AUP S2E13: Return of Wakanda

TRANSCRIBED: Albert Parnell

Completed 11/12/22

[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

Cortney Wills [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to Acting Up the podcast that dives deep into the world of TV and film that highlights our people, our culture and our stories. I’m your host, Cortney Wills, entertainment director at theGrio. And this week, we’re diving into trees of peace. Piece of piece is a film that hit Netflix back in June. So it’s not a new one, but it’s definitely one worth watching. It may have flown under the radar because it’s not a big star studded project, but it is hugely important and insanely well done. It’s directed by first time director and screenwriter Alanna Brown. The film is produced by Nicole Avant, who you should know from her storied career as a producer. She was also a diplomat who served as the ambassador of the U.S. to the Bahamas. She’s also the daughter of renowned music mogul and former head of Motown Records, Clarence Avant, known as The Black Godfather. If you didn’t see that documentary on Netflix, you should. She produced it all about her dad and her mother, Jacqueline. Yvonne was a renowned philanthropist who tragically lost her life during a home invasion last year. Her husband, Ted Sarandos, is the CEO of Netflix. And Nicole is just an overall badass who really uses her influence and her power to help other creators and particularly other women creators. And that’s what she did with this project from Alanna Brown. I wanted to talk to both of these women all about how they came together to put out this remarkable film that is based on true events. Trees of Peace won the top three jury prizes at ABF, including the John Singleton Award for Best First Feature. It also earned the Top Jury Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival after it premiered there last year. And it’s adapted from Sharon Gaskins novel The Forgotten Time. Here’s the logline for women from different backgrounds forge an unbreakable sisterhood while trapped and in hiding during the genocide in Rwanda. So that’s the setup for this film, and we’re going to get into it right now. Here we go. 

Cortney Wills [00:02:12] Hello, ladies thank you so much for joining me today. 

Alanna Brown [00:02:15] Of course. Yeah. 

Cortney Wills [00:02:18] This movie, Trees of Peace, my God, is really my reaction to such a beautiful and harrowing piece of work and so many questions for the both of you. But first, you know, you tackle a story of this magnitude, of this depth and of this you know, it’s based on true events. So it’s real, you know. What is the thought process like that as as creatives coming to a project and deciding to say yes to something that going in, you know, is going to hurt probably hurt you, hurt the people who watch it, you know? Like, what is that like going in? 

Alanna Brown [00:03:03] That’s a great question. It’s funny, I was just speaking with someone yesterday about the film who said that she had to deposit like incrementally because it was so hard to watch and it was like almost, almost traumatizing to watch, which, you know, and I’ve had people say like they loved it, they loved it and they will never watch it again because it was just so hard to watch. So yeah, going into that and having I started writing the script near ten years ago and having lived with this for so long, it’s been, you know, I think what going into it, it was just when I when I first was reading the true accounts and things that inspired the story and that Rwanda has the highest percentage of women in government of any country in the world. It was like, despite the difficulty of telling this story, it was so worthy that that the the the pain of it, it didn’t matter. Like I had to I had to put myself aside and just power through it. I know in particular one specific piece of the journey that was, you know, I cried while writing the script. But one particular piece of the journey that was really hard was going to Rwanda and visiting the memorial sites. And I was just like, there was it was a lot of tears, a lot of anger, a lot of just a lot of emotion. It was a very, very emotional and life changing. And and it was just, you know, I think that the emotional response that I had further informs that the importance and worthiness of the story. So I think as a storyteller, I think, you know, most of us, if not all of us, should feel some sense of like that emotional that emotional investment and the stories were telling. And I definitely had that. But this one. Yeah. 

Cortney Wills [00:04:47] I was going to say, it’s like in order for this to be good, it’s going to be painful, I would imagine. Nicole, what do you think about that? 

Nicole Avant [00:04:56] I you know, for me, I think that as human beings, we all learn from each other’s experiences, regardless of gender, regardless of race, regardless of time in history. That’s the way we learn. We learn through pain. We learn through growing pains. We learn through the pain of other people. I mean, I get up every day wanting to be my best, striving to be my best. At least with the intention to be my best. But because of. Knowing that I do stand on the shoulders of lots of people who didn’t say no, who didn’t quit, who didn’t stop who, who didn’t even get to live the dream that they were dreaming. But they dropped it for me. You know? And so I’m always drawn to stories that will empower and that will motivate and that will inspire and and stories of victory. And when I saw the footage of this and I saw what Alanna was able to do, her writing was brilliant and beautiful and deep. The directing was profound. I mean, I would be honored with a multimillion dollar budget. You know, it was beautiful. And I thought, my God, this is this is a story of heroines that are that are through their challenges, through the worst of times, made a decision to be victorious. 

Nicole Avant [00:06:21] And I always respect people who choose to be victorious. And so that’s what drew me to the story and to the project. And I wanted to just work with a lot of it any way possible because I thought, who is this brilliant woman who’s so smart? But but the writing was incredible. And each character was so deep, which is why everyone saying, I had to pause. I have so many checks. And by the way, people, my friends were white and Asian or Black or whatever. All of them had the same response. Crying. I watched after watch the rest of it tomorrow, or I’ve watched it three times and had to pause in between. Because I think especially after this pandemic, when everyone started working their mind and their hearts, this just was a great reminder of, yeah, you know, this you can see the goodness in humanity and the worst of humanity. And all of us have to choose what kind of human we want to be and what kind of human we want to be showing up in the world. And I think this film allows people to ask themselves that question. I mean, I all my girlfriends, I don’t know about you and all my friends watching sex, we all decided which one were you going to be? Who were you most like? You know, and it’s interesting because I found myself in all of them a little bit. Yeah. And I’m so I’m just I’m just beyond proud of this film. Beyond proud of what Alanna and and Ron and Michelle, Ray, everybody. What they what they put together is just it was very important, which is why I wanted to be a part of it.  

Cortney Wills [00:08:02] Alanna, you said it took ten years to write this. Tell me a little bit like take us on that journey. Where did it start? You know, what planted the seed? Why this project? And then, you know, ten years later, why now? 

Alanna Brown [00:08:13] Yeah. So I was where I was. I was working my my day job back then. I was like a blogger or a copywriter and I was doing a piece for a woman named Francine Lefrak, interviewing her for a story about a treatment initiative that she founded to help rehabilitate women survivors. And in doing that research, I started coming across survival stories. And like I said earlier, the fact that Rwanda has the highest percentage of women in government of any country in the world. And that blew my mind after seeing what they went through and how many men were killed. And so I just took that. I was it was like it haunted me. I couldn’t let it go. I was I was called the Maya Angelou quote, There’s no greater agony than burying an untold story inside you. And that’s genuinely how I felt with this story. It felt like it was like burning me up from the inside, like I had to get it out because it felt like it just mattered so much to the world. 

Alanna Brown [00:09:19] And so I started on the path of writing it. It was my first feature script that I ever wrote. It was like my learning tool, you know, I was reading all the screen screenwriting books. I didn’t go to film school, so I was reading all the books and teaching myself how to write a screenplay. And so I wrote I wrote the script over many, many, many iterations over the ten years. And then during that journey, you know, once, once the script was in a place where it felt like it was solid enough, like it was at a place where it had procured me representation in the industry and my first agent and management company. And so at that point it was like, okay, now it’s time to try to get this film made. And so that was the next stage of the journey was, you know, the lookbook, the proof of concept trailer, the all the meetings, the producers who came and went, you know, who attached for a shopping agreement and couldn’t move the needle. And just like that was, you know, the next like seven or eight years, a Kickstarter campaign where I crowdfunded 65 grand and yeah. And eventually meeting Ron Rae and him taking, you know, taking the the. And together we ran the rest of the way with it. 

Cortney Wills [00:10:27] I mean, I asked you to take me on a journey, and that is exactly what you want. Even the creation of this script kind of has me in because that’s. That’s the dream, right? All of the people listening to this who want to break into this business, who want to create, who say, I didn’t go to film school or I don’t know the right people or I don’t know how to do it, but I know I have a story in me and then you just write it like you read the books and you keep the day job and you write it and you hold onto it until it comes to fruition. That is just that is just really inspiring to me and I’m sure a lot of other people. So I mean, a script like that that you live with for so long, like what made it ready? You know, like when did you know it was time? 

Alanna Brown [00:11:15] That’s a good question. I don’t know if the script is ever ready. I knew what you could do. You could continue to edit forever set up the writing process. Right? I think I think there were I was I was I was doing revisions up until shooting. I think it’s just for me, what locked it in honestly was well, I think the first the first lock in was I’d been working on for maybe a couple of years. And I found her a Rwandan genocide survivor who lived outside of LA, and she had fled and she moved their kids to California. And I sent it to her. I connected with her. I found a way to connect with her and send her the script. And that was like a really big moment of truth for me, like just having permission, being sort of endowed with, like, the, the, the permission to, to make this movie. And she came back with really positive feedback. She said she loved it and she said, Thank you for telling this story. And and she was that was it. That was an amazing moment for for me and for the path of the film, I think. 

Alanna Brown [00:12:17] And then the next the next thing was once we had cast the film and we had our week of rehearsals, like we were in production, we were in prep and we’re about to make this movie and we had five days of rehearsal before shooting. And from the first day of rehearsal, like the first scene, you know, I done my homework, I did my script breakdown. I had all the ideas and tools and everything, you know, to help make these scenes work as they were hers. And these women came together and they went to the first scene and it was like the chemistry was there. It clicked. It was like, Oh, I have I have like very little to correct here to read you can figure what’s happening because they just and they were so sweet. I was like, Oh my God. They’re like, it’s the writing. And I was like, No, it’s, you know, like that’s the writing. So it was that was a big moment. Like, Oh, my God, it’s working. It’s working. Yeah. Well. 

Cortney Wills [00:13:11] You know, I’m thinking about Alanna’s journey to make this film and what it takes from her and what that vantage point must be like. And then to have Nicole on this call, who you know is in a different boat, like has a lot of experience and a lot of connections and I think a lot of weight and you know, well-earned respect in the industry like this feels like an example of somebody recognizing that power and using it to empower you know others of us. Nicole, what is it like to kind of sit in that kind of power and be able to wield it in a way that I think, you know, move the needle, in all honesty? I studied African American history in college. I work at theGrio. I write about content by us and about us all day, every day. And, you know, my reference point of of the genocide in Rwanda is still Hotel Rwanda right now. 

Nicole Avant [00:14:12] Right. 

Cortney Wills [00:14:13] So great to bring another piece of that. And then I think also bring that to a new generation. There’s a whole bunch of people whose reference point to the genocide in Rwanda will now be trees of peace. 

Nicole Avant [00:14:26] Yes. And that that’s what I and I love. And I think you brought that up because for me, I talked a lot of this before. It was also from the female perspective that was so different from Hotel Rwanda. Really only females talking about it from their perspective. And women I was just talking to a group last night saying, you know, we really do carry the world. We just do. And it’s okay. You know, men have their purpose, but it’s okay. We’re very good at it, you know. So I look at it as God knows that we’re capable and we do it and it moves. And I think when women really connect and serve, I think, you know, when your intentions just seem to line up. And for me, growing up in the household that I did, my mom and my father both always were opening doors. That’s all I saw in my life was that. Sharing their blessings in their way of opening a door. Making a connection. Hoping for the best that it worked. Understanding that they weren’t responsible for the full outcome. But they were responsible to be responsible with their blessings and to share. And, you know my father’s purposes. That’s why I made the film on him. I knew very young. I was like, Oh, I get it. You know, I always used to watch The Wizard of Oz and think, Oh, that’s what my dad does. He’s Oz. He’s the one behind the curtain who makes all these things happen. 

Nicole Avant [00:15:59] But he knew from his mentor who said to him, you know, his mentor is this guy, Joe Grazer, Jewish man. And he said, you know, I don’t really like all Jewish people, but I have my purpose is to help pass that. That’s my end to where you’re so I’m teaching you, young man. You don’t have to like all Black people, but you do have a job to help as many people as you can. If I’m going to open these doors for you, you know, it’s not just for you and and and I so so knowing that and growing up with that and watching my mom, I mean, she did serve communities and what every hour everywhere outside of Beverly Hills. And I would go and the cards were like, where are we going and what are we doing and why? Her point was because there are lots of people with different stories and there are lots of people with different lifestyles. And and and some people need a break and some people need to know that they’re valued and supported and seen, and we can go and just do something. So my mom would tutor my mom with my bicycle and my mom works 3 hours here in L.A. 40 years, you know, and buying. And the last good deed my mom did was buying 300 bicycle. I don’t even know that I had to watch that on the news. 

Nicole Avant [00:17:18] So to bring this full circle to answer your question, for me, being in the position that I’m in now in my life, it is the greatest honor for me to come across people like Alanna who have done the work, you know, not just show with some dream. Maybe she did the work. As she said, she’s self-taught, read the books, did the work, kept her job, kept moving. And I think that when people when when the time is right, it’s it’s it’s such a blessing for me to be able to sit in this position and say, oh, my gosh, I would love to help you in any way that I can because I’m so excited a story and be for your journey. And and I think that that’s all I really know about human beings because, you know, people everyone looks at my dad as this great man of power. But there were a lot of people who had to open doors for him to be able to sit with you, say, you know, so for me, it’s it’s always a revolving door of support, a value of respect, of showing up for people. It’s and it comes in all shapes and sizes. I’ve seen it all my life and people would be shocked. And and for me, I’ve always been about the underdog. So for me, I’ve always been about those untold stories about people that, you know or history. And this was such important history. And it being an ambassador to just like a lot of stature to know that you have all these female leaders in government in Rwanda more than anywhere else. That was a big deal for me and and I and people should know that. And people should study them. And they should. But also the stories of hope. Yeah. Because without hope, you really don’t have anything. Yeah. 

Cortney Wills [00:19:07] It’s kind of crazy to think about how a film that is so at times hard to watch. Mainly because you know that it’s real. Still manages to end up, at least for me, as uplifting and as empowering. And I found myself, you know, over the turmoil of the last couple of years. There were different times where I was thinking of different people in history, you know, like John Lewis or my grandmother, like really all of the sudden needing to know where she was and what she was doing back when those things were happening that we used to read about in our history books and we’re now seeing playing out on the nightly news like, Whoa, where’s my road map? Right? Like, where’s my road map to navigate this nightmare? And then you see something like this, and somehow it, it manages to remind you what people lived through and what communities actually thrive in, in spite of. And I was somehow, like, comforted by that and like, inspired by that, you know, I hate to say resilience, you know, because it makes it sound like like we just bounce back and it’s easy. Like, of course it’s not. But living through trauma and thriving anyway as individuals and as people, I thought this was a really intense and like unexpected way to to to bring that out. What was your experience with that part. 

Alanna Brown [00:20:42] With the? 

Cortney Wills [00:20:44] Like I mean, how do you you know, I mean, was that on purpose? Like, I’m going to weave hope into this? 

Alanna Brown [00:20:50] Oh, yeah. 

Cortney Wills [00:20:50] Tragic, tragic. Hard to tell story, you know. And then you did it in a room. Right. I referenced Hotel Rwanda, which is like fighting and shit. Like you see a lot of stuff and you’re like, Oh shit. But somehow like that similar like weight and even perspective on this thing that really happened and these people who really lived it was obtained from us looking at four girls in a room. 

Alanna Brown [00:21:17] Yeah, yeah, yeah. It had to be one of the sort of the purpose like a big picture purpose of it is like you have the larger war, you know, and then you have the women in this room, which is a microcosm of the war. And it’s about that. It’s about the interpersonal conflict and the war within as well, like our internal demons that we battle with, that we contend with coming out and rearing their ugly heads in a setting where it’s like a mini war in this room. It starts out that way. But yes, it has to be infused with hope because I think as as it being, you know, inspired by true events, it reflects a hopeful ending of Come and Go. Land is still working towards reconciliation. And it’s still, like you said, it’s not it doesn’t just come easy. It’s not like, boom, we’re here. It’s like work and tears and, you know, hearts are poured into this effort. But that’s what’s so, I think, inspiring about it and what makes it so worthy of of of a movie, you know, of a film that, you know, millions of people have seen thanks to Nicole and and Netflix and everything. And I just think that it’s and also to get, you know, a little bit more granular with it. Like literally it was really important to me to have one of the last images of the film is literally women lifting each other up. They’re physically literally lifting each other up out of this room to get to safety. And that was a really important symbol and symbolism to me, because it’s I think it’s something that’s so universal. It permeates war. It permeates, you know, this has happened it’s happening again in Ukraine right now. It’s it’s something that has unfortunately, history repeats. But outside of that as well, it’s it’s an every it is in so much of the fabric of of our lives as people and just regular people with hopes and dreams. 

Alanna Brown [00:23:07] You know, I can even speak to, like the dream of getting this film made. You know, I felt like it’s my duty of this as a as a filmmaker with this and haunted by this to tell this story. And that’s the tool that’s like my my activism as a filmmaker is using the film as a tool to tell these stories. The world gets to hear them and like having Nicole come on board and, you know, her seeing that an early cut of the film and going, okay, I need something here. And and again, like taking the baton, you know, and running with it and and getting this film in front of millions of people is like her lifting me up, you know? That’s like, then this inspiring thing. There’s hope at the end of the line, at the end of the tunnel, there’s hope. We get to lift each other up as women. And we you know, as she was saying a minute ago, it’s like this. It’s a full circle. It’s it’s you know, now I’m inspired to, you know, to hopefully someday do that for someone else. And it’s so it’s like it had to be infused with hope because. Because, you know, again, it just it permeates so much of of life and in countless, you know, countless aspects of how we can look at the world. 

Cortney Wills [00:24:13] What do you think about this film becoming a reference point? And I think a reference point at a time where that particular kind of reference is really important for us to share with young people who may not understand how bad things can get. There’s a whole lot of people of all ages right now who have tuned what’s happening in Ukraine clean out, not because they’re heartless, not because they don’t care or have compassion. But it’s like there is a lot, there is a long list of things to be very worried about, clear and present. That feels far. Feels white, like, feels old. They’ll figure it out. Like, you know what’s happening with my body in my state and you know, is someone going to hurt me when I walk out my door? Like those, that’s the reality. I think at least American people right now and certainly in communities of color. And then you also are able to point to examples of why that is relevant. Like, you know, that it is happening again, that it it’s happened before and that it absolutely not only could only, but has happened to us and can again. Like that’s a real that’s a real, I think, seed to plant, you know, and it’s very relatable when the people on screen look like us. 

Nicole Avant [00:25:37] It’s more relatable for sure when people look like you and I think. But to your point, I think that it’s very important to go back to understanding that if you’re part of the human race and you’ve seen the human race do this, I mean, I used to I remember once teaching this class a long time ago, and I had to remind my kids, I look, we were doing the continent. So we we’re going around the continents, fighting here, fighting here. I went to every single one and I said, some of these some of these people are fighting against each other, they’re white in this continent. They’re fighting each other against each other, they’re Black. And in this continent, they’re fighting against each other and they’re Asian and on and on and on. And I said from the beginning of time, this has been happening. You have to understand this. You have to know the history of all history. You have to understand human history of, you know, Japan used to be hit by, you know, so and so and then, you know, all the Asian countries that people don’t even understand. I mean, everyone’s been fighting everybody. The Africans just started of Africa in our movie Tribal Tribes, finding other tribes and, you know, Europeans fighting Europeans from the beginning of time. And it’s not pretty. It’s not fun. It’s not good. 

Nicole Avant [00:26:57] And I think with this film, you know, when you brought up Ukraine, it’s it’s a reminder of, oh, my God. I mean, seriously, if in a couple of months we were all hearing rumors that this might happen, this might happen. And then you turned on the news three days later and we’re seeing Children’s Hospital being bombed and people just, you know, and so for me, again, wherever it’s happening, it’s important for everyone to pay attention. It’s important. It’s important for people to care because it can happen to anybody at any time. And life has proven that, unfortunately, but it has happened everywhere. And people have to care about everyone because everybody it’s so funny. Everybody wants everyone to care about what happens to them. And my whole thing is, okay, that’s good. But then you definitely have to care when it happens to somebody else because it’s never just about one group of people. 

Cortney Wills [00:27:51] Yeah. 

Nicole Avant [00:27:52] And, and I think, you know what a lot it did with her film. It’s just that, again, I can’t I can’t say enough. Good. The amount of hope that is given in this film, which I really do think that people need now more than ever at all times. But I mean, I try to be anchored in hope. I try to be, because without it, I know when I’m hopeless, I can tell when I’m hopeless because my energy’s down. I’m not thinking about my future. I’m looking in the rearview mirror, you know, I’m all that and I’m like, Oh, and I have to catch myself like I am completely, I have to regroup myself in whole and start over again. And I think this film reminds people that life is fragile and life is important and it is a gift for everybody. And and no one really has, you know, we all violate each other so much. And what I think people have hope with this film of remind me sick again just like is fragile. Life is important life is a gift and and know your history. Because the more history you know, the less you’re going to repeat it. Hopefully you look at this and say, oh, I definitely don’t want I will. My mom always made me watch these three things or documentaries. I always decided, oh, I definitely don’t want to be the bad person. I don’t want to be the person who’s causing pain. I want to be the person who’s creating solutions. I want to be the person who’s bringing goodness. But you have to make a decision. 

Alanna Brown [00:29:23] Just quickly add to that, too, like it’s crazy. Looking back at the ten year journey of this film and the different wars over the course of the film that have always been like the film, it’s just been relevant, you know, the whole time, you know, because while it was in development, it was like I remember in Syria that the Islamic State, like it was like five years ago, you know, and and, you know, it’s just and then Trump, you know, happening here and like the very clear, slippery slope of hatred that broke out in this country like that. And it’s like, oh, my God, there we go again. There we go again. There we go again. And I’m like, This is why I’m making this movie like it is. Yeah. 

Cortney Wills [00:30:03] And that’s like, what has the power to literally change you, like, change how you see and understand the world. When I learned about the genocide in Rwanda the first time, I remember being equally appalled that that America and no one else, like, did anything and being like that could never. And I’m I mean, I’m talking when the movie came out, as young as I was like, that could never happen now, you know, like, thank God there’s news and internet now. That kind of stuff could never go down. And then when you recognize that this is that right, that Ukraine is that and Syria is that and all these other things happening is that yeah, my like, wow, you’re changed. You’re literally changed. 

Alanna Brown [00:30:50] Yeah. Scary. Yeah. 

Cortney Wills [00:30:53] And then you also maybe realize that despite what you thought you would do if faced with this, with something like what you just saw in this powerful movie, you might be part of the problem, too. 

Nicole Avant [00:31:07] Yeah. Yes. Really good point. Yeah. 

Cortney Wills [00:31:13] So lastly, I think that’s kind of where I want to stop is like, what do you hope that that people really do walk away with this you know differently what they really end up taking from this. Because like I said, I think it really you know, I think in years we’ll see this being a tool and being a reference point. But like, what is it that you hope people take away from this project that they didn’t come with? 

Alanna Brown [00:31:43] Yeah, there’s a lot of a lot of things that, you know, I want people to come away with the knowledge of of of how Rwanda and how the women of Rwanda have come through this and pulled the country through this and and that example of healing and reconciliation in that country. And as compared to, like, you know, here in the United States, where it’s like, what slavery? We’re going to just we’re going to just take that out of the history books, you know? And that’s another big reason I made the film. So taking away just that knowledge and then personally taking away, you know, the the conversation the conversation these women have in this in the film that leads them to find this sisterhood, the kind of forced conversation, the forced force, the forced purging of, like, the demons. You know, I wish I really wish people would go, oh, you know what? What that looks like to heal yourself and then to heal and to turn inward and heal yourself. And then also to be willing to say, to heal a stranger, you know, and someone who’s so different from your face value you’d never have a conversation with you never take the time to get to know. But then when when, when trapped, literally trapped with someone who seems to be your opposite. They could be your sister. They could be your brother. They could be just like you. You have so much in common and it’s right there and you don’t even know it. And so wishing people would take that away from the film is really a big one for me. 

Cortney Wills [00:33:13] Thanks, Alanna. How about you, Nicole? 

Nicole Avant [00:33:15] I, for me, I was just writing it down. I think for me, I really wanted people to watch this film and take away come away with it with gratitude for all the people who come before them, who gave them a chance to be free in various different ways and to really recognize that we’re all standing. Like I said it before, we’re all standing on the shoulders of other people that have gotten us to this place. And it’s a reminder of A. Don’t take your freedom for granted and B. Use your freedom wisely, because it wasn’t easy to get it. And we none of us on this call right now had to go fight for it, by the way. So we fight for it. Little things here and there, like, oh, I wish we had it saved at the table. How about, you know, just having rights and what we have and the right to vote and the right to own a house and have the right to do all these things that people really fought for. And these type of films I’m always drawn to because it reminds you of the people that came before you, whether you, you know, most of them that we don’t know, that we can’t even thank personally. 

Nicole Avant [00:34:29] But what we can do is with our lives, thank them by doing it, by being good and doing good and showing up and serving other people. And I think Alanna wrote such a beautiful script and shot the most beautiful scene. Like she said at the end of people lifting everybody up and and that’s what we’re here to do. But that’s my big takeaway for everyone. That’s my big wish for the takeaway of reminding and reminds all of us that none of it can be taken lightly or should be taken for granted. And we should be very grateful to have our freedoms and to really use it, to use our lives in the very best way to make, to Alanna’s point, it doesn’t mean you have to go save the world. In your lane right now, in this moment, if you’re at a coffee shop, mean you don’t know who you’re going to come into contact with opening the door for somebody. You don’t even do that anymore, by the way, just common decency. I mean, it’s amazing how people just were smiling at the person at the grocery store who says, hi, how are you? You know, I notice people are just like, Yeah, good. Anyway, where’s this? Where’s the sugar? No one’s even looking at each other anymore. And it’s not cool. And that’s how that’s how we all get divided when we stop even just the common decency of looking back at someone, when someone says, Hi, how are you? Instead of just saying “fine” and keep walking. How about fine, how are you? Thanks. How are you? I’m good. How are you again? Just the common thread of humanity and seeing each other. And I hope people take that away from the film of just right now. That’s right. You know, we’re part of it. We’re we’re a part of this whole thing called life. And there’s this race called the Human Race. 

Cortney Wills [00:36:22] Thank you both so much. It was such a pleasure speaking with you about this profoundly important project. And I’m so grateful that you both made and so grateful that you discussed with me today. 

Nicole Avant [00:36:33] I’m so happy and I love everything you do. And you go and because what you do is phenomenal and my I take my hat off to you, I think it’s really what you’ve created is incredible and so important. And believe me, you’re changing lives with your life. So thank you. 

Cortney Wills [00:36:53] Thank you so much. Alanna such a pleasure to meet. So excited and impressed by what you’ve been able to do and can’t wait to see what’s next for you. 

Alanna Brown [00:36:59] Thank you so much. Thank you for having us. 

Nicole Avant [00:37:02] Thank you. 

Cortney Wills [00:37:03] Take care. Things are tuning into this week’s episode of Acting Up. Download theGrio app to listen to acting up and other great podcasts. See you soon.