One of the key figures attending the Durban FilmMart this year, Tilane Jones is the executive director of ARRAY, the film distribution collaborative founded by Oscar-winner Ava DuVernay which is focused on women filmmakers and filmmakers of colour. Since 2011, Array has acquired key titles, including Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere, Andrew Dosunmu’s Restless City and Haile Gerima’s Ashes and Embers. In the process, Jones has shifted the position of films made by women and people of colour, bringing an audience to films that would otherwise struggle to find screens. As well as her position at Array, Jones is also a production manager with several high-profile titles to her name, including a range of fashion and beauty films and television productions.
Talking about her first visit to South Africa and her engagement with the local film market, Jones says that she hopes to inspire and encourage women to overcome the challenges they face on the continent as women filmmakers. “I want to let women filmmakers know that there is an audience that is hungry for stories told from their perspective. ARRAY has worked hard to cultivate that audience and we are eagerly awaiting them and their films.”
Tilane will also be meeting with local women filmmakers to find out what their needs are and what hurdles they need to overcome, in order to better inform herself on how she might be able to inspire and encourage them in the important work that they are doing. “I am very excited about my first visit to South Africa and the Durban FilmMart”, she said, “and I look forward to meeting with emerging filmmakers from the continent, with the aim of acquiring more African titles to be distributed in the United States”.
Asked about whether there was a defining moment when she had cut through the barriers that traditionally held women back from being major players in the global film industry, Jones takes a somewhat pragmatic approach. “There always have been and always will be barriers to break through as a woman and person of colour. But the task of breaking those barriers will never end, so instead I focus on trying to acquire films by women filmmakers and filmmakers of colour that, one by one, break a barrier just by existing and being seen by audiences. There are many audiences that would not have been able to experience this art form if it weren’t for ARRAY and our partners. I focus my efforts on the work more than on breaking barriers.”
Talking about women in the industry who have inspired her, Jones says that she is motivated to continue her work by every woman filmmaker and producer who creates complex, dynamic images. Of those women, ARRAY founder, Ava DuVernay is a key inspiration to her– “Due to her amazing storytelling ability, for loving herself as a black woman and a black woman filmmaker who tells stories from her own unique perspective, for being passionate about her culture, and for being passionate about film. Ava is always pushing past the ‘no’ and finding her own ‘yes’ and that inspires me more than anything.”
Finally, does she have any advice for young female film-makers just starting out as to how they can cut through the clutter in an industry that is still male-dominated? “I always tell filmmakers to tell their own stories and to tell them well. Being a woman filmmaker and telling stories from a women’s perspective is all that needs to be done to cut through the clutter. Don’t focus on the noise – it is there to distract you. Focus on the story and telling it to the best of your capability. “
Jones will appear on a panel entitled ‘Women-led Film: In Conversation with Tilane Jones’ on Friday 14 July 14h00 – 16h00.
The 8th Durban FilmMart takes place in Durban, at the Tsogo Sun Elangeni from 14 to 17 July 2017, during the 38th edition of the Durban International Film Festival (13-23 July 2017).
For more information on the Durban FilmMart visit www.durbanfilmmart.com. Registration can now only be done at Elangeni Hotel from 9am on Thursday, July 13.