Monique Matthews talks with Script about her filmmaking journey, writing stories she wants to see, writing ‘A Holiday in Harlem’, and more!
(Originally Posted For Script Magazine: Article Link)
Monique Matthews is a storyteller on a mission. She recently wrote the holiday film, A Holiday in Harlem for the Hallmark channel, in which she has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Writing in a TV-Movie or Special, and is currently co-writing and directing a feature documentary Birthing Justice, amongst developing other projects. All the while, she’s writing to a theme that is steadfast and true to her – writing stories about hope and free will.
I had the utmost pleasure speaking with Monique about her filmmaking journey, writing stories she wants to see, and her writing routine, which I boldly suggest all writers attempt when sitting down to write new pages.
This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Sadie Dean: I’m excited to speak with you today about your new movie, A Holiday in Harlem, and especially about the documentary film you’re currently working on.
Monique Matthews: Thank you so much. Yes, the documentary is called Birthing Justice, and if the United States were just made up of black women, it would rank 99th in the world in successful birth outcomes. So, we’ve seen difficulty with Serena Williams. We’ve seen it with Beyonce. We’ve seen it with Allyson Felix with all of these women who are thriving, and it has very little to do with the socio-economic status. And we’re just exploring how it happens but really solutions for best practices. I’m really excited that this is a solutions-oriented documentary and not just looking at the problem.
Sadie: It’s such an important topic too, and something we should be paying attention to.
Monique: Yeah, there’s this Momnibus Act that’s in Congress right now, and it’s about increasing the number of dollars to promote health equity, and one of the primary areas is birthing. Luckily, it’s a time when people are looking at it and we just want to make sure that the funds are allocated correctly.
Sadie: Right, very important. A huge congrats on A Holiday in Harlem. Where did the idea initially come from for this movie?
Monique: I was home, and I was walking through Harlem in December 2019 for Christmas time and Harlem is just so beautiful. It’s one of the places that’s been settled by nearly every immigrant group that’s come to America, and it was considered the suburbs. That’s where Hamilton lived. I grew up with his house right in my backyard. And so, Harlem has such unique history in America, the architecture is amazing and, I was like, ‘Wow, this is a Christmas movie, but I’ve never seen one here.’ And that’s really why I wrote it. We write what we see but seemingly no one else has seen and that’s really how it started.