2018 BIRMINGHAM FILM FESTIVAL FOCUS: Tenisha White, Female Director, Screenwriter & Actress

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Tenisha White is an award- winning Birmingham-based actress and producer best known for her work in Broken (2017), Fused (2018), and No Shade (2018). In her new short ‘Spite’, she stars as Leanne, and directs the film. She is nominated for Best Film and Actress at this year’s festival. Steven Pascall caught up with her to find out a little bit more.

Credit: Tenisha White

Q Tell me a bit yourself and what you do.

I’m an actress, photographer, filmmaker and I also present for Google. So every day is different, no day is the same.  I’m also a mum. That’s the biggest thing. I do everything that I love for her and she inspires me to be a better person every day.

Q Did you always have a passion for directing?

Yes, one day I was sitting in the car and I was listening to a song from the 1975 film called ‘Please Be Naked’, and from the time that song started to ended I had a film in my head, a 10-minute film. I called up a filmmaker and I asked ‘Are you free to film this for me. It’s only short’ and he said Yes. We shot it the week after and that got into six festivals. I really enjoy directing. I love it. I just felt like a massive achievement to see my work be nominated and I feel really proud. Since then, I started to get asked to do more directing. This year I was the first assistant director on the Commonwealth Games film. That’s a massive achievement of mine, that it came to Birmingham and I was involved.

Q What’s the meaning behind your film ‘Spite’?

It’s essentially about a mother fighting for her daughter back. The father of the child has just taken the child from nursery and he’s not got permission to. He’s basically taken her out of spite.

This story came about after I saw two women on Facebook – who both have two daughters – and seeing them go through this situation in the very same week.  I found that very bizarre, because I didn’t realise that if a Father is named on a child’s birth certificate he can take a child. If both parents are on the birth certificate, you each have equal rights. So I thought this is something that people need to know about, because people have kids all the time with people they hardly know.  So it’s to make everybody aware.

I always write films that are powerful. To help people. I like to tell stories that people don’t tell or speak about.

Q How are you feeling about the Birmingham Film Festival this year?

It’s an honour to be nominated for Best Actress and Best Film. I am feeling really excited. To have ‘Spite’ up there as best film – and I know how many films get entered these film festivals – is a massive achievement. Whether I win it or not, I’ve still been buzzing that it could even be in a category of best film.

Q You’ve had people telling you they’ve been using the film as support. How does that make you feel?

It’s beautiful. I just wrote the film because it was something I had in my mind and I wanted to get it onto paper. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. Women have called me or they’ve spotted me in the city centre and told me they’ve left their boyfriend because of my film, and that – because of me – they are now in a better place, it’s just amazing!

Q What is next for you when it comes to directing?

I am currently writing two films and I’ll shoot them in November. My next film ‘Victim’ is about knife crime. But it’s not just your typical knife crime film. It’s from the perspective of the families that are losing two boys. One that won’t pass away and the person that is stabbing them. Every film I do I try and raise awareness. But I am doing a comedy film soon because I write comedy sketches. I want to show people that I’m versatile with what I can produce.

To find out when ‘Spite’ is showing at the festival, click on the programme schedule here.

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