For Make Believers Friday – Filmmaker Stands Out By Refusing to Stand Down (Part 1)

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“Where I am today – whether people think it’s successful or not – is due to the fact, that I won’t stop doing what I love.” ~ Nicole Sylvester

by Monice Mitchell Simms

There are filmmakers. And then there are filmmakers.

You know the ones. Those tenacious artistpreneurs determined to manifest their visions come hell or high water.

For the average flick lover, many high profile directors’ names spring immediately to mind. Steven Spielberg. Spike Lee. Tyler Perry.

Audiences, though, are sorely missing out if they stop there.  Because as Kathryn Bigelow’s 2010 Best Director Oscar win and Ava DuVernay’s recent acclaim have shown, there is a growing collective of female writers, directors and producers consistently making good films off the radar.

My friend – Nicole Sylvester – is one of them.

A few months ago, I caught up with Nicole when she was working as a unit production manager and prepping the feature, Cass, in our hometown, Detroit.

After closing down the production office for the night, she returned my call from her car. Because it was late, I tried to keep our conversation brief, but Nicole – always passionate about filmmaking – just wanted to keep talking…


“Ever heard of Tech Town, Monice?” Nicole asked me in answer to my question about where the production office was.  I hadn’t.

“Me neither. I had to look it up,” she laughed, referencing my alma mater Wayne State University area formerly known as Cass Corridor. “They’re renaming everything.”

Illustrating her point, Nicole shared one of the film’s primary locations – Downtown Detroit. Now known more for transplanted suburbanite dog walkers instead of crime-infested, abandoned buildings, this compact area – known as Campus Martius Park, Washington Boulevard or West Jefferson Avenue (just to name a few) – changes monikers depending on the cross street.

New names of Detroit neighborhoods, however, aren’t the only changes, said Nicole.

“The incentive has been slashed, but there’s still some momentum happening,” said the former Westsider, who graduated from Bishop Borgess High School and Specs Howard School of Media Arts. “What’s funny now is that when I left four years ago, people were willing to work together more. Now, people are almost used to the Hollywood atmosphere and it’s harder to staff crew.”

She added, chuckling, “Sparkle is shooting here right now. Seriously? Would you rather do Sparkle with Whitney Houston or our little old film?”


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