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Lights, Camera, Action, and Black Girl Magic!


Vonnetta Cornish, who started her career in corporate communications, has established herself as a film mogul by creating her own media company, Cine30Media. Her films, "The Exit Row" and "Bachelorette Degree," have garnered rave reviews. In 2015, she was nominated for eight awards in seven categories at the World Music and Independent Film Festival and won three. Cornish strives to make her media empire a powerhouse by producing films that address real-life situations that challenge viewers to think outside the box. Her films are now available for streaming on platforms such as VUDU, Prime Video, Tubi, and Peacock.


What made you fall in love with filmmaking?

Growing up, I always enjoyed reading and writing. I loved spending hours reading novels and being a part of where those long-form stories could take you, exploring the characters as their worlds unfolded. I knew very early on, too, that I would be a writer. For me, it was a matter of figuring out where I wanted to channel my writing so that I could get on the path to doing it. Then, when I was 14, I saw “Do the Right Thing,” and I knew from that moment that I would write for a film. I wanted my writing to move people the way that film moved me.


As a filmmaker who has received recognition for both screenwriting and

other awards related to my films, could you share your perspective on the unique challenges and rewards

of wearing multiple hats in the filmmaking process?

As a filmmaker, wearing multiple hats comes naturally in many ways. For example, as a writer, I

naturally have a clear vision of where I want to see a story go. So, that makes it easy for me to

fall into being a script supervisor and an assistant director. On top of that, having the ability to manage a production and pull it all together makes it easy for me to automatically fall into a producer role. That said, I value tremendously all the roles needed to pull off a movie successfully. I always seek to have someone else be the director because playing too many roles would create too much of a burden for me and could lead to a degree of tunnel vision. A movie needs others’ visions to come into play, not just mine. The reward for me in playing multiple roles is that I know I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure the movie gets to completion. In particular, for “The Exit Row” I wore more hats than initially intended because we started filming when the first round of re-openings began during the COVID-19 pandemic and my goal was to keep the crew smaller to minimize the number of people on set.


You transitioned from a career in corporate communications to pursue your

passion for filmmaking. What motivated this change, and how has your

background in communications influenced your work in the entertainment

industry?

The change for me was motivated by the fact that I simply missed filmmaking. I had been

writing all along – because no matter what, that’s just something I can’t turn off – but I’d

reached a place where I was ready to tell stories of my own. It was that innate creative fuel that

was driving me, and I was ready to shift into a place where I could do that. So, I created that

space. My background in communications has influenced my work in the entertainment industry

because in many ways my skill set and values, work ethic are the same – being able to engage

with people and enjoy doing so, creating and delivering good work, being accountable,

dependable, pushing to get it done, being able to articulate a clear vision and work with a team

to see it through. Knowing the bottom line is also important. My background in communications also has influenced my work in the entertainment industry because it’s a reminder that we are multi-dimensional, ever-growing people. We don’t have to stay on the same path we started 10 or 20 years ago or be limited to just that path. We can and should evolve to embrace the fullness of who we are and what we have within to bring forth into the world.


Your debut feature film, “Bachelorette’s Degree,” garnered critical acclaim and

won multiple awards at the World Music & Independent Film Festival. What

challenges did you face as a first-time filmmaker, and how did this experience

shape your approach to future projects?

With “Bachelorette’s Degree,” I started out not knowing a lot of the individuals who would

eventually become cast and crew members. It wasn’t intimidating at all; it was just a matter of

starting to make those connections by putting outcast/crew notices and attending other local

film premieres. It was a very welcome part of the process that I was ready for. I recall telling

some family and friends, “Hey, I’m going to be a little MIA for a bit because I’m getting ready to

do this.” As a result of executive producing “Bachelorette’s Degree,” I’ve met many talented creatives,

some of whom I worked with again on “The Exit Row,” one person was our cinematographer.

When I was gearing up for “The Exit Row,” we had in-depth conversations about what I wanted

to accomplish with “The Exit Row, so having such a trusted key person onboard early in the

process was valuable. The same has occurred with “The Exit Row.” I had the pleasure of working

with many talented cast and crew members who I look forward to working with again.


What was the idea behind your latest film “The Exit Row?”

My idea for “The Exit Row” stems from what I wanted to see in the female lead character as

compared to “Bachelorette’s Degree.” Specifically, in “Bachelorette’s Degree,” the main

character has control of the situations in her career and love life. All she had to do was choose

which direction she wanted to go. For “The Exit Row,” I wanted the main character, a female

lead, to go through something that wasn’t her fault and was beyond her control so that she

would have to find her way through it to become victorious. From there, I began to develop the

Sasha Dade's character creates a world that would lead to the scenarios and outcomes we see

in “The Exit Row.”


Who would you say your top 3 favorite directors are?

My top three directors are:

Spike Lee – He is the reason I’m a filmmaker today. He’s a teacher, historian, and activist, and

cares deeply about the craft of filmmaking. He also creates the most memorable characters in a

way only he can do.

David Fincher – I’m still blown away by the movie, “Gone Girl.” His vision and the remarkable

cinematography in this psychologically heavy movie are so well done. It’s such a visual work of

art.

Ava DuVernay – Ava is such an incredible contemporary visionary whose work is not limited

to just one genre. She has delivered time and time again, bringing diverse voices to the screen as

well as behind the camera.



As a black woman in filmmaking, what challenges have you faced with trying to

produce your own work?

Fortunately, I haven’t faced any significant challenges in producing my films. That could, in part,

be because I chose to self-finance my two feature films to date. So, having to ask for certain

resources or wait for someone else to make certain decisions didn’t exist as I set out to produce

“Bachelorette’s Degree” and “The Exit Row.”


Cine30 Media is a powerhouse created by you. What is the overall vision with

the company?

My vision for Cine30 Media is to continue producing high-quality original feature films and

elevate each time. I also look forward to being a producing partner with other production

companies or studios in the future.


You were honored with the “Best Written Work” Award and a WMIFF Award.

What advice would you give to other screenwriters who may struggle with finding

their niche or genre when it comes to putting together a project?

My advice for other screenwriters is to write from what you know and write from an authentic

place. Those two things will lead you. When I say write from what you know, it’s not that a

person will have lived every single experience they are going to write about, but it means there

likely will be some level of exposure to certain experiences that give you enough perspective to

write a meaningful story. If you add to that research and your natural creativity, there’s no

stopping you. A story will fall into a genre automatically based on how you envision it, you don’t have to force

it.


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