A CONVERSATION WITH: DESTINY
This blog is part of our series, A Conversation WITH. As a media organization, we want to highlight members of our team that are doing awesome work with Wide Angle, while also pursuing their own creative goals.
Destiny Brown - she/her pronouns - is a young filmmaker and actress born and raised in Baltimore, MD. She began at Wide Angle as the lead actress for a CSX train safety video, and over the years has transitioned into an Assistant Producer and Youth Ambassador. She is also part of the Youth Advisory Council and wants to be on the Board one day. Destiny has created a national award-winning film, traveled to South Africa to film internationally, and has spoken on numerous panels including Light City and Grantmakers for Education. She will be entering her first year at New York University (NYU) this fall, studying acting and theater, while also working as a Video Generalist at the Stern School of Business at NYU.
Current read: The Art of Acting by Stella Adler, Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover, The Fervent Years: The Group Theatre And The Thirties by Harold Clurman
Song on repeat: “What A Wonderful Thing Love Is” by Al Green
Favorite spot in Baltimore: Lexington Market at lunchtime
Tell me more about Lexington Market at lunchtime.
During lunchtime they have live music and people are dancing. My mom and I love to catch lunch there because you can see the real culture of Baltimore. It’s awesome they’re bringing art exhibitions there, the space is really changing. When I go to college and return it’s going to be so different from what I remember but it’s a place I grew up in. Every time I go to Lexington Market there’s people that I know. My mom always had an entrepreneurial spirit but she always wanted to be there for me. So we found creative ways to make income. I used to sell handmade jewelry and she would sell waters and snacks. Whenever we would go down to Lexington Market it’s like a reunion. I have a lot of memories there.
What was your introduction into theater?
My mom always knew I was going to be on a stage. It’s funny because Spotlighters Theater was directly below our apartment. We would go to the theater and I would be the youngest in the audience, enthralled by everything going on. That was my first introduction to theater. They had a theater camp there for middle school students. Although I was in elementary school, they gave me a scholarship and offered me to attend. Usually the bigger kids get the bigger roles and the smaller kids get the smaller roles - that’s just how it was. This was my first introduction to Shakespeare and I was Olivia in Twelfth Night which was one of the biggest roles in the play and I was the only one that was small! That being one of my first memories just engrained a lot of my passion for theater.
What was your introduction into filmmaking?
I started at Wide Angle through acting - I was the lead in a CSX train safety commercial. After the commercial I said, “I don’t have film experience but I see there’s people my age with these cameras and I’m amazed by it and I would really like to do it.” I started out on the acting side. I held national casting calls for them through Backstage, and press releases. Then they had this assignment where everyone had to make a video about something they were passionate about. This was during the time of the educational budget crisis so we filmed a rally. One of my friends is a rapper/poet and I had him write a poem about education and it was a hit! It was just me, Tahir and David filming on a couple of FS7s, just filming people’s video portraits, and the teachers and students who are faced with the educational budget crisis. It raised awareness. Baltimore Public Schools retweeted it on Twitter because they said that it helped them. It won many festivals: the JHU festival, the Maryland Film Festival, the international San Francisco Film Festival featured film. I had never imagined that I could get behind a camera. Wide Angle just opened that whole entire door for me.
How has working in productions impacted your acting?
In so many ways! I’m a stage actor primarily but I’m really interested in film acting [or screen acting] because it works so perfectly with being behind the camera as well. I have trouble with film acting because it’s the opposite of stage acting. On the stage we’re taught to resonate, be loud, be big - the person in the back of the theater should be able to hear every word that we say. With screen acting everything is so intimate, you move your eyebrows and that becomes a big expression because you’re putting it on these huge screens. Being behind the camera has taught me a lot of that. It’s also taught me how to behave in front of the camera - no fidgeting, being symmetrical - things that I would never have thought of before. When I’m screen acting I’m still too aware of the cameras. I just need to practice it though and having experience with filmmaking is going to elevate me to another level of professionalism. When I step on a productions shoot I’ll understand what they are doing and how to plan around different shots.
Describe Wide Angle in one word.
Empowering. I think that encompasses everything they do. There’s not a single video that we do with Wide Angle that doesn’t empower the community or shed a positive light on communities. We got to do a video on prison advocacy at the House of Delegates. We’re empowering our students here to pick up the camera and say something about their communities and how they feel. Everything we do is just empowering the community and trying to make an adverse change to all the negative that’s going on in the world right now.
How do you unplug? What kind of self care practices keep you going?
That is something I fall short on sometimes if it’s not in class. I’m taught to take care of my body because my body is my tool but I only do it when it’s part of a class. I actually stretched thing morning and took five deep breaths and felt so much more centered. It wasn’t something I really thought about before but it’s something I’m trying to work on. If I’m going to be taking my work seriously, I have to start taking care of my body now. When I was really overbooked especially senior year, I learned I had to relax in the work - if that makes sense. Enjoying doing these things made it much easier. Seeing the end goal also helped. Anytime I got really frustrated with everything going on I just thought about stepping on to NYU’s campus.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Since sixth grade I’ve wanted to attend NYU and I made it my mission to get there. I had an NYU binder that I brought in the first day of senior year. I showed my teacher and he was like, “Hm I don’t know, you’re getting a little too excited. It’s a really choosey school.” So I put an index card on the NYU part of my binder. I still used that binder every day and once I got into NYU I ripped it off. That was one of the happiest days.
It’s really a blessing that I got a full ride with all the outside scholarships. That’s what my mission is now. I really want to help other people because I know there’s a lot of opportunities that I knew through the different programs I was a part of that other people don’t know about. On my Instagram I always try to share different scholarships when they open. My direct messages are always open if anyone wants advice or help. I got a 1530 on the SAT so I told anyone, “If you need help, tell me what you need help with and I’ll help you.” I’ll also review anyone’s application for scholarships. This is the way I can give back. I don’t know how I can start to pay back everything that I’ve been blessed with.
Follow Destiny on IG: dleilanibrown
What advice would you give someone who is interested in acting or filmmaking?
I want to highlight the importance of using media to make a difference. Yeah, I want to become an actress and that’s something that’s been a passion of mine, but it has to be for a reason. There’s sitcoms and then there’s movies that make statements. There’s also so much power behind the camera and that’s why I’m really interested in not putting it to the wayside. There’s a lot of inequality on the screens. Color and appearance play a major role in who gets chosen for certain things and I really want to work hard to change that.
What Wide Angle opened my eyes to is that media can make such a difference in so many ways that documents can’t. For example the Muller Report, no one sat down and read that report - I didn’t read that report! But when you see the snippets on the news, you find out what it means. In the time that we live in, that’s the way to make change now. We need to evolve to that. That’s something I would advise anyone interested in this field to do. Take that passion and use it for a reason, use it to make a difference. How can you use that talent to say something and make a change in your community? I know that I have [made change] with the work that I’ve done, and I plan to continue that and it’s all because of Wide Angle. A million thank you’s to Wide Angle. I can’t step up if I don’t have the stairs and they gave me so many opportunities.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Hannah Shaw is the Communications Specialist at WAYM. She is a multidisciplinary designer and received her BS in Marketing from UMD and MA in Social Design from MICA.