity now more than ever, to reach audiences that can relate to their content without needing distribution approval or an overpaid marketing team.
ELIXHER: Are you working on any other upcoming projects?
GCP: Currently, we are not. i am QUEER in BROOKLYN is very new, just coming to fruition less than 2 months ago. Our next project, which was our original but abandoned idea, will be something scripted.
ELIXHER: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
GCP: If you know someone who would be perfect for our show, please email email@example.com. Visit us at gravycake.tumblr.com. Follow us @gravyCAKETV.
Watch the ‘i am QUEER in BROOKLYN’ promo below! The first episode premieres on Wednesday, February 22.