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At the corner of "big butts" and ballerinas

Barbara Asare-Bediako's time in the Zaentz Innovation Fund in Film and Media's incubator turned her project from a criticism of cultural norms to a celebration of black women's body image
Posted October 9, 2016

Barbara Asare-Bediako started the Zaentz Innovation Fund in Film and Media's incubator with a clear idea: to document a societal obsession with "big butts" that leads many black women to undergo surgeries to fit an impossible ideal. But as she spoke with mentors and fellows in the incubator, Asare-Bediako — who's also pursuing a master's degree in film and media at Hopkins — found her focus narrowing to one of her subjects: a Baltimore-based black ballerina, Tyde-Courtney Edwards, who has refused to give in to colorism and bodyshaming to pursue her dream profession. Asare-Bediako spoke about her project, "Curvy Ballerina," one of the ten Zaentz Fund projects selected for development and production funding, with Rising.

Why did you ultimately decide to change the focus of your film?

I realized that I had more excitement about producing a film about her, and her decision to say "I hear you, but I'm more than you think I am, and I'm going to show you," rather than focusing on a negative impulse that pushes people to change their bodies. When I told Roberto (Busó-García, director of the Zaentz Fund program), he said that's what the incubator is for. The purpose isn't necessarily to have your mentors say, "Hey that's a great idea!" but perhaps "Here's another way of thinking about this."

What have been the most useful part of the incubator for you?

My mentors have been great, specifically with practical things, like creating a successful proposal and honestly assessing where my project stands in terms of production and development. But creating relationships with the other fellows will be just as important for the future. I found a cinematographer through another fellow. I helped that fellow find an actress, someone I know in New York, who would be perfect for the part. The fellows are a powerful group — we're eclectic and resourceful.

How does the incubator dovetail with your degree studies at Hopkins?

Film school teaches you how to produce a film, but the incubator is providing training in the small things. You need to be able to create the idea for a film, present it, and get funding for it before you can produce it. I'm learning the process of putting together a full proposal for investment — and I wouldn't have a clue about how to do that if not for the Zaentz incubator. It's pushing us all to a higher level of professionalism.