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A short drama about a girl who wears her afro to school and must deal with the unexpected consequences.
A short drama about a girl who wears her afro to school and must deal with the unexpected consequences.
337 backers pledged CA$ 20,841 to help bring this project to life.

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CA$ 20,841

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PICK is a short, fictional drama about Alliyah, an 11-year-old girl who wears her afro to school for the first time, on picture day. The film follows her as she deals with subtle racist comments and microaggressions. Eventually, it comes time to take her personal photo. Alliyah is faced with the decision of wearing her hair in its natural state or tying it up.

Set photo by Kurtis Chen
Set photo by Kurtis Chen

Based on real conversations and events, the film will challenge the viewer to reflect on their role as a bystander, or even a perpetrator, of these common microaggressions in their own lives. A microaggression is a subtle, offensive comment or action directed at a minority or marginalized group, that is often unintentional or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype.

We are currently in post-production on the film, which we successfully shot in February!

Top right photo by Augustin Moga. Other photos by Kurtis Chen.
Top right photo by Augustin Moga. Other photos by Kurtis Chen.

The film does not feature Alliyah’s face, turning the viewer into a bystander, observing and overhearing. Her immediate reactions are not shown, forcing the viewer to empathize. Silhouette lighting, creative angles and composition are used to hide her face. In the final shot, Alliyah takes her personal portrait. Her face is revealed for the first time, along with her decision about whether to wear her afro or to tie it up.

Concept art by Kadrah Mensah
Concept art by Kadrah Mensah

The colours in the film are carefully selected for each space and character. Mint green (representing healing) and yellow (representing light) will be be associated with Alliyah’s safe spaces in the film. Red will be associated with her aggressors and the spaces where she feels most threatened. Alliyah is the only character in the film wearing white, representing her innocence.

Our total budget is $50,000 and thanks to our sponsors, we’ve already raised $30,000! We have been very fortunate to receive support from many, including the Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, The National Film Board of Canada, Children's Peace Theatre, Deluxe Toronto, William F. Whites International Inc, the Faculty of Communications & Design: Dean’s Office and President’s Office at our alma mater Ryerson University.

Thanks to all our sponsors and many fundraising efforts, we were able to cover the film’s production expenses. We have already shot the film, but now we need your help to get through post-production, covering costs like music composition, colour correction, sound mixing, and more. This campaign will also cover our festival submissions, which are instrumental in ensuring that this film reaches audiences all over the world! 

The second half of our Kickstarter goal is dedicated to paying our key creatives, who deferred their fees to ensure we had enough money to pay for our production costs. For over a year, they have worked tirelessly to bring this film to life. Their passion and support has been invaluable to the success of this film! Our key creatives are part of our overall team of 45 talented crew members, 25 background talent and 8 actors that we employed for our 3 day shoot. It is important to us to pay our team for their hard work!

Historically, "good hair" meant straight hair because black women who were enslaved were not allowed to wear and show their natural hair. This idea, stemming from colonialism, is still being reinforced today, and has resulted in countless instances of black women and girls being discriminated against because of our hair.

Zulaikha Patel and other protestors at Pretoria Girls High School, fighting against racist hair policies.
Zulaikha Patel and other protestors at Pretoria Girls High School, fighting against racist hair policies.
  • At Pretoria school in South Africa, the administration attempted to ban afros, prompting protests led by 13-year-old girls who simply wanted to wear their natural hair proudly. 
  • A Toronto principal sent a young girl home because her afro was "too poofy" and "unprofessional."
  • When Vanessa Vandyke was being bullied for her "puffy hair," school administrators told her parents that unless her hair was straightened or cut, she would be expelled from the school. 
  • Tayjha Deleveaux and others were told by officials that their natural hair was "untidy" and didn’t look like a "school girl hairstyle," before being threatened with suspension from their school in the Bahamas.
  • Nicole Orr was told to "get her hair done" because her natural hair did not fit the "neat and organized look" of the school.

Unfortunately, there are countless stories like this. The lack of positive representation of black women and our natural hairstyles in the mainstream media has created a lot of ignorance about black hair. By exposing the discrimination black women face daily, PICK hopes to begin to break the stigma that surrounds black women’s natural hair. Black hair is bold and beautiful.

You want to promote a peaceful, more inclusive society. This film will shed light on a stigmatized topic - black natural hair - and allow others to empathize with an issue they may not have been aware of previously. We have all felt like the “Other,” or an outsider, at some point in our lives. This film will bring us one step closer to understanding one another, promoting a more inclusive society.

You want to celebrate the unique beauty of black women. This film showcases one of our most unique traits, our natural hair, also known as our crowns. Unfortunately, black women make up only 16% of female characters. Black women are rarely portrayed as regular individuals living their lives, but often portrayed as stereotypes, maids or enslaved women. Alliyah is ALL of us, and will be a character that black women and girls can relate to.

You want to support marginalized artists in indie film. The stories of black women and girls, and marginalized people in general, have been neglected by the film industry. The industry is very uneven. Of the top-grossing films over the past decade, only 8% were directed by people of colour and less than 1% were women of colour. We need your support to prove that our stories are important and there is indeed an audience for marginalized stories, and there always has been.

You want to help educate the next generation. We intend to screen the film at festivals worldwide. We will also be developing a teaching guide and anti-racism workshop to accompany community and school screenings of the film, in hopes to teach children and youth about the impact of microaggressions.

You want some awesome perks! To thank you for your support we have some great perks, including a copy of the film, t-shirt and tote bag with our tagline PICK EMPATHY OVER APATHY, an executive producer credit with an engraved pen, and more. Kickstarter is ALL or NOTHING, so even the smallest donation helps!

Our perks are named after some black, bold, beautiful black women and their hairstyles, including some of our heroes and the strong black women in Alicia (Director) and Venessa (Producer)’s family.

Our featured perk is a magical ART PRINT by Omoyemwen Sarah Iserhienrhien! Framed by her words, “A vessel for more than this… She realized exactly how much watering her roots needed and vowed to never settle for less” this print embodies the spirit of PICK… a future where black women are free to bask in our light, glow and grow, without persecution.

Art by Omoyemwen Sarah Iserhienrhien
Art by Omoyemwen Sarah Iserhienrhien

We've been so lucky to have to have some of the best emerging and established talent star in this film! Hazel Downey, Maria Moga, Deragh Campbell, Danielle Smith, Jessica Danov, Robert Blake, Phyola James and Emil Glassbourg bring PICK to life with their honest, compelling performances.

Photo by Dominique van Olm
Photo by Dominique van Olm

Left to Right: Rebeca Ortiz (Producer), Nehnika Williams (Hair & Make Up Artist), Tess Sorochan-Ruland (Production Designer), Amanda Ann-Min Wong (Sound Designer), Venessa Harris (Producer), Kathryn Lyons (Editor), Ann Tipper (Cinematographer), Lori Atik (Costume Designer) & Alicia K. Harris (Writer/Director/Producer).

ALICIA K. HARRIS (Writer/Director) & REBECA ORTIZ (Producer) graduated from Ryerson University, where they first collaborated on LOVE STINKS and won BEST FILM, BEST DIRECTOR and the PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD at Ryerson’s year-end festival. Funded by Kickstarter, the film has been screened at numerous festivals, winning awards at several, including BEST STUDENT PRODUCTION (Yorkton Film Festival). Their films have been broadcast on CBC, TVO, Bell Fibe TV1 and at festivals all over the world. They are the co-founders of SUGAR GLASS FILMS, dedicated to creating films about women and marginalized groups.

VENESSA HARRIS (Producer) is an Arts Administrator and creative. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in Arts Management & a minor in Media Studies in 2015, and has since held multiple roles within the Toronto arts community. She has a passion for researching and writing about issues surrounding marginalized communities.

ANN TIPPER (Cinematographer) is an award-winning cinematographer who has worked in independent film for nearly a decade. Since graduating from Ryerson University, Ann has been working across Canada and around the world in many formats and multiple genres. Her latest project is the narrative feature M/M, which premiered at Slamdance 2018.

TESS SOROCHAN-RULAND (Production Designer) is a production designer and art director based in Toronto. She graduated from Ryerson University with a BFA in Film Studies, a Certificate in Design for Arts & Entertainment, and a certification in Advanced 3D Auto-Cad Design. Her most recent projects include production design for the music video Bakermat - Don't Want You Back ft. Kiesza, and the Heritage Minute: Lucy Maud Montgomery.

KATHRYN LYONS (Editor) is a Toronto based editor and graduate of Ryerson University's Film Studies program. She's spent the past few years working as an assistant editor, and finds her passion editing short films and independent projects. Her work has included narrative and documentary shorts, experimental films, animations, and video components of theatrical productions.

CTV NEWS (TV Interview): Twin sister filmmakers in Toronto are trying to straighten out the misconceptions about black women's hair 

The Toronto Star: New short film PICK aims to straighten out misconceptions about Black women’s hair

ESSENCE: This Short Film Examines How Young Black Girls Navigate Biases Around Their Hair

AFROPUNK: Nappy & Natural: The Women in this Empowering Short Denounce Hair Discrimination

Women & Hollywood: Addressing Adversity

ByBlacks: PICK: More Than Just A Hair Story

This is Worldtown: Bold and Beautiful: This Short Film is Breaking the Stigma Surrounding Black Hair

Super Selected: A Young Girl Faces Mixed Reactions When She Decides to Wear Her Afro To School  

The Mother Load Podcast: Eps. 209: Alicia K. Harris & PICK

Download our press kit.

My mom would sit on the couch, I’d sit on the floor between her legs. I’d watch TV as she detangled my afro with a pick. She’d pull huge clumps of hair from it, but my afro remained unchanged. I liked that about it. An hour of groaning later, I’d have my braided hairstyle for the week. As I got older, my hair became a huge source of frustration and insecurity. All of the “pretty girls” in the media were white and had long hair. I never saw the pretty girl depicted as a person of colour, or with an afro. The pretty girl never looked like me.

When I was 11, I had my afro chemically and permanently straightened. After 12 years of straightening and manipulation, my hair was weak, damaged, and constantly breaking - but I am none of those things. While making this film, I slowly began to realize that this straight, breaking hair no longer represented me. So I cut it all off. Now I have my afro back. It’s big, coily, and unique, and it’s mine. At 25, I’ve returned to my authentic self, but I still vividly remember the emotional and physical pain felt by the 11-year-old girl who inspired the character of Alliyah. The girl who’d sit in that salon chair till her scalp burned from the relaxer chemicals, just so she could look like everyone else. Because she didn’t feel pretty. I am making this film for her. -Alicia K. Harris

We understand if you are unable to make a financial contribution to help us reach our goal. But if you are interested in PICK, there are plenty of other ways you can support the project:

1. Spread the word! Let your friends and family know about the film! Download some promotional materials, as well as helpful hints and tips for posting about the film and campaign!
2. Like us on Facebook and invite your friends: www.facebook.com/PICK2017
3. Follow us on Instagramwww.instagram.com/PICKshortfilm 
4. Follow us on Twitter and retweet our posts: www.twitter.com/PICKshortfilm
5. Use the hashtag #PICKshortfilm on all social media platforms.

CONTACT US at pickshortfilm@gmail.com

CREDITS
Concept Art: Kadrah Mensah
Set Photos: Kurtis Chen & Augustin Moga
Team Photo & Alicia's Headshot: Dominique van Olm
Graphics & GIFs: Alicia K. Harris
Art Print: Omoyemwen Sarah Iserhienrhien
Pitch Video Acknowledgements: Hannah’s Hair Design & Supplies, Justin Diezmo, Adrian Pop, Devon MD Jones & Omoyemwen Sarah Iserhienrhien
Special Thanks: Martin Bennett, Lori AtikXoanaAshleeca, Christopher Blanchard & The Delray Grill

Risks and challenges

Having completed production, the hardest part is behind us. We don’t anticipate running into any major issues during post-production (e.g. music composition, colour correction, sound mixing, etc.) as our team is comprised of individuals who are experienced in these areas. That said, we will work tirelessly to find solutions to any problems that arise. The deadline for this project is flexible, meaning we are able to take the time to address unexpected obstacles and make sure that the film is the best it can be!

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 10 or more About US$ 7

    FRO like ISSA.

    You did the big chop after watching Awkward Black Girl and now You have a FRO like ISSA RAE. You're the first black woman to create and star in a premium cable series. No relaxer, You're starting fresh. Look at that smile. That melanin. It's a glow up, sis.

    Includes:
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    • Social Media Shout Out
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    Pledge CA$ 25 or more About US$ 19

    BEADS like VENUS & SERENA.

    These BEADS will ensure You stand out like VENUS and SERENA when they first entered the tennis world with this signature bad gyal look. So what if the ref considers Your look a "disturbance"... ain't gon stop You from becoming the GOAT.

    Includes:
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    Pledge CA$ 35 or more About US$ 26

    CURLS LIKE OPRAH.

    In the OPRAH CURL, You can have it all. A magazine. A network. A talk show. The Promised Land. You're a CEO, a boss, an actress, an author, a philanthropist, a light. Every wig and weave with this curl is named after You.

    Includes:
    • "PICK EMPATHY OVER APATHY" Tote Bag
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    Pledge CA$ 50 or more About US$ 37

    STRAIGHT like MICHELLE.

    That lace front is laid, You bought those straight bundles, You got that silk press, You've done a blown out... whatever the method, You're wearing it STRAIGHT like MICHELLE. You're the most educated First Lady of all time. When they go low, You go high.

    Includes:
    • "PICK EMPATHY OVER APATHY" T-shirt
    • PICK Postcard
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    Pledge CA$ 75 or more About US$ 56

    WRAP like ERYKAH.

    Your protective styling is on point in Your WRAP like ERYKAH. You've inspired black women everywhere to adopt this cultural look. You're a DJ, a doula, a healer. You're the queen of neo-soul, but You don't need a head wrap to prove it.

    Includes:
    • PICK DVD
    • "PICK EMPATHY OVER APATHY" Tote Bag
    • PICK Postcard
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    Pledge CA$ 100 or more About US$ 75

    BANTU KNOTS like AUNTY DIONNE.

    Bust out the moisturizer, coconut oil, and youtube tutorial, You're rocking BANTU KNOTS like AUNTY DIONNE. The spirit of the Zulu tribes in Southern Africa, the creators of this look, are with You. The kind, resilient spirit of AUNTY DIONNE is with You.

    Includes:
    • Personalized PICK Coconut Oil
    • PICK DVD
    • "PICK EMPATHY OVER APATHY" Tote Bag
    • PICK Postcard
    • #BlackExcellence Playlist
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    Pledge CA$ 250 or more About US$ 187

    DEEP WAVE like AUNTY DONNA.

    Cop those deep wave bundles, wig, crochet hair... You're sporting DEEP WAVE like AUNTY DONNA. You're calming, yet bold, like the waves of the ocean. In these waves like Donna... You're a mother, a nurse, a nurturing soul.

    Includes:
    • Limited Edition Art Print
    • PICK DVD
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    • PICK Postcard
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    Pledge CA$ 500 or more About US$ 373

    CORNROWS like NANA MAUDE.

    The foundation for sew-ins, crochets, and a work of art on its own, You're rocking CORNROWS like NANA MAUDE. You're canerows keep Your hair safe from that Jamaican sun. You're a mother, grandmother, and a protector, like NANA MAUDE.

    Includes:
    • Limited Edition Art Print
    • PICK DVD
    • "PICK EMPATHY OVER APATHY" T-shirt
    • "PICK EMPATHY OVER APATHY" Tote Bag
    • PICK Postcard
    • #BlackExcellence Playlist
    • Social Media Shout Out
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    Pledge CA$ 1,000 or more About US$ 746

    LOCS like AVA.

    It took years of locking and twisting but You finally got those LOCS like AVA. You're the first black woman to direct a 100+ million dollar movie. You uplift women directors by employing only them on Your show. You're an unapologetic force to be reckoned with.

    Includes:
    • Executive Producer Credit
    • Collector's PICK Engraved Pen
    • Limited Edition Art Print
    • PICK DVD
    • "PICK EMPATHY OVER APATHY" T-shirt
    • "PICK EMPATHY OVER APATHY" Tote Bag
    • PICK Postcard
    • #BlackExcellence Playlist
    • Social Media Shout Out
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    Pledge CA$ 1,500 or more About US$ 1,119

    BIG FRO like VIOLA.

    You've been on your natural hair journey for a few years... so your fro has flourished! You're the first black actress to be nominated for three Academy Awards. You're the only black person to date to win the Triple Crown of Acting (an Oscar, Emmy & Tony). You're a dreamer, a philanthropist, and inspiration.

    Includes:
    • Executive Producer Credit
    • "Triple Crown of Acting" Pin
    • Collector's PICK Engraved Pen
    • Limited Edition Art Print
    • PICK DVD
    • "PICK EMPATHY OVER APATHY" T-shirt
    • "PICK EMPATHY OVER APATHY" Tote Bag
    • PICK Postcard
    • #BlackExcellence Playlist
    • Social Media Shout Out
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    Pledge CA$ 2,500 or more About US$ 1,865

    LEMONADE BRAIDS like BEYONCE.

    You ain't no Becky with the good hair. You've been sitting in the chair for most of the day and you've finally got those LEMONADE BRAIDS like BEYONCE. You created Lemonade to give a voice to black women's pain. You're the greatest of all time. You're irreplaceable, You woke up like this, You run the world.

    Includes:
    • Executive Producer Credit
    • Collector's PICK Engraved Pen
    • Limited Edition Art Print
    • PICK DVD
    • "PICK EMPATHY OVER APATHY" T-shirt
    • "PICK EMPATHY OVER APATHY" Tote Bag
    • PICK Postcard
    • #BlackExcellence Playlist
    • Social Media Shout Out
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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
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Funding period

- (34 days)