Filmmaker A-lan Holt On Working With Lupita Nyong’o & Championing Diversity In The Arts

A-lan Holt | Photo: Elliot Luscome

She’s a writer, filmmaker, activist, educator, and mother, whose work is all about changing the equilibrium in Hollywood when it comes to representation of especially women of color. A-lan Holt is the Director at the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University. There she trains undergraduates in the areas of diversity and culture; arts leadership and social justice.

She is a 2018 Sundance Fellow whose short film ‘Inamorata’, which premiered at the San Francisco Black Film Festival and Philadelphia’s BlackStar Film Festival in 2017 to sold out audiences, caught the attention of ‘Insecure’ star and creator Issa Rae, whose production company acquired it and released it exclusively on their Youtube channel.

A-lan has also wrote a play which starred Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, showing that her artistry is on the rise and already getting attention from the right people.

In a time when we are seeing more and more filmmakers of color, especially women, create more opportunities for themselves and have their work shown on major networks and platforms, A-lan’s story, artistic focus and hustle are a reminder of why diversity in media and entertainment is in high demand. We had the opportunity to speak with her about her projects and what it was like working with Hollywood A-listers like Lupita and Issa.

A-Ian Holt speaking at Stanford’s Humanities Center

Tell us about the inception of ‘Inamorata’ and what you set out to say with the short film?

Inamorata is a story about moving from crisis to transformation. It is a love story between two women and a man, who find themselves intimately entangled. In the film I wanted to explore the messiness of feminine erotics, the love between women and men, deep forgiveness and love. I wrote the film when I was going through my own transformation; grappling with these themes of drama and heartbreak. Ultimately Inamorata – which means ‘a female lover’— became a vehicle that allowed me and other women access to speak about the love and loss of our experiences and lives; finding beauty alongside family legacy and intimate relationships.    

What was it like getting to see your work being amplified by Issa?

It was a beautiful opportunity to collaborate with Issa Rae Productions. They offer opportunities for filmmakers each month on their site, and being able to connect our film to their audience was a highlight. It really launched the work to our community. The comments were amazing and great to engage with. It gave me so much insight on the work. It was wonderful to be included in IRP’s community of creatives. 

A still image from ‘Inamorata’

Tell us about your role as an associate director of Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford, and what your focus is?

The Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford (IDA) is a student facing program that supports artists in visionary arts leadership by stewarding the power of the arts toward social justice. We study how art creates culture, and culture creates change. As the director of that program I lead our artist programs and advocate for arts equity at the university and beyond. It’s great to support my alma mater in this way through art.

As an artist you work across multiple mediums – poetry, cinema, and theatre. Why is it important to not limit yourself to one creative vehicle?

Different stories require different outlets. I have stories inside of me that are poems, but want to be more: a play, film, an experience. I am thankful to be living during a time when artists are encouraged to work across genre. I would’ve have it any other way. 

A still image from ‘Inamorata’

You have worked with actress Lupita Nyong’o who starred in a play you wrote called The Bottom of Heaven. What was the creative process for you on this production, and how did Lupita come to star in it?

I was part of the Public Theater’s emerging writer’s program and I was developing this play. The program is two years with 10 artists being mentored by the Public Theater’s literary staff, and at the end of that time actors and a director workshoped the play. I was lucky enough to work with Eric Ting as director and Lupita N’yongo as the leading role. It was the spring before she won the Oscar. New York theater is magical in that way.

We are seeing an encouraging surge of diverse voices in media, especially women of color. What do you hope the greater cultural impact will be by seeing more people represented in the media and art we consume daily?

I hope that seeing more people represented in the media and art we consume daily creates a healthier community. We know that culture directly impacts the ways we care for ourselves and our community. I hope that by seeing more models for living, we are able to dismantle the oppressions that have harmed us and the whole of our planet. I hope diversity leads us closer to decolonization.

A still image from ‘Inamorata’

Describe your ultimate project to us and how you hope to get there? 

I’d like to create a television show that has big impact for young people. Providing visions for shifting our world and in turn, saving our world. I’m very excited by life after capitalism, life inclusive of indigeneity. I want to write toward that world. I hope to get there sooner than we imagine.

You can watch ‘Inamorata’ in full below:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.