Student Launches Film Project “NAKED: Normalize the Conversation”  

Brenda Walker, a Media and Information major and Filmmaker, has announced her Extended Short Film NAKED will premiere Summer of 2021. Sharing her inspiration, advice, and purpose, Walker opens up about how the project blossomed and how fan support can help her project come to life.  
With the arrival of quarantine restrictions early last March, Walker chose to expand on an idea her previous commitments once didn’t allow for. With clear calendars, the sophomore, also a poet at heart, turned to spoken word performances that consisted of recurring themes inspiring her film’s four topics and four main characters. Before the project's initiation, Walker expressed her idea of the film to Jessica Austin, a close mentor at the time. In response, Austin suggested naming the project NAKED, deriving from Ella Mai’s 2018 bonus track “NAKED” which projects a woman’s request of true, raw, and naked loving in her most natural state void of underscoring insecurities or flaws. Austin’s proposal of the title complemented their collaborative mission to normalize conversations surrounding such personal experiences with colorism, codependency, body image, and competition. 
“I know these topics hold weight and it's about time that we have a story or some type of content that can speak towards that. I always wanted to write a story about black women told by black women because sometimes the wrong people are in the writing room,” Walker exclaimed. “I don't feel like there's a lot out there that has targeted the uplifting of Black women and different things that we go through. I feel like NAKED speaks to that and will touch a lot of women.” 
At her side is her team of writers and producers, Jessica Austin and Sydni’ Morgan whom Walker expressed gratitude for their commitment to this project, solidifying to Walker the existing passion fueling the need to tell this story. 
Walker adds that “Having black women writers and black women producers added an intimate touch to the project because it truly is our voices.” 
Leading the way as the youngest of her crew, Walker spent the Spring and Summer months meeting weekly over Zoom with Austin and Morgan to write the script they completed this past September. 
At this point, the three ignited full-throttle efforts to promote the project. In November of 2020, the official NAKED social media campaign launched to build a supportive following. In efforts to fund the project, they launched an INDIEGOGO accepting donations that will reward backers NAKED donor packages full of perks as a thank you. 
Looking ahead NAKED’s post-release plans are underway. NAKED producers are strengthening their pitch to streaming services and film festival circuits. According to Walker, funding will go a long way in bringing their production to life and adding legitimacy that well-made films are remembered for and can open many doors for the team. 
Walker’s story is built on 50 personal interviews from women ranging between the ages of 15 and 45 years old. Her one-on-ones with the women have helped build the content audiences will see within the short film. 
“During the interview process, it caught my attention hearing how the girls' responses were the same. Things like I started comparing my body to others in middle school or I was in and out of relationships because I didn't know how to be alone and so on.” 
The interviews conducted by Walker played a crucial role in developing monologues assigned to each character representing the four focuses. Within the genuine conversations, an inspiration led to developing personalities and background stories of the four main characters.  
“One thing that inspired me is that a lot of these women kept it in. Girls would share with me ‘I never told anybody this’.” The MSU creative was enlightened to see how deeply rooted the connections among women of color lie.  
Walker continued with “She went through it, she went through it, and I went through it. I’ve heard that ‘You’re pretty for a dark-skin girl.’ I've been in a relationship that I didn't leave because his presence made me feel validated. I've looked in the mirror and then went on Instagram and was like my body doesn't look like that. So to show something that's bringing us together and letting it come full circle. I feel like the impact is more powerful than the film. The power in showing that we are united and that these aren’t foreign topics and that it’s okay to talk about it. It shouldn't be weird or odd. It’s us.” 
Results from the interview revealed that “Around 75% of the women related to all four of the focus topics: Colorism, Codependency, Body Image, and Competition. While 100% of them related to at least 2 of the topics.” 
Walker shares that this defining portion of NAKED was her favorite part of the earlier stages and that the potential she witnessed is what drove her to keep striving to shine a light on underrepresented commonalities shared amongst the Black Community. 
“I want them to feel the impact that it has. That it would possibly have. Cause I know I'm strict with my money. What's the benefit? Why do I need to buy this? So I would want them to understand that this is bigger than a piece of work. It's not just a film, it's an emphasis on the topics, how heavy they are. It's just getting them to understand that this conversation is not normalized that these topics make a lot of women uncomfortable so to provide a visual of a story that is a representation of these conversations not only will it allow women to feel more comfortable but it will show them comfort in our community. 
Juggling her early film career and college courses Walker shares her best advice to encourage others to follow through with their passions feverishly. 
“Do it, a lot of people get stunned at that idea. Whatever idea they had they start asking well I don't know, how am I going to do this, I don’t know this person or like I think I’m good at editing I don’t know if I’m good enough or I’m not sure if this will be received the way I’m thinking. All the questions start to come in. It gets to the point where it is clouding them into a realm of what-ifs and to that I say just do it if your heart is there if the passion is there if you truly believe in whatever your pursuit is go after it and you will learn along the way.” 
She expresses at one point she was inexperienced in fundraising and scriptwriting. She eventually learned and advises others to leave the fear of just asking behind them. In a lighthearted manner, Walker emphasized “If you don’t know, somebody else does.” Anything you truly would like to happen can be made possible by you because everyone is entitled to the life they desire. 

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Written by: Lily Cross