‘Harriet’ Filmmaker Kasi Lemmons on Directing: ‘You Have to Really Want It’

Kasi Lemmons made her directorial debut in 1997 with the much-praised “Eve’s Bayou,” which has since been cited as an influence on Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and Ava DuVernay’s “Queen Sugar.”

And yet, when “Harriet, her upcoming biopic about the civil rights abolitionist Harriet Tubman, is released on Nov. 1, it will be only the fifth movie Lemmons has gotten to direct.

Lemmons talked about that frustration in a wide-ranging interview at Variety‘s studio at the Toronto International Film Festival presented by AT&T.

That was 22 years ago,” she said. “I’ve spent most of my time in the 22 years trying to get movies made. And I’m very proud that I’ve gotten to make five movies. But I spend 80% of my time trying to get movies made.”

“You have to really want it,” Lemmons said when asked to give advice to aspiring young women directors. “If there’s anything else you can do, you might want to think about those things.” 

When the “Harriet” cast — including Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monae and Joe Alwyn — laughed at that suggestion, Lemmons continued.

You have to want it so badly that you must do it,” she said. “And then when you must do it, to enjoy the journey.

“You have to enjoy the process of being an artist every day,” Lemmons added.

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