Conversations | Hope Olaidé Wilson
Multimedia storyteller Hope Olaidé Wilson talks about Pride, filmmaking, and the art of building community.
Black queer and trans artists have long been at the forefront of social movements and creative innovation, all while remaining underrecognized for these massive cultural contributions. During this Pride Month, all future Pride Months, and any month outside of Pride Month, upending this erasure must remain a priority of any celebratory effort. NYFA spoke with multimedia storyteller and founder of Indigo Veil Media Hope Olaidé Wilson, a contemporary innovator across genres, about their film and production work, thoughts on Pride, and what it means to build community with other artists.
NYFA: How does Pride speak to your work as an artist?
Hope Olaidé Wilson: From a fundamental standpoint, my work as a gender non-conforming artist and immigrant is rooted in Pride as an affirmation of my curiosity, purpose, existence, potential and freedom. My work is also an affirmation of my agency. I say that because for me, Pride is an extension of agency in terms of my capacity to find freedom within and despite societal constraints.
As a storyteller, I am drawn to existential questions and moral dilemmas explored through dark humour and genre storytelling from underrepresented perspectives. Particularly the perspectives of women, gender-nonconforming individuals, immigrants and 2nd and 3rd generation African Diaspora descendants. The questions I am interested in exploring include the nature and subjectivity of identity within the scope of tradition, community, ethnicity, gender, religion and class through an African Diasporic lens.
My pride emerges in building and sustaining community and in advocating for myself and others particularly in finding joy and freedom to just be.
NYFA: Can you offer any wisdom about founding a production company?
HOW: Take pride in what your production company embodies or represents and balance that with meeting a specific, tangible need. You have to determine what sets it apart and articulate that.
For me, Indigo Veil Media (IVM) is about exploring multimedia storytelling (film, TV, audio, and tech) from new and nuanced perspectives. It’s about lifting the “veil” (so to speak) of inherent assumptions and reflecting on narratives beyond what we think we know in order to find something significant.
We are a community of freelancers and our focus with every project is finding a fresh and nuanced perspective in every narrative to further expand on what is possible. This idea begins with the lookbook or pitch for each project and is carried all the way through production.
“Surround yourself with people that celebrate and challenge you and encourage you to grow into your most creatively fulfilled self.”
NYFA: What advice would you offer to someone hoping to break into film and production?
HOW: Learn by doing and don’t be precious about it. I have to remind myself constantly that I am building a body of work and expanding with each creative effort. Your work will evolve with you and in regards to that evolution, please pace yourself. You don’t have to have it all figured out straight away or put yourself into a specific niche or box. You just may stumble into a niche or out of one.
My creative realm is dark comedy and genre storytelling—something I never would have thought to be true until those elements became increasingly apparent in my work. There is great value in learning, discovering, and figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t and why… oh, and “who”. The “who” of it all is just as crucial. Surround yourself with people that celebrate and challenge you and encourage you to grow into your most creatively fulfilled self.
Support others in making their projects and build a community. Some of that effort may feel like a waste of time, but there are invaluable, intangible lessons to be learned from the nuances of production at every level. Most of it is interpersonal, but the most important thing about film is that it is about community coming together to create something compelling or entertaining to serve an audience.
I can’t emphasize the community part enough. In fact, I would encourage new filmmakers to not underestimate their capacity to establish formal and/or informal communities that suit their needs. The grass is not always greener in elite circles. You can form different groups or networks for different purposes. In fact, it may be better to have a simple focus. They may be purely for technical tips, some for artistic exploration and reflection while others may be to workshop projects and get feedback. It can even be as simple as accountability by meeting to write or work in silence over zoom. My informal support groups have provided more value to me than any program or fellowship I have ever been a part of. They are my creative family and I take pride in us growing and learning together.
“I want Black queer artists to shine in every capacity at every level of recognition possible and I also want Black queer artists to thrive in the most ordinary ways.”
NYFA: What’s one piece of your vision for the future of Black queer artists?
HOW: My vision and hope for Black queer artists encompasses thriving in both the mundane and the extraordinary. I want Black queer artists to shine in every capacity at every level of recognition possible and I also want Black queer artists to thrive in the most ordinary ways. There remains work to be done as long as there is an element of novelty to the participation and presence of any marginalized community in aspects of society that are celebrated and aspects that are often taken for granted such as healthcare, education, housing, and employment.
NYFA: Are there particular groups or resources centering queer and trans people that you’d like to highlight for our readership?
HOW: I am a big believer in tech as a path to equality by facilitating opportunities and community development. Trans Tech Social Enterprises is an organization founded by Angelica Ross that is an incubator for LGBTQ talent with a focus on economically empowering the T, transgender people, in our community.
About Hope Olaidé Wilson:
Born in the UK and raised between London and Lagos, Nigeria, Hope Olaidé Wilson is a gender non-conforming multimedia storyteller and founder of Indigo Veil Media. As a “Made in NY” Media Center Incubator Fellowship recipient, Wilson wrote, directed, and produced four short films for a bite-sized anthology project (Owls & Echoes) selected for The Gotham’s (formerly IFP) Screen Forward Lab. Wilson was awarded the inaugural JJLA Octavia Butler Fellowship for literary fiction and has been a finalist for Sundance Episodic Lab and the Stowe Story Labs/Tangerine Entertainment Screenwriting Fellowship. Trained at the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art, Wilson’s on-screen performance credits include Spenser Confidential (NETFLIX/Film 44), Solace (Tribeca Film Institute All Access Program/Showtime), The Affair (Showtime), After the Dark (Netflix), The Price (Samuel Goldwyn Films/SXSW), I Can Do Bad All By Myself (Lionsgate), The Fosters (FreeForm), and The Last Ship (TNT). Wilson lives and works between New York City and Hannover (Germany).
– Interview conducted by Kyle Lopez, Program Associate
This post is part of the ConEdison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter #139. Subscribe to this free monthly e-mail for artist’s features, opportunities, and events. Learn more about NYFA Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program.