We had the good fortune of connecting with Joseph East and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Joseph, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
At Brave Voices Media, we believe telling stories creates bridges of empathy and sparks meaningful connections. Storytelling is a powerful tool for change.
We’ve partnered with a lot of individuals and organizations making an impact every day in their communities and we help them tell their stories. For example, we work with the Hard History Project which helps teachers around the country develop lesson plans to teach the history of slavery and resistance to K-12 students. We work with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to tell the powerful stories of people in their community and the cure the community is working toward. Recently we produced a short documentary about Pamela Winn, an activist in Georgia working on behalf of incarcerated pregnant people with a mission to ultimately end prison birth. In each case, our goals with the films we produce is to support and further these missions.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Ten years ago when I was directing my first documentary, ‘I Will Dance’, all I had was a small DSLR camera and a tripod. When I started the project I didn’t have funding, but I believed this was an incredible story worth telling and was determined to complete it. On some days, especially in the editing process, it felt like trudging through mud and I was learning on the job. Overall, the experience was incredible. The film required three years to complete. It was broadcast on PBS and selected for the National Endowment for the Arts Southern Circuit Tour. I’m still incredibly proud of the film. Most of all, I’m proud of all the experiences with the people behind the scenes making it and the people on screen who allowed us to share their stories. I’m grateful for the support from my wife Alicia who was also a producer on the film, as well as friends and our community who believed in the project. They were all an essential part of getting it done.
A benefit of learning on projects with tight budgets and being an independent filmmaker is, by necessity, you wear a lot of hats. You pick up a boom mic or camera and you learn all the jobs. Having experience producing, shooting and editing has helped me as a director. Every project I’ve worked on, I try to soak up the experience and keep learning.
When I look back on the film projects I’ve been involved in so far, a common theme throughout is people finding their voices and using their voices to advocate for others through the platforms they have. That’s what I’m trying to do too– express my voice through the medium of filmmaking, bring awareness to causes I care about and tell great stories.
When my wife, Alicia and I were becoming friends, we connected about telling stories that matter. In 2018 we started a production company called Brave Voices Media which is founded on the idea that everyone has a calling inside that invites us to take a bold leap– to advocate for an issue we’re passionate about, to go after a crazy idea that seems impossible, or to courageously speak up when everyone around sits back. That’s where great stories start and also what inspired our name.
The thing I love most about telling real stories and what inspires me is the opportunity to meet incredible people from all walks of life that we may never normally get to. When you are there to witness a genuine moment of discovery or breakthrough in a person’s life, those are incredible moments. That is the power of true stories. Over the past ten years making films, the most important lesson I’ve learned is to build trust with the ones you are telling the story about. When you are lucky enough to be entrusted with telling someone’s story, that comes with a big responsibility. For me personally, building and keeping the trust of those in your film is priority number one– more important than what camera you shoot on or the editing program you use.
Finally, the thing I’ve learned and hold on to is if you want to make a film or tell a story in any medium, don’t wait for permission or for some magical door to open. If you have a story you want to tell, tell it. Experiment. Don’t let anything hold you back. And don’t be hindered by a lack of equipment or resources. Let that be an advantage! Use what you have and get creative!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my friend was visiting Atlanta, we’d definitely stop by for a movie at the Plaza Theatre, take a walk through Piedmont Park, bike the Beltline, go to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Martin Luther King National Historic Park and Fernbank Museum of Natural History. We’d grab food at Ponce City Market, get coffee at Condesa Coffee, grab some Jeni’s ice cream at Krog Street Market and go see a show at the Fox Theatre.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to dedicate this Shoutout to my wife, Alicia. We started Brave Voices Media together to tell stories that matter and the work we do would not be possible without her!
Tomesha Faxio Jarah Botello