BackBurner Dreams: A Women’s Passion Project, is the story of Carla, Stephanie, and Melanee—three women who are prompted to revisit, revive, and renew their dreams and passions after having put their own priorities on the “backburner” for years.
We talked to Brenda Hayes, who wrote, directed and produced the documentary. Below are excerpts from that interview.
LYD: What is BackBurner Dreams?
BackBurner Dreams is my first documentary film. The film’s premise is a challenge I gave to three women of color. In nine months time (the length of a pregnancy), I challenged them to attempt to revive the dreams and passions they had for their lives before becoming mothers, marrying, supporting everyone’s passion but their own. BackBurner Dreams documents their journeys.
LYD: What does the film’s purpose? / What are some of the themes it explores?
I want to inspire audiences to action, to take incremental steps, even if that means just remembering the dreams that have been waylaid for years. In addition to following Carla, Melanee, and Stephanie, the three women featured in the film, I briefly explore the Women’s Movement as it relates to women of color, income disparity, and mental health issues. The biggest common thread I discovered in producing the film, is that everyone has hopes, desires, dreams for their lives, outside of their “roles” as mothers, spouses, employees, and regardless of gender.
LYD: What inspired you to start this project?
In 2013-2014 I was asked to co-produce singer/songwriter/filmmaker Be Steadwell’s thesis film for her MFA degree. I don’t know what it was she saw in me but I jumped at the invitation; from that point on I was bitten by the film bug and its ability to impact large numbers of people in one sitting. Her film Vow of Silence continues to screen internationally. In 2015 I was allowed to audit a cinematography class at Howard University, the final assignment for the year was to write, direct and produce a short silent film.
My film, The Letter, was one of three films chosen to have a film crew. I shared the film with my co-worker Stephanie, after she viewed it she said, “Brenda I’m so happy you’re following your dreams”. I immediately asked her what her dream was; without hesitation she said she wanted to dance ballet again, that’s how I got the idea for the film. Stephanie agreed to be one of the women featured in BackBurner Dreams.
LYD: What have you learned while making the film?
The production process, getting a crew (I was intentional about hiring an all women or majority women crew), shooting and editing taught me patience—usually a hard lesson for me. When I embarked on this filmmaking journey, I had it all planned out: I’d shoot the film over nine months from March 2015 through December 2015 and premiere it in December 2015 or January 2016. What’s the saying about the best laid plans of mice and men, I did follow the three women during the nine month challenge but life had a way of intercepting my plans to be done in nine months. My dad moved in with me the last year and a half of his life, I lost my job and had some health challenges. I had to navigate through whatever came my way.
LYD: What has the reception been like?
Thus far the reception to BackBurner Dreams has been great! I’ve been officially selected to six Film Festival’s including one in Brixton London. I got two standing ovations at the premiere screening. To date, I’ve screened it at West Virginia University’s Women’s Gender Studies class, a women’s shelter, an organization for recently released women and several other groups. The post screening discussions and dialogue usually fulfill one of the main purposes of the film to motivate the viewers to ask themselves “what if I refilled my dreams and passions?”
LYD: In your opinion, what are the biggest barriers to women’s success today?
As a Black woman, it’s important to interrogate the intersection of race and gender when addressing barriers to success for women. We live in a society with ever increasing sanctions on women’s lives, on agency over our bodies. Women’s lives are held in check by a number of societal “norms”, women have been and still are charged with the role of being the principal child rearer. We have seen an uptick in the number of reported sexual assault and harassment cases, the current occupant of the White House, is an admitted “pussy grabber”, NO is not respected in cases of date rape.
Women in marginalized communities are more likely to be victims of sexual assault and often face more hurdles to being believed when they come forward. I’m sixty-three years old, I feel we have lost ground with regard to women advancing in society on so many fronts. Income disparity is another barrier, for every dollar a white man makes, white women make eighty cents, Black women make sixty-four cents, and Latinx women make fifty-six cents.
LYD: What does this film mean for you, personally?
My mother was an intelligent, resourceful, quick witted, loving mother. She worked hard, along with my dad, to make sure we had what we needed to be productive citizens. But I wish I knew what dreams she had for her life. I dedicated BackBurner Dreams to my mother whose dreams I never knew and to my daughter who inspires me to keep realizing my dreams.
Thank you Brenda Hayes for sharing!!!
Interested in screening the film?
Learn more about Backburner Dreams: