Brittany “B.Monét” Fennell is an award winning writer/director who was selected as the first ever African American woman to direct a car commercial for Cadillac named “Keep Rising Together”. She hails from Silver Spring Maryland and is an alum of Spelman College where she earned a B.A. in English. She also holds an MFA from New York University in film and television with a concentration in writing and directing. It’s vital to her that under-represented people are shown in film, media, and television. When directing, she poses questions about identity, society, race, and culture in her films.
Rolling out caught up with B.Monét during the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) that was held from June 12-16 in Miami. We discussed her partnership with Cadillac, her accomplishment of becoming the first ever African American woman to direct a car commercial for Cadillac, her “Keep Rising Moment” and much more.
You’re the first African American woman selected by Cadillac to direct a car commercial. How does that make you feel?
I’m still so, so, so, so speechless that I am the first African American woman to direct a Cadillac commercial. I think for me it’s, hopefully inspiring different women to show them ‘you can also do this too’. I think because [women] don’t see ourselves as directors, also directing car commercials – as they’re usually given to guys, it seems [improbable] for us. So, for me, it’s such an honor and I hope that it’ll continue to be a long lasting partnership.
How did the partnership between you and Cadillac come about? How were you selected?
My name was thrown in the hat, through a friend who recommended me to a Spike DDB producer. [Spike DDB] is the advertising agency with Cadillac that helped them with this project. There were five of us who all had to tell how we were going to direct this amazing project. Then two of us were selected as finalists, and I ended up being selected as the winner.
What was your strategy going in for directing the 30 second commercial?
I wanted to always make sure that I consulted the writer, because I didn’t write the piece. So, I wanted to make sure that I was honoring what he wrote and elevating his vision. For me, it was going in there, tapping into some visual magic and getting together storyboards to ensure that we were in a happy place with the piece.
The commercial was debuted at this year’s ABFF Film Festival. How did it feel the moment you realized everyone was viewing your commercial for the first time?
Honestly, this year has been super surreal between doing a short film with Queen Latifah, having it premier at the Tribeca Film Festival and then having it streamed on Hulu. Then to have this amazing experience to have other people who look like me, literally see a commercial and I’m the first Black woman to do it. It’s really hard to put into words. It’s just this surreal moment for me that’s so priceless.
The commercial for Cadillac is named “Keep Rising Together”. What does that message say to you?
I think it’s a great message of rising above and moving forward and showing us we can be triumphant above all. I love that message.
Can you explain your “Keep Rising” moment?
I remember living in LA for a year and a half, having an over drafted account, eating out of the dollar store and not knowing what the future held. I can recall looking at the movie “Girls Trip” and being like, ‘…wow, this dream of being a director just feels so far away.’ And then to tap into my purpose and to remember I am a director, and this is what you did: ‘You literally went to NYU to write and direct. Do not forget that!,’ is what I told myself. So, despite all the challenges that I’ve faced and continue to face, I still feel like I’m rising above. And I feel like God is also seeing the fruits of my labor: constantly applying for [jobs], not getting them, the rejection in all of that. But ultimately, to be here is an honor.
I think I’m in awe of the steps that are happening and it’s hard to fabricate. It’s hard to [realize], ‘oh my God, this is my life!’ I even got emotional today because I said ‘oh my God, I’m here.’ Even talking about it is emotional. You just never know.
You can follow B.Monét’s journey on all social media platforms @directherbmonet.