Vanessa Black

Photographed by Ben Ritter.
Vanessa Black is a petite and loquacious tomboy with major SoCal vibes, but you’re more likely to find this budding documentary filmmaker trotting with locals in conflict-ridden countries, camera in hand, capturing the political realness of their world, than, say, the beach.
Take, for instance, Black’s #UkraineRising digital series, which launched in March. In it, she examines the lives of Kiev’s young people living in an uncertain future after the fall of the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych one month prior. It’s an alternate look into how the conflict that’s been reported on the news ad nauseam is affecting Ukraine’s young people, drawing incredibly poignant stories that are relatable to other Gen-Yers.
Charged with an insatiable hunger to bring political awareness to the masses, Black isn’t at all nervous about diving into the heart of conflict-torn countries in order to put a human face on the revolutions. To reach fellow millennials, she’s utilizing pop culture avenues as distribution channels for her films, including street art, music, gallery shows, social media, and of course, the Web. Suffice it to say, Vanessa Black has us paying close attention.
Vanessa3.refineryrevlon07101424763Photographed by Ben Ritter.

On my “job title”
“I’m both a filmmaker and activist. I’m definitely more of a filmmaker, but the subject matters I choose inspire my activism. I become close to my subjects and then I want to help, and naturally, film gives attention to an issue. They just go hand in hand.”

What inspires my films
“I’m interested in how revolutions are started by young people who are basically fed up with the status quo. They go online, talk about how they can change things, and take it to the streets. Whether it’s in Egypt or in Ukraine or Venezuela, it’s a lot of young people who want change and I think that’s really inspiring.”


Why I’m drawn to documentaries
“I like hearing real people share real stories about what they’re going through. The cool thing about film is that it’s a medium that connects us. It’s the one art form that really transcends cultures and language barriers. It gets down to why we’re all human.”

What producing #UkraineRising taught me
“The things I’ve witnessed in Ukraine are things I can’t relay to friends at home. I wish that I could. But, you learn a lot about hope and what’s worth fighting for. You learn a lot about what you’re actually capable of, and it’s pretty incredible to think about how, against all odds, this community of people rallied together to get rid of a corrupt president...The people are bringing about real change in their government and their society, and it’s really powerful and so inspiring. But, there was a lot of horror they had to go through to bring about that story.”

Being genuine pays off
“I had to be careful in Ukraine because there were a lot of people who were kidnapped, so they were cautious and didn’t want to be interviewed. But, in any conversation you just sit and feel them out. It comes from a genuine place, and I’m not doing it insincerely. I think they sensed the authenticity when I was filming there. I had this camp that kind of took me under its wing and everyone helped me get interviews by telling people, ‘She’s not like other reporters.’”

How to draw intimacy from a stranger
“Interviewing is kind of about being there for somebody. In life, no matter who you are, you just want someone to be there for you. So, if you’re going to sit and talk to someone about how their friend’s been shot or how they’ve been injured or what they’ve lost, you really need to sit there and be a friend. In interviews, you need to have an open heart and talk to them as a person, not as a subject.”

Vanessa4.refineryrevlon07101424947Photographed by Ben Ritter.
rag & bone blazer and pants, Reformation camisole, Oscar de la Renta heel, Jennifer Fisher cuff, model's own earrings and necklace.
Photographed by Ben Ritter; Makeup by Katie Mellinger; Hair by Adam McClay; Styled by Laura Pritchard.

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