Ya’Ke Smith is a dynamic storyteller whose web series The Beginning and Ending of Everything chronicles the journey of Angelita, a woman in search of her son after returning home from prison. Inspired by the stories of those who have been incarcerated, The Beginning and Ending of Everything is cinematic gem that gives hope to those fighting to build a better life.
What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I have always been a storyteller since I was a kid but I didn’t really know that people made films or understood the mechanisms of filmmaking. When Boyz N The Hood was released in 1991, it was the first time I saw people on screen that looked like me portrayed with real humanity. When I watched that film it made me want to be a filmmaker. It inspired me to start studying film. Then at 15, I made my first movie and I’ve been making films ever since.
What inspired you to create The Beginning and Ending of Everything?
My sister spent time in and out of prison. I remember her getting out and things were different. She was focused on righting her wrongs and being a better human being. As I was taking her on job interviews and meetings with her parole officer, I realized the system was not delivering on things that were promised. Doors where being slammed in her face. Seeing my sister’s experience inspired me to make a web series centered around a black woman fighting for her future. I wanted to bring light to my sister’s struggle. I wanted to show my sister and others facing similar circumstances that we understand the obstacles they are up against.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the character of Angelita, what was your thought process in shaping her character and her journey to find her son?
I wanted to show the mechanisms that criminalize people of color so there was a lot of extensive research that went into developing Angelita’s character. There was a lot of research outside of just my sister’s experience. I’m a director that likes to involve my actors in the process of creating. So I sat down and had long discussions with the cast about the journey and evolution of Angelita. I asked them really hard questions about their own lives, especially if they had a personal connection to the material. When you are doing a story on recidivism you want to make sure you cover the larger issues, in addition to the more personal issues that allow you to capture the soul of the character.
What do you want viewers to take away from the The Beginning and Ending of Everything?
I want viewers to walk away understanding that we have to be patient, kind, and have more empathy for our family members and those who have been incarcerated. We can’t coddle them but we also have to know there is a real struggle. We have to understand that they need us to support them and fight for them in a way that will help them help themselves. And for those that have been incarcerated, I want them to see themselves and their journey whether it’s a man or woman. I want them to be inspired to keep fighting, be inspired to keep enduring, and be inspired to right their wrongs.
To watch episodes of The Beginning and Ending of Everything, visit aspaceforcreators.com