Through her career as a director and producer on independent films, Kelly Parker uses her blend of creativity and exemplary talent to expose the realities of social injustice.
Parker’s most recent film, Game Girls, documents the experience of women living on the extreme margins of society. The setting is Skid Row (Los Angeles), “homeless capital of the USA,” and features a diverse community of people facing one of American’s realities: poverty. Parker is co-producing the film alongside Films de Force Majeure. Although it is still a work in progress, Game Girls has already been invited to present and pitch at international film events held at the Berlinale Talents, LisbonDocs, Eurodoc, Pitching du Réel and EP2C.
“I lived downtown (in Detroit) for about four years before moving to Los Angeles to pursue my MFA,” 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. This and other various experiences in my life have informed themes I address in my work. It has also motivated me go beyond traditional filmmaking techniques and explore community oriented art making processes and activism. Game Girls, is a perfect match to my interests.”
As part of this project, the production team is leading an 18-month drama-therapy workshop open to all women in the community. The workshop challenges the women to connect with their past, which has often been buried “underneath a history of trauma, addiction, incarceration and poverty.”
The continuation of these workshops (and the scripting and final development of the film) is currently in danger due to the expenses they have incurred so far. To garner financial support, the producers launched a crowd funding campaign "https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/game-girls" https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/game-girls. They have already raised $15,200; however, this is still short of their $20,000 goal, with only a few days left!
“Women come to Skid Row as a last stop,” said Parker. “They are estranged mothers, daughters, sisters and girlfriends. Many have lost hope, but for those who have a glimmer of hope left, Game Girls’ therapeutic workshops provide a space to help them regain their strength and gain site of their goals.
“This project is a beautiful example of how filmmaking and life can be merged. This film will ultimately be a very poetic and raw hybrid documentary, that we expect to win awards and get a lot of festival exposure as the director’s last film did. Be a part of it and say you helped make an innovative film happen, by contributing to the crowd funding campaign.”
Game Girls is Parker’s second film project featuring women who are struggling to survive the harsh realities of Los Angeles. Her first film, South Main, premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2008 and 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. She filmed at the complex four times over a two week period leading up to the eviction date and continued shooting ten more months as the families looked for 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.”
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. She 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, ranging 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.”
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.”