BRIC TV Producer Sasha Whittle won the title of Best Young Creator at the 2018 Urbanworld Film Festival for her short documentary Three In Stride. Telling the story of Tai, Rainn, and Brooke Sheppard’s preparation of the country’s largest women’s track and field event, Three in Stride shares an intimate portrait of three sisters who grew up in homeless shelters and how their family grounded themselves in the sport of track. We talked with Sasha to talk about the piece, what the award means to her, and her thoughts on a future project.
This was your very first film festival. What was it like seeing your work on the big screen? What was your festival experience like overall?
It actually wasn't! My college film thesis screened at a festival and it was deeply personal so that was hell to watch. Honestly, nothing makes me more nervous than seeing my work on a big screen—I was basically a nervous wreck all morning.
Once I realized people liked it then I calmed down a bit and enjoyed getting to seeing my hard work up in a theater.
The festival was an incredible experience and there were so many talented filmmakers there!
How did you find the Sheppard Sisters? How did they react when you first got in touch?
I had seen their story a couple years back and being a runner it always stuck with me. I had remembered that they were Brooklyn based so when I started working here I began doing a little research—they honestly have done this so many times, they didn't react one way or the other! Their mom is so used to interviews that she even had back up light bulbs in her house in case we wanted to change out the ones in the ceiling lights.
Like Tai, Rainn, and Brooke, you are also a runner and ran track competitively. How did this common ground help with the documentary’s development?
It made everything easier—track meets are really long and tedious but I was so used to it that I could prep my DP's beforehand and knew exactly what it would be like. It's also easy to ask questions about something that you're personally so passionate about, too!
What was something surprising you learned while making Three in Stride?
I had no idea how FAST middle schoolers could be. Rainn could have placed in college meets with her final 1500 time in the film!
It was also a huge learning curve as a director—I honestly didn't understand how to direct a documentary before this and there are a lot of things I would do differently this time while filming—but you live and you learn!
Congrats on your big award, it’s very well deserved! How did you find out you won and who was the first person you told?
I was so sure my film was the worst one that I actually didn't go to the awards brunch...(I had also been sick all week) but had basically forgotten about it.
This award comes with a $25,000 funding commitment for a future film project. Any ideas for what story you might tell next?
I (obviously) have a soft spot for women in sports and I think it's a really amazing time to tell those stories—so maybe keep going down that route but beyond that, I'm not sure!