Ni Belete is the writer, creator, and star of “Slayed By Divya.”
Originally from Akron, Ohio, Ni is a Los Angeles based storyteller. As an actor, she studied with celebrated New York City acting teacher Anthony Abeson. Ni is driven to create honest and authentic stories centered around women. We had the chance to talk to Ni in preparation for the premiere of her film at the North Fork film festival this weekend! Check it out below!
The Knockturnal: Tell us a little about the plot of Slayed By Divya! What parts of the film stand out to you?
Ni Belete: I wrote, produced, and star in Slayed by Divya. I play Divya who is a mobile hairstylist trying to launch her own haircare brand as she juggles her clients, her personal life, and as she supports her younger brother who is on his own ambitious journey as a musician. In the pilot, Divya lands a star client who delivers a surprise that she doesn’t see coming.
I think what really made me feel like we had a complete pilot is when we began to add music. The music we use in the pilot is all by my friend, Lorine Chia- an extremely talented LA-based singer/songwriter who is also a hairstylist. She’s got a classic R&B soulful vibe in a fresh and contemporary style that is all her own. We were so excited to get to use her music and also have her support. She is on all streaming platforms, and most of the songs we used were from her latest album Sweet Noise.
The Knockturnal: Can you tell us a little about your creative process for this film? What was it like behind the scenes?
Ni Belete: I wrote this project inspired by what I observed as a client to several mobile hairstylists in LA. While each stylist had unique personal backgrounds, there was an extremely motivated, self-starter mentality that I observed in each of them that I was really drawn to. I felt moved to create a story to bring a wide audience into the world of black mobile hairstylists in an exciting way
We had an ambitious production schedule but we had a fantastic cast and crew who worked extremely well. The director Max Carlson is my boyfriend, and he also co-produced the project with me. The DP is his sister Ruby Carlson. Half of our cast and crew consisted of women, and a majority of our cast and crew were people of color. I was extremely motivated from the jump to make my crew as diverse as the characters I want to depict in my work as a filmmaker. As a black woman, it was especially vital for me to ensure that a show about a black hair mogul in the making had a crew that was diverse! After going through the process of finding crew, I discovered that it’s absolutely possible to create a diverse set if that’s a priority of your production. I didn’t find any extra work in making this happen and it was absolutely eye-opening in recognizing the lack of diversity on film sets comes down to it not being a priority for production. I’m hoping that changes because it was a special experience to have a skilled and professional crew that reflected the diversity of society.
The Knockturnal: What does being in the festival mean to you?
Ni Belete: While there are numerous festivals for film, festivals focused on television are extremely rare. Noah and Lauren Doyle have created a much-needed festival that truly champions independent television creators. We were overjoyed to learn that our pilot had been selected as a winner for the North Fork TV Festival. We feel incredibly honored to have our work acknowledged. NFTV festival’s support and belief in our pilot’s potential to be made into a series will absolutely help us get our pilot seen by more people. We are incredibly grateful for this opportunity!
The Knockturnal: What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?
Ni Belete: My advice to aspiring filmmakers is don’t be hard on yourself. Everyone has to start from somewhere and the worst thing you can do is do nothing or delay a project because you think it needs to be better. So come up with an idea, and get it moving. Also, celebrate your wins, and be proud of all of your work. It is not an easy industry and you are going to deal with a lot of rejection so it’s crucial to be kind to yourself and celebrate your growth and not obsess over your shortcomings or compare yourself to others. There’s room for all of us, and while we can all learn from the greats you just gotta do you and own your uniqueness.