Creating My Own Entertainment
The following post is part of our Fat Wallet initiative to help promote fat-friendly projects that are financed through independent fundraising sites. Today’s project is a film project written by Sara Koffi, an ambitious young woman who wants to diversify the entertainment options out there and increase representation for those who fly under the radar of mainstream Hollywood.
Hi! My name is Sara Koffi. I’m a college kid, majoring in English with a Concentration in Education. I’m from the South but have an LA heart. I’m currently raising cash for my planned dramedy film, Class Dismissed, on indiegogo. Class Dismissed is the story of Christy Taylor, a plus-sized escort, and her college roommate, Aubrey, who has some coming out to do. The film focuses on the days leading up to a visit from Aubrey’s parents and Christy’s meeting with a conservative guy who she maybe kinda’-likes.
You’re probably wondering about the who, the how and the why. I’m mostly Sara, but I’m some other pretty important stuff too. I’m also African-American, plus sized (US 24, to be specific) and an aspiring filmmaker and screenwriter. I’ve always been in love with Hollywood and films, and even more in love with how films could change the world. The media is so powerful in its abilities to affect our perspectives and get images stuck inside of our head.
When I was younger, I appreciated the fact that I could sing along with commercials and knew what shows would be on which channels. I blissfully wrapped myself in that classic 21st century Hollywood glamour, as well as TV series’ that were dedicated to ghost stories. As I slid into my tweens, I started to realize something about the media: they didn’t like me very much, or so it seemed.
The representation of fat people, the people who looked like me, either revolved around them regretting their body or actively attempting to change it. African-Americans were either cast as a random best friend to complete the color wheel of a comedy or just shrugged off completely. Even with the variation of female characters, I still wasn’t sure I saw myself in any of them. To quote a Netflix review I read a long time ago, “It’s like a man wrote this about women.” It was hard to pinpoint exactly why the portrayal of women seemed so off, but it didn’t always ring so true.
It took me until my college years to finally admit it to myself that there wasn’t going to be too many people like me on TV. After I’d accepted the truth of the matter, I decided to start creating my own entertainment. I’d been writing screenplays and mini-plays since high school, never seriously considering I could make them tangible.
This time was going to be different. I came up with the stage play, “Ships”, a modern retelling of an age-old story about mismatched romances and weird best friends. The catch? No one wanted to fund it. This was before I’d learned about what gets financed and what doesn’t in terms of production (hint: if it involves anyone fat or a minority, then it’s going to have trouble getting financed). Eventually, some gracious soul decided to offer me a shot at production which I had to decline. I know what you’re thinking. Who would go through the trouble of getting something produced just to politely postpone production?
The same girl who wanted to see herself on screen. I realized that producing “Ships” wasn’t going to be too honest. It had bits and pieces of me, but it wasn’t fully me. I needed to create something that would be able to speak directly to an audience, not just touch on certain subjects and re-route back to-“All you need is love.” Don’t get me wrong, love is fantastic and all, but nothing beats positive media images for people who don’t see them too often. It feels like finding a flower amongst a field of thorns or turning the channel to see someone like you who doesn’t hate themselves for who they are. It’s a pretty nice feeling.
That’s how Class Dismissed was born. Class Dismissed is really my own built up manifesto that I’m finally ready to share with the world after years of distressing interactions involving core elements of myself (fat, black, opinionated). Thou shalt not make assumptions of others based on body size. Thou shalt not slut shame. Thou shalt always aim to be inclusive. Thou shalt always aim to be diverse.
I knew it had to be a comedy, because setting aside my own love of laughter, I wanted to make other people who felt excluded, or included stereotypically, by the media to have a chance to laugh as well. I wanted the film to serve as a safe haven for people who too often feel left out. It has elements of drama, because I still want people to think about the movie after it’s done. It should be hilarious, but hilariously insightful. I love it when media has a message behind it, so I couldn’t imagine my own being any different.
So, why Class Dismissed? Why does this story need to be told? The short answer is because it needs to be told. An alternative answer would be because it needs to be told as soon as possible. The entertainment industry is oversaturated with the types of media that is generally liked and rarely questioned. Why? Usually, if people are left with the inclination to question anything they’re seeing, that piece of media will be disregarded or else run for just an episode or two.
There’s a tendency to sweep controversial media images under the rug or to mention them in passing without dwelling on them too long. In the worst cases, they’re dealt with in the most stereotypical way imaginable. I’m completely over it. I want there to be a change in my media, where serious topics are discussed and handled and thought out. I’m tired of seeing the complexity of characters forsaken as they’re reduced to skin color or sexual orientation. I want less problematic entertainment, and Class Dismissed seems like a pretty good start. If nothing else, I want to prove to Hollywood that you can create something inclusive, funny and memorable without having to rely on negative stereotypes to make it work, because doing that is pretty gross.
Thanks for reading!
Much peace and much love,