“Old enough to be cool, young enough to act a fool” is how my friends and I describe(d) our late 20s. The corny phrase was the best we could do to make sense of the amorphous period between the legal drinking age and the stamp of adulthood: 30. What are you doing after graduation? Is this guy serious? Can I afford to follow my dreams? Watching Shayla Racquel’s web series, “Quarter Century,” reminds us that we’ve all been there.
The budding filmmaker tells our stories through her series, so it was a privilege to have her share her own story with A*cute.
What inspires you?
When I was born, I was diagnosed with Sickle Cell Disease. Having continuous sickle cell crisis, a stroke at 12 years old, and constant blood transfusions, I could have easily felt sorry for myself and written off my future of excelling and being on my own. Instead, filmmaking became my outlet and I allowed my illness to motivate me to give 110% to anything that I set my mind on.
God, my family, and my friends are also my true motivators, which helps me in turn motivate myself. my family and friends have supported everything I’ve done. Being a very spiritual person, I know that there is no limit to how far you can go with God on your side, and he has continued to bless me throughout this entire venture.
Nevertheless, it is not hard to be motivated and inspired by something that you have a passion for and that is truly in your heart.
When did you first become interested in film?
When I was 12 years old, I had a stroke due to my Sickle Cell disease. Film became my outlet from that particular aspect of my life. As a present to my grandparents during the holidays, I started making videos featuring all the grandchildren in my family. This became a tradition that we still hold today. From there, I made videos throughout high school and college. Florida A&M University gave me plenty of opportunities to explore and hone my craft. That’s when I decided that I would like to make my filmmaking hobby into a career.
Did anyone ever try to dissuade you from following your passion?
I had been making videos since I was little, so no one (especially not my family) has ever tried to dissuade me from being a filmmaker. However, when I first came up with the idea of Quarter Century, I pitched it to a number of friends. Most of them loved the idea, but I had a few who didn’t like it at all. When I asked why, I was never given a clear response. Of course it hurts, but that’s life. Everyone isn’t going to like what you are doing. Follow your dreams for YOU. YOU have to be the main reason why you want to do whatever it is you want to do.
If you’re doing it for the money, fame, or because someone else wants you to do it, you are going to get trampled by critiques, dislikes, and downright haters. It’s hard to dust yourself off from that; but, when you are doing it for yourself and not the gratification of others, no matter how much people dislike it, it won’t phase you. As you accomplish your goals you will feel even more complete.
How do you balance your day job with filming your web series?
Time management is the best skill to have when trying to balance work, extracurricular activities, and school. I filmed the web series on the weekends and I worked throughout the week. However, if I had any down time at my job, I would write. I would also set a schedule to write at least an hour a day before bed when I am my most relaxed.
What advice would you give young professionals who feel stuck at a 9-5?
My advice is to do some soul searching, love and appreciate you, and take that leap of faith. Do not even allow the poison of doubt and failure to seep into your mind. If you want it, go after it. No excuses! Create a vision board, find out where you want to be, and write a step-by-step plan on how to get there. Keep your vision board somewhere where you can see it every day so that it can motivate you to get things done. When you write out a plan or goal, you are more likely to accomplish it. The best time to start is right now. You will never feel whole until you at least try to fulfill your dreams.
How has fellow web filmmaker Issa Rae’s success influenced you?
I would definitely say that the success of “Awkward Black Girl” has opened doors for more Black female filmmakers such as myself! I was a senior in college when ABG first came out. I loved it so much because I could relate to it. It felt good to see my experiences along with someone who looks like me on a screen, no matter how small that screen was. As she continues to soar due to its success, I feel so proud, and it definitely serves as motivation for me to keep going.
What can we expect for the next season?
This season is based in New York because we want to showcase the inner workings of an HBCU alumni network. It’s definitely going to touch on more social issues as well as different aspects of the quarter life crisis. We have signed on TheXDExperience as our Executive Producer for this season, so we definitely have a lot of help along the way. We are taking a more humorous approach to it all so definitely expect more funny! I can’t wait to deliver the next season and I hope everyone enjoys it as much as we enjoy producing it.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently enrolled at American University to receive my Master of Fine Arts in Film & Electronic Media so right now that is my number one priority. Definitely expect more webseries, more short films, documentaries, and possibly a Quarter Century feature [insert wink here].
Visit quartercenturyws.com to learn more about the web series and watch full episodes.