Airing on HBO in February 2015, the short film Muted sheds light on what happens in our country when you are missing and you happen to be African American. The film highlights how children of color are given just a fraction of the media exposure and law enforcement support that missing White children receive.
Emmy-nominated actress Chandra Wilson plays a mother struggling with the harsh reality of trying to get law enforcement support and media exposure when her teenager goes missing. The film is based on a fictionally story but accurately depicts the reality that countless American families face.
The Kickstarter funded film is directed by Rachel Goldberg, written and produced by Brandi Ford, and also produced by Tara Tomicevic. Earning critical acclaim, the film received HBO’s Short Film Award at this year’s American Black Film Festival.
Check out my interview with producing partners Tara Tomicevic and Brandi Ford, the forces behind Muted.
I think what you and your team are doing is far more than a film. How do you view Muted and the impact it can have on others?
Tara Tomicevic: Muted is a fictional narrative written by my producing partner, Brandi Ford, based on the all-too-real phenomenon that not all missing children are created equal. The media is a business and therefore is selective in who is deemed “newsworthy”. Unfortunately, that is a very narrow segment of society—“upper middle class white women” (Wikipedia: “Missing White Woman Syndrome). We hope that the film will open eyes and grab hearts.
Who do you want to see this film, and what are you hoping they takeaway from it?
Tara Tomicevic: We want Muted to reach as far of an audience as possible, and particularly those demographics who are not affected and therefore are unlikely to be aware of this issue. We hope the takeaway is awareness of the discrepancy and an initiative to beget change.
Are you concerned at all that those who need to see the film the most won’t take the time to see it? How can we combat that possibility?
Tara Tomicevic: As filmmakers, what we can do is push the film far and wide across film festivals and distribution channels and reach as many as possible. We will begin airing on HBO in February and we hope that platform will augment our mission. And of course, wonderfully supportive people like you are key in reaching new audiences.
How can the average person support the film and spread the word about Muted and the unfortunate facts that inspired the film?
Tara Tomicevic: Anyone can spread the word about Muted via social media. We were overjoyed and very grateful to see that our interview with The Grio was shared from their Facebook page almost 2000 times!
Brandi Ford: When the time comes for the feature to be released we’ll need as many people as possible to support it by going to see it and taking a friend. It will take some time to get to that point, so in the meantime they can support by liking our FB page (www.facebook.com/mutedthemovie) so that they are able to stay updated.
Have you been approached by families of color who have (or had) a child missing? If so, what was that exchange like for you?
Brandi Ford: We’ve been in contact with 2 families so far and it’s very delicate. Since we have a little bit of a platform right now we certainly want to use that to shed more light on the real people who are going through this but at the same time we want to respect their wishes if they’re not ready to be reminded of something that is so deeply personal and tragic and real in their lives. In a word, it’s been sobering.
What would you ultimately like to see happen as a result of this film?
Tara Tomicevic: We hope to raise awareness of this often overlooked issue and gradually create change. Specifically, we want to create a medium through which discussion can be spurred and this tragic phenomenon can begin to dissipate.
Brandi Ford: We’ve been approached by 2 college professors at different schools requesting to use the short in their curriculum. I’d love for the film to ultimately be included in training materials for both law enforcement and media personnel, but short of that, yes if it helps to open the eyes of anyone who didn’t realize this issue existed before then I’ll be happy.
What was your experience, as an actress and as a producer, working with the wonderful Chandra Wilson and Malcolm Jamal Warner?
Tara Tomicevic: A dream. Kind, humble, team players and beyond talented, Chandra and Malcolm and the entire cast were everything we hoped they’d be and more. Being opposite Chandra in one of the final scenes was a monumental moment for me and her demeanor (and amazing laugh!) made the scene so comfortable and natural. I woke up the morning after our shoot and was melancholy about no longer spending entire days with this incredible team.
Brandi Ford: Honestly the entire cast came with their A-game and were all wonderful to work with and Chandra and Malcolm definitely set the example on that front. Being on-set was hands-down the best experience of the entire process.
As black mother of two, this film covers an issue that I find troubling beyond words. How can families of color do more to change the disturbing facts about what happens when our children go missing?
Tara Tomicevic: People can visit and support organizations like blackandmissing.com and blackandmissinginc.com, which are dedicated to providing a voice to families experiencing this tragedy.
Brandi Ford: As a black mother of 3 boys (who statistically receive the least amount of coverage when they disappear) it’s incredibly troubling. Like Tara said, supporting those two non-profits by sharing the photos of people who have gone missing certainly helps. And if you’ve heard about a person of color who has gone missing in your city but haven’t seen any news coverage on it, you can certainly call, email, tweet or use Facebook to contact these outlets so that they know that this is news that’s important to their readers/viewers.
Congratulations on the HBO/ABFF short film award. What’s next for Muted and what can people do to show continue support?
Tara Tomicevic: Thanks very much! The short is just beginning its festival run and will begin airing on HBO in February.
Brandi Ford: Concurrently, we are polishing the feature-length version of Muted and will be pitching to a few production companies soon and seeking investors if need be.