Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmaker Lorna Rainey of Rainey Film & Media Is Helping To Change Our World
… Sometimes you may need to be respectfully aggressive. I have always been laid back and deferred to other people’s time more than my own. It can be necessary to approach people and tell them what you want or need. Put aside the fear of rejection. Otherwise your Life will be on hold. I have always found it easier to be more forceful for my talent than for myself.
As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Lorna Rainey.
Lorna has a rich and varied background in the entertainment industry. She began as a model, actress, voice-over announcer, radio DJ and in 1991 began her company, The Talent Express, as an agency which in 2012 morphed into a talent management company. On the slate of films for her company Rainey Film & Media LLC, she just completed “Silent Tribute” (a short), and is hard at work on “Slave in the House” (a documentary) and “Culinary High TV” (a webseries in development as a TV series).
Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?
Thank you for inviting me to share my story. It’s been a long journey. There have been many twists and turns along the way. But somehow they all led to this juncture. When I was three years old, my great-aunt told me that I would be the one to tell the story of her father, the first Black Congressman, Joseph H. Rainey. I had no idea what she meant. And as the years progressed, I had no idea how I would do it. But over the years, it has come to me that the film medium is the best one capable of reaching the most people. In addition to that revelation, I kept coming up with more and more concepts for films and shows. So I began a production company under which I could bring some of these stories to Life.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?
In the making of “Silent Tribute” we had a filmmaker who was assisting in laying down some primary and some “B” roll film. Since it was during COVID, we necessarily had to have most people film themselves individually and then email the clips to him for editing and piecing it together to create the story. I checked in to be sure everything had been received. Time passed and then more time passed and I didn’t hear anything. Finally I reached out and was told that he didn’t know what to do with the film clips so nothing had been done…at all…for weeks!
We had been given a deadline to submit for a prestigious film festival. We missed it. I found another editor and in a couple of weeks we had our film finished.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I believe that I interact with the most interesting people every day in the course of my business. Each one of them has an individual backstory and each one inspires me to do my best for them. You would be amazed at what some of these actors have been through to pursue their dreams. Most of them are immensely grateful to have a manager to guide them through the maze which our industry creates. But every now and then there will be one who dismisses us after we have helped them achieve some success.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
My great-grandfather because he achieved something no man of color had ever done before. He was seated in the United States Congress as the first Black Congressman on December 12, 1870. And he was the only person who had been born a slave to serve in that body. My maternal Uncle, who was the first Black man to achieve the rank of Electronics Specialist First Class in the U.S. Navy. He was brilliant. All of the Indigenous leaders who tried to protect The People from their loss of culture, land and traditions.
Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?
My mission is to inform and inspire. I feel that so much of what is going sideways in our society is lack of knowledge. People are not taught or exposed to other schools of thought. They shy away from people who they think are not like them. That is where the US against THEM mentality comes from. Life is not always about competition. It’s about finding common ground and understanding. For example, my show “Culinary High TV” is not about competition. It’s a total teaching, learning and fun show which skews 12 — adult. I had two deals on the table for the show, but they wanted to turn it into a competition between the teen chefs. That is the exact opposite of that they need. They need to learn to cooperate with each other to achieve the final dish. That type of camaraderie and teamwork in the kitchen translates to real Life. Two of our teen chefs from the first two seasons received scholarships to Culinary Institute of America (CIA). That’s how you make a difference.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?
In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, I hosted a “Talent Express Racism Challenge’. I invited many of my peers from the industry and we had a long, fruitful and candid discussion. I felt, that as a POC, I needed to set an example and take the lead. Out of that meeting, the idea for “Silent Tribute” was born. It is a collage of clips which were edited together featuring the actual reactions of people from all walks of Life and backgrounds to this and other senseless murders. A parallel storyline running throughout is the largely ignored plight of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Once I learned about that, I resolved to integrate it into the film. Both urgent items of social consciousness are woven seamlessly together.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Once “Silent Tribute” was completed, we scheduled an exclusive screening to get audience reaction. The feedback was 100% positive and immensely helpful. A talkback afterwards ran into well over an hour and the film is only 13 minutes long. We decided to do a couple of tweaks and then another group was invited to view it.
When we asked for feedback, there was silence and then people started saying how it impacted them. But one man was so moved, he couldn’t speak. He finally opened up and said that we nailed it. What we captured on film is exactly the way he feels when he leaves his home…as though he has a target on his back. He said, he “doesn’t feel safe in his own country’. It took him some time to compose himself and due to that, I wrote a final paragraph to close out the film with a hopeful overtone.
Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?
We need to educate ourselves and the next generation. We need to pass along the knowledge and share our wisdom with them. We need to “expose” them to other cultures, literature, languages, different careers. We need to find other ways to describe people aside from only by color. We are teaching our children differences instead of sameness. If there is a Black (or Asian, or Indigenous) person in a crowd of people and he is the only person of that ethnicity, you can just as easily say, “That man in the bright green shirt” instead of “That Black man in the green shirt”. And let’s recognize the contributions of all people in making our country great.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- That just because you have a great idea doesn’t mean someone else will fund it. It is very difficult getting investors for films or media projects. It took me until this year to find the investment money for “Slave in the House”;
- How tough it is to find distribution. I now have the money for “Slave in the House” but I am having a hard time finding a distributor;
- How to navigate the maze of getting Union clearance for a project. It took about 5 months to get “Silent Tribute” cleared to show;
- How important time management is. I’ve always been a workaholic. But just because you work hard doesn’t mean that all your efforts will move the needle toward your goal;
- Sometimes you may need to be respectfully aggressive. I have always been laid back and deferred to other people’s time more than my own. It can be necessary to approach people and tell them what you want or need. Put aside the fear of rejection. Otherwise your Life will be on hold. I have always found it easier to be more forceful for my talent than for myself.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Each day which goes by is an opportunity to make a difference. Every person can make an impact on the world around us. You can start small by being a mentor to a young person in your chosen field. Pass on your knowledge to them and allow the organic exchange to take place. They will learn from you and you will be surprised at what you will learn from them. I am a big environmentalist. You can find ways to lessen your impact on Mother Earth. Recycle more, reuse everything you can and avoid single use plastics wherever possible.
We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I know that I will be on a long list, but President Obama. I admire him for so many reasons. He was able to accomplish so much in the face of relentless opposition. No matter what his adversaries threw at him, he stood tall and never stooped to their level. He always showed people his “best face”. I also feel that my film “Slave in the House” about the first Black Congressman would be a natural match for his company Higher Ground. The first Black President collaborates on the autobiography of the first Black Congressman!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’m going to have to cheat a bit on this one. I have two:
“ Have knowledge will share” which is in line with my mission to share the wisdom I have acquired throughout the years. There were so many instances where if I had only had the knowledge I would have been farther along. I accomplished what I did by “trial and error”. In order that no one else has to waste their time, I share what I know.
“Never give up, never surrender” which is a mantra I wear like a shield. My totem is the turtle. I have a hard shell and it might take longer than I’d like, but I will deflect and stay on course. I have had enough obstacles thrown at me that if I had not been resolute, I would have given up long ago.
How can our readers follow you online?
I would be honored if there is anything I have shared which would inspire them to follow me. I have a personal Facebook page, and sometimes Twitter. The Rainey Film and Media website.
This was great, thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this with us. We wish you continued success!
Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmaker Lorna Rainey of Rainey Film & Media Is… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.