Wilmington native Kiandra Parks is doing what she was born to do. It just took her a while to realize it.
Parks was pursuing a degree in theater when she went to a college football game and spotted Spike Lee on the sidelines. Parks approached the famous filmmaker for advice and the somewhat startled Lee steered her to the acclaimed Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, where he works as a professor and artistic director of the graduate film program.
After earning her undergrad degree, Parks studied filmmaking in New York and Paris. Finally, five years after graduating, she decided to follow Lee’s advice.
“I found out it was the best film school on the planet,” Parks says. “I got in and said, ‘It must mean I’m a little bit good at something.’”
Parks became fascinated with Paris and the French New Wave film movement after reading “Black Girl in Paris” by Shay Youngblood and watching “The Josephine Baker Story” on TV. So, two months after graduating from NYU, she optioned the book rights from Youngblood, took some friends to the City of Light and made a short film.
“Black Girl in Paris” was screened at the American Black Film Festival and was one of five films picked to receive a licensed distribution deal with HBO. It airs this month as part of HBO’s Black History Month lineup.
Parks has been focusing on her work as a writer, director and producer, but she will also tackle the starring role in her next film. “C’est La Vie,” a project that will launch early this year, is a romantic comedy set—where else?—in Paris.
Despite her recent success, Parks remains humble.
“I’m relatively very unknown,” she says with a laugh. “I’m at the very, very beginning of what I would like to think is a burgeoning film career.” (blackgirlproductions.com)