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Meet Mahalia Latortue of Anacaona Pictures in Midtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mahalia Latortue.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Storytelling came very naturally to me because I come from a family of storytellers. To give you a little back-story, I am Haitian-American and one of the many things Haitians like to do is tell stories. Growing up, my parents would frequently send my sister and me to Haiti to live with our grandmother, and she would spin endless tales about various Haitian folklores. Ever since I was a little girl, all I’ve ever wanted to do was tell a good story and captivate an audience. I filled endless notebooks and journals with poems, short stories, plays, and soap operas. I would even use my barbie dolls to reenact scenes from my plays and short stories. My love of storytelling followed me all the way to college where I was able to take my first film class. At the time, I was majoring in pre-law and but I switched my major shortly after taking that class and I never looked back. Throughout the course of my career, I’ve been able to intern at Viola Davis’ production company, JuVee Productions, introduced a panel at Sundance Film Festival, and have gone to Hong Kong to film a TV pilot and short film. I’ve also produced over five thesis films, a podcast called “The Struggle Is REEL” and founded a production company with my writing partner called Anacaona Pictures. ⁠

Has it been a smooth road?
Definitely not! My journey has been laced with rejection and closed doors.

After I graduated from undergrad, I thought I was going to take the film world by storm. I left Alabama and moved back into my parent’s house in Florida. Boy, how I was wrong. No one would hire me. I must have sent a thousand applications to all types of media companies, production companies, and entertainment business, and I didn’t hear back from any of them. I quickly fell into post-graduation depression and became an angry person. I felt like I had wasted my time and had gotten into debt for a useless degree. My mother had also fallen ill at the time and so I was dealing with that and the bills. I ended up having to work part-time at a clothing store and I felt so embarrassed and ashamed. All I had was an empty bank account, a bunch of debt, and my dreams. I busted my butt to try and get into all these different networking events and different sets but it would all just lead to a dead end. For a while, I stopped believing in myself and I almost gave up on my dreams. Self-doubt is so crippling and can be extremely detrimental to your career. In this industry, you have to have faith and believe in yourself and the stories that you want to tell. Luckily for me, I was able to pull myself out of that dark period and I decided to re-invest in myself. I applied to SCAD, got a scholarship, and left Florida behind. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Another one of my biggest struggles was explaining to my very traditional Haitian family that I no longer desired to be a Lawyer. You see in a Haitian family, you have three career choices: Doctor, Lawyer, or Engineer. Filmmaking is definitely not one of them! Explaining my passion for film and art was a huge challenge. It took some time, but once my family saw my passion they became my biggest supporters.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Anacaona Pictures story. Tell us more about the business.
Anacaona Pictures is a production company that is passionate about showcasing underrepresented voices. Even though Georgia is bursting at the seams with film production, all the development and decisions are still being made in Los Angeles. Our goal is to change that narrative and bring Development and Pre-production to Atlanta by curating our own content and growing into a major studio. We specialize in Script Writing, Development, Pre-production, and Production. I think what I’m most excited about is the team we have assembled. Erik Francisco Medina is a Puerto-Rican Director and Writer and he helped found the company with me. Kirsten Grace Hoge is our Creative Executive with Columbian roots. Brandon J. Pridgett is a Trinidadian-American comedian, Director, and Writer who has also joined us as our in-house Production Coordinator. The people in our company directly reflect the kinds of stories we want to tell and the perspectives from which they will be told from. Although we were just founded this year, we already have a variety of projects on our slate from short films, television shows, features, and even a musical.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I’m hoping that in 5-10 years, Atlanta will truly be the Hollywood of the South. I’m hoping that Development will finally be here and that the industry would have doubled in size. I’m also hoping that there will be more diversity, not just on camera but also behind the camera and in the boardrooms.

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