At 28, Gabrieline Reece had never directed a film. But she had something to say, and decided not to let a lack of experience stop her from saying it.
"I just jumped up and said, 'I'm going to do it,'" said Reece, who lives in Minneapolis and has a background in public relations and event planning.
The result is "Shot of Influence," Reece's hour-long documentary in which Twin Cities women entrepreneurs, business leaders and media personalities discuss their lives and work. Mostly women of color, they emphasize the importance of self-confidence, of supporting marginalized groups, of working together to succeed.
"The movement to empower women is so important," Alex West Steinman says in one of the film's dozen interviews. Steinman is co-founder of the Coven, a Twin Cities workspace for women and nonbinary people.
"I think women who want to get on board with that need to be around women who are on board with that."
"Networking is so critical," Laverne McCartney Knighton, area director for the United Negro College Fund, says in her interview. "I believe your network is your net worth."
The film will premier May 21 at the Icon Theater in St. Louis Park's West End, part of an event scheduled from 3 to 8 p.m. that includes a panel of women from the film and opportunities to network.
The idea for a women-supporting-women documentary came to Reece after George Floyd was murdered, she said. Although women were involved in the activism that followed his death, she felt the public attention seemed to focus on men.
"A lot of women were going out in the community and being change-makers," she said. "But our voices were not being heard and our voices are still not being heard."
She knew her first film attempt might not be a success. But even if it failed, she would learn something in the process. "Failing is the best thing you can ever do in your life," she said.
But the film came out as she envisioned it.
She drew up a proposal and reached out to Mikki Morrissette, publisher and editor of Minnesota Women's Press, who agreed to promote the film in her publication.
"I'm incredibly impressed with her ability," Morrissette said. "At first, I thought oh well, I'll be part of it, but we'll see what it ends up being. But every step of the way I was like, well, look at this!"
Reece approached successful women — some she already knew, some she didn't — and asked them to participate. She hired videographers and began filming interviews in January.
"Everything was done within a month and a half," she said.
Reece managed to "pull together people, seemingly out of nowhere, who exemplify exactly what it's all about," Morrissette said. "These are not people who everybody knows. ... These are normal, everyday people just doing their jobs. That's what tends to be unrecognized."
Reece selected subjects "based on what they're doing in the community and based on their backgrounds," she said. "I just started reaching out to them … studied them, watched how they presented themselves in public."
The process of making the film was "so educational for me," she said. "I could see that these women are so genuine, so confident in themselves. They know what they want and how to project it. It was amazing. It was goosebumps all the time."
Reece spent $6,000 on the film. Proceeds, she said, will support more community discussions and a grant for women.
Acting on decisions
Reece is used to making decisions and acting on them. A native of Liberia whose family immigrated here when she was 3 years old, she grew up in Minneapolis always wanting to live in California.
"I said the only place I want to live is California — 'til this day, my heart always cries to California."
In high school Reece, a self-described workaholic, held two jobs — at a water park and a McDonald's — saving almost $20,00 to move to Santa Barbara, Calif. She made a preliminary visit, lining up a job and an apartment with two roommates, but didn't inform her parents of the plan until the day she boarded her flight.
"My mom wanted to kill me," she said. "My dad was like, 'Well, that's your daughter.'"
She attended Santa Barbara Community College for a year but then returned to Minneapolis. She hasn't given up California dreaming, but she likes it here, too. Though she's "always trying to be the doer, the goer, the giver," as she put it, she's taking some time to relax and release some of the pressure.
Still, she's already thinking of future film projects, including more productions focused on women. In making "Shot of Influence," Reece was impressed by the strength women can wield when they work together.
"We make changes," she said. "We don't just sit and we just don't speak on it. We make changes and we create revolution. We don't stop until we see changes happening."