Camille Brown recently achieved a distinction, one that has become a tradition. A female-directed film on Lifetime seems like a rite of passage for any woman behind the camera. Yet a Christmas movie makes it all the more special. “A Christmas Winter Song” aired throughout the month of December, is currently on-demand and will likely remain part of the network’s future holiday line-ups. I was fortunate enough to interview Brown.
Technically “Winter Song” did have a theatrical release in Canada but the Lifetime Network acquired it for distribution in the U.S. What brought Brown to the project is a great example of females supporting other females. Brown had met the film’s screenwriter Melissa Bustamante at a Disney workshop. In addition, friend and fellow director Kristin Fairweather (who I interviewed in 2017 for Screen Comment) introduced Brown to the people at Marvista Entertainment, the production company behind many Lifetime films.
The film was shot in Michigan and stars Grammy winning singer/actress Ashanti as “Clio,” a home-goods shop owner who befriends “Fred,” a down-on-his luck former jazz musician, played by Stan Shaw. Through the power of song, the two form a father/daughter relationship which helps them get through the holidays. “The film is not a cookie cutter holiday movie,” explains Brown.
Obviously both Ashanti and Shaw did their own singing for the film. According to Brown, Shaw, who most will remember as the stuttering boxer in “Harlem Knights,” set the tone for the film. “He was wonderful!” said Brown. She added that the material was very resonant and that she loves stories about second chances. In the case of “Winter Song, Shaw’s character is reunited with his estranged daughter “Mia” played by up and coming actress Sashani Nichole.
A graduate of UCLA, Brown’s previous work includes 2017’s “The Nth Ward” which she wrote, produced and directed. It told the story of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. “I like stories that are grounded in reality,” claimed Brown. Although she is a triple threat behind the camera she prefers directing. “I like to visually convey what’s in my head.”
When asked if she ever experienced any disadvantages due to her gender in the director’s chair she confessed, “sometimes I’ve had to ask people to do things three times where I think if I were a man I would have only had to say them once.” It is therefore no surprise that Brown prefers to labeled a “director” as opposed to a “female director.”
Whatever her challenges it’s no doubt Brown knows how to navigate herself through a male-orientated profession. In fact, there may be some who are jealous of her talents. Perhaps “Winter Song” is her Merry Christmas not only to viewers, but female directors at large.