Adia Ivey was always interested in politics and social issues.
While in undergrad, they started school on the pre-law track. However, they’d quickly discovered that the academic spaces they were occupying were elitist and limited their self-expression. That all changed when they took a documentary class their freshman year.
“It just felt like a really accessible avenue to focus on stories that I wanted to prioritize,” they say.
In college, Adia had begun developing MANIFOLD, an experimental anthology docuseries exploring the nuances of queerness by featuring the intersecting life stories and experiences of queer Black people across Chicago.
Very quickly, they recognized that the series wasn’t a project that one filmmaker could create by themselves. They were interested, more importantly, in working with other filmmakers who already had a connection with the community that they’re representing in the film.
“It was tricky since Chicago has a really deep history of grassroots organizing and artists throughout multiple generations,” Adia notes, “yet I’ve found recently that there’s a younger generation of emerging artists that is still trying to find a way to hone their craft and develop their projects within the limited resources in Chicago.”
Eventually, Adia was able to grow their network, both through conscientiously reaching out to other artists and naturally meeting folks through freelancing. Through this growing community, they collaborated with other local artists to create a recently assembled artist collective that focuses on artistic development, community exhibition, and pooling resources for Black and queer artistic endeavors.
As Lead Producer, Adia really enjoyed working with their collaborators for MANIFOLD.
“We really wanted an animated segment that could show the energy of resistance throughout the 2020 pandemic for Black organizers,” they remember.
At the time, Writer Fullamusu Bangura was especially inspired by African folklore, which was how they started exploring the idea of mermaids and sirens as an embodiment of resistance. The team also talked through how the literary piece could exist visually while highlighting the beauty of Chicago. As a result, Animator Zakiyah Gathers incorporated the Chicago skyline, specifically from the South Side’s Promontory Point, which allowed for familiar landmarks to play out in a fantastical fairy tale.
Accompanied by music composed by Keenan Dailey, the resulting animated segment in MANIFOLD remains as one of Adia’s favorite pieces throughout the series.
“I never imagined that I would be producing anything animated,” Adia admits, “and it was a great learning experience.”
“That production (MANIFOLD) also taught me how to pursue more sustainable filmmaking and how to pace yourself,” recounts Adia. “Especially filming throughout the height of the pandemic, we needed to take care of ourselves in order to do this project.”
Through collective filmmaking, the artists behind MANIFOLD were able to pool their resources together in a way that made each creative feel safe and secure while filmmaking. When asked about extending this style of art-making in a larger profit-driven production, Adia was skeptical.
“I am an emerging filmmaker and I don’t want to come off nihilistic,” Adia clarifies, “but I am not sure that a large commercial workplace can be sustainable for marginalized artists since it inherently prioritizes profit over the well-being of the people.”
Yet, they continue to bring the sustainability mindset into the productions they’re a part of. Starting with creative development, Adia wants to be intentional about what their art is communicating and who the audience is. Likewise, they strive to remain mindful of people’s time and ensure that people are being compensated fairly for their work.
As an intern at Kartemquin, Adia learned what impact producing could look like not only for documentary, but also for scripted narrative.
“It was really helpful to see what impact producing looks like in a traditional documentary and then translating it to community outreach with MANIFOLD,” Adia relates.
With the help of Outreach Coordinators Kennedy Joseph and Saaleha Johnson, MANIFOLD had a couple of local screenings in the summer of 2022 that were particularly fulfilling for Adia. With MANIFOLD’s community screenings, they found locations that were accessible for and prioritizing Black neighborhoods.
For example, they screened MANIFOLD at the Overton Elementary School, which was one of the schools that were closed down in 2013. Through partnering with the organizations Creative Grounds and SOUL, they were able to reclaim community spaces that were easy for people to get to.
“There were a few like independent clothing vendors, freelancers, and they were able to set up booths,” Adia adds. “That was also really cool to see.”
Since MANIFOLD, Adia remains busy, working on a variety of projects.
They’re on the producer team for Eva Fabray’s upcoming project Please Call Me Back, a feature about a young woman who receives voicemails from loved ones while stuck in a depressive episode. Likewise, they’re also producing alongside Elodie Edjang for an experimental documentary game show highlighting the spectrum of love and all its quirks in a new project entitled Love Inequeeries.
Through their work, Adia’s excited to continue working with voices that have been othered by the industry for too long.
“MANIFOLD gets to the core of, like, ‘we are Black and Queer and complex people who exist in a variety of different ways’,” Adia comments. “I’m excited that I’ll work to focus on impact-driven work that really gets to these inherent needs of our community, while still working on films and stories that extend beyond that as well.”
Filmmaker Adia Ivey | Adia Ivey
Adia Ivey (they/them) is a producer and director based in Chicago. Adia forefronts underrepresented stories by exploring relationships — with ourselves, our community, and the obstacles that influence how we navigate the world. They explore this through a Black Queer womanist lens using various genres and often shifting between from scripted narrative and documentary.