We had the good fortune of connecting with LaDawn Manuel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi LaDawn, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
My work life balance has changed a lot over the past year + that we’ve been in this pandemic. I prioritized work over family and friends. The things I experienced during the pandemic + therapy has changed my outlook on what I value most. My friends and I joke about me never being able to plan trips and outings ahead of time because a day or two before I’d have to cancel. Jokes always have a way of sticking with you though. I’ve also been working non-stop since I was 17. These things coupled with 12hr shoot days start to take a toll, no one enjoys waking up tired. Its a formula for burn out. Now, I’m very strict about the hours I work on set. I’ll also turn down jobs that fall on days that I already have plans. I’m not afraid to take a month off work if I need to anymore. I’ve learned its okay to take breaks.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
– I’ve always had an interest in art I started drawing when I was a child, that got me into painting, photography and ultimately film. Creatively my inspiration comes form a lot of different artist Carrie Mae Weems, Larry Clark, Nan Goldin, Bradford Young, Ernie Barnes I could go on, these artist I feel no one else captures intimacy quite like them. My work is about self discovery, intimacy, and vulnerability. I’ve ran full force to and from these subjects in life and I believe my subjects do the same. Its quite the journey. – I’m most excited about the work I’ve done this year. I had the liberty of DP’ing two short films that really tested me creatively and technically this year. I’m currently Dp’ing a documentary that’s helped me achieve a higher love for myself as far as being a Black woman. I’m also excited and forever grateful for genuine friendships I’ve been able to foster this past year in Filmmaking. It’s grown me as an artist and given me a community in what is already a small industry.
– Plenty of factors led to where I am professionally. After completing my undergrad degree I decided to go to Howard to study film. It was during my time in grad school at that I began to freelance full-time. I was supervisor at Asics and a TA when I realized there’s no way I could work 40 hrs a week and only be on set my 2 free days out of the week, that summer of 2017 is when I made the leap. It proved to be more fruitful than I had ever imagined but that first winter is a doozy, don’t give in though. I worked an editing job to keep me afloat that winter and I don’t even like editing. Four winters later “slow season” isn’t something I have to worry about financially. That’s truly a blessing.
– I want to make films with people who look like me about people who look like me. I’m a Black woman from Cleveland, Ohio with a lot to say. I’m coming. That’s what I want the world to know.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My friends aren’t able to visit often so when they do I jam pack the week. We’d probably go to happy hour at El Rey or King St Oyster Bar. Georgetown if they want to go shopping. DC is chocolate city so we’ll definitely go to a few different black owned shops, Calabash tea shop and Fish n The Neighborhood are my current favs, I was big fan of Marvins but they closed for good during quarantine. The city has amazing art galleries and all of the national museums are free. You can’t come to the DMV with out getting crabs. Ruff n Ready crab house in MD is to die for, I also enjoy Quarter Deck in VA. My favorite dinner restaurants right now are Vaso’s Mediterranean Bistro (VA) and Carlyle (VA). Weekend mornings are always about brunch, Mad Hatter( DC), Society (Silver Spring), and Busboys and Poets are my go to’s. As far as night life Eaton DC, Park at 14th, or somewhere with a really good Reggae night is usually where you’ll find me.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I could name so many people but we’d be here for a while. So I’d like to shout out anyone who’s ever supported me, hired me, took a chance on me etc. All of you have helped mold me into who I am today. Forever grateful for you all and huge shout out to SHOUTOUT LA for featuring me.
Copper Still Photography