Mya Baker, Shoot Films Not People, owner, writer, filmmaker, and activist shares her journey and evolution in business, creativity and filmmaking and at her core a connection to community and Blackness.
By LaMar Anderson | January 14, 2021 | 6:00am
Please tells us your name and the name of your business and about its offerings or specialty.
My name is Mya Baker, and my business is Shoot Films Not People. My business was created in 2003 Shoot Films Not People Productions. It’s a production company. I created the name basically after the Rodney King incident because I liked the fact that we wouldn’t have even known about the abuse of Rodney King if it wasn’t for a person [George Holliday] that filmed it. First, it was a statement for people to take action in their community and film what’s going on. Then it became more of a universal statement because being from Chicago, it’s also like an anti-gun violence movement, although I started off as a filmmaker as well. From time to time, I donate to organizations like 100 Black Men [of America Inc] that deal with violence in the community. I try to give back to things in Chicago because that’s where I am from.
Now this year , it evolved into a brand because I was giving away the t-shirt and hoodie as a perk for Kickstarter, raising money for my second documentary called “Afraid of Dark”. Once we raised that money, it was a perk, and wearing the hoodie or sweater, people would be like, “Where did you get that from?” and my friend who’s a TV director was like -I keep getting stopped, everybody’s asking “Where can I get this hoodie from?” and was like you need to just go ahead and do that. I’m like, I would, but I don’t have the money, right. And this is where he came in and gave me money this year to start it off, and that’s where we’re at now. It’s become a brand.
I’m just experimenting with colors. First, it was really just black and white and I was going to do gray, but then I wanted to do summer colors like orange; I know it is the gun violence color, you know, so I wanted to do orange for that. Then fuchsia is for the summer. I like DIY projects, so I like to add my style to it, so with that, I tye-dyed crewnecks [sweatshirts], or sometimes I’ll incorporate African fabrics just to style it up and just make it more of a fashion piece, you know.
I offer hoodies, usually 80% cotton 20% polyester, which I like because they are very plush, and t-shirts come in four different colors online and 100% cotton in the American Apparel style of soft cotton. I do face masks because it seems like we are going to be here for a while, so I branded the face masks; it’s four-ply cotton, washable. I just did these earrings, buttons, keychains, and tote bags.
The logos and graphics are very profound. Can you please tell us about the inspiration for creating them and what they represent?
Yes, so I have two logos now. The first logo is the female, which is actually me. It was in 2003 when I first created the name Shoot Film Not People, and it is the logo that comes up when you watch my movies. It’s me actually holding a Hi8 [8mm] camera and actually shooting it. My friend turned it into a logo, my first, but my friend said he wanted to make it more universal, so thats why we then hired a graphics designer and took a gun and added the camera feel to it, so that’s the camera gun. Well, I feel like I have always been an activist. When my son was little, I’ve taken him to rallies and protests. I was a part of Malcolm X Grassroots [Movement] in New York, where we filmed. There’s a movement called Cop Watch, so we filmed police in the community to make sure they follow protocol when they deal with people in our community. Even if a person is not an activist, to me, it’s an “Artivist” statement, “Shoot Films Not People”, so it allows you to be an activist without doing anything; it’s a statement piece, you know.
Was filmmaking or entrepreneurship a part of your family history?
So, my father, back in the day, was an engineer, and I feel like his generation, like to be a business owner, but was not a big thing because everybody followed the protocol like a 9 to 5 job that’s what everybody did. My father being an engineer, started his own company in the ’80s. Me and my brother worked for my father; that was our first job ever; I was 13yrs old, my brother was older; those were our first gigs. We would bag stuff for my father and send them out. My father was an entrepreneur, so I feel like that’s where I got the whole entrepreneur thing from. Although I am a horror film lover, it started with my parents watching horror films, and I’m like three years old. So the love of film and cinema started. My mom named me after Mya Angelou, and I just feel naturally I am a writer. In high school, I was always writing poetry or short stories, my escape. It morphed into documentaries because I wanted to tell my stories.
My first documentary (Silence: In Search of Black Female Sexuality in America) deals with Black female sexuality. It wasn’t so much about ‘I am this, or I am that’, but why don’t our families talk to us about sex? Why don’t Black families prepare Black women for sex? Regular sex talk is taboo. My mom never had the conversation with me and as I talked to other Black women; it was like, “my mom didn’t either”, you know. I was told not to do it, so it was more out of my curiosity -what is it? It was investigative -this documentary.
My second (Afraid of Dark Documentary) deals with the fear of Black men in America because me having a son and coming from a generation of great Black men, I feel like, have always been feared. And Why? The Black men in my family are amazing, but you don’t see that in the mainstream media all the time. You see the brute, the angry Black men, or the over-sexualized man-dingo Black men. But, the compassionate Black men, you know what I am saying, that’s what I come from, so I wanted to show that. Not only do I have my son in it, my dad, my brother’s in it because I want to show three generations of Black men. Also, just talk to Black men of three age groups about who they are. To tear down the stereotypes. They [Black men] are not bad. It is giving back to my community but something I am passionate about because I want to tell Black stories. Both films are available to download on my website for $3.99.
Where are you from originally? How long have you been living in Los Angeles?
I am originally from Chicago and have lived in New York for 20 years. I’ve been living in LA for four years.
Are you calling LA home now, or does it feel like home?
No, I still feel like New York is my home because that’s where my family is based, what I built up as my strength and support.
Why Leimert Park? What does it mean to you?
Honestly, when I moved to LA, I was like, these Black people are just something else. There’s a different energy. I feel like Leimert Park is where I could come and can feel the energy of my people. I live in North Hollywood, and the Black people out there I don’t know, but; they like white women, they date Mexicans, whatever is going on. I wanted to feel Blackness, so I know Leimert has that. When I’ve come here a couple of times and when I came for Juneteenth. It’s the energy from people that I need to feel. Chicago is a cultural place, and I am used to this in Chicago. New York, you walk down the street, and you have very intimate conversations with people on the corner because it is that. Everything is so close-knit, like this it took me a long time to adjust, I would say two and a half- three years. I was like, bump this. I want to go back just because I am used to that community feel and feeling a part. Being out in North Hollywood or wherever it’s spread out, you don’t really see Black people and have the connection. But I feel more grounded now and coming out on Sundays. I love talking to people.
What would you suggest to or tell other people about what Leimert Park is missing that would allow you to feel at home as you felt in New York and Chicago?
I don’t know what It’s missing like that, but it’s missing community; this is a great Sunday. But I am talking about community-neighborhood. I’m in North Hollywood, and I don’t live in this community. My son is a New Yorker, so I didn’t want to live in this neighborhood because I know people are really on that crip and blood shit, and I did not want my son a part of that. For me, it ain’t that safe yet. I didn’t want to live around that.
What can we expect from Mya Baker and Shoot Films Not People in the future?
I believe in the future, you probably won’t see me out in the street as much, haha. I want to morph to a more online presence and build that up. It’s not the same as a community; being out in the streets because you talk to people. Online is much harder because your [customers] gotta trust you to go online and spend money and build your audience. To me, this [vending] is easier to do. I would say in the future; I want to incorporate more fashion pieces.
More writing. I just finished a horror film that got picked up and their shopping it to directors. More of my name as a writer on things, more Hollywood things. I moved here to step away from independent and struggling artists. Now it’s time to make the cash, right, haha. It’s time to level up. I came and studied the art of screenwriting. I didn’t know the lingo and the expectations, structure. Now I know that shit like the back of my hand, and it’s LA that taught me that. Whereas it would take me a year to write a script, I got about three months got it down to four days. It’s discipline, learning continually, and writing every day, reading scripts, watching TV all that to become better.
How can we find or connect Mya Baker and support Shoot Films Not People?
Well, you can find me on Instagram. You can follow my personal page @myabees or my business page @shootfilmsnotpeople, and my website is https://shootfilmsnotpeople.store
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