Stacie Davis-Hamilton recalls beginning her foray into film production with little money, but with great confidence and determination that she could write and produce material that others would enjoy.
Born Marion, 33, she graduated from Claflin University in 2011, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. There she honed the practical skills she needed for her own career as a screenwriter and director.
Christmas in Carolina was the first film she wrote. The romantic comedy was released in 2020 and starred actors Kellie Williams and Darius McCrary from the 1990s sitcom Family Matters.
Her second film, which she directed and co-wrote, is titled Another Christmas and is scheduled to premiere Sunday, December 11 at 7 p.m. on the Roku Channel.
Davis-Hamilton, who actually started out in television news, said her experience at Claflin laid a solid foundation for her future filmmaking.
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“Hands-on learning is crucial”
“I loved Claflin. I really miss it,” she said, recalling her time as a mass communications student at the Grace T. Kennedy Building.
“I learned to work with the cameras and to write. My focus was on writing. Just those cinematic skills and notes that my professors gave me helped prepare me for where I am today,” she said.
She recalled the hands-on learning she received from Mike Fairwell, a professor in Claflin’s Mass Communications department who also serves as executive producer on Another Christmas.
“He gave us assignments to go out and do news or documentaries or short films. He gave us subjects to work on. So we had to go and do it, just giving ourselves the hands-on experience. I think hands-on learning is key,” she said.
She said working with her former professor was a great experience.
“It was kind of surreal that my professor, who taught me years ago, would work with me. He’d say, “Well, you’re the little boss today.” I know he was proud. I was proud to show that I had actually studied and I was grateful to have him as a professor. I am grateful to Mr. Fairwell and all the other instructors who have been important in my life,” Davis-Hamilton said.
She said while reading books and taking notes in the classroom are important, hands-on learning gives you an opportunity to gain valuable experience in your field.
For this reason, Davis-Hamilton had employed four Claflin mass communication students as interns during the production of Another Christmas. Tariq Edwards served as production assistant; Tamara Littlejohn acted as production coordinator; Lance Reese served as script supervisor; and Keighla Poe worked as a wardrobe stylist.
“I invited the Claflin University students to our production for hands-on experience. You learn and talk about it in the classroom all day, but you also have to be there to feel what’s going on,” she said.
Production of “Another Christmas” took place in Myrtle Beach, SC
“I wanted to give something back. I know when I was a student at Claflin we didn’t have any film production. There were no film productions where I could gain practical experience. So I didn’t want to take my production out of town.
“I wanted these students to be able to learn hands-on…. Just to have the production an hour to an hour and a half away so they could stay and have that experience, I was happy to offer these students this opportunity,” Davis-Hamilton said.
She said there are distinct differences between her two films.
“Christmas in Carolina” follows Elle, a career-oriented investment banker who has given up on love until she meets Wesley. He invites her to his hometown of South Carolina, where she falls in love and rediscovers the Christmas spirit.
However, the plot is not without conflict.
“In that conflict, Wesley’s brother was jealous of her and his relationship. So, you know, when someone gets jealous, they try to throw in a wrench to break you. So that’s what the brother tried to do,” Davis-Hamilton said.
Another Christmas stars Sister Act 2’s Ryan Toby, who also sang with Grammy-nominated pop group City High in the early 2000s.
Davis-Hamilton said her new film is different because “it seems like the whole family is having issues.”
Kelly Brooks is an elementary school teacher who gave up on love over the holiday season until her childhood friend Andrew, a professional basketball player, returns home to win Kelly’s heart for Christmas.
“This family, these are couples. We are dealing with a divorce, we are dealing with a miscarriage in the relationship and we are dealing with not being treated fairly by another couple. Kelly is in a relationship with this guy, and he’s a scrub… He uses them. So she must find and know her worth. So there’s just a lot going on with this family,” Davis-Hamilton said.
She said Toby plays a cousin of the family who comes in to smooth things over in the family.
“He comes to visit each and every one of these family members and help them with their problems,” Davis-Hamilton said.
“Faith without works is dead”
Davis-Hamilton started out at WMBF News in Myrtle Beach as a cameraman and audio technician before moving into sports as a multimedia reporter and weekend reporter.
After that she began to work in the school system in the field of broadcasting. She was producing her award-winning sports documentary, More Than a Coach: The Taft Watson Story, in 2017.
“He coached Terrells Bay High School in Centenary and is known for winning two state (basketball) championships on the same day in the same year because he coached both girls and boys,” said Davis-Hamilton, whose work on the Documentation to led her work in the film.
“This year I went to see a Christmas movie on Hallmark with my mom. It was very simple, a love story. I looked at her and said, ‘I can write a movie.’ She said, “You should.” I left her in her room that night and began writing my first Christmas film, ‘Christmas in Carolina,'” Davis-Hamilton said.
She said the support of her parents, Harris and Christine Davis, along with her faith helped her have the confidence she should have to succeed in film.
“Just having this support that you can do it despite coming from a small area. Marion, South Carolina isn’t known as a movie capital, but that shouldn’t stop you from shooting a movie, a Christmas movie, or any genre movie,” said Davis-Hamilton, owner and operator of Marion-based Stacie Davis Films .
“I had the support and then I just started with faith. Walk by faith and not by sight. I didn’t have a dime. I had a bit of savings to get started on the movie Christmas in Carolina, but I had very good support from my church family, my pastor, my family and just those in the church. So I used my resources. From this we were able to create a 90-minute feature film. I found distribution. It was picked up by the Roku Channel. That’s where I am today,” she said.
She said writing films creates a comfortable place to develop new ideas.
“I can step out of 2022 and all the problems we have in this world and create my own world, just a fantasy. Whatever you want to write, you can opt out and then come back to reality. So that’s a good thing about writing. It gets me out, it keeps you out of trouble,” Davis-Hamilton said, noting that making a film gives her a chance to give actors a chance to work.
“We are in a small market. So I’m trying to stay in the southeast. These actors come in and it’s their first or second film just for them to come in and put the scenes together and get the closets [is wonderful],” She said.
“It’s about making sure everything fits. When the director calls go, we can start shooting and everyone feels confident and comfortable in what they are doing. That’s what I love about writing and producing,” said Davis-Hamilton.
She said she enjoys what she does and needs to learn the value of perseverance in pursuing her film career. The filmmaker also says that with faith and action anything is possible, which is sort of a motto for her.
“I really believe that because it happened for me and for me. As I said, I didn’t have any finances for the first film. Just go out of faith and just go into action. They said faith without works is dead. So you can have faith all day, but if you don’t work behind it, it really gets nowhere. I didn’t have any finances, but I still reached out to actors,” Davis-Hamilton said.
“I contacted Kellie Williams and her father replied to me. I have contacted her via her Instagram and email and her father is the one who actually replied. So he and I started talking, and Kellie was able to be a part of the film from there.
“If finances had stopped me, I would never have met Kellie and I would never have made a film. So you just have to go out in faith. I believe that. Anything is possible,” she says.
In addition to her new upcoming movie, Davis-Hamilton is excited about a new family sitcom she has created called Hanging with the Taylors. The first season is already finished and she is planning the second. Actor Ryan Toby also stars in the sitcom.
“It’s really fun. It’s a family-friendly comedy, a cross between Black-ish, A Different World, those older black sitcoms that we’ve had in the past. It’ll be on Impact Network January 2023.
The filmmaker is also newly married and a new mom. She married Kevin Hamilton in August 2021. The couple welcomed their son Wesley last September. She said she was also a stepmom to a “bonus daughter.”
How does she balance it all with a new baby? Carefully.
“I sleep when he sleeps. If he’s up, I’m up. When he falls asleep again, I’m still awake. So I
Start working on different projects,” she said,
She encourages aspiring filmmakers not to give up on their goals and dreams.
“Never give up. When an opportunity comes your way, take it seriously. Do whatever you can if you get the chance on a movie set. Open your own door even if you don’t have the opportunity. You still not giving up. Go for it, connect,” Davis-Hamilton said.
She said anyone interested in acting or production work can contact her via email at email@example.com as she has opportunities and internships available.
Contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-533-5534. Follow Good News with Gleaton on Twitter at @DionneTandD