Last summer, I had the opportunity to meet Mashallah Salaam, a 20 year old writer and filmmaker from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. As young as she is, I believed her when she told me that she was a writer and filmmaker.

She didn’t say words like “aspiring” or “hope to be” because she knew who she already was.  

When Mashallah reached out to me late last year about a trailer that she had produced, I wasn’t surprised, but was eager to see the work that she had produced. Her trailer, “Love Games” which was filmed all in one day, focuses on a budding love story between a young man and his crush. We had the chance to interview Mashallah on her inspiration for the project and what she’s currently working on.

*The interview below was conducted by Blackspace founder, and the film’s editor, Pierce Freelon. 

What inspired this project? 
I really want to create films for a living because I’ve always known how powerful the images we see on TV and films are, and I wanted to use media to inspire people while creating positive change in the world. I was tired of seeing all the negative images of black people. I decided to make this short film/trailer to show that a black love story doesn’t have to involve violence and stereotypes to be entertaining. I wanted to show that black people can be quirky, cool, and relatable.

 We love the trailer.. are you going to make it into a feature film? 
I would love to make my trailer into a feature film. I was originally going to make a short film but there was a lack of time and I only had one day to shoot and edit what I wrote. Maybe one day soon I will hopefully have the resources and opportunity to make my trailer into a feature film.

 As a young writer/director, what kind of films would you like to see more of? 
I would love to see more black people in fantasy films, like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, where it’s a serious film and not a comedy or a spoof. I would like to see movies that dispel the negative stereotypes about black people and all people of color. Representation matters a lot and I would like to make films that inspire and uplift people, especially those of color.

 We’re curious about your process – what are three things every young filmmaker should consider before starting a project? 
I would say the first thing is to think about the kind of movie you would want to see. What kinds of movies or genres do you find interesting? Second, consider what you want this film to say to your audience? What kind of reaction or emotion do you want to evoke from your audience? Third, always be open to making changes. Starting out, you can run into a few technical difficulties or you might notice a few last minute errors in your shot when editing. It’s important not to feel discouraged but to use your creativity and work around it. It also helps to shoot more footage than you need and just remember, sometimes mistakes can create the best results. We are all still learning!

Name a woman (or women) storyteller that you look up to, or whose work you admire. 
I really admire Issa Rae and look to her for inspiration. She started out like me, young and passionate about film. Now she is on HBO and doing what she loves, with the support of many wonderful people. I hope to create my own television show someday soon.

 What can we expect from you in 2017?
I hope 2017 is filled with many wonderful people and many opportunities for me to continue creating films. I would like to start a short series and make more short films. I’m taking film classes at UNC and I believe that that this is going to be a great year for me to learn more and further advance my skills.   

“Love Games” was produced during BLK AGST – a black liberation summer program created at Blackspace — a digital makerspace for youth of African descent. 

*Check out Mashallah’s last short film Crown Jewel filmed at BLK AGST in 2015.