Let’s start at the beginning. Winter Dunn is an award-winning producer, director, and actress shaking it up in Hollywood and she’s only been in the city for five years.
Dunn’s day job is producing and directing digital editorial content for Condé Nast Entertainment —Vanity Fair, Vogue, Architectural Digest, GQ, Allure, and other media brands.
She’s the CEO of Winter Dunn Productions (WDP), a full-service multimedia production house, (based in Los Angeles) and the companies debut film “Junebug,” which she directed, premiered at the 2020 ABFF Film Festival and placed Dunn under the Emerging Director category.
After watching “Junebug” I will confess that I was confused. Confused because it was a short film but it still provided me with a feeling that I had watched a full-length feature. That’s an extraordinary feat for an up-and-coming director. Dunn understands the visual language of storytelling and it’s down-right exciting AF to connect with someone at the start of their journey.
“Junebug” was a commissioned work, written by playwright Nicky Davis and produced by CJ Faison, Winter Dunn, Takara Joseph, and Sandra Evers-Manly.
The film follows Junie, a writer stuck in the tumbleweeds of writers’ block but haunted by the vibrant memories of life with her alcoholic musician father, Davis. Driven to find meaning in her challenging childhood, she is obsessed with capturing the essence of what made her father so special. Despite Davis’ inconsistent behavior and iffy track record, in her memory, he is charismatic and an infectious charm and an unending tenderness for her. As she struggles to pull the memories out of her head and heart and place them on the page, her boyfriend (Calvin) helps to transport her back in time, to a safe place, where she can understand and own the undeniable connection she has with her father.
“Junebug “stars child actor Calah Lane, Danielle Moné Truitt, and Emmy award-winning actor Terrence Terrell.
More on Dunn, the film producer. If you have Netflix you might have seen Numa Perrier’s debut feature film, “Jezebel” — Dunn produced the film which premiered at SXSW 2019 and was awarded Best Narrative Feature at the American Black Film Festival that same year and was acquired by Ava DuVernay’s production company ARRAY.
More on Dunn, the director. Her credits include season one of “SoulPancake,” the docuseries “All Her with Angela Rye” (for the now-defunct Quibi), “Platonic,” and “Broke and Sexy” the web series on the network — Black & Sexy.
On Saturday, November 7, 2020, the day Joe Biden was declared President of the United States of America and Kamala Devi Harris, makes history as the first female, first Black and first South Asian, was declared vice president-elect — I caught up with Winter Dunn to discuss her new short “Junebug.” Here’s what I learned about CEO/producer/director Winter Dunn.
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL: Where were you, when you found out that Trump lost and Joe Biden and Kamala Devi Harris won the ticket?
WINTER DUNN: I was just waking up because [I was exhausted] I was glued to the television too much. Trump’s defeat, it was a great way to wake up.
LAS: I know. I heard the crowds in Harlem going off like it was New Years’ Eve. People are happy. People have —
LAS: Hope. Exactly my sister. We have hope. Let’s talk about “Junebug” which did not feel, at all, like a short film. You nailed it and I can tell that directing is your passion.
WD: Thank you.
LAS: You are welcome. Describe yourself? You do a lot of things, no shade make-that-money.
WD: (laughing) I am a multi-hyphenate creator. I am a director, producer. I am also a performer and actress, and I studied theater at Fordham University.
LAS: Got it. Break it down, Ms. Dunn.
WD: As a producer, I am always thinking of how I can tell a rich, clean fulfilling story, in the simplest way from production, logistic standpoint. In a way that we can fulfill with the budget and in the amount of time that we are given.
LAS: You got it. Now, as a director.
WD: As a director, it’s also how can I tell this story in the simplest, cleanest way. If we don’t need a moment it’s not in the piece. Every moment that’s there is considered necessary storytelling. Visually and with performances, I just want to impact people.
LAS: Do you have a philosophy for the types of films that your production company Winter Dunn Productions (WDP) wants to produce?
WD: I do. I want to produce and tell stories that feel like the ground that I walk on. I want to tell stories that every day people watch and they see themselves in their richest times, most complicated times. It’s just human stories. If you are human, we all make mistakes and we are all flawed in our own way.
LAS: On that note, can you describe your film?
WD: “Junebug” is an exploration of the fierce love between a daughter and father, the complexities of an absence that words can’t touch, the power of music, and the wonderland of memory.
LAS: Are you still producing and directing digital content for Condé Nast Entertainment?
WD: Yes and working for Condé Nast [Entertainment] has been a genuine pleasure. I’m talking about being a producer and having to execute with limited time. When you are working with celebrity talent you don’t have the luxury of “time” you must work in the time given.
LAS: Do you produce and direct content across all of Condé Nast Entertainment brands?
WD: Yes. Yes, I do. I love creating content with Condé across all of the brands. That includes Architectural Digest, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and GQ. It’s great to be able to tap into these different brands. I create content that I am proud of which speaks to this well-established brand.
LAS: Of course. Well said. Condé Nast Entertainment knows a thing-or-two about brands.
WD: It’s strengthened my tools. I’ve learned how to work quickly and on a budget which is an advantage in this business.
LAS: Indeed and it’s an understatement. That’s a tremendous skill. Each time you walk on a set you are getting better and better.
WD: Working for Condé Nast [Entertainment] has definitely sharpened my producer’s brain.
LAS: So — I am clear as a crystal glass about you, as a producer. Let’s talk about you as a director. I think the constant Condé Nast experience has sharpened your director’s eye. Am I wrong?
WD: No. You are right. It’s done that.
LAS: What do you like doing best? Being a producer, actress, or director?
WD: Honestly, right now it’s being a director.
LAS: Yes! Oops. Sorry — do continue Winter Dunn.
WD: (laughing) Directing just ties in all of my skill sets. If you are a director but you also have a producer brain you can place value on certain things because you can see where production is coming from but you are also, obviously, coming at it as a creative.
LAS: Yes, there are moments when creative and production clash.
WD: Exactly. So you can say, I know why you are pushing back, I get the budget restraints, I get the time restraints but trust me — we need this shot for the story, it has to happen. But I understand your perspective and I will consider that moving forward as we build out our shots or as we build out our day.
LAS: Oh lady —you get it! Keep going!
WD: (laughing) You get it.
LAS: Oh yes, I miss being on set for sure. God bless unit publicists everywhere — IATSE LOCAL 600 shout out! You are also an actor so that helps.
WD: (laughing) It does. I’ve been directing theater and been involved in theater my entire life. Working with actors brings me more joy than acting myself. I’m in the work with them.
LAS: Let’s talk about your future as a film director. What do you want to do?
WD: Wow. Thank you for asking me this question. I want to shadow a working director.
LAS: What? I love you. I love you, Winter Dunn. I’ve suggested shadowing to many up and coming directors and they just don’t get it.
WD: I’ve only been in Los Angeles for five years. I would love to shadow a television director and a film director. I love to learn and I am growing. I want to use my film “Junebug” to put me in a position to talk to legends, to pick their brains, to get on set to learn — that longterm is invaluable. I want to learn and elevate my own skillset.
LAS: This is the attitude that will take you all the way.
WD: Thank you. I know who I am. I know the stories that resonate with me. If I can bring those roots with a more elevated lens of the film world and a more elevated lens of how to create, from other people who are doing it for a long time then it feels unstoppable.
LAS: I love that word — unstoppable. Do you know Gina Prince-Bythewood?
WD: Love her, I don’t know her personally.
LAS: Do you know uber-producer Stephaine Allain?
WD: OMG. She’s a legend. I don’t know her personally.
LAS: Well, Winter Dunn, let’s fix that.
WD: (laughing) Ok, Lapacazo Sandoval.
LAS: Any established producer, any established director, any established producer-director after speaking with you will understand that you are one of them. End of sentence. I know what I know — and what I know is that you, Winter Dunn are going to be, what’s that word, I love?
LAS: Yes —unstoppable.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.