195 Lewis is a web series that expertly focuses on everyday life, while still pushing fresh narratives about the black experience forward. From top to bottom, Rae Leone Allen is the filmmaker behind this thought-provoking project. She’s the co-creator, writer, and producer of the Brooklyn-based series. Oh, and she also stars in the leading role. 195 Lewis boasts an all-women cast, and focuses specifically on the life of Yuri (Rae), her girlfriend Camille, and their polyamorous relationship. The plot line is engaging, original, and very binge-watchable.
This narrative is incredibly important because it breaks the mold of how we as consumers see narratives of black women, especially queer black women. Rae uses this series to elevate queer black women in a realistic way, without including any sense of adversity more common in these types of narratives. Read about how Rae went about dreaming up and executing her first web series, and how she tackles uncharted subject matter with authenticity.
What was your main motivation for 195 Lewis?
My co-creators and I wanted to create a love letter to Brooklyn and all the beautiful, intelligent women that surround us. I moved to Brooklyn from Texas, and never felt so embraced or accepted in any space. We recognized a gap in the representations about black queer women and knew that we wanted to create something authentic to reflect the world that we know and love.
This web series gives a spotlight to a community that is not considered mainstream. What are some challenges you faced when creating this series in terms of portrayal and reception from audiences?
The greatest challenges we faced in this project were with funding, and learning on our own dime. This is my first film project and I can’t describe to you how much I didn’t know about the process. I think developing the characters was one of the easiest things we did because we pulled from our own lives. Many of the lines are verbatim out of conversations we’ve had with friends and lovers. I think that the black queer woman audience has been so appreciative of the work. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about how much it is an authentic reflection. Folks outside the community have felt like they have gotten a peak into a world that many of them didn’t know existed.
By the end of episode five, we were left with a cliffhanger. What do you see for Yuri and Camille’s future?
Obviously, Camille and Yuri need to have some conversations. I don’t want to give anything away on where the story is going … I will say, though, that the core of this project is around black woman relationships, and these women practicing radical honesty with each other. We are interested in exploring the drama that exists in a relationship when the tension is rooted in honesty instead of lies and deception.
What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I think the majority of our education as humans comes through media these days. I want to tell stories to be a part of the conversation. I am inspired by black artists like Octavia Butler, Audre Lorde, and James Baldwin. I felt myself, my perspective shift as a result of engagement with their work.
As a creator, what is some advice that you would like to pass along to those who are just beginning to work on their art?
Be audacious! Especially women, and black and brown people. Our stories are important, and we are the only ones equipped to tell them. If you dedicate time and space to your story it will resonate with people and they will help you bring it to fruition. Commit yourself and watch the pieces come together.
Are there any new projects that you are currently working on?
Right now, I am focused on the next phase for 195 Lewis. I am also a poet and recently had some poetry published in Sinister Wisdom.
Rae’s work will be honored later this month at our screening celebrating black artistry in film. This month, and every month, we’re proud to celebrate black artistry in film. Watch more stunning videos in our channel celebrating black creators.