An Exclusive Interview with Upcoming Filmmaker, Naomi Merlain. On Her Newest Short Film “Hair Like Wool”

 

 

"I don't think there is one way to view Black womanhood. If anything, it just adds to the beautiful complexities of Black womanhood." -Naomi Merlain

Hair Like Wool is a story of Black womanhood told through hair. 

 

On Friday, February 28th, 2021, Naomi Merlain's short film Hair Like Wool premiered at the Youtube Black Renaissance: The Art and Soul of Our Stories virtual event. The purpose of this event was to celebrate Black creativity and culture by paying tribute to the individuals who have worked hard to shape Black History. 

 

I had the pleasure of interviewing the very talented Naomi Merlain. A Howard University graduating English major from New Jersey. Naomi officially began her film career on September 27th, 2018. Although she is new to the filmmaking arena, she has always been interested in content creation. In the time span of two and a half years, Naomi has worked with notable companies such as Vogue and Beats by Dre. So, it was no surprise when she received a call to work with Youtube for their Black Renaissance event. Naomi had to work on a tight deadline to put the film together in 20 days. Luckily she had a strong support system who helped her every step of the way. 

 

Makailah Gause (Interviewer): How was the experience working with Youtube?

 

Naomi Merlain (Interviewee): I'm really grateful that my entire team at Youtube was black, so it felt like they really cared about the art that was put out and not just trying to feel into black bodies and this movement. I've realized that a lot of different companies dealing with Black History Month all of a sudden just showcase Black faces, but don't really care about the crowd and the people. While working with Youtube, I felt that they truly cared about me. Every day they checked in on me to see if there was anything that I needed. It was thrilling. I enjoyed being in this moment and creating the things that I love. Everyone in the film was family, and a lot of people were Haitian Americans like myself. So it felt good to work on a project that represents who I am and where I come from. Being able to create something from my home was a dream come true.

 

M.G.: What was the inspiration behind the music and the nostalgic feel of your film?

 

N.M.: When I was thinking about Black womanhood and hair, I just felt like there were a lot of pieces of nostalgia that Black womanhood understands as a collective. It's almost as if regardless of where you come from or who you are, there are certain pieces about your upbringing that if I were to mention your grandmother or mother washing your hair in the sink, the first time you get a relaxer, the first time you went to the salon, or the first time you get a weave installed, there's a certain feeling that we collectively understand as an experience. I wanted to produce that. 

 

M.G.: What was the creative process? Did this come naturally to you, or did you find it difficult? 

 

N.M: It was pretty natural. There were moments of difficulty when I had to call my mentor when I was stuck, but for the most part, it came naturally because it is something that I understand. I have a Pinterest board for everything, and I have a big whiteboard where I draw my thoughts down, and if you say a word or hear something, I automatically see something clear as day. My process of bringing to life what I already see. 

 

M.G.: What advice would you give to young filmmakers who want to enter the film industry, and what would you say to them to encourage them to keep going? 

 

N.M.: I would say what my mentor told me. "Just do it." For my first film, "The Genesis Project, I did not own a camera, and I was still a political science major; I did not have any experience, but I had a vision. If you have a vision--it does not matter if you have a camera or not. You can use your iPhone-- just do it and continue to put in the work.

 

Thank you, Naomi, for creating such a nostalgic film that speaks to black women and connects their womanhood back to their childhood hair experiences. 

Check out her creative portfolio here: http://naomimerlain.com