Dear Culture, before you say a film is wack, ask yourself, do I have what it takes to create one? Maybe I should have asked myself that when I wrote that infamous article about Renika McQueen ’s indie film, Cain and Abel. But because I didn’t, it was only right to invite her to tell her side of the story. Join me, your host, Panama Jackson as we dive into what it really takes to create an indie film from scratch.
Read the full transcript below:
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Teaser [00:00:30] In my writeup, I made a couple comments like, You’ve probably never seen this movie. Like, I wasn’t I wasn’t gracious about me expressing, okay, I’m gonna have to take that. I have to take that.
Panama Jackson [00:00:43] What’s going on. And welcome to Dear Culture, the podcast for, by and about Black culture, Blackness, the Black community. In the words of Don King, that’s the Blackness. We are here to talk about different facets of the community, different conversations we’re having in the community, and even with some of us in the community might be wrong. Or overstating or understating. Having an opportunity to like make it a growth moment for everybody involved and talk about some things that are going on. And I am your host, Panama Jackson and such is the case with my guest today, Renika McQueen. How are you doing?
Renika McQueen [00:01:19] I’m good. Thank you for having me. Thank you.
Panama Jackson [00:01:22] Yeah, I’m so glad to have you here. And we’re going to talk about how we met. But first, I want to do your bio so people can understand. I’m gonna do your bio, then I’m going to explain how we got here, and then we’re going to jump right into it. All right. So Renika McQueen is a married mother of five former corrections officer for 17 years. We got to talk about that. Author, creator, executive producer of Deceitful Passions and the movie Cain and Abel. So to Decieful Passions, a movie and a movie, Cain and Abel, her third film, A Family Divided, is in post-production due to premiere in late summer. Early fall this year.
Renika McQueen [00:01:56] Yes.
Panama Jackson [00:01:58] Okay. So welcome to Dear Culture. Thank you for joining us. All right. Now let’s talk about how you got here.
Renika McQueen [00:02:05] Yeah, okay. Talk about it.
Panama Jackson [00:02:07] All right. So this is this is actually fun. And this is this is how social media makes connections that might not otherwise be made. For February. I did I unfolded this series at TheGrio called 28 days of Black movies. Right. So for every single day of February, minus a couple of days, my mother passed away. So I had to take a couple a couple of days off. But when I got back to it, I reviewed a movie and they’re not really reviews, so it’s not I was really doing movie reviews. I was trying to find like an interesting take on each movie to like write something about and you executive produce this movie. Or we’ll talk more about all your roles called Cain and Abel. I came across it on Amazon Prime. I watched it because it was called Cain and Abel, and at the description I was like, What is happening here? Right? So let me watch this. And there’s like a there’s like this fundamental question in it. I can’t remember exactly. It was like, oh, yeah, the Aunt. Spoiler alert. So one of the one of the guys kills like them, like one of the main characters, husbands, right? And if I’m butchering it, please, please feel free to correct me.
Renika McQueen [00:03:16] No.
Panama Jackson [00:03:17] And then the aunt asks her to, like, not press charges because she should have known better than to tell him about where the money was and all this kind of stuff, right?
Renika McQueen [00:03:25] Yes.
Panama Jackson [00:03:26] So I use that as a I use that as an opportunity to kind of create a question about whether this is a ridiculous ask.
Renika McQueen [00:03:32] Mm hmm.
Panama Jackson [00:03:32] But in my writeup, I made a couple comments like, you’ve probably never seen this movie. Like, I wasn’t. I wasn’t gracious about.
Renika McQueen [00:03:40] You trashed me!
Panama Jackson [00:03:43] Okay, I’m going to have to take that. I have to take that. Well, you saw the review. You saw that. You got it. Yes. And you reached out on Twitter. It was like even though you trashed it.
Renika McQueen [00:03:55] Yeah.
Panama Jackson [00:03:56] You know, like what did what exactly do you mean exactly what you like.
Renika McQueen [00:03:59] You know what? I read the article and I was like, because when I first saw it, I was like, Oh, wow, somebody did a review and enabled. So I was excited. And then after I read it, I was like, Oh, my God, he trashed it. But then I just reached out. I was like, you know, even though you trashed it, I still want to, you know, just thank you for doing a review. And I hope that you continue to support me. It’s my second movie and I’m trying to grow from it and learn and, you know, take it as a learning lesson. And I think I even asked you, well, hopefully you support my next movie that’s coming out.
Panama Jackson [00:04:31] Right. And I remember pointing out, you know, in that moment. I think it’s easy to forget that when you write things online that people actually read these things like this is a lesson I’ve learned. I’ve gotten in legit beefs with celebrities that we all know because of articles that I wrote, I didn’t think that I was being so negative, but it got taken a certain way. So anyway, so, so I responded back and I’m like, you know, you like owe it to you, like you two movies up on me so you know more than I do. And then I reached out, I was like, you know, what? Would you be willing to come talk to me about being a filmmaker? Because I don’t know anything about that. I’m over here talking about your movie. But the truth is, I don’t know anything about this industry, about what it takes to do this stuff. I don’t know. I don’t even know what I don’t know.
Renika McQueen [00:05:16] I’m so glad that you asked me to come here and talk about it. I’m glad that it happened.
Panama Jackson [00:05:22] Yeah. So I appreciate you one for being so gracious enough to not like when I did. You did not call me and my mama all kinds of names. But to be like, you know what, I’m willing to come talk about this, so I appreciate you for that. The back and forth exchange we had. Before we get into that, let me talk about. So where are you from? Like, where are you from?
Renika McQueen [00:05:43] I am born and raised in Detroit, Michigan.
Panama Jackson [00:05:46] Okay. Yeah, I used to live in Ann Arbor in Ypsi. My mother, before she passed, was in Jackson. We got to talk about this. Detroit has quite the movie scene. Yo, yo, y’all on it in the D, like?
Renika McQueen [00:06:04] Yeah, yeah.
Panama Jackson [00:06:05] Well, what part of Detroit are you from?
Renika McQueen [00:06:07] I’m from Eastside.
Panama Jackson [00:06:09] Okay? Cause I had this whole thing that I want to do about the Southwest Detroit Cinematic Universe. Like, all of them got, like, murder, paint. All of them like, yeah, I watch all that stuff. I actually love it. So even though how do you feel like I was trashing Cain and Abel? I actually watch that stuff. When I see it from Detroit, I’m like, Yo, sign me up now.
Renika McQueen [00:06:27] What makes you feel like that when you see things from Detroit? When when you watch our movies, what make you interested? They’re like, what? What holds their attention about Detroit making movies?
Panama Jackson [00:06:39] That is a wonderful question. And I’m nobody’s ever asked me that. But let me share. I saw the movie Plug Love. Right? So that was, uh, yo, I watched this. I told everybody, yo, you have got to watch this movie. Like, I don’t know who these folks are that made it, but, yo, so I put so many people onto that movie and then I started, I did like, you know, on Amazon, you can like click on somebody’s name and then it’ll like pull…. And I saw I saw the dude’s name Murder Pain. I was like, Yo, I want to watch everything this dude makes. So I watched the movie, about the Buffs, I watched… Anything and everything. And so at that point I was like, Let me see what else is going on in Detroit. So I started looking anytime I would see anything Detroit related. Because the production value was so good. Like, I might I might not have been favorable to the movie. But what I won’t take away the production value in that one was amazing.
Renika McQueen [00:07:29] Like, Oh, thank you. Are you talking about Plug Love or Cain and Abel?
Panama Jackson [00:07:33] Talking about your movie! I’m talking about Cain and Abel. So, like, listen, this is about you, man. We are talking about you. You asked me how I got here. You now we talk about you. So I want to talk about everything related to you and what you’re doing. The production value was amazing. Like, I didn’t mention that because I was talking about this specific scene, but I was like, Yo, people are like, whatever is happening in the D like y’all have figured it out, whatever it is. So tell me a little bit about your start. Like how do we even get to the point where you’re executive producer, right, and make movies like wish your what’s your back story here?
Renika McQueen [00:08:05] So I’ll say this. I’ll go back to my very first movie, which was this Deceitful Passions. That was a book I wrote, I want to say, in like 2007 and although it is not a true story, is fiction. The main character in which she is going through with her significant other, her husband is coming from a place from me, from some hurt and different things I experienced in a relationship. So I wrote the book initially. I started off writing about, you know, about women cheating and how is this affecting the woman, you know what I’m saying? But I had to make more around the storyline for it to be interesting. More interesting. So that’s how I initially got started by writing that book years ago. But what happened was another director from here shout out to Beezy Jones was having a movie premiere and I attended that. I wanted to go to that because I had never seen our people have a movie premiere, right, you know, in our city. So I went to that. I saw the movie. When I tell you that the movie theater was packed, it was red carpet. Everybody looked amazing makeup, hair. They was dressed to the nines.
Panama Jackson [00:09:17] Like like Black Panther. Like everybody showed up like like the Black Panther experience.
Renika McQueen [00:09:22] Yeah. Like they was out supporting. And so I really loved that. And I was like, I want to do this. How can I do this? So after that, I reached out to him and his wife and I told him I wanted to make a movie and I told him I had a book that I would like to get turned into a script, and that’s how it started and went from there. They told me they would read the book. We met up. They said, If we don’t like the book, we’re not going to work with you. You know, this is our name, we’re putting on things. And I was like, okay. And I think she told me to give it like a week. So maybe like the fifth or sixth day, I hadn’t heard anything and I was like, Oh, I like the book. And then I end up reaching out to me. And I did. And. That’s where it started. You know, we met up again and I went from there.
Panama Jackson [00:10:05] Okay So this is Deceitful Passion. So did you you executive produced that. So what what are the role words that you take in that? did you do the scripting?
Renika McQueen [00:10:17] Deceitful Passions, that was my very first movie and what I did was I executive produced it I help with the casting call. Not only that I executive produce they are produced as well meaning you know I was running out my clothes idea wardrobe I did scout locations. I did as much as I possibly could. I did not direct it because Beezy Jones, he directed it as well as doing the cinematography, needed editing and things like that. But I was really hands on and it was a learning experience. Yes, I learned a lot from it and I came up with the money for it by myself. Okay. I mean, I was like, I needed a paper, but I got it done.
Panama Jackson [00:11:01] So I mean, that’s what dreams are to, right? Like it’s you. You got to do it. You got to do to make those dreams come true.
Renika McQueen [00:11:07] Yeah.
Panama Jackson [00:11:07] So then how do we go from deceitful passions? Because what you did that that came out in 2017.
Renika McQueen [00:11:14] Nope, it came out in 2019.
Panama Jackson [00:11:17] 2018. Okay.
Renika McQueen [00:11:18] I’m sorry. When I’m right. So years ago.
Panama Jackson [00:11:23] So what was the path then from that movie, seeing it come out like you see the finished product, like you see your baby, like you see it on screen, you see all that. You see it put together to getting to Cain and Abel.
Renika McQueen [00:11:34] So once I did that and you know, it took a while for the editing and the sound and different things like that. And I got it all done and I sent it to a distribution company and they got it put on all these different streaming networks for me, and that was amazing. But before I even did that, I had a movie premiere just like Beezy did. And oh, I was so blessed. It was amazing when I tell you, my coworkers, strangers, friends, they showed up and showed out. It was such a beautiful thing. And I knew then that it was my passion. Like when I wasn’t filming, I was bored and I was kind of like thinking like, Oh, I got to do something else. So I was like, Let me do another movie. Now. Cain and Abel originally was something that I had written, is thought of as a book, but I never published it. And so originally it was called My Brother’s Keeper. But as I was filming Deceitful Passions, I don’t know why I decided to change it to Cain and Abel. And that’s how I came up with Cain and Abel. And I was like, I’m ready to do that and just start making the phone calls again for cinematographers, lighting, gaffers, all of that kind of stuff and put it together.
Panama Jackson [00:12:47] So you basically put all the pieces together for that movie to come to life?
Renika McQueen [00:12:54] Yeah. Mm hmm. Yeah.
Panama Jackson [00:12:56] So how long did it take to do that? Like so. Well, not. Not the filming, but, like, putting all the pieces together, like the casting in again, you know? Well, let me remind you. I don’t know what I don’t know. So I don’t know what it takes to put all these things together. So you’re going to you’re educating me in this process.
Renika McQueen [00:13:12] For I think for me, that is one of the easier process is because as you get into this industry, you know, is really about networking so that you can see who does cinematography, who does sound, who does audio mix and who does lighting, who does. You know what I’m saying? So you have to network and get to know people. So once I did that and did this for Passions, I started meeting people. I started going to film mixers and Royal Oak and Royal Oak and many different people. And so when I decided I wanted to do a Cain and Abel, I pretty much already had people in mind who I wanted to work on Cain and Abel, so that was pretty easy, just reaching out to them and seeing if they were interested in it and talking about, you know, the pay and my budget and different things like that. And once I got that together, the next thing to do was, okay, I got my team and everybody let me have a casting call. So I had a flier done, put it out on social media, I had a casting call, people came, they auditioned, a lot of them did great, you know. And then once I picked my people to be in a movie, I picked my cast. Then the next thing is to have a table read. Everybody come together, sit down, who will play in a movie? And they read a part and, you know, go over the script. And then after that, you rehearse for the next few weeks. And after that is Go mode.
Panama Jackson [00:14:33] All right. How long did it take to film? Like you talked about everything it took to get to the preparation. How long did it take to actually film Cain and Abel?
Renika McQueen [00:14:40] I think Cain and Abel don’t quote. Might have been ten. Ten, 11 days.
Panama Jackson [00:14:49] Oh, wow! That is that quick. I’m assuming that’s fast.
Renika McQueen [00:14:52] Yeah. Yeah, that’s quick. Cause, you know, some people, it could be 15 days. It could be longer. It depends on if you have to take a break and come back and start it. It just depends. But I think it was pretty quick. It’s pretty quick.
Panama Jackson [00:15:04] It sounds quick to me like, you know, that’s that sounds that sounds fast. Like sounds like you kind of got to get in. Get out. Like, you got to get your shots, get your scenes, you know, make them work.
Renika McQueen [00:15:13] Let me say this. Mm hmm. It depends on just. Your crew are together, too. If you have a great crew, everybody is doing their job, doing what they’re supposed to do. The cast, they know their lines. They’ve been studying and rehearsing. And they get in front of the camera and they knock it out. Then, of course, that’s last takes. You have to do you know what I’m saying? So that will allow it to go by quicker, too, even during the day while you’re filming like that day. If everybody is just on point with their part of the process, then yeah, it can be a quick process.
Panama Jackson [00:15:47] Did you do like the, the, the big screening and all that stuff like, like you did with Deceitful Passions.
Renika McQueen [00:15:54] Yes. You have to do it because it allows your cast and crew to be, you know, just admired and, you know, think give them something to feel good about. So you definitely want to do that. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, you do it for them. You know, people come out, congratulate them. It makes them feel good. You feel good as well, too.
Panama Jackson [00:16:14] All right. So once that movie gets out there and this is going to this is going to segway into kind of how we came to be here.
Renika McQueen [00:16:22] Mm hmm.
Panama Jackson [00:16:23] Like, I don’t. So let me say this. I don’t know how I know I’m one of those people that looks for movies all through Amazon Prime or like I have I have subscriptions to every Black outlet you can possibly watch Black movies. Like, I literally like they’re not even Black movies. It’s like I watch movies and then there’s white movies, you know what I’m saying? Like the main like movie, the regular movies are like the white movies. Like, my whole life is pretty much living in this in this space, in this vein. I don’t know if everybody I don’t think everybody’s like me when it comes to I have a bunch of friends who are like that, too, where I know if I ask about a movie. And so he’s like, Yeah, I watch that joint, you know, I watched it like, you know, I wrote about movies like “My sidepiece hit the Lotto!” Like I was like, Oh, I got to watch this. I mean, it’s got side pieces and lotto in it. I’m I’m there. How do you like how do you gauge whether the movie is. Like what are your expectations for these movies when you release them when you make them release them like is it a financial expectation? Is it a viewership? Like, what’s the how do you gauge the success of one of these movies?
Renika McQueen [00:17:27] Well, I think, for one, you got to know your audience. So when you put movies out there, you got to pretty much know who’s going to watch. Like I say, you got to know your audience, what type of movie you’ve just put out, you know? And in the end, yes, of course, you would like to make some money from it because you spend a nice amount of money, you know, putting it together. And everybody budget is different. Some people may have a little bit more to put into the movie. Some may have less. But you know, what I want people to know is, you know, you’re just doing the best that you can in the fact that you you’re stepping out on faith and you’re taking a chance and the opportunity to do it. And so that’s why I hate when I hear people trashing our films because, no, it may not be the greatest, but you got to start from somewhere.
Panama Jackson [00:18:14] We’re going to jump right into that. Real quick. How do you make money on these films?
Renika McQueen [00:18:17] So when it’s put on distribution, when it’s distributed on a different streaming network, the more people watch it, the more you get paid.
Panama Jackson [00:18:25] So you get paid per stream. Like, is it like kind of like on Spotify with music and songs or stuff like that? There’s like, yeah, yeah.
Renika McQueen [00:18:32] Okay. Yeah, okay.
Panama Jackson [00:18:34] Yeah. I never knew that. I always wondered because I’m like, there are so many movies out here like. I wonder if.
Renika McQueen [00:18:39] Yeah. So you got to promote it, you know, and that’s another thing you’re when you’re in indie film, you’re doing you’re promoting it by yourself. You’re doing a lot of things on your own, by yourself. You’re like everything for your movie. You determine if it’s going to fail, if it’s going to do well because you’re no one is out there like, Hey, took my movie out. You’re the one that’s on social media posting it. You know, when you’re out and about passing out fliers, old school, I mean, letting people making people aware of of the work that you’ve done, you know, so that they can watch it.
Panama Jackson [00:19:13] Is that stressful? Like having to basically be. I mean, you basically just said you eat what you kill, right? So if you don’t promote it, then nobody will know it exists and nobody will and you have to.
Renika McQueen [00:19:23] Yeah. Mhm. It can be stressful but I mean if you out this are you out to you at the bar, you meet somebody, you are just talking. I think you send them a flyer. You’re like, hey, you know, I make movies, check it out. Like, okay, ah, we’ll, you know, when you go out of town, it could be fun. It just depends on how you do it. The only thing that stress stressful for me about it is some days I don’t even want to look at social media. I get sick of it, but I know that I have to get on here. I have to promote, I have to post, I have to talk back to people, you know, when they make comments and stuff about it, because I’m building a fan base for my production company and for my work. And you know, you may admire Deceitful Passions and hate Cain and Abel or you may like Cain and Abel and hate, Deceitful Passions. But either way, I just appreciate you watching all together.
Panama Jackson [00:20:11] So when you saw what I wrote about it. So before we say how much, how much, how many reviews do you see or do you see online for this type of for these type of movies? Because. Honestly. So what I’m going to say is going to sound kind of odd considering what I wrote. I genuinely feel like I’m one of the few people that writes about the movies in these places.
Renika McQueen [00:20:35] And oh, no, you’re not.
Panama Jackson [00:20:38] So there you go. So here’s the funny part. Here’s his other thing. Even though which, you know, I, I trashed the movie, as you said. I can promise you, I know people who watch the movie because of me.
Renika McQueen [00:20:48] Thank you. I appreciate it. And I believe that to be true, too.
Panama Jackson [00:20:53] Part of the reason I got into doing a lot of movies, so I watch because I watch all these movies, but I get so much joy out of them that when I write it, I write it in ways that people people hate me. I can’t believe I watch this movie because you’re not you’re moving people like you. I can’t believe I watch this nonsense because of you. But I watched it because you made it sound so fun. And I have fun watching them, so I’d be wanting to share. So I included that movie partially because, like, it’s a movie like I’m doing 28 days. I have movies like Friday and Love Jones and the, you know, all these big movies everybody knows.
Renika McQueen [00:21:25] I didn’t stop at mines. I read some more of them because I wanted to see what you had to say. Like I wanted to see what you had to say. And what was the difference between those movies and mine? Because some of those movies, you know, they were in the beginning stages for those executive producers or producers, directors and things like that. So, you know, I wanted to see how you felt about those movies as well.
Panama Jackson [00:21:51] And to be fair, look, I said the poetry in Love Jones was trash. I, you know, like I, I.
Renika McQueen [00:21:59] I hate the word trash.
Panama Jackson [00:22:01] Well, you said I trash the movies. I was just using that.
Renika McQueen [00:22:04] But I know you did.
Panama Jackson [00:22:05] I said it. .
Renika McQueen [00:22:06] And I hate the word.
Panama Jackson [00:22:07] Fair enough. I did. I always thought the the the poetry in love Jones was so contrived. I was like, this is. Like it’s not a good poem. And as somebody who wrote bad poetry, I know bad poems when I see them. So, you know, I, I agree with you, actually. Like, there’s a lot of like I’m very critical of even Tyler Perry film, but I watch them all. So it’s one of those things like I, I don’t just talk about this stuff without experiencing it. Like, I literally. When Tyler Perry made that comment about he doesn’t have like a writers room. I actually started a podcast called What If Tyler Perry Had A Writers Room where I went through all his movies and tried to figure out what I would do differently. You know, because as a writer, you know, so it’s like. Part of my goal is even if sometimes it goes sideways, like in this, is like supporting the Black community in supporting Black like things everybody wouldn’t see without knowing it exists. You know what I’m saying? And sometimes that goes awry.
Renika McQueen [00:23:05] Mm.
Panama Jackson [00:23:06] But, you know, I built out this odd lane where people do engage with some of the, the art that I present that they otherwise would not. You know what I mean?
Renika McQueen [00:23:16] But yes, I absolutely know what you mean, because what I’m learning is I think sometimes more people will watch your film with someone saying they don’t like it. You know what I’m saying? Or dragging it as opposed to, you know, people say saying it’s good sometimes because people just like, let me go on here and see what is, you know, this bullshit is, you know. Yeah.
Panama Jackson [00:23:41] You can say it with.
Renika McQueen [00:23:43] Free. Speech. Over. Here.
Renika McQueen [00:23:45] What the bullshit is he talking about? You know, so and it will make people watch it, you know, and then you may have some people that watch it and disagree and in some that agree with you. But and you did say that you were like, you know, even though I didn’t, you know, it wasn’t my cup of tea or whatever, you was like, I’m still going to support you and I’m still going to tell people about it. So I appreciate it because then yeah. And indie filmmakers are alot.
Panama Jackson [00:24:08] Yeah. I mean, look, I said what I said in the words of Nene Leakes, but I would watch it and I would I would tell the people to watch the movie, you know what I’m saying? Like, I would never tell people. You know, I think part of the issue that I it’s just there’s so much content out there at this point, you know, like there was a time when we used to complain that there wasn’t. Hmm. And now there’s so much. It’s like it’s hard to even decide. When I landed on Cain, it like I was looking. Trying to find a movie to watch. So then I had to start. It’s not just as easy as finding a Black movie now. Now I have to look for little things. And whatever it was that. That that stuck out to me was like, Oh, this. And then I looked up Detroit, boom. Doing it like again for the Detroit thing. Opened the curtain for me. So how do you know? You mentioned off camera before. Like you felt like the interaction we had. Like it helped you grow a little bit.
Renika McQueen [00:24:58] It did. It did. It did.
Panama Jackson [00:24:59] Talk to me about that.
Renika McQueen [00:25:00] So it helped me grow because like I said when I first saw it, I was so excited, like, oh my God, somebody did a, you know, review of my movie and wrote, you know, an article and everything. You know, this is great, you know? But then when I read it, it was kind of hurtful. Like Damn, you know, he dragged my movie. But I had to look at it from a professional standpoint and I had to understand. I already know that everything that I do, you know, is going to be critiqued. Everybody isn’t going to like everything that I do. I think the thing for me is I just hate the way people for indie write filmmakers, the way that they describe our movies are made, talk about it and think because they don’t understand how much it takes for us to, you know, make a movie. The whole process, the money that we’re putting into it, you know, and the different things that we go through. But it helped me grow because instead of cussing you out, maybe like I wanted to, you know, back in my mind, but you know, I was like, you know what? Let me just tell them thank you for even watching it and supporting it. And I knew that when you put it out there and put it on Twitter, that people would see it. And like you said, people were going to either watch it to love it or they were going to watch it to hate it. So I knew it would something either way, you know, is there was some publicity for my movie.
Panama Jackson [00:26:21] And let me tell you, even if you had cussed me out, I still would have reached out to you and asked if you’d be willing to come have this conversation. Even if you would have done that, I still probably would have been like, All right, okay, so we got a real one here. All right, let’s you know, let’s see, I mean, you know, because so what I’ve learned and, you know, I’m not impervious to that, too. So I’m a writer. Like I’ve written thousands and thousands of articles. I built my own platform before I joined TheGrio called Very Smart Brothers. And we, you know, my partner and I. You know, and we’re writing, you know, we’re we trying to get people to read these articles, you know what I’m saying? We’re writing in. What we’ve both found out was. Just because you do it, some people are going to hate what you do. There are people who hate everything I write. It doesn’t matter what I could write. Hello, God is good. And they to take issue with the way that I wrote “is!” like they don’t like me. You should have like people just, you know. So I had to learn that over time that, you know, I had to I had to develop kind of a thick skin for my own. But what I will tell you what it did to me about was that I started and again, this is going to be ironic considering what we’re talking about. Like, I’m very intentional about just supporting Blackness at this point. Like even at 20 days of Black movies, even put movies in there. You know, I didn’t write a straight negative review of the movie. I picked an I picked an aspect of it to talk about like to talk about this one thing, to generate a conversation about this idea that I thought was in the movie. Now, you’re right. There are things that I wrote in there that I probably could have left out the name when necessary. They weren’t necessary. But.
Panama Jackson [00:27:51] You know, I’ve been very intentional about just being celebratory or just like highlighting Blackness and Black culture. And being like, you know what if I got something negative to say, maybe it’s not always necessary to say because how is this really making the community better? Right. So again, as I say, it’s ironic because of why we’re even here, but I had to develop that. So you mentioned indie film like talk to me about that. That like, like what’s your goal as an indie filmmaker? Like where are you trying to go with this? How much of it is a labor of love? But do you ever have days you just want to quit doing this? Like where you’re like, I can’t do this no more. Like, what’s with what’s that like?
Renika McQueen [00:28:27] No I Do not. But I do have days where I be like, I need a rest, you know, where I’m trying to go. I have a production company Chase and Conner Productions, as you can see, my hat and my shirt, you know, I am my brand! And so I want to become a worldwide household name. I don’t always want to just be you know, let me rephrase that because there are some people is nothing wrong with being an indie filmmaker. I’m just saying I want bigger goals for myself. I want to put things out, movies out where everybody can watch it. I don’t want to be constricted to one genre. I want to make something where everybody can say, Oh, I watched that movie because I’m very aware and I listen and I see what people tweet. I see what people post on Facebook. You know, some people like hood movies, they love them. And then there’s some people who don’t like them at all. Some people faith based movies, some people like family movies, some people like anime. So I want to be a producer, a director, a creator, a writer, author that can give you everything that you’re looking for. At least somebody is able to say, Yeah, I love that. I love what she did.
Panama Jackson [00:29:34] And tell me about your support system here, because I imagine you need a very strong support system when you’re doing anything, when you’re building something from the ground up.
Renika McQueen [00:29:41] And so, of course, my family is a is a strong support system. My husband and my children, they’re very supportive. I have a lot of strangers, people that, you know, from everywhere that I meet online and stuff like that. They’re very supportive. Um, my old coworkers, a lot of them were extremely supportive. So I would say I have a nice support support system.
Panama Jackson [00:30:08] We didn’t talk about that. I do want to bring that up briefly. You worked as a corrections officer?
Renika McQueen [00:30:12] Yes, for 17 years.
Panama Jackson [00:30:13] So I’m someone. Those are the old coworkers you’re talking about?
Renika McQueen [00:30:15] Yes. Yeah.
Panama Jackson [00:30:17] Okay. So you do this full time now. So this is like your full time job?
Renika McQueen [00:30:19] Yes.
Panama Jackson [00:30:20] Did you transition out of being a corrections officer into doing this?
Renika McQueen [00:30:24] Yes. That’s what I.
Panama Jackson [00:30:25] Oh, please tell me about the first tell me about being a corrections officer and then tell me about that that transition, because that’s a very stark transition.
Renika McQueen [00:30:32] It is. I loved my job. The only thing I did not like about being a corrections officer, I was a mandated a lot because we were very short staffed and I mean for years it went on. So that was the only complaint. And then the did.
Panama Jackson [00:30:47] What is mandated? What does that mean?
Renika McQueen [00:30:49] Oh, I’m sorry. It means like myself was 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and if you don’t come to work for your 2 p.m. to 10pm shift. I’m there for your shift. Okay. Because you know, the prison got to run. It can’t run without officers right. And you know, if you don’t come to work, I got to stay. But once I got into film. Because before I even got into film, as time went on, I did. I will say that I started wanting more. The biggest thing was I wanted to be home with my family and I didn’t want to spend as much time away from them as I was. So I was praying to God for a couple of years for something else to come up where I can make money and still be home with my family. And this was it.
Panama Jackson [00:31:27] It. I can imagine, like, I’m you guys, I’m out. I’m about to go make some movies.
Renika McQueen [00:31:31] Yea it was a scary process. It was scary. It was scary to me. I’m sure it is, because that was 17 years of stability, 17 years of watching, 17 years of Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Dental and vision, you know, that they were providing. And now I’m doing all of that on my own.
Panama Jackson [00:31:49] I mean, that speaks to everybody who has a creative passion, right? Like you got to you have to jump out there on faith, as they say. Right. You got. You got to take that leap in. I mean, it seems like for you it’s working, right?
Renika McQueen [00:32:00] Yes. But let me say, this is please don’t just like jump out there without a plan. You definitely got to have a plan. You know what I’m saying? You got you definitely got to have some money saved, you know, so that you can still pay your bills or whatever it is that you need to do. I am a true believer in working for someone else to pay for my dreams and goals, and then later on being able to walk away from their job. You know, as a lot of people are like, I don’t want to work, I just want to create. But sometimes you can do both. Sometimes you have to, you know, use that job to fulfill your passions over here.
Panama Jackson [00:32:35] You know that is some of the real is advice that’s that’s how I did I mean for before I left to be a writer full time I had a day job office job. And I basically used my office to do all the writing stuff I would do it.
Renika McQueen [00:32:52] Man what!. We had a printer at work Where you can print scripts, make copies .
Panama Jackson [00:32:55] ooh You out here printing scripts. Well you had a prison where you out here printing scripts?
Renika McQueen [00:32:59] I had my own printer in a unit, so you know, I would. Yeah, I would
Panama Jackson [00:33:07] Look at you. Telling your secrets out here.
Renika McQueen [00:33:09] Right? I’m just saying I’m just saying. You can, you know, you may have to use that job to help get this one going, you know, and it may be little things like that, a printer that you may need, you know. So I don’t know.
Panama Jackson [00:33:22] I, I definitely did that. I definitely used government resources to print out all types of things. Yeah. I think at one point I printed out on a 150 page. We were working on a script for my partner now working on like a pilot trying to put together a TV show. So scripting, I think I printed out like 150 pages like at my work, at my job, but I did it in like ten page increments. So like every 10 minutes I would go put out another ten pages. So it didn’t look suspicious.
Renika McQueen [00:33:51] You got to make you know, you got to make it look,.
Panama Jackson [00:33:53] I used To joke that if they fired me, I wouldn’t even complain because they would have a reason even if they didn’t know the right One.
Renika McQueen [00:34:02] Mm. Yeah.
Panama Jackson [00:34:04] But this is great.
Renika McQueen [00:34:06] Yeah. But I do, I want to shout out my old job to Women’s Huron’s Valley in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Just shout out all my old coworkers for supporting me. Some of them are still supporting me now and my heart is still with them every day. I think about them all the time. I just want to say that.
Panama Jackson [00:34:28] All right. My grandma lives in Ypsi. Just a sidebar.
Renika McQueen [00:34:32] Yeah. So.
Panama Jackson [00:34:35] I’m your host Panama and joined by Renika McQueen, a multi-hyphenate writer, executive producer, moviemaker and moviemaker who’s moving on up, who has films you should check out. And she’s going to tell you exactly where to check them out and what you need to look at. But before we get there, this is Dear Culture, it’s a podcast about about our culture and about the Blackness. So I have two questions that I want to ask of you.
Renika McQueen [00:35:03] Okay.
Panama Jackson [00:35:03] Just to kind of help people learn a little bit more. So we’re going to start with Blackfessions, which are confessions that most Black people might be surprised about, you know, so please share. Do you have a Blackfession for us.
Renika McQueen [00:35:16] I think my Blackfession is I don’t like a lot of the as we deem “Black food, you know, like I don’t like mustard turnip greens, I don’t like chitlins, I don’t like ham hocks, I don’t like I just, ah, eating candy yams maybe like a year ago.
Panama Jackson [00:35:36] Like we just started eating candy yams?.
Renika McQueen [00:35:38] Yeah, I would….
Panama Jackson [00:35:41] Wait where’s your family from? Louisiana?
Renika McQueen [00:35:44] They from down south. And, you know, going back down my family tree, a lot of them are from down south and stuff like that. But I just never liked any of that stuff. I don’t eat it.
Panama Jackson [00:35:56] Now I’m with you on turnip green. I don’t like those either. Oh, I’m from down south. And that’s why I asked my family’s from Alabama. So I know a lot of people in Michigan got people in Alabama. Saying everybody went straight up. But the candy… You just started eating candy yams?.
Renika McQueen [00:36:12] Yeah, I really.
Panama Jackson [00:36:13] And Don’t like it?.
Renika McQueen [00:36:14] I didn’t like them. I was, like, this is disgusting. But I just got into it. Yeah. But I just started eating, I think oxtails for the first time. Like last year, my husband made some oxtail soup and it was really good and I was like, okay, I can do this, but. Mm. No!
Panama Jackson [00:36:34] That’s interesting. Now is it, is it because you just eat healthy, you use don’t like this stuff.
Panama Jackson [00:36:39] Some people it’s a lifestyle thing!
Renika McQueen [00:36:41] No, it is not because I… No! I don’t like it, No!, I just don’t like it. No, I really don’t want to eat chitlins the way they make your smell…
Panama Jackson [00:36:49] I don’t do chitlins. I don’t do chitlins. We don’t. My family isn’t big on chitlins.
Renika McQueen [00:36:54] Yeah. And if my husband eat them, I’m like, dude, do not kiss me for a good week after you… That’s disgusting. I don’t like chicken gizzards and pig knuckles and pig feet. No. Oh, no!.
Panama Jackson [00:37:08] You talking about that. That that real, deep, deep, real deep Black food stuff.
Renika McQueen [00:37:14] I’m basic, macaroni and cheese, a lil dressing, you know? Okay, Potato Salad if it’s good/
Panama Jackson [00:37:21] All right. Well, that’s interesting. I feel like you might have a lot more people who agree with you on that. And wouldn’t your Blackfession seem like normal for a lot of people? A Blackamendation. So A Blackamendation is a recommendation about something Black, for us, by us, about us that you think other people need to check out be up on. So what is your Blackamendation?
Renika McQueen [00:37:45] You know, I’m going to say Black films. Black indie films. I think that. Watch em! Give us a chance, give us opportunity, grow with us, see where we are from our very first film to the fifth film. You know what I’m saying? And when you guys are critiquing us or leaving reviews and things like that, it is more than okay to be honest. Like your film wasn’t that great. But like I had somebody call one of my movies Deceitful Passions and a food stamp. Uh oh, my God. He was like, God, damn
Panama Jackson [00:38:20] Wait he called it a food stamp?
Renika McQueen [00:38:22] Yeah he said “It’s a cheap, low budget food stamp. Some thing!” I’m like, oh, my God! So I’m just asking, you know, you know, if you watched his interview and you’ve learned a little bit about the process and how much it takes for us to get to that point of even getting it together and filming it, to show us a little grace, you know, and understand that it is not that easy. And the fact that we have courage to step out and do it. There’s so many people who want to follow their dreams and chase their goals, but they are afraid to because, you know, this is something they’re going to have to deal with. Of course, it’s a part of life being critiqued and judged and stuff like that, but some people can handle it better. That’s all I’m saying.
Panama Jackson [00:39:05] Can I ask you a question?
Renika McQueen [00:39:06] Yeah, sure.
Panama Jackson [00:39:07] Do you fixate on the negative criticism?
Renika McQueen [00:39:10] No, I don’t even you know, when I stopped. I don’t read.
Panama Jackson [00:39:14] I’ve done that before, by the way.
Renika McQueen [00:39:16] Nope, let me tell you something. Like, even when I saw yours, I read it, thinking that it was going to be good, I’m not going to lie. But then when I was like, God damn. But I don’t even really read reviews about my movie anymore. I’ll skip right past them like I do not. I don’t go to Amazon and read them. I don’t go wherever you can. I won’t read them. I learned to stop doing that a long time ago because it’s hurtful. So, yeah, I don’t do that, you know?
Panama Jackson [00:39:44] Yeah, I would. I would. There have been times when I would write something and there’d be like a hundred comments and it’d be 99 Amens. And that one person is like, You suck. And I’m like,.
Renika McQueen [00:39:54] Yeah, you be more focused on that one than the 99, right.
Panama Jackson [00:39:59] I had to stop. So that’s one of the things I had to remind myself, like, I’ve been doing this so long, I can’t be care about no person. They still read it like I’m like they still read it. They clearly read it to tell me I suck they hear or they decided to show up and tell me.
Renika McQueen [00:40:11] So yeah.
Panama Jackson [00:40:13] Yeah. Well, look, I appreciate you coming through. I genuinely appreciate. I mean, yeah, all the. All the lessons I’ve learned, just understanding the process a little better, an appreciation for you and I will support. Listen, no matter what I say, I’m going to be out here watching every movie I’m going to I’m going to watch. And if I see, I will I will go in and search your name and see where the movies are and check those out.
Renika McQueen [00:40:36] Now, now we have we have each other contact. You can email like “Hey I watched a movie, I ain’t gon like and that sh*t was terrible. Do better” like.
Panama Jackson [00:40:50] But again, I don’t even know if I can even say that because you got three you got movies. I don’t have no movies. You know what I mean?
Panama Jackson [00:40:56] Like like people say stuff like that. But I do think all of us need to learn how to step back and realize that when we’re critiquing things like you are talking about somebody, especially if you don’t do it, like if I make movies and you make movies and then I probably I feel like I’m in a maybe a better space, too. And at that point, instead of critiquing, I probably should come and be like, Here’s what I think you could do or whatever, like that. So I’ve learned I’m learning lessons here too, about how I can better approach these things. Like if there’s something I feel like I can add a value. Maybe that’s the lesson to share.
Renika McQueen [00:41:25] Mm hmm.
Panama Jackson [00:41:26] You know, in that. Well, tell people where they can find you, where they can find your work, your your contact, all that stuff.
Renika McQueen [00:41:31] You know? Okay, so this Deceitful Passions, that’s my very first movie. You can find it on Amazon Prime, Tubi, Google Play, YouTube movie rentals, Urban Flix, Pluto. Cain and Abel is also on Google Play YouTube movie rentals. It’s on Tubi and Amazon Prime right now. You can find me on Instagram under underscore hey underscore queen or you can find me on there at Chase and Conner Productions. You can find me on Facebook as well. Renika McQueen.
Panama Jackson [00:42:05] All right. Well, look, I appreciate you being here. Thank you for spending some time. Thank you for being honest.
Renika McQueen [00:42:11] No problem
Panama Jackson [00:42:13] You know, thank you. Thank you for reaching out on Twitter in the first place you allowed us space for because I think this would be helpful
Renika McQueen [00:42:22] You were dragging me!.
Panama Jackson [00:42:22] I got to do that more often. I get out of here.
Renika McQueen [00:42:25] Oh, yes, you will. You probably.
Panama Jackson [00:42:27] Right. Actually, people are going to be reading and I say, okay.
Renika McQueen [00:42:30] You got a lot of nerve.
Panama Jackson [00:42:32] And then, you know, I don’t be like, you want to come talk about it yet? Really want to talk about it? Yeah, I want to talk about it.
Renika McQueen [00:42:37] Absolutely. Yeah. You know.
Panama Jackson [00:42:40] And you know, so I want to thank thank everybody for for listening and for checking us out. Thank you, Renika. You know, thanks for listening. And if you like what you heard, please give us a five star review on and subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts, wherever you’re listening to it, and make sure you share it with everybody. You know, we doing this for the culture here. So every little bit of information, the people that we have here, this is a this is something that’s intended to make the culture better and grow the culture and so we can find out people doing cool things. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments the podcast at theGrio dot com. The Dear Culture Podcast is brought to you by theGrio’s Podcast Network. I’m your host. Panama Jackson It is produced by Crystal Grant and edited by Cameron Blackwell. Thanks for joining us. Catch you next time.