“First thing you learn about being on set is don’t be mean,” said Shirley Norman when asked about the pressures of being a female director. “I say please and thank you too much. The painful truth that I’ve been overly conditioned to be meek and uber polite, and if everything stops working it’s my fault. It is hard,” she said. “Even when I speak I recognize there is something that is not being heard.”
Norman has a Masters in Fine Arts in Acting from USC’s School of Dramatic Arts and she completed the Film and Digital Media Certificate Program with a focus in Screenwriting through Clayton State University.
She was a child when she discovered her love for the stage.
“I was in the moment and I just felt it,” Norman said, remembering when she was just 10 years old improvising during a mother daughter scene. “I understood the power of imagination.”
Though acting is her first love, she’s just as passionate about writing and directing.
“I’m more passionate about stories and making sure the stories get told,” Norman said. “I attach myself to stories that I care about.”
Her first experience at having complete creative control was her debut film “In The Woods”, which she wrote, produced, and directed. It is inspired by her relationship with her sister and their common love.
“Me and my sister used to fight a lot but we also loved the supernatural.”
In The Woods shows two sisters who are sent on a dangerous hike to learn the true meaning of family and sisterhood.
Norman’s acting experience helps her communicate effectively as a director when speaking to actors on set.
“It helps cause I know the language.”
In recent years, Hollywood has been kind to black female directors. Norman continues to be inspired by the groundwork that was laid before her.
“Julie Dash who directed Daughters of the Dust, Rosa Parks and Funny Valentine showed black women as people.” Norman said. “With Eve’s Bayou, through Kasi Lemmons, I learned about women understanding their vision and taking their time to get want they want.”
Currently Norman is the principal director and story-editor for the web-series, SCALES. The series debuted in 2018 and is currently in its third season. “I was just supposed to act on Scales,” Norman said. “But then another director fell through.”
Norman is appreciative of the support from Patrick Ladonis, the show’s writer and creator. “Being the only black female that’s a part of the production team is hard,” Norman said. “But, Patrick is an advocate.”
The series follows Remy Howard, a guy who’s drawn to complicated people and relationships. Set in Atlanta, SCALES focuses on the challenges of finding and keeping love even when it’s not good for you.
To quote self-help author, Napoleon Hill, “Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness.”
Norman admits that she’s sacrificed a lot to chase her dreams and those sacrifices come with great expectations.
“I’ve sacrificed marriage and kids,” Norman shared with BeenWorthy. “And I don’t have anything to show for it. I’m not married. I’m not in Hollywood.”
Norman does receive satisfaction from her creative endeavors, but wants people to understand that Shirley and her creations are two different things.
“The quality of the things I produced doesn’t define me,” Norman said. “It doesn’t say that I am bad or good.”
She shares that the examples that she’s seen of women in film have been one of two things: be independent and aggressive or be the mother. She is appreciative of platforms that show women as more.
“I really love the concept of BeenWorthy,” Norman said. “As a woman growing up in church, the sermons that I heard were about us being filthy rags and I felt like I had to earn worth. So for this platform to say that I’ve BEEN WORTHY means a lot.”