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Willie's Letter

Set against a southern landscape, Willie’s Letter tells a parallel story of sacrifice and resurrection across two generations. A depressed, failure-ridden father contemplates life, while attempting to hold on to his silver lining: his son. A PTSD-diagnosed son embarks on a journey to revisit the place of his father’s demise, and makes an unexpected discovery that brings him closer to healing. The film, Willie’s Letter, is inspired, in part, by propaganda piece “The Willie Lynch Letter, 1712.” The letter discusses the generational trauma of slave descendants, the aspect of mental slavery, and the separation of the black family — dynamics that are embedded in this film’s father-son relationship, and echo structures that define the black family today.

  • Kiana Woodson
  • Kiana Woodson
  • Vanessa Westbrook
  • Vanessa Westbrook
  • Angel Lenise
  • Blair Winders
    Director of Photography
  • Jarrett Michael Collins
    Key Cast
    "Willie Lynch"
  • Ezekiel Ageibege
    Key Cast
    "Kyndall Lynch"
  • Jessica Fontaine
    Key Cast
    "Deborah Lynch"
  • De'Jon Watts
    Key Cast
    "Young Kyndall Lynch"
  • Gwen Hudson
    Key Cast
    "Norma Lynch"
  • Jay Jones
    Key Cast
    "James Lynch"
  • Jerel Xavier Alston
    Key Cast
    "Boy Neighbor"
  • Leilani Stallings
    Key Cast
    "Girl Neighbor"
  • Antonio Curren
    1st Assistand Director
  • Future Criglar
    2nd Assistant Director
  • Terri Nash
    Production Coordinator
  • Brittany Kirkland
    Location Manager
  • Tedd Pfieffer
  • Ashish Raisinghani
  • Chad Brock
    Camera Operator
  • Will Culick
    1st Assitant Camera
  • Amber Bournett
    1st Assitant Camera
  • Angelica Perez
    2nd Assitant Camera
  • Rachel Waldon
    2nd Assitant Camera
  • Cameron Wingo
    2nd Assitant Camera
  • Keanna Johnson
  • Venessa Brown
  • Paul Woodie
    Key Grip
  • Justin Nesbitt
  • Mike Sal
    Audio Technician
  • Gerald Coleman
    Audio Technician
  • Deanna Smith
    Casting Director
  • Faye Coleman
    Set Designer
  • Tania Brantly
    Hair and Make-up
  • Angelica George
    Production Assistants
  • Ladaya James
    Production Assistants
  • Vanessa Johnson
    Production Assistants
  • Camille Douthit
  • Asha Belk
  • M. Hines
    Executive Producers
  • Sharon Westbrook
    Executive Producers
  • Joey Quavon Scarver
  • Dasmyn Grigsby
  • Chris D. Smith
  • Mariama Tatum
  • Mike Sal
    Sound Designer
  • Jeff Spott
  • Project Type:
    Short, Student
  • Runtime:
    15 minutes 39 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    April 1, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    15,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Arri Amira; 4K
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Kiana Woodson

Kiana Woodson is an award-winning director and screenwriter from Atlanta, Georgia. Embodying an unwavering passion for storytelling and filmmaking, she has devoted herself to shed light on stories centering around people of color, women, and their underrepresented voices. She is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University and an MFA candidate in Film at Savannah College Art and Design, where she was named Director of the Year in 2017.

She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, initiated in the notable Alpha Pi chapter. She lives by the words of award-winning and best-selling author Toni Morrison, "Make a difference about something other than yourselves.”

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Willie’s Letter started from a conversation I had in 2016 with my co-writer, Vanessa Westbrook. At the time, the news was overcome with headlines about the death of Philando Castile, who was shot and killed by a Minnesota police officer in front of his girlfriend and her young child. We — like the rest of the world — watched the viral video, not only processing its effect on us, but also how that trauma impacted the 4-year-old girl who witnessed Castile’s death firsthand. In seeing her — hearing her — we knew she joined a group of other black children and adults who’ve experienced similar tragedies — most, without the cameras, and headlines, and virality to amplify their stories.

From there, Vanessa and I began combing the web for other stories surrounding the black experience in America, institutional racism, and black mental health. Through that search, Vanessa was reacquainted with the Willie Lynch Letter, 1712. We immediately recognized its relevance regarding generational trauma and systemic control — even if it had been proved to a propaganda piece. I knew, then, that we needed to create this film.

Our titular character, Willie, is inspired by my own estranged father. He yearned to be self-made, but had the tendency to often give up. Ultimately, the consequences of his path — ripe with failures and successes — affected my mother’s well being and my own. A conversation with my mother, about what led her to divorce my father, is what fueled the development for Willie’s wife, Deborah. But, at the center of this film is Kyndall, Willie and Deborah’s son. His journey was captured by the Willie Lynch Letter’s proclamation to “pay little attention to the generation of original breaking, but concentrate on the future generation.” It brought me back to the young child in the back of Philando’s car. It brought me back to Kyndall, who — like all of us — had to unpack his experiences with his parents — and dynamics stemming from generations past — in order to truly heal.

In film, the best characters are flawed characters. They are who we connect to most. Who we learn from most. As a director, I wanted capture the complexity of a flawed family, and spotlight the trauma that is inextricably tied to the black experience in America. Willie’s Letter is relatable, truthful, and open. It’s about me. It’s about my co-writer, Vanessa. It’s about the actors who drew from real-life experiences to bring our script to life. And we hope, that you see a bit of yourself — the good, the bad, and the redemptive spirit — in it, too.