Naima Ramos Champan 2

RBL Celebrates: Writer, Director, Actor Naima Ramos-Chapman

23 February, 2024

Editor’s Note“The Reel Black List” is our annual spotlight of brothers and sisters in the worlds of advertising, film, TV, music, radio and media who are making a difference through their contributions and creativity daily. For the next 29 days, you will be able to celebrate wonderful human beings, like American director, writer and actor Naima Ramos-Chapman. 

Naima’s repertoire includes writing, producing, directing, and acting in several acclaimed TV series, notably Hulu’s The Other Black GirlHBO’s Peabody award-winning Random Acts of Flyness, the GenZ comedy series Betty, and Boots Reilly’s satirical Amazon series I’m a Virgo.

A former Sundance Institute Screenwriter Intensive Fellow, Ramos-Chapman gained early recognition with her debut short film And Nothing Happened, which premiered at the 2016 Slamdance Film Festival and has since become part of the prestigious Criterion Collection. Additionally, she directed the compelling short thriller Piu Piu, which debuted at the 2018 BlackStar Film Festival.

Naima’s creative prowess extends to the commercial realm, where she has directed content for major platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, as well as a branded film for Louis Vuitton featuring Lauryn Hill. With a background in dance and having studied at the renowned Alvin Ailey School of Dance in New York, Ramos-Chapman leverages her expertise in movement and choreography to enhance her directorial approach. Her unique method integrates dance and movement into her work, allowing her to capture visceral emotions and moments that transcend verbal expression.

Ramos-Chapman’s ascent in the industry underscores her versatility and innovative storytelling techniques, setting the stage for further groundbreaking contributions in film and television.

Let’s meet Naima!

What’s your origin story?

I was born to two civil rights activists. My mom was once a bodyguard for Angela Davis; yes, the FBI’s most wanted prison abolitionist Angela Davis. As part of her security detail, my mom would also help chauffeur people around which is how she met my dad. At the time, he was repaying a debt.

He owed Angela his life as a political prisoner she helped free. He became an organizing genius and worked as Angela’s Executive Director for the National Alliance Against Political Repression in the 1970s. I grew up born from this legacy in the resistance—the struggle.

I used to want “normal”—whatever that means— parents but instead I got EPIC ones. Now I’m thankful; they taught me so much about being a free thinker and encouraged me to find my own way through education. My mother always stressed critical thinking and seeking my own opportunities through education and creative expression.

Though we were eligible for food stamps when I was a kid my mom was very resourceful and I never experienced a moment where I felt without. Maybe she couldn’t always make it to a PTA conference or a bake sale like other moms but she took me to museums on the weekends, jazz clubs, showed me how to paint, gave me Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou, gave me Josephine Baker, and her love for films.

She worked several jobs and raised my sister and me with help from the downstairs neighbors.  She got her master’s degree when I was 4 and encouraged me to be whoever I wanted to be while showing me what she was capable of as a single mother. Now she volunteers and still does service in the neighborhood—the woman doesn’t stop!

My dad still organizes—he helped Chicago get their first oversight committee to hold Police accountable for crimes committed by vulnerable citizens by the communities they police—a dream Fred Hampton had. I come from some pretty impressive badass people who also just happen to be my parents.

Who were your mentors?

I’m self-taught, and community-supported. I didn’t go to film school and I’m honestly thankful because the way I see is uniquely based on how I’ve intuited my way through the world as a Black, femme, queer, happy person.

I saw my first short film at Sundance, The End of Everything by Wangechi Mutu and I was struck by her process and instantly knew I wanted to work in film somehow. I was apprenticing at the Barrow Group and writing for Saint Heron and trying to find my way forward and met some brilliant people along the way who I am grateful for.

Some of them became my mentors like Elise Peterson, Terence Nance, Shaka King, Lena Waithe, Rishi Rajani…haha, I make a lot of people I’ve had the pleasure of working with my mentors in my head—whether they know it or not is another matter. I hope they know I’m grateful.

My parents thought I’d be a dream of my own making. I’m still in progress and in process. I know they’re extremely pleased and proud whatever I do and could careless if I stop making work. They taught me early I was enough, thank god.

Bravest thing you’ve done? 

Bravest thing… Make a short about one of the most terrible experiences I’ve ever had and premiered it at a festival even though my lawyer at the time advised me not to—she said it complicated the narrative around being a victim of sexualized violence.

I knew I had to screen for my own sanity because I couldn’t afford to silence myself but I was frightened on so many levels. It helped to consider that other women needed it to exist. Now it’s in the CRITERION COLLECTION, it’s called And Nothing Happened. Watch it!

How do you handle failure? 

What is failure? Just kidding, sorta. I believe humans make mistakes and they learn lessons. Pain is a consistent teacher. Failure sounds very finite and I think as long as you’re alive, breathing, witnessing the awe of the world around you…on the other side of information that we register at times as pain….you’re winning.

What’s a product or service that you are dying to do a campaign for? 

Acne Studios, is a recent obsession …. They have such a transportive way with fashion and they speak to my storytelling urges around interweaving surrealism, gestural movement, playfulness, and elegance with a bit of an edge.

MEGAN THEE STALLION, she’s brilliant and I love witnessing the journey she’s on.

Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon is over-indexing on Black and Hispanic audiences. Why?

Black and Hispanic audiences are a huge reason why any film thrives…we watch films made by us when there’s marketing support for them and we even watch films that don’t center us directly but imagine us in the universe.

The sweetest of spots is an inclusive universe where every role is meaty and is reflective of all of us in it in a way that’s authentic, experienced, and fantastically real….I haven’t seen Rebel Moon but maybe I will now…

You would give up your career to go on tour and perform with what singer/band?

I’d give up my career for no one but maybe if Kendrick Lamar asked me to go on tour I’d have a really hard time saying no, ha.

Colman Domingo is a national treasure. Yes or No?

Colman Domingo IS a national treasure…and a global force of nature. May he get all the praise.

Nosebleed seats for Beyoncé or front-row tickets for Taylor Swift?

Album of the year for Beyonce and front row tickets for Taylor Swift…

What are your guilty pleasures?

Eating blocks of very fancy cheese if I bring it home. I have no restraint around cheese and so I don’t keep it in the house!

What’s brewing for your 2024?

Development on a few features, a few commercials, a book I will write, a TV show…pray for me; pray for the work!