Writer-Actress Nia Fairweather's 'Four Seasons' Bears Hope for the Indy Filmmaker
May 20, 2020
Back in February, before the novel coronavirus hit and temporarily upended the industry, writer and actress Nia Fairweather’s Four Seasons premiered at the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) in Los Angeles. Reception to the film, which follows Charisse (Fairweather) and Braxton (David J. Cork) as they navigate the high and low tides of their relationship, described Fairweather as “amazing.”
Fairweather, who also produced the film alongside director Kurt Williamson, calls Four Seasons “an honest love story” that “examines what happens when things left unsaid collide.”
Before writing Four Seasons, the New York native was working on a one-act play in San Francisco before returning to Los Angeles. She reconnected with friend Williamson, director of photography on her first self-penned short film Oordeel, and says partnering again was a no-brainer.
“We openly discussed things that were happening in our lives and in those of close friends and realized love and relationships were at the intersection of it all,” she said of their process, which she called “organic.”
Once the heart of the story became clear, the pair had biweekly brainstorming sessions to explore potential storylines and eventually Fairweather transitioned to writing the script independently.
“I carved out weekly deadlines and wrote the film in four parts,” Fairweather said, adding that the first draft of Four Seasons was completed in September 2018 and the script was “locked” by December of that year.
According to Fairweather, she wanted to challenge herself by choosing to write an entire opening sequence with strong male lead voices.
“I wanted to see if I could write male characters as authentic and dynamic as female characters. My goal was to have both the male and female characters be fully realized beings with distinctive voices and perspectives on a shared situation,” she said.
She drew from experiences of the men she grew up with and her conversations with them over the years.
“It was a lot of fun writing how I believe they would respond in certain situations and studying Kurt’s responses to the material,” Fairweather said.
“I would throw things in to see how far I could push it. If something rang false to Kurt, I knew exactly what tweaks needed to be made.”
The payoff was worth it.
“It really touched me to have men of various ages express their gratitude for the honest portrayal and enjoyment of seeing themselves onscreen,” Fairweather said of the reception following the film’s premiere.
“Equally as moving were the conversations I had with women who were deeply appreciative that Four Seasons showcased a woman who wasn’t in need of being saved by a man and addressed the complexities of parenting and postpartum.”
The response to the film was rewarding to Fairweather, who admits she was in the middle of a challenging time while writing the script.
“Other than my writing schedule, everything else in my life was in flux and unpredictable. At times it was challenging to remain focused on writing when I was in desperate need of securing work to keep myself financially afloat,” she said.
Fairweather shares that she picked up a few production jobs as well as worked part-time in a restaurant to secure the extra funds needed to fulfill her end of the financial contribution for Four Seasons.
“Since Kurt and I share a similar mission and vision for our careers, we truly leaned on and supported each other to get Four Seasons across the line,” she said.
“We pooled our resources, borrowed equipment from friends and called on people we worked with in the past to fill vital roles for the production.”
Fairweather credits her faith in the project for helping her see it through.
“I truly believed in what we were creating and knew if executed well, it would lead to more opportunities,” she said.
It did. There’s been a request to expand Four Seasons as a series, for which Fairweather is currently in the process of writing a pilot and series bible. And despite the impact of COVID-19, Four Seasons is still on the festival circuit.
“We are awaiting updates from festivals before deciding whether to go the self-distribution or online route,” she said.
As for what’s next, Fairweather is finishing up post-production for her upcoming film Disclosure, and throwing new pieces in her ceramic studio.
Fairweather credits the discipline she gained growing up as a ceramicist as what prepared her for the level of patience and fortitude needed to make it both as an actress and writer.
She started writing her own material because “as a Caribbean-American woman with a unique perspective of the world, there were few roles I was ‘right’ for (or so I was told) and even fewer that gave voice to the things I wanted to say as an artist.”
Like most of us in quarantine, Fairweather took the month of March to “assess my feelings and what was most needed at the time. Now that the dust has settled a bit, I've been able to focus and make decisions based on what lights me up versus being fearful about the uncertainties.”
For her, that meant deciding to launch Fire Spun, an original story series.
When it comes to writing, Fairweather says her ‘why’ for creating and telling the story is “the North Star.”
“If the story is anchored in honest, unfiltered storytelling, it will resonate with others,” she said, adding she tries not to be swayed by industry chatter.
“I no longer worry about what ‘type’ or genre films are trending because those targets move daily; and in some cases, hourly,” she said.
“I have actual proof of the power and reaped the rewards of creating with integrity. Most people get behind stories that move or touch them in some way; whether it brings them to a place of laughter or tears. Since longevity is key for me, that is the kind connection I’m focused on creating and want my partnerships to be built on.”
Written by: Brianne HoganBrianne Hogan is a freelance writer currently based in Prince Edward Island. A film studies graduate from NYU, her byline's been featured in Creative Screenwriting, ScreenCraft, The Huffington Post, among others. "Jurassic Park" is unashamedly her favorite movie (at this moment). You can follow Brianne on Twitter via @briannehogan