Naima Ramos-Chapman didn’t plan on becoming a filmmaker. The Brooklyn College grad was participating in an acting apprenticeship at The Barrow Group when she became increasingly frustrated with the types of roles she auditioning for. “I was really dissatisfied with the material I'd go in for: crackhead, femme fatale, sexy alien lady...really wack sh-t.” Instead of giving up, or settling for a part she didn’t want, Ramos-Chapman’s friend, filmmaker Terence Nance, encouraged her to write her own project, and she jumped at the chance.
“I'm forever thankful he let me know it was possible,” she tells ESSENCE. “I grew up as an artist, trained hard at other institutions since I was three years old as a dancer but they always advised me on how to fit in some other person's vision.
“I think it's important for us to hear out loud that we can make sh-t too. Black women can make worlds because we made this one--doesn't hurt to be reminded of your inherent power though, it never hurts.”
Ramos-Chapman harnessed her power to create And Nothing Happened, a surrealist short film about the emotional and psychological aftermath of a rape. The project was hyper-personal to Ramos-Chapman because it was born out of her own experience as a sexual assault survivor.
“I found living with trauma the most brutal, even years after a rape. It haunts you in the safest places and can ruin connections with people you love,” she says. “It is not only a thing one person survives--sexual assault is something a whole family, community, nation survives and until we understand that we cannot truly confront it. That is why I made And Nothing Happened.”
To produce the film, Ramos-Chapman saved money by waiting tables, babysitting, and moving in with her mother to cut her rental costs. But she still needed more funding to finish the short. For that she turned to Kickstarter, the popular crowdfunding platform that helps creators find financial support for their work. Though she exceeded her $4000 fundraising goal, she warns, crowdfunding for indie creatives isn’t easy.
“Running a fundraising campaign is a whole job unto itself. Some people hire a Kickstarter campaign manager but I didn't consider that as an option,” she says.
“If you're spearheading this operation with limited resources, it can be intense,” she admits. “I handled a lot of the outreach on my own and called tons of people, showed them the trailer, tailored emails with lots of love and care. I remember my producer saying I was doing way too much. Probably...but that's me. We reached our goal within two weeks.”
Though the process can be extremely nerve-racking, Ramos-Chapman says she’ll definitely consider crowdfunding as an option in the future, incorporating the lessons she learned in the past.
“Preparation and consistency is key and will help you stay calm during the final countdown. [Also], ask for what you WANT not what you think you can get... this is a constant learning process,” she advises.
“But above all else, I discovered that perhaps the most important element to have is the resolve to get whatever you say you're gonna get done, DONE,” she says. “Your credibility is everything and people have to believe that their investment will have a return.”
And Nothing Happened is on view at the Brooklyn Museum through the month of June.