Veteran director Ramaa Mosley on humble beginnings, the future of gender identity in media and the joys of making sauerkraut.
Ramaa Mosley wanted to be a filmmaker ever since she was 12 years old, when she would listen to her father dispel his views on old James Bond and John Wayne movies. But in reality, she had no idea how to make her dream come true. That is until one day a film crew came to her small hometown of Ojai, California, and 12-year-old Ramaa managed to wangle herself on set and boldly ask the director if she could shadow him.
LBB> You directed your first film at 15! How did that come about and what were the biggest lessons you took away from that experience?
Ramaa> I knew I wanted to be a director when I was 12. I grew up in a really small town and my parents were both really poor – that’s the only way to say it really. But I was pining away, wanting to be a director. I would read magazines and watch movies… and it just so happened that one day I was walking down the street in my small town and there was a film shoot happening. I managed to get past security, wander on set and make my way to the director. I asked him if I could just follow him around and help. I think he was so disarmed by that request that he said yes. He ended up letting me stay with him and use his own personal camera equipment. When I was 15 he was still my mentor and I told him that I wanted to make a documentary about the environment and how youths see the problems surrounding it. He agreed to let me use his equipment, so that’s how that project came to be.
My one goal with that documentary was to get it to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. I made the documentary with a group of my friends and it ended up winning the United Nations Environmental Programme Award, and I raised the money to go to Geneva. I stood at the gates of the United Nations and told the guards that I was there to bring my film for them to see, and somehow the gates opened. It was the weirdest thing. And I went inside and actually screened the film for 30 or so scientists and became a United Nations child ambassador. That was really the beginning.
Then at 16 I did a commercial and a music video, and people saw them and I just started getting calls from some big production companies, like Propaganda, A&R Group, it was crazy. I signed with my first company and started being represented.