Through her career as a cinematographer and producer on independent films, Kelly Parker uses her blend of creativity and exemplary talent to expose the realities of social injustice.
Parker’s first feature film “South Main,” which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival (2008), follows the lives of three single African American mothers living in Los Angeles as they face city-mandated eviction amid violence and unreliable government assistance. Parker filmed at the complex four times over the two weeks prior to the eviction date and continued shooting ten more months as the families found new homes.
“During this time, the women in my film had been awarded an $8,000 relocation subsidy and found homes,” said Parker. “When I arrived on the fourth day, I learned that the fiancé of one of the women had been killed in a drive-by shooting just outside of the apartment unit three hours after I last visited. The devastating reality of this situation forced me to me comprehend the extremity of the lives of these women. At this point I knew I wanted to make a film about the actuality of their day-today lives.
“Directing the film on my terms, without thinking about its commercial value during the process, was essential to my development as an artist and I think is the only way that a filmmaker can make meaningful contributions to cinema and society. The highlight of directing, producing and editing was that I got to explore and take risks. ‘South Main’ is the first film I’ve made that I feel is exactly the way it should be.”
Parker completed the film as part of her master’s program at CalArts (California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles). She enjoys the support for avant-garde filmmaking that the school offers.
“I lived downtown for about four years before moving to Los Angeles,” explained Parker. “Being in Detroit had a deep impact on me in terms of opening my eyes to the extremities of American injustice because things like racial inequality are so clear.”
Shortly after directing “South Main,” Parker founded and received grant funding for a youth education program she based in Northeast Los Angeles called Good Exposure. Parker used the money to conduct two years of film and media workshops, and install media labs with iMacs and camera rental packages for teens and young adults living in three Section 8 housing developments in the community. Students from Good Exposure also attended regular cultural field trips, that ranged from avante garde film screenings to park hikes or to local historical sites that are often overlooked.
“I look forward to someday perhaps teach through Good Exposure again,” said Parker. “I know the classes had a deep impact on the students. Maybe next time in a different city.”
Parker decided to focus on independent film after finishing her MFA. She was hired as an editor and associate producer at Barenholtz Productions for two features produced by legendary indie film icon, Ben Barenholtz. Recently, Parker returned from Sicily where she worked in the editorial department on a film directed by Mark Jackson, starring Catherine Keener and Ben Kingsley.
Originally, Parker got into film at CCS after transferring from an economics program in Rotterdam (The Netherlands). She credits instructors Dennis Summers and Robert Andersen for inspiring her work even today.
“Dennis (Summers) always strongly encouraged us to take advantage of the freedom to take risks that the academic environment offers,” said Parker. “By example, both he and Bob Andersen taught us how we could live as artists. They both continue to inspire me…
“My instructors also instilled in us a strong work ethic. It was common to pull all-nighters in the labs. That kind of energy was motivating, and I took it with me after I left CCS.”
- Lerner Film