Christine Swanson director of "The Miki Howard Story"

Christine Swanson director of “The Miki Howard Story”

*Back in the early 2000’s, filmmaker Christine Swanson was on the fast track to success. Her short film, Two Seasons, had been a semi-finalist for a Student Academy Award and was also picked as an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival. A recent MFA grad from New York University’s prestigious Tish School of the Arts, Christine’s film career was primed for big things until fate stepped in. She fell in love.

After meeting the man who would become her husband, Christine’s life took a big turn when she discovered that she was pregnant. She soon found herself as mom to a growing family (she has 4 children), but kept herself in the mix in films by lending her support to screenplays like Woman Thou Art Loosed and directing the indie classic, All About You and its sequel All About Us. However, the demands of parenting soon won out and she decided to push pause on her promising career to focus on being a wife and mother full time.

Over the years Christine never lost her passion for filmmaking and so when an opportunity came in 2015 for her to direct again, she immediately stepped forward. Her comeback film, For the Love of Ruth was a ratings success and earned an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Directing. She’s following that up with The Miki Howard Story, an upcoming bio-pic that will launch TV One’s Unsung film series. The Robertson Treatment recently talked with Christine about her career resurgence and how she’s balancing her “new”career with the needs of her family.

Robertson Treatment: So tell us about the “Miki Howard Story”?

Christine Swanson: The Miki Howard story was the brainchild of D’Angela Proctor’s (Head of Programming at TVONE). It’s the first feature film from the very popular Unsung series. TVONE decided to do the Miki Howard story first because her episode was one of the highest rated in the history of the series at that time. Also, Miki Howard has a loyal fan base that love and appreciate all that Miki has contributed in the music industry. I got to spend a lot of time with Miki to get a sense of who she was/is and to get a sense of the direction in which the movie should go. We have a stellar cast including Teyonah Parris as Miki Howard, Gary Dourdan as Augie Johnson, Darius McCray as Gerald Levert, Vanessa Bell Calloway as Josephine Howard, LisaRaye as Sylvia Rhone and Indira Khan, who plays her mother, Chaka Khan, in the movie.

RT: What kind of challenges did you face bringing someone’s “real-life” to screen?

CS: It’s always difficult to encapsulate the breadth and scope of someone’s entire life in one single movie, especially someone as complicated, gifted and brilliant as Miki Howard. She’s lived such a rich life in her short 55 years. We tried to tell a lot of Miki’s story in a TV movie but Miki’s life story could be a truly riveting mini-series. Her story is equal parts compelling, shocking, mind blowing, heart crushing, humorous and inspiring. “Love Under New Management: The Miki Howard Story” will have everyone on the edge of their seats with the fascinating life of this truly extraordinary, living R&B legend. Teyonah Parris, who plays Miki, gives an awe-inspiring performance, both delicate and raw at the same time. Teyonah shows such range, nuance, and depth in her performance. She channels Miki Howard. It’s scary almost.

RT: You’ve worked on a wide range of projects as a director/writer. Do you have a favorite genre that you like to work in?

CS: I have worked on a wide range of projects as a feature film director and screenwriter. One of my favorite genres is the romantic comedy/dramedy. I’m a big fan of Nora Ephron, Nancy Meyers and James L. Brooks. However, over the years, I’ve evolved into more dramatic storytelling and I have written and directed a wide range of films so I have a lot of range and interests in terms of storytelling. I think my kids would love to see me do a super hero movie though.

RT: You recently returned to the work in Hollywood after a long absence to raise your family. What has that transition been like?

CS: I took about 15 years off to raise our beautiful children. Last year, I jumped right back in and directed three cable movies back to back to back and it felt like I was home, where I was always meant to be, doing what I was meant to do. Transitioning back has been smooth sailing creatively. Logistically, however, it’s a bit more work juggling the amount of projects I’ve been approached to write and/or direct. I never stopped being a storyteller, even if I took a break. I’m always a filmmaker at heart!

RT: Now that you’re back working, what kind of projects can we look for you to make?

CS: This fall I will team up again with Teyonah Parris to direct “Buffalo Soldier Girl” which is an epic feature film about Cathy Williams, the first black female buffalo soldier and an American patriot. This film will be a bad ass Western/war movie with a super hero bend. We start production this Fall in Texas.

I am also developing several projects including the Ava Cherry Story. Ava Cherry is a remarkable black woman who dated David Bowie in the mid 70s and helped him explore his soul side and out of that urging, Bowie created the “Young Americans” album.

AUTOMOTIVE SPIN

Fiat 500c

I must admit to some skepticism upon seeing the Fiat 500c enter my driveway. At the time my main thought was how on earth would I cram my 6th ft. plus frame into this diminutive ride? Despite my disbelief, I gamely decided to give the ride a try and to my great surprise, I fit right in. Actually, “fitting right in” a perfect way to describe the 500c, as it met all of my demands on LA’s busy streets.

Wow Factor: By appearance the Fiat 500c will demand your attention with a snazzy exterior that is well-complimented by an equally attractive interior design. The personality of this ride is agile and exuberant – making it a perfect choice for young city drivers.

Ride: The Fiat 500c is outfitted with a 4-liter four-cylinder engine, backed by solid steering and a responsive automatic transmisson that will arm drivers with enough energy and control to manage big city driving conditions. Its well-tuned suspension system also gives drivers firm authority across a variety of road conditions.

Comfort: Given its small size, the Fiat 500c was surprisingly spacious and can comfortably accommodate one or two passengers. Its interior design features nicely blends retro and high-tech style, with controls and gauges easy to read and accessible. The rear has ok cargo space for average city driving needs – with fold back seats to provide additional space for larger loads.

Spin Control: The Fiat 500c more than met my expectations during my week long drive. Its solid fuel economy (31 mpg city, 40 mpg hwy.) and affordable price tag (MSRP: $16, 845) makes it an appealing option for young adult drivers who are looking for fun in the big city.

Grade: B+

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