Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Joslyn Rose Lyons: Media with a Message

Written by Annabelle Lawton

Award winning filmmaker Joslyn Rose Lyons and her Bay Area based independent film house, Jog9, are focused on creating “media with a message.” Working for over ten years in the industry, Joslyn has followed her passion and directed/produced various music videos, short films, television episodes, and a full-length documentary that highlights the journey and significance of the creative process.

Through films such as The Blue Rose and Soundz of Spirit, JOG9 expresses how important it is to find a passion and pursue it.  Joslyn and her crew are currently working on a documentary titled Within the Creative Journey that aims to highlight the different artistic perspectives of various actors, authors, and musicians.  I have had the opportunity to work with Joslyn as a Production Assistant for JOG9 and can confidently say her dedication to film is reflected truthfully within each project.

Annabelle: I want to find out about your first directing experience.  How and when did this happen?

Joslyn: It’s hard to say where something began, but I guess there are two answers.  There is the creative and spiritual beginning and the logistical and technical one.  As far as my creative start, when I was nine or ten years old, I told my mom that I was going to be a filmmaker.  I wrote my first screenplay back then. I drew characters, titled it, and wrote the story.  It was always something I knew I was meant to do.

Logistically, I started college at California College of the Arts.  I realized that my interest was not just 3D visuals; I was doing a lot of sculptural work there.  They had an interesting Media Arts department that was very hands on.  I wasn’t able to explore my interests in television and film production, so I transferred to Hayward State.  Their television department gave me the opportunity to work in a studio and create my own major: Visual and Conceptual Creative Expression.  It was a combination of Media Arts, Visual Arts, Television Production, Creative Writing, Screenwriting, and eventually Film Theory.  I eventually transferred to UC Berkeley and finished there in Film Theory.  I had a production internship while in college and was able to use the credits while at his company towards my major.  While I was interning, I started working on a documentary of my own after shadowing the professors at the company.  I watched every single thing the directors and producers around me did, took those skills and started producing and directing my first feature documentary film, Soundz of Spirit.

Annabelle: What inspires your work and where does your creativity spawn?

Joslyn:  I think that the creative process in and of itself as a story is very inspiring.  My mom, she’s an artist.  Growing up, I would watch her making sculptures, fountains, and paintings, things like that.  In our culture, we move so fast and don’t value the journey as much as we do the destination or end result.  I’m very drawn to and inspired by the creative process.  I’m very much a student of the art of storytelling.  I think the key to our own spiritual growth as a culture is honoring the art of storytelling.  That’s where our lessons, messages, evolution can be passed down from.  Whether it’s hip-hop and a song we love, a movie, or a play.  Those stories, to me, are so much apart of what makes our life rich.

Annabelle: Where did you grow up?

Joslyn: I grew up with my mother in Oakland and Berkeley.  We moved a lot when I was a kid.  I used to volunteer at the La Pena Cultural Center on the weekends, where I met a lot of hip-hop artists. That’s where I started making my first documentary, interviewing artists at the community center.

Annabelle:  Keeping things local, you’re the first women to direct music videos with Bay Area rapper e-40, right?

Joslyn: Right.

Annabelle: Was there something significant you learned from that experience?

You can only compare yourself to your latest work or your last project. Measure how well you did in relation to your last time working. Remember that, and stay inspired. If you believe in your work, others will too.

Joslyn:  It was a really fun opportunity working with 40.  He was very light-hearted about his work; he’s a total natural and professional on camera.  He made directing very easy because he’s a veteran and I appreciated his willingness to allow me to truly direct.  I’ve worked with a lot of artists where that’s not always the case, but 40 allowed me that space to be a filmmaker.  That was a dope process because that’s what I think every director wants—the ability to exercise and create.

Annabelle: Apart from e-40, who has been the most entertaining client you’ve worked with other the years?

Joslyn: Cee Lo Green.  Definitely, hands down the most entertaining.  We had so much fun working together.

Annabelle: What did you guys do together?

Joslyn: I directed a short film with him.  It was based on a feature film that I’m in pre-prodution on right now called Destiny.  After I interviewed Cee Lo for Soundz of Spirit, we stayed in touch and I wanted to work with him again.  He came out from Atlanta with his manager after he read the script.  He was a total character.  Could not have asked for a better experience and a better friend.  He’s just a really inspiring person.

I’ll never forget this one line he said.  In the script, it was “Are you the dreamer, or are you the dream?”  That was the line.  I remember on take five or six, he added a line.  I’ll never forget because it was brilliant.  It was “Are you the dreamer or are you the dream? Either way you gotta wake up!”  It was so perfect, so Cee Lo.

Annabelle: While I’ve been on set with you, I’ve noticed that you’re conscious of what you eat and drink throughout the day.  What are some of these health practices that you follow? Can you explain why it’s important to you and your work?

Joslyn:  I have to commend you for that question!  I’m interested in the slow food movement, I always have been.  As I’ve gotten older I feel it’s an important commitment to have.  Slow food is eating seasonal, local, and organic as much as possible.  I am a firm believer that what you eat is like who you are.  That life force you get from eating real food totally impacts your ability to do great, be present, and feel grounded.  If I’m eating right, I’ll have much more energy on a set.  It’s very important and a huge part of being able to be creative is having that clarity with what you put into your body.

Annabelle: I know in Berkeley and Oakland eating well is prevalent right now.  They have organic café’s and farmers markets available that make it easier for us to come by.

Joslyn: It’s a blessing.  When I was out it New York, it was hard.  I spent a good amount of time living out in Spanish Harlem after the premiere of my first documentary.  It was difficult because I would walk through Harlem and I couldn’t find a lot of spots I was used to seeing in Oakland or Berkeley.  But the great thing about New York is you eventually find them.  There’s amazing food out there, you just need to know where to go.  We’re blessed in Northern California and Los Angeles too because we do have a lot of great spots.

People tend to think eating well is more expensive than eating poorly, but that’s actually completely false!  You can buy a bag of organic black beans, rice, and veggies and save a whole bunch of money while having way more nutritional value in your body.

Annabelle: Speaking of New York, have you done a bunch of traveling while you’ve been directing? Where have you been? Is there anywhere you’d like to see?

Joslyn:  I haven’t traveled too much.  I’ve worked mostly in L.A. and New York.  I’ve spent some time in Vancouver and it’s probably one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to.  It is so pretty there!  I love working in the Bay, I really do.  I think New York is great, I think L.A. is wonderful, but the Bay is just very supportive of the creative and collaborative spirit that’s hard to find in other places.  I don’t have anywhere specific in mind that I’d like to work in or travel to.  I’ve never been that way; I’m more like a homebody.  I think part of it is I have a real deep affinity for the Bay Area.  That’s why I always come back here to work!

Annabelle: That’s so admirable!  What has been one of the most rewarding experiences since you’ve started directing?

Joslyn:  Hmm.  I don’t know that I can say just one experience, but I do know that I’ve received e-mails over the years from various filmmakers.  There was this one filmmaker down in L.A. that was in school who wrote to me a couple years ago.  He wrote to me out of nowhere, I guess he had seen some of my work.  He told me that I inspired him to pursue his dreams on a whole other level.  I think those kinds of messages from people are rewarding because they make you feel like you’re on the right path.  I have brought people on to set who don’t have much film experience but are interested in learning something new.  It can be so rewarding passing the torch along and sharing knowledge or networks with those around you.  You can see how easily inspiration can spread.

Annabelle: What are the projects you’re working on currently? You mentioned Destiny was one, the full-length film?

Joslyn: Yeah. I’m working on some music videos, just talking to some artists right now.  The music video opportunities are unfolding.  I just wrapped some stuff with BET Network, I’m helping produce a show called Tribute to Gospel with Della Reese and Al Sharpton.  For my own work, I’m doing a documentary called Within the Creative Journey.  So far, I’ve interviewed some interesting activists and actors.  It’s not just hip-hop or the arts; it’s writers and musicians, as well.  That’s in production right now.  I’m also producing some content for Black Music Month with Yahoo! Music.  Hopefully some more inspiring projects will be coming through soon!

Annabelle: One last thing! Do you have any advice for young women looking to make their way into cinema?

Joslyn:  Believe in yourself.  Believe in your dream.  If you believe in it, no one can stop you.  The truth is that it’s easy to compare yourself to other people and their accomplishments, but you can’t compare yourself to anyone.  You can only compare yourself to your latest work or your last project.  Measure how well you did in relation to your last time working.  Remember that, and stay inspired.  If you believe in your work, others will too.


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