Queen Latifah on How Her Filmmakers Initiative Is Fixing One of the Industry’s “Biggest Problems”
Queen Latifah is determined to fix one of the most glaring flaws in the film industry: the unrelenting lack of representation, access, and opportunity for women filmmakers of color.
“When you speak to two out of three Black people, when they say they don’t see themselves represented in the media, that’s a problem,” she tells POPSUGAR. The multihyphenate says she’s found “one of the ways in which we can make a difference,” though. That solution? Queen Collective, Procter & Gamble’s powerful talent development initiative she helped launch in 2019, in partnership with her company Flavor Unit Entertainment and Tribeca Studios, that aims to create more gender and racial equality behind the camera.
Inequality in the entertainment industry is by no means a new or surprising phenomenon — history keeps a good record of that. Even after strides have been made, the jarring gender gap continues, like with the 2023 Oscars shutting out women and Black directors from its major categories. However, Latifah is hopeful Queen Collective is a step in the right direction.
The multihyphenate and 2023 NAACP Image Awards host tells POPSUGAR that the idea for her initiative was sparked by her participation in a panel, alongside P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard, at a women’s event held years ago. Her main takeaway from the event was that “there are not enough women behind the camera.”
“As we walked off that stage . . . I said, ‘Marc, we need to do something about this.’ And he was like, ‘You’re right,'” Latifah recalls. So with the help of her longtime producing partner Shakim Compere and her years of experience in film and television, Latifah conjured up a plan for “a program that allowed filmmakers to create their films, have them financed completely, have support for them along the way, and also to have distribution,” eliminating those obstacles.
As an executive producer and producer on some of her own film projects over the years, Latifah knows the firsthand struggles of helming a movie against a myriad of barriers. “It’s all a huge challenge that you have to face when trying to tell a story that is so unique,” she shares. It’s an unfortunate truth that many multicultural filmmakers face, which speaks to the larger issue at hand: pipeline.
“Pipeline is one of the biggest problems,” Latifah notes. Limited funds and time to put movies together lead many to take the easy route and assemble film crews full of staff “who they’re used to working with,” the actor explains. “If we haven’t even been in the room, how would you know what we have to offer? How would you know if we should be the first person you should call?”
“So there’s not enough experienced people of color in the pipeline,” Latifah continues. “And when the call [goes] out, everybody has grabbed everybody, which means we need to get more people into positions to work, be in the crew, train, learn, grow, move up through the ranks so that they become the phone call. [Then] they have a chance of true success because they’ve had some training.”
Hence why equity initiatives like Queen Collective are so crucial to the film industry. So underrepresented filmmakers can get the experience they need in order to be appointed to positions they deserve. “We just want everyone to have an opportunity to get in the room and learn and grow so that there’s always someone available to call for whatever position that you want,” Latifah concludes.
Now in its fourth year, Queen Collective has tapped six Black directors (Idil Ibrahim, Jenn Shaw, Luchina Fisher, Vashni Korin, Imani Dennison, and Contessa Gayles) for its latest cohort and enabled them to produce five original documentaries and, for the first time ever, a scripted short. Two films from the group, “In Her Element” and “GAPS,” made their inaugural debut at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival in January, aired across a handful of TV networks on Feb. 24, and are currently on demand and streaming across BET platforms. The remaining films will premiere in March, April, and June of this year and will also be available to stream after their broadcast debut.
“We’re just excited that our filmmakers have had this opportunity,” Latifah says of this year’s Queen Collective group. She adds of the initiative: “We want to continue to make it grow. We want to show their stories, which are unique, cool stories and so relatable when you watch them; things you wouldn’t even probably have thought of. So it’s important that their stories are told, because people are really going to see themselves in it.”
Speaking humbly, Latifah says her “number one” proudest moment with Queen Collective thus far is simply that “we’re getting it done.” Seeing past cohort winners like Haley Elizabeth Anderson and B. Monét advance their careers with diverse film crews is the instant benefit Latifah hopes other filmmakers are able to get from Queen Collective. “It’s a win-win in every sense of the word.”
“I watch the confidence grow in our directors as well,” she adds. “I’m watching them make their new films and move on through new programs and develop their skills and be hired by other people. And I can say, ‘You know what? They came through the Queen Collective, and they got a shot, and now look at them.'””It’s just as much pride in making movies, in making music, as there is in giving someone the opportunity to do it themselves; being that support system for them so that they can do it,” she continues. “I take pride in the fact that they are going to succeed because I helped, because I did something, because my partner Shakim did something, because Marc Pritchard and P&G did something, because Tribeca did something. That’s the goal. We all benefit.”