Award Winning Toni ‘Filmmaker’ Fernandez: “Still Got The Juice” — An Exclusive Interview

What sparked your initial interest in writing?

After my sister died. Writing became a form of healing for me. I have always been a writer. When she was alive we both did music. I would write songs and music, she would write and sing the songs she had also written. She had an amazing voice and left us with a catalog of music. However I never had the interest of only writing, my passion was heavily music until my sister became diagnosed with cancer in 2010.

As her illness progressed, my passion for music began to decline. My aunt would also insist that I turn my songs into films I then began to write God. At work I would write every day that my sister will beat her cancer with the hopes I could manifest it to come true. When she died I lost myself. My aunt’s constant pressure for me to become a writer suddenly manifested.

Tell us about the first production you’ve ever written. What was it and what was the process like?

Continuing from the first question, My first project is “Still Got The Juice” I came up with the title after my sister died. Where I was lost and had the slightest idea on how to find my way writing became my form of healing. At first, I was writing video treatments for local singers and rappers and then filming them. I began to make a name for myself yet I was still mourning the loss of my sister.

One day a friend said to me Toni snap out of it you use to have the juice. Those words really haunted me. It was like I was looking death right in the eye with my depression. As my friend’s words echoed through my mind it finally hit me that I “Still Got The Juice” and in 2016 “Still Got The Juice “ was born. I made a teaser video from one of our rehearsals and it accumulated almost 70 thousand views.

I took it to a film festival in New York and from there I’ve learned so much. Taking what I’ve learned there I began to study on my own how to become a better writer. I took classes, read books, and began to enter festivals. I have won 74 awards combined with all 4 of my projects globally in less than a year in 2021. 7 Evils, “Out On A Limb ‘ Just By Chance, and Still Got The Juice. I am very thankful and at times still in awe. I guess my aunt was right when she said I believe your purpose is to become a writer.

What do you hope your audiences feel/receive when they tune into your productions?

I hope they feel a piece of themselves in my film. Rather it’s comforting or discomforting. I hope that they can uncover their light that shines even in their darkest hour. God has helped me understand my purpose and that is to bring forth meaningful stories no matter the genre to the world.

How do you cast for your projects? Do you choose your team for each film?

I don’t have a unique way of casting. If the actor can capture the emotions of the role and it blows me away, I usually cast them.

What’s something you like to see change within the film industry for women of color?

To always think positive. Being in a competitive industry our mind at times can run away with all these negative thoughts about being a woman, who’s against us, and who’s not in the film industry. But once you allow your mind to be free of the box you trap yourself in, when you enter a room with other filmmakers there would never be a doubt of confidence displaying from your presence. You matter and you are good enough.

How do you stay inspired to keep creating? What are some things you do to keep your creative juices flowing?

I talk with God, my sister, and my aunt who passed away in 2019 every day. I ask for their guidance to keep me inspired, to keep me focused on what’s important for me to write. My inspiration comes from the simplest things. A simple conversation, a song, a film, or complete silence.

Is there anyone along your journey that has been a constant support or inspiration for you to keep going?

Yes, Tammy Reese. She is someone who no matter what her day is like she is so professional. She’s a magnet for inspiration. She is beyond a blessing to so many of us.

What was one of your favorite messages told through one of your projects, and why?

We can be our own worst enemy when we feel the world is against us.. and sometimes we live in our past. Some may have an abusive upbringing, or loss of self-love, a loss of a loved one which can all trigger our negative mindset into thinking the world is against us. But if we learn to understand we don’t have to carry that baggage. We can then let go and let God. We will no longer feel as lost and will begin to find our way. That’s the slogan for “Still Got The Juice” Losing yourself only to find your way again.

Storytelling is our absolute favorite topic, so please tell us a story about a time you faced a major challenge but was able to overcome?

I never give the spotlight to negative pasts uncertainties but I will share this… In life, it is a given that you will face turmoil, many tower moments as I like to call them. Be mindful of your actions for it becomes the character that will define you.

If you could prepare the next woman of color for getting into the world of screenwriting, what would you tell her?

Be unique, and write from the heart because that’s where the best stories come from. Try not to get so caught up on who’s ahead of you or who’s behind you. Learn from your rejections and then turn them into your power and most of all never give up on you!

What’s next for you and how can we keep in touch with/follow your work?

It’s all God’s plan. We have 4 multi-award-winning projects and 3 in the making. We have a documentary called “The Word Is Out’ The Introduction to “Still Got The Juice”. That will show the world our journey and what’s to come as well as our animation Mason’s City- and more good news to share in due time.

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