Interview with Filmmaker Taylor-Alexis Gillard (THE SILENT WILLOW)

THE SILENT WILLOW was the winner of BEST DIRECTION at the December 2021 BLACK & WHITE Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

My own diagnosis of uterine fibroids motivated me to begin talking about this health condition but the silence from other women was the driving force for me to make this film. I no longer wanted women to feel alone and/or ashamed of uterine fibroids and I believed that film was the best medium for me to raise awareness.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

The documentary took about 10 months to make but the idea was planted since my myomectomy (fibroid removal surgery) in 2015.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

“A release”

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

I would say the biggest obstacle I faced in completing this film aside from the pandemic, was having to be a one woman show 90% of the time while filming. Filmmaking has so many moving parts and when you’re alone, you have to make sure you cover as many aspects of shooting while staying present with the person you’re interviewing. Also working 60 -70 hours a week at a non-film job while being a full time grad student brought on challenges of its own.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I thoroughly enjoyed the reactions I received in my film’s feedback video. The most affirming moment for me while watching was that the audience completely understood the creative decisions for the film. The decision to make the film strictly black and white, forgoing music and using nature as the soundtrack as well as making sure I was inviting the audience into the conversation in a productive and respectful manner. Super grateful for the feedback!

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I realized that I wanted to make films shortly after I edited and released a few episodes of a small cooking show I hosted. I knew that I enjoyed the process of filmmaking but I wanted to do something more substantial. With that and my interest in documentaries (and action films), I knew that creating films was my calling.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

500 Days of Summer is the film I’ve seen the most. I loved the way the unconventional romance between the Summer & Tom unfolded, the cohesive soundtrack and how realistic the love story was for the time.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

I think being able to see other works from those filmmakers who have been selected in a specific festival would be nice and inspiring. The feedback was super helpful and the advice will be something I continue to use in future projects as I grow as a director.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

I enjoyed the ease of use of FilmFreeway and that is slowly becomes an organized hub for all of your film festival submissions. I think the best part of FilmFreeway is that you can discover so many niche film festivals.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Since simplicity is key, I would say pesto mashed potatoes, some type of greens & grilled salmon is my favorite meal…right now.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

For the new year, I’m leaving my job in compliance to be a full time documentary film director, creating films on topics near and dear to me. The women in my family came here from the Caribbean and I’ve always been fascinated with how they migrated to NYC in different decades. A survival story that is common within the West Indian community but rarely spoken of.

I’m currently working on a documentary that tells the unheard stories of Caribbean mothers who migrated to NYC in the 70s, 80s and 90s and how this life change affected various aspects of their lives. The women telling this collective story are from the islands of St. Kitts, Barbados, the Dominican Republic and St. Vincent. I’ll be traveling to St. Kitts to begin filming at the end of January and this documentary will be released on Mother’s Day.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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