Taryn Wilson
Category: 2022 High School Winner

Taryn Wilson

Growing up, I would fill all of the storage on my family’s camcorder with footage for my American Girl Doll stop motion videos and spend hours using my dad’s computer to stitch every frame together. As I got older and my interest in movie making grew, I found myself watching behind-the-scenes footage from my favorite movies in hopes that one day I could be a part of the movie- making process. I then began researching some of Hollywood’s most admirable writers and directors and thankfully discovered the genius that is Spike Lee.

Spike Lee is a bold director, producer, and screenwriter who is especially known for his collection of movies that accurately depict the African American experience, challenge racial stereotypes and address controversial subjects. His career took off in 1989 when he wrote, directed, and produced the film Do The Right Thing. The Academy Award-nominated movie portrays a story of racial tension between Italian Americans and African Americans in Brooklyn and acts as a call to action against police brutality and racial bias. Its thought-provoking plot forced its audiences to challenge their perspectives on prejudice and compliance and drew attention to systemically racist institutions and the injustice those institutions create. At the time, these themes were rarely discussed in entertainment and were even overlooked by the general public. Do The Right Thing sparked much-needed conversations about inequality and intolerance in America and taught lessons that were relevant then and are still relevant today.

Spike Lee revolutionized the American film industry as he continued creating entertaining and intelligent media that portrayed black experiences. His work began eliminating the formulaic, stereotype-based image of black culture that had been presented to the public by white directors. It also created an environment where the wave of black filmmakers that came after him could openly express themselves, their backgrounds, and their experiences through film and opened doors for black talent in the entertainment industry.

I hope to utilize the doors that Spike Lee has opened for me as a black filmmaker, mirror his values, and honor his legacy. His work fuels my aspiration to create visual media that contributes to the forces currently making the world a better place. Along with being entertaining, I hope that my work inspires others, promotes positive change, and spreads awareness regarding a plethora of social and political issues. More than anything, I want my work to be an instrument of change that can illustrate and amplify the voices of those who need it most. As the world opens its arms to change, the proper depiction of minority groups and their history is more important than ever. By working in the film industry both in front of and behind the camera, I hope to allow people to see life from different perspectives, learn from the experiences of others, and, in some cases, help people acknowledge the privilege they may not even realize they have. As Spike Lee once said, “it is important that films make people look at what they’ve forgotten”.