Newark Native Filmmaker Nicole Thompson's "Black Bird": Virtual Women in Media - Newark Film Fest

Oct 19, 2020

"Blackbird" was Nicole Thompson's thesis at USC
Credit Nicole L. Thompson

Nicole L. Thompson, a filmmaker born and raised in Newark, will kickoff the virtual Women In Media - Newark 2020 Film Festival, which runs through October 21.  Thompson is the Director and Producer of Blackbird, an aspirational tale about Sherri Jones, an African American young woman who cleans planes for a living, but dreams of being a pilot.

Thompson spoke to WBGO News Director Doug Doyle from her home in Los Angeles. 

Nicole graduated from the University of Southern California with a Masters of Fine Arts in Film and TV production, where she focused in directing at the School of Cinematic Arts.  Prior to that she received her Bachelor of Arts from The College oF New Jersey where she majored in Communications Studies with a concentration in Radio/TV/Film. 

Thompson says her grandmother worked at Newark Airport and inspired the making of Blackbird.

"When I was looking to make my thesis film at USC I was looking for a way to pay homage to the women who paved the way for our generation.  The first thing I thought about was my grandmother.  My grandmother worked in the Newark Airport for many years cleaning planes."

Nicole L. Thompson was born and raised in Newark, NJ
Credit Nicole L. Thompson

Thompson says her grandmother came through for her as she embarked on her college career and that stayed with her as she developed the lead character in Blackbird.

I recall when I was getting ready to go to school for my first degree, my undergrad degree, and I didn't have anything for college.  I had this bucket list of things I would need for school like an iron and a bedding set.  When getting that list together my grandmotehr purchased almost the entire list.  So I wanted to think of a way to pay homage to the woman who used money she made cleaning planes so I could go to college.  I thought of this story.  I thought of her experience working hard cleaning planes and I wanted to just take that bit and think about for her, her generation she was a part of a generation of a dream deferred.  They did all the workings so my generation could chase our dream.  So the character Sherri Jones is a mashup between the two.  She has a dream of her own that she wants to accomplish. And that dream for her is chasing that dream to become a pilot." 

The Women In Media - Newark Film Festival runs from March 25 through April 16 at various venues
Credit Pamela Morgan

Thompson was going to fly from the west coast to attend the film's screening at the Newark Museum, but COVID postponed the festival.  Nicole was humbled that Women In Media - Newark Executive Director Pamela Morgan selected Blackbird to start the 11th annual festival.

"It's a complete honor to not only be part of the festival but to be chosen as the opening film.  This film festival has been going on for quite some time and is definitely something that is a cornerstone in the community.  I feel honored to have Pamela look to me as someone she would consider worthy enough to open the festival.  I'm very thankful the entire festival and selection committee.  I hope I can be an asset or a resource to anyone that attends the festival."

Click above to hear the entire March interview with Nicole L. Thompson.