Nngest Likké’s feature film Everything But a Man, starring Camille Winbush, Jimmy Jean-Louis, and Monica Calhoun, will make it’s world premiere in the Narrative “Features In Competition category at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF). This romantic dramedy follows a self-made, African-American career woman (Calhoun) who despite all her material success is a failure when it comes to men. But after a romantic encounter with a mysterious French-speaking black man (Jean-Louis) from another country, his radical lifestyle differences shake up her world and challenge her perspective on love, relationships and what it means to be a ‘strong’ woman. Tickets for this film can be purchased HERE.
Likké began her film career in 1993 when she moved to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting. Eventually she got her first writing gig as a writer and producer on the reality TV show Blind Date. Likké then went on to write and direct her first feature, Phat Girlz, starring Academy Award winning actress Mo’Nique which went on to earn close to $6.5 million. Since then, Likké has helmed compelling international films in both Africa and Europe.
HBR Media had the pleasure of speaking with Likké about her latest film Everything But a Man.
HBR: In your own words, what is Everything But a Man About?
Likké: The story is about a single, successful, strong black woman who has achieved great levels of success in her career, yet has found it difficult to find love. Through this film, we explore her journey of looking for love, which leads to her journey towards valuing self-love over romantic love.
Many strong women have developed the qualities needed to survive and prosper professionally; however, these same qualities become a liability when they are transferred into a relationship. Women are often expected to be the ultimate homemaker, and when they are forced to loose some of the muscle that they have acquired in a professional environment, complications arise in the romantic environment.
HBR: What was the inspiration behind this film?
Likké: I wanted to make a story about the complex reasons why so many successful black women are single. We usually hear that the reason is due to a “black man shortage,” and we also hear that it’s because “black women are angry.” My goal was to develop a story that addresses these conversations in an entertaining and engaging way.
HBR: Do you feel as though successful women working in film and television face the same pressures as successful women working in corporate America?
Likké: Women working in film and television certainly face those pressures because we are our own bosses most of the time. To blaze a trail in media, you have to be extremely driven to cut though the noise and make an impact. This imperative drive is metaphorically a testosterone drive that can be carried from a workspace into a relationship, which can be challenging.
This film revolves around the complicated dynamics between men and successful black women, and it serves as entertaining social commentary. The beauty of being a filmmaker is that we can take issues that are happening in the world and bring them to screen in an engaging and entertaining way.
HBR: What are some of the challenges that you have faced being a successful woman of color working in film and television?
Likké: The biggest challenge revolves around the lack of available opportunities when it comes to telling the types of stories that we want to tell. When it comes to telling stories about black women, we are virtually invisible. If I directed a successful film in the X-Men franchise, the fact that I am a black woman would not be a hindrance. If I wanted to tell a story about black people, despite proven statistics that black films do extremely well at the box office, I would more than likely receive the following response: “We don’t know if that type of story will do well, and we don’t want to take a chance on something like that.” This is the reason that we must tell our stories independently. If we don’t do it ourselves, our stories will rarely be told.
HBR: Is this the reason that you decided to make Everything But a Man independently?
Likké: I’ve pitched stories to studios with black women leads, and I haven’t gotten anywhere. Fox Searchlight distributed my first film, Phat Girlz, and it did pretty well. After Phat Girlz, I assumed that I would have jobs lined up, but that didn’t happen because Hollywood expected the box office numbers to be three times higher than what they actually were. In Hollywood, you can’t just be successful, you have to be mega successful in order for studios to come knocking down your door. When the offers weren’t coming in, I went to Africa and France to make films.
HBR: How was the experience working abroad vs. working domestically? Was it easier to get your films financed abroad?
Likké: I loved working abroad! It was easier to get financing there because you are a big fish in a little pond, and American stories are valued overseas.
Africa doesn’t have a whole lot of money, but they are inclined to give their money to an American who wants to work there because we are a major asset to them and bring knowledge and experience that they haven’t acquire yet. There is more money readily available there than it is here; however, there is nothing better than working home. I hope that this film will catch on with audiences here in America first and then spread outwards.
HBR: What would you like the audience to take away from the film?
Likké: I would love for this film to start a conversation about why there are so many single successful black women, and I would like for the audience, especially women, to fall in love with themselves all over again.
HBR: Do you have any advice for young up and coming filmmakers?
Likké: Do it yourself. Even if you don’t have a million dollars, you have an iphone. If you tell a compelling story it will find an audience. Spend time focusing on your story and your craft, and develop content that people haven’t seen before. If your story is strong, you will get attention, and the money and other opportunities will come.
Screening Time/Date: June 16th @ 11:00am & June 17th @ 4:55pm Tickets can be found HERE