#BlackFilmLife: Cheryl Ash-Simpson

#BlackFilmLife highlights and celebrates our family of filmmakers and what they have accomplished since screening their films at CCBFF. Recently, we caught up with Sunshine Noodles and Me (SNM) Executive Producer Cheryl Ash-Simpson, who walked away with a First Place – Documentary Feature win at the 2015 Capital City Black Film Festival. Read about where Cheryl’s journey has taken her since the Festival.

CCBFF: What made you want to tell your story?

CAS: When I was living in Malaysia, I wanted to share my Malaysia / Singapore experience because many people do not get to travel to that side of the world. After a while, that morphed into sharing my breast cancer journey because I felt it would be inspiring to others. Then I decided to put the two of them together so I can share both experiences.

CCBFF: Did you have any filmmaking experience before you started your project?

CAS: I had no filmmaking background at all! When I was working in Singapore, I was in the aerospace industry. I dipped in and out of working in printing and acting, but my primary career has always been in corporate America in the aerospace industry.

CCBFF: How did you begin? Who did you ask for help?

CAS: I reached out to my childhood friend, Joyce Fitzpatrick, who I had not seen in a long time. On Facebook I saw pictures of her producing various films. So I reached out and said, “Hey Joyce, this is what I’m thinking about doing, can you help me?” And she said yes! I already had travel plans to come back to the States through Los Angeles, so we arranged to meet there. We met at LAX for about an hour, talking about the possibilities. It just so happens that her boyfriend is a director. The three of us spent lots of hours on the phone talking about what story we wanted to tell and how we wanted to tell it.

CCBFF: What has happened since SNM screened at CCBFF?

CAS: After CCBFF, we went to another film festival in Atlanta and we also placed there. In October, SNM was shown on a Los Angeles PBS station that has 14 million viewers. I’ve had several speaking engagements and on-air interviews. In November, SNM premiered in Malaysia. We wanted to make sure everyone there had an opportunity to see it, so we held a benefit event where we showed the documentary and raised $8,000 for cancer research.

CCBFF: What’s next for SNM?

CAS: KweliTV! SNM has just started showing on KweliTV, and we’re very excited about that. KweliTV is an interactive, streaming TV network dedicated to the stories, issues and culture of the global black community. We’re also still looking at other distribution avenues.

CCBFF: Do you have any advice for others who may want to tell their stories through film?

CAS: Do it. Do it because everybody’s story is special. I had no experience when I started. Now I have the filmmaking bug, so I’m already thinking about the next project. If you have an idea, just go for it. If you don’t do it, you’ll never have it. But if you just get started, there are people out there who are willing to help you. If you tell your story, you can inspire someone else to tell theirs.

You never know who you may help. What’s been really delightful for me is how people send me notes saying that they saw SNM and were inspired. One lady saw it when it premiered on PBS and was touched by it. She wanted to know how she could get a copy of the film because her mother was going through the same journey, and she thought it would be helpful to her to see SNM. Now that’s a winner.

CCBFF: What would you tell others about your experience at CCBFF?

CAS: Love, love, love the Capital City Black Film Festival! Networking with all of my fellow filmmakers was great. The fact that it is well supported by JuVee productions is a huge plus, and Julius Tennon shared invaluable knowledge about how to get into the film industry. The panels and seminars were great, too. I loved it. Kudos to Winston Williams – he’s done a fabulous job with the festival. I only have high praise for CCBFF!

Sunshine, Noodles and Me’ is a documentary about the journey of a woman who discovers she has breast cancer just three days before her wedding. Blessed, bald and beautiful, Cheryl Ash-Simpson shares her heartwarming story, giving an honest portrayal of her battle with breast cancer and her determination to beat the disease. With the love and support of her fiancé, Cheryl shows you that can get through adversity, especially if you’re armed with love. ‘Sunshine, Noodles and Me’ is co directed and produced by Joyce Fitzpatrick and Brian Shackelford.