TV and film writer (and former contributor to The Root) Felicia Pride has an array of stories bubbling inside of her. Leading with a fascinating Hollywood journey that includes TV writing credits in Queen Sugar, a festival-accepted feature film and more exciting things to come, Pride embodies her surname.
Having found Pride through her creator collective and newsletter The Create Daily (which strives to pay it forward to the creative community through jobs, fellowships, grant programs and more), I got to know Pride a bit more through social media and was therefore excited to finally sit down on the phone with her to discuss her newest project for Pride Month. It was like catching up with a homegirl.
Via her production company Felix & Annie, Inc. (named after her parents!), Pride’s short film Tender follows two Black women the day after a one night stand. That’s it—that’s your hook. Everything else? Well, you have to see it.
From the moment I saw the still featuring Kiana (Farelle Walker) and Lulu (Trishauna Clarke) wrapped in the warmest embrace, I felt every bit of tenderness emanating from the frame.
“I remember running [the title] past my homegirl [and] running it past [producer] Regina [Hoyles] and [was] like ‘This is it’,” Pride told The Root. “[I wanted] to be able to show our vulnerability, our sensuality, our softness, but also our hardness [and] our defense mechanisms and how we actually do pull them down when we feel safe.”
“Safe” is the keyword here, because, through Walker’s and Clarke’s portrayal, you not only notice the unique security between them but we, the audience, feel at ease watching them.
“I would tell Farelle something in private that Trishauna would not know what I was telling and vice versa,” the writer-director revealed. “It helps actors to be in the moment because you don’t know how the other actor is gonna play it. So we really worked a lot with objectives, of course, and wants and having those [be] consistent, but then sort of shifting the strategies that the actors would use in order to get what they wanted.”
While navigating a society that perpetuates an abrasive narrative around Black women (though we certainly have plenty of reasons to be angry), we can’t ignore the fact that a film like Tender is a welcome reprieve, especially these days. It is a special salve to witness two Black women with total agency loving up on each other and providing adequate space for each other in a world that suffocates us.
“I just thought about my relationships with black women, and it is with black women that I feel like I can be my most vulnerable. I really wanted to try to get and show that on screen,” Pride noted.
Not only did I appreciate that I was witnessing two Black women in a tender space, but also the fact that we were able to sufficiently explore a nice variety of identities and experiences (such as queer, Generation X, working class, etc.) in under 15 minutes.
“We have two characters who are in very different stages in their lives,” Pride explained. “You have Farrelle Walker who plays Kiana, who is Gen X. She’s older. She’s settled. And it looks like she’s kind of given up a little bit on her desires. And when I say desires, I mean sexual, but also emotional work desires, career desires, life desires. She’s just had this surgery [and] I feel like she’s lost her sexual mojo a little bit. And there’s some shame around her body.”
“And then you put her up against Lulu, who is queer, out, proud, very sexually confident, but not as confident in other areas of her life,” Pride continued. “She’s still figuring things out. So, the idea was to have these two women pour themselves into each other.”
Pride debuted the short film in spring and immediately received quite the warm reception from the audience, who she says “poured” into her as well, in a sense. After falling in love with Kiana and Lulu, some wondered if the story could possibly be expanded in a feature film.
“I was really overwhelmed, gratefully, by how people, women, Black women, Black queer women have supported and embraced this film to the point where I was like, ‘Oh, shit!’ We need more representation, right? We know that. But, it was so reconfirming for me. We need more stories and Tender is one of those voices—this is a slice of life. This is my vision for this one particular story. But, the fact that we need more stories I was like, ‘Mannn...maybe I should consider expanding. People want more,” Pride said.
In the spirit of true vulnerability, though, Pride got vulnerable with me for a second. Like I said, she makes you feel like she’s your forever homegirl. “Getting a feature made is a fucking—” Pride starts, as we both fill in the obvious blank with uproarious cackling.
Pride absolutely knows the trials and tribulations of getting a feature film developed, financed, produced and ultimately distributed. The film she co-wrote with director Angel Kristi Williams, Really Love, was accepted into the 2020 SXSW Film Festival and was one of my most-anticipated premieres. Then, Da ‘Rona happened.
“I have spent 10 years in my life trying to get a feature made,” Pride exclaimed. “So, my thing is the fear...stepping into directing a feature, which was the point of this, to get there. Also, making sure that I’m doing right by these two characters [and] making sure that I’m doing right by the community that these characters represent.”
“There was just something in my spirit that was like, ‘You need to be doing this,’ so, I am committed to try to make Tender into a feature,” Pride confirmed. “Features are very hard to make. I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t know what’s going to happen in terms of production for indie filmmaking, but at least I know that I want to have that commitment. So I’m excited. This is going to be a new challenge! But, I feel bolstered by the need for more stories like this.”
The journey of feature filmmaking may be anything but tender, but my ongoing support for Pride will be. I can’t wait to see what she does next...and I hope you keep your eyes on her, too.
This interview has been edited and condensed.