A proud woman of color and passionate advocate for authentic storytelling.
By: Khrista Trovela
Halima Lucas is an LA-based writer and director with a relentless desire to tell impactful stories. Throughout her journey exploring the world of storytelling, she has earned numerous awards like the 2017 American Black Film Festival HBO Short Film Award for her production of Amelia’s Closet. She is currently working on the upcoming animated series, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, for Disney TV Animation.
As I listened to her speak about her passions, it became increasingly evident that as a storyteller, she puts a lot of heart into what she creates and implements a very intentional approach in each of her projects. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about her experiences and how she is helping shape the entertainment industry for the better. Here is some of the phenomenal insight she shared with me.
How do you empower yourself? What are some things that inspire you?
“My family inspires me in a lot of ways. On one end, I think there are so many stories about my family that I want to reflect on screen. But also, I think going into the arts is quite the endeavor… and so I look to my siblings on days that I want to tap out and give up because they are sometimes more excited about my dream than I am. Being able to look at them, be inspired, and motivated by their excitement and support, does tons for me. Also, it’s about sewing into a world what I want my siblings to grow up in. They inspire that too…What would I bestow upon them? And I try to put that on screen.”
Who are your role models and why do you look up to them? What have they taught you?
“Someone who I very much admire, is Ava DuVernay, because of what she does with the influence and power and opportunities she’s garnered. I’ve always dreamed to be able to tell stories that mean something to me, and in telling those stories, be able to have a platform that elevates and amplifies marginalized voices and brings more people to the table. I’m consistently inspired by her appetite for that. That’s the kind of stuff I want to do, I want to build a table for other people to sit and give them the tools to build their own tables and so on.”
What would you say is your proudest accomplishment?
“One of the proudest moments that I had was in high school when I did speech and debate. I was in this speech competition and…I remember I had made it to the finals—it was a rotary competition, and we pulled numbers or it was somehow randomly assigned, and I got last. I remember as I was sitting there, I just felt that I was grateful to be there...So I do my speech, which was a very personal story about my family and how we’ve weathered tough times together, and after they called honorable mentions, then third place, and as they were getting to second place, I saw a certificate with my name on it, but it had a gold sticker! It had a #1! I had gotten first place, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh! I can’t believe I won first place and $1,000!’…On top of that, my parents and I got to go to Reno for me to perform that speech in front of that rotary club. It was the first time I got paid to do something that I really loved, the first time I got to travel for something that I really loved. That is one of my earliest super proud moments, and that got echoed when I won the HBO short film competition, for the American Black Film Festival. I had this film that was a labor of love and I struggled and scraped with a team of people to tell this story, Amelia’s Closet. Not only did I have an amazing time at this festival, I won the top prize! I could not believe it. I got to go on stage and get this trophy, and that check was for $10,000! It was this feeling of, ‘Oh my gosh, I just set out to do something I love and other people are appreciating it as much as I am. I am being celebrated simply for something I love to do.’ I think there’s a joy in that that can’t be replaced.”
Could you tell us about your occupation?
“Currently, I am a TV writer at Disney TV Animation, on a show called, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, that will be premiering in 2022. I also develop shows.
How did you discover your passion for writing/storytelling?
“When I was a kid, I would doodle, I would write poems, and I would do all kinds of things. I feel like I’ve always had a creative bug in me, but I don’t know if I ever paid attention to it, like this is something I could do for a living. It was just something that was a part of my personality. By the time I got to undergrad, I was really into sociology and just learning about ethnic studies and gender studies—learning about marginalized communities and their histories and how to advocate. I set myself on course to a PhD program because I was like, ‘I love school. I want to be a professor.’ Along the way though, one summer, someone gave me the login to their Netflix account…and I found myself binging everything! I remember one particular episode of this show called, The Tutors, and long story short, there was a character who was terrible. He was a bad guy on the show, and I was like, ‘He should get killed off. He’s terrible!’ Then it was getting close to the point where that might happen to him, but then in one episode they touch a little bit on his backstory and by the end of that episode, I had completely 180’d. I was like, ‘Nooo, I don’t want this character to die!’, and then he ends up getting killed. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I can’t believe these 40 minutes completely changed my mind about this one person who I was certain I knew how I felt about them.’ And I thought, ‘If this medium can change my mind about this person, it has to have the capacity to change people’s minds about me and my community and the identities that my family represents.’ It was a moment where passion and purpose met. So, I went downstairs to my mom and said, ‘Hey, I think I want to be a filmmaker.’ After
that I was taking every course that I could find on film at my university, and I applied to grad school. That was the start of my storytelling journey, at least through film and TV.”
What are some things that you think every good story needs?
“A good story has a message—it has something to say. When you tell a story, you’re telling the story to lead to a bigger idea. I think the best stories are trying to tell you something truthful about the world. The best stories have the storyteller’s truth. You can feel it. When you’re watching a movie, if you feel something, it’s because you resonate with something that is truthful. I think the stories that I really love do this thing where they tie you in the shoes of a character and what you think you’re getting is some kind of escape from your own life. But by the end of the story and after embracing the story you’ve connected to, you come back understanding something about yourself better than you did before. I love that because it’s a trick. What you think you’re getting is an escape, but you leave this experience understanding yourself more. The best stories do that to their audience…”
Have you run into any challenges as a woman of color during your time in this industry?
“There are so many challenges that come with being a woman of color in this space. I’ve experienced trying to communicate a culturally specific story --that can be difficult. Also, sometimes being the only person in the room that has the life experience to be able to recognize things [in terms of representation] and the study to be able to point those things out. Sometimes pointing those things out comes with a price, sometimes it makes people uncomfortable. I think, oftentimes, as women of color in this industry, our presence is enough to make people feel uncomfortable. If our presence is enough to make them feel uncomfortable, without even saying a word, you can imagine when we actually start to speak—what that does to the space. That brings about some of the other obstacles that can be internal, where there’s a question of, ‘Do I belong in this space?’ Those are real obstacles that I’ve seen, and it didn’t just start when I was working, it also was in place when I was in school. It’s in the industry, but as a woman of color, I experience these things all throughout my life. There are barriers to what people think about you and because of what they assume and how they treat you, how does that affect the way you see yourself? That will impact how you work and your ability to achieve what you want to achieve…It’s been a
journey learning how to silence those voices—the internal ones—and how to navigate some of the external ones.”
Do you have any advice for other women of color pursuing a role similar to yours?
“I would say, tell the stories that you, in your heart, want to tell and not feel weathered by what’s on TV or what people see as hot or this or that. Get to know your own voice, the themes and ideas, the kinds of characters and worlds that speak to you. Also, know why you want to do this role because that also keeps you motivated. It keeps you driven while you’re going through any challenges that come up along the way. I would say, you are what you do. So, if you are writing, you are a writer. If you are directing, you are a director already. You don’t have to wait till you get to a place to call yourself that. I would also say, don’t be afraid to learn, don’t be afraid to grow…there’s always things to learn. Know that you are capable and qualified, especially for women and women of color. The biggest thing I would say is give yourself the green light...take agency over your own passion, career, and talent.”
What is a category of media that resonates with you the most?
“Music. I very, very, very much resonate with and feel creatively by music. The thing about a song is sometimes it captures a story with a beginning, middle, and end, but sometimes it just captures a moment. It puts you in a moment of something and evokes the emotion that you had in that moment, like the feelings of going through a breakup or the feeling of wanting something so bad but not being able to have it. Such a specific feeling! Musicians are so talented in that they can just zero in on that and just expand and dive into that emotion/moment. I’m wildly inspired by music.”