First-Time Filmmaker Takes Tough Love Speech to Heart

Karen Cox isn’t a filmmaker by trade, but she started writing her first film after hearing some tough love from director Robert Townsend of “The Five Heartbeats” fame.

Cox made it a habit of attending the annual American Black Film Festival “just for fun,” says Cox, who has a history of technical writing. Two years ago, Townsend spoke at a festival forum for emerging filmmakers with a simple but blunt message – stop talking and start shooting.

“I’m sick and tired of all of you filmmakers saying you’re writers … I don’t see anything. I want to see something,” she recalls him telling the crowd.

You know what, she thought to herself. He’s right.

Cox’s first film, “Aide-de Camp,” will premiere at 10 a.m. May 19 at the fifth annual G.I. Film Festival. The short film follows a single mother torn between dating an unavailable but intriguing man and a wounded soldier.

Cox says she has several relatives who have served in the military, but she found deeper inspiration from a long friendship her mother forged with a soldier, a brave young man who ended up losing a leg during his third tour of duty. It also helped that Cox had visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the past and was able to see wounded warriors like one of her film's characters for herself.

Cox self-financed her 18-minute film, an effort that showed her the limitations of working with a modest budget. But she didn’t want any excuses, so she poured as much money as she could into the film’s sound so it would be as polished an effort as possible. She says she has high expectations of both herself and her work.

Now, with a short film under her belt, Cox is ready to write some more. She’s currently working on a story about a retired dancer who feels like she lost her place in society when she became too old to perform, but Cox is just warming up.

“I want to explore other themes, too. I have all these stories ready to tell,” she says.


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