Knowing Your Audience & Filmmaking with Confidence: Interview with Filmmaker Nakia Hamilton

This article was originally published on December 14, 2018 on Cinephile's former website.

Latest Artist Talk with Award Winning Filmmaker Nakia Hamilton

CP: How are you? NH: I'm doing good. I’m doing good.

CP: When did you come up with the idea for Let Go Let God?

NH: It was a short film originally, it was, it might have been like two years ago. I have a collection of projects, ideas and scripts and stuff that I just constantly put together and do outlines, so I have a lot just sitting around. I felt like God told me to do a movie called 72, and I'm still kind of confused if I followed him correctly, but to do the production the way I wanted, I didn't have the finances to do it. So I was like, okay well, I'm going to go ahead and do two projects, get the money for that then do a bigger project and Closure Freedom was it. And I just said well, I'm going to go ahead and extend it to something longer, and when I did, it ended up being Let Go Let God.

CP: Is that your main focus; a Christian message?

NH: Yeah. You know what’s funny? I try not to, and I mean it's hard to say this because some people don't know how to take what I'm saying. Genuinely yes, I'm a Christian filmmaker, you know, what I mean? But I don't look at myself as that because when you put that title on to it. people have the stigma about it. You know what I mean? And that's not what I'm trying to do. Like, you know, I want to be somebody that loves the Lord and am trying to be obedient. Trying to have a relationship with the Lord, and when I make movies this is what comes up.

CP: When did you decide that filmmaking was the path for you?

NH: I used to perform music. I was like deep into music, opening up for…at that time they were major artists, like Wu Tang, Lil Kim, Nas people like that. But I got to a crossroad and I told God, "I'm going to stop what I'm doing and I'm going to do what you want me to do." And these weird things started happening like the next three or four days.

When I said that and I truly mean that in my heart {...} and I knew God understood that. So I went by my mom’s house one day, and when I went there the TV was on and nobody was in (the room), she stayed by yourself so it was kind of weird, and my friend was on public access rapping. I was like what in the world my buddy doing on TV?

So I figured out that it was Time Warner Cable. So I called and I said, "How do you get on TV?" Time Warner Cable was like, "If you could bring a tape with these specs, we got a spot for 6:30 on Mondays." And I was like, "Okay." So not thinking nothing of it I went to a friend’s studio the next day where I recorded music, we never talked about making videos at all. He said, "Man, somebody just came by and gave me a video editing program; you want it?"

I was like, "What?!" He was like, "Yeah man bring your computer and I can put it on your computer." Just out of the blue, you know? I felt like God was leading me in that direction and the confirmation I got was I got that program. I brought this little camera. It took me nine months to get a show together to send to the Time Warner cable and that same spot was still open nine months later.

CP: After the baby, giving birth to the baby.

NH: I never thought about that part. It was, because I just knew God was leading me in this direction. And, you know, that's kind of how everything started.

CP: So, what's the premise of the story? Without like giving away any spoilers or anything.

NH: I think it's honestly about just trusting God even if it's hard to do. I’m trying to say it without giving away the movie but that's basically it. It's about two people that have had death in their family and because of both of those deaths their question is if God is real? And the God that we claim, He wouldn't do these things. They go through this journey which deals with them searching for this boy that everybody thinks is lost. They get the answer through the journey of trying to find this boy. I don't like to be real blunt about something, I like you to be open and make you think about some things.

CP: How was it working with Clifton Powell? I've worked with him before and he's a funny guy.

NH: Yes. Very funny, I mean no filter at all. I wouldn't have went near him. It was a big eye opener for me working with actors, I always thought casting was one of my weaknesses and sometimes you just got to step out. So I did, I got opportunity to send him the script and somebody got it, liked it, that then told him about it, then his people read it, then he read and he was like, "Yo!" Then he called me and the fact that he took time out of his day to call me was a big deal to me.

When he got on set {…} the thing that blew me away was when it was time to work how dialed in he was. We can laugh, joke around and stuff in between, but when it was time to work, he'd ask maybe two, three questions then he’ll get focused.

Like one scene, he wanted to know he understood the dialogue clearly. So he took me outside, we went through it, talked about some stuff. He went inside, the people he was doing the scene with, he gathered them in the room, sat down and just broke the whole thing down then they came out with like, "Whenever you're all ready, we’re ready." And they shut the door and they were back breaking down the script.

When I look at the movie, I'm just like this dude can act. Like he really gets the small little things, he can really, really act. He showed me just the level of focus and dedication that's needed to be great. I mean he's been in over a 100 films.

CP: But how was that directing someone like Clifton Powell who has so much experience and him asking questions?

NH: I’m not gonna lie, I still get nervous like making a film, I just didn't really know what to expect. He made me feel extremely comfortable when he got there {...} he just started talking. I mean, he talked the whole way, he told me stories. We asked some questions about other people in the industry and stuff and he just told me his experience and really just made us feel comfortable which made it easy working with him.

CP: How was the process from going from script to production? What are things that you have to do to? I guess like fundraising. What did it look like?

NH: Well, the process for every film is different, but before you can even start moving forward with everything, you got to be clear about the 'Why?' of making the movie, because that's going to answer every single question in the process. Sometimes people say, "I want to make this movie because it's my life and I think people need to hear it." But the process they’re taking is of trying to win an Oscar. You know what I mean? which doesn't make sense.

And then they may make that movie and it doesn't sell like they wanted to sell. But they said, they just wanted people to hear it. So you have to be clear about, what you want to do first before you start making all these choices and spend money. For example, with Let Go Let God, fundraisers don't work for us. I mean, I did a fundraiser with a movie long time ago, a Christian film called The Greatest Sex I’ve Ever Had , but we only raised like $50, I think $25 of it was my own. Then we did a fundraiser for Beautifully Insecure, we raised like $500, and I think a $100 was my own money. In the process of all that I started to learn the audience, what people wanted from me. It seems that people are more interested in my journey and see me go one step further and further versus some people.

So (fundraisers) don't work for us. I think that's something people need to understand. Basically we worked. Saved up money. Brought equipment, we don't lease anything, because we may realize we need to go film something tonight, so we need to be able to pack up equipment and go.

So, the first process is getting the script together and making sure the script can be pitched, the concept can be pitched in three sentences. If the concept can’t be pitched in three sentences, then there's nothing to make, there’s nothing to write, there’s nothing to do. Because, I mean, you can't go in an elevator and read your whole script to somebody. You got to be able to pitch in three sentences. You can't go to a distributor and talk to them for an hour about the script. When you market the film, the commercial, all of that is basically down to like three sentences.

We have our own little secret process that we do to kind of put the script together then locations. The process of getting locations, because our funding was not extreme, and we're not trying to spend four months, five days a week filming a movie, we try to use locations that are cinematic but also have a variety within the frame. Basically it could be one house, but we will use the front porch, the bedrooms, they can’t look the same, if all look different and they're still cinematic, then we could film a scene in this room, a scene in that room, a scene that in one house. We can film eight to nine scenes.

CP: What are your plans? Do you have goals already set for this project? Where you want it to go?

NH: Yes. They slightly change. The whole goal with this was to try to do a theater on demand run and distribute it to distributors. This one and Secure the Bag, which is coming right after this one.

CP: And so what are you doing next after Secure the Bag?

NH: I was planning to do 72. It’s about a men's retreat and they spend three days at the retreat. There's 200 men in the church, but only seven men came to the men's retreat and they go through this whole experience with God. On my way here, I was like, "God what do you want me to do next? Let me know." I got a bunch of stuff. I really want to get back into comedies. That's where my heart is; waiting to see what God says then you'll hear about it.

CP: I'll stay posted.

NH: Yes. Thank you. Thank you.

For more information about Nakia and his projects please visit:


Nakia Hamilton Facebook Page

Let Go and Let God Facebook Page

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