By Marc Alexander

 As a filmmaker, first and foremost, Kimberly Townes is an artist. Her skills are evident in the various angles she shoots and the cuts she makes on unexpected beats in the editing bay. She perpetually finds different perspectives that inspire audiences to consider more than the face value of a shot. Her work is vibrant, energized and filled with actors who all look like they are having a great time.

Filmmaker Kimberly Townes

A graduate of Hampton University who also holds a Masters in filmmaking from UCLA, she is currently racking up directing honors at various film festivals for the short film “Hands to the Sky” – the story of an autistic man’s court battle to care for his younger sibling after their mother’s sudden death.

In October, the short won Best Director & Best Screenplay Awards at the Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series in New York. I recently spoke with her and got her perspective on the state of Hollywood. Here’s what she shared with me:

MA: How long have you known you wanted to be in the film business?

KT: I’ve always been a storyteller. I can’t remember not wanting to make movies. For the longest [time] I was afraid of it because there is no clear-cut pathway for success. But the idea of not trying was scarier.  My father always said nothing beats a failure but a try.

MA: What were the film(s) that have inspired and or informed your filmmaking?

KT: This is the hardest question because so many films have inspired me! My quick top five would be Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat By the Door, Lena Wertmuller’s Swept Away, Ken Russell’s The Devil’s, João Daniel Tikhomiroff‘s Besouro, Fernando MeirellesCity of God, and Chris Rock’s Pootie Tang. My bonus films would be Lars Van Trier’s Melancholia and just about every film from Christopher Nolan.

MA: Has the film business changed since you were a wide-eyed undergrad?

KT: Industries will inevitably change, the trick is to maintain a curious mind and the skills to learn and adapt. I guess I’m still wide-eyed, but gaining focus. I am just now getting into the business side of things. The luxury of UCLA graduate school was to incubate and make art. But business is business, so on to the next leg of the journey.

MA: Are there now more or less opportunities for people of color in film?

KT: There seems to be more of a push for diverse content, diversity programming and more digital options for connecting with your audience. Nowadays, the tools to target your niche are more accessible.   The smaller the world gets, the more likely your audience is to find you. Where there is an audience there is an opportunity.

MA: What if, anything is the answer to the lack of diversity in “Mainstream” American Cinema?

KT: I don’t have the answers, but I’m optimistic. Mainstream goes where the dollars flow. The power has always been with the audience. I guess my only answer is to keep creating.

To keep up with Kimberly Townes, please connect at:

IG @sparkleeeeee


  Marc Alexander is a Los Angeles-based writer, photographer and purveyor of urban culture.

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