Anthony Tackett filming at an event for Black mothers; he holds a camera in one hand and raises his fist with the other, masked and looking directly at the camera taking the photo

Anthony Tackett: Creating Change Through Courage and Community in Seattle’s Film Industry

by Nura Ahmed

Cinematographer and producer Anthony Tackett has been on a mission for more than a decade to make Seattle more inclusive for Black filmmakers. Tackett’s experience working in Seattle’s film industry made him feel out of place, so he made it his goal to create a space for others like him to feel like they have a community within the film industry. His work ultimately led him to be appointed to the newly formed Seattle Film Commission this past April. 

Tackett was born and raised in Seattle, with family roots going deep in the Central District. His family having moved into Section 8 housing in north Seattle before he was born meant he was always around white folks, his family being one of the only Black families in his neighborhood. But that didn’t stop him from finding community wherever he was. “All the kids of color hung around each other,” Tackett said. 

His love for film really started when he attended Franklin High School as part of a busing program in place in the ʼ80s to help desegregate schools. Having a natural knack for leadership, he served as captain of the football team while only a sophomore, until an injury benched him for the rest of the season. In the middle of this forced hiatus, he took a video production class for the Q-TV program at Franklin, and for the rest of high school, he learned the basics of video production. He fell in love with the camera because of this program. 

Shortly after graduating, Tackett did an apprenticeship at a film workshop at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute. There, he not only gained mentorship but learned the basics of film and camera work as the apprentice to the director of photography for a film they made for the program. Tackett received his first taste of what it’s like to be on a film set after being invited by a mentor to be a camera production assistant for a short film he was working on. A production assistant assists the film crew with anything they need, from running errands to being a second hand for a crew member.

He was one of the only Black filmmakers on set, and it was an unwelcoming feeling that persisted throughout his work for more than a decade — a level of animosity from other filmmakers solely because he was Black. It is already hard enough as a young filmmaker to establish oneself in the industry without connections, without someone giving you a leg up, and even though Tackett credits a lot of his career to the people who helped open doors for him when he was just starting out, that hasn’t always been the case. “There are non-welcoming people in this industry who don’t want to nurture you, who do not want to help you get situated in the industry, but will spend more time and energy with other filmmakers that look like them than they would on you,” he explained. 

There were also times when he felt tokenized by the people he was working with. He faced microaggressions and became the person they would go to for anything race-related. This experience continued throughout his film career. “They would ask me, ‘Anthony, is this racist?’ and I would have to answer,” Tackett said. However, for Black people, the luxury of calling out racism when you see it in an all-white setting is not a given and often comes with consequences. “I was scared that if I rebelled, if I said anything, that I would not be hired for jobs,” he said. 

Tackett saw how there wasn’t a space created for Black filmmakers to truly thrive. He saw how there wasn’t anything in place that would help underrepresented filmmakers feel like they have a place where they belong, or where they don’t feel alone. 

Anthony Tackett at a Kevin Hart comedy show. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Tackett)

However, during a trip to Washington, D.C., to help document the Million Man March in 1995, Tackett was moved by speaker Louis Farrakhan’s words and had a moment of clarity. The outcome was his founding of the Seattle Filmmakers of the African Diaspora. Tackett invited every Black filmmaker he had ever met on a film set for a meeting at the Africatown Plaza, and 30 people showed up. “We talked about what the Black experience is like on a film set, and everyone said the same thing,” he said. “All I wanted was to start that conversation, and we kept having that conversation.”

The group has grown to 550 members since its inception. Tackett has continued building community, not just by creating space for Black filmmakers, but also by sharing resources, speaking up about the inherent racism that exists on film sets, and helping break down barriers for others like him to be able to have a place within the film industry, so that no other person ever has to feel like they are in this by themselves. “All I care about is if I can make sure that other Black filmmakers never have to feel othered on a set that’s claiming that they care about them,” he said. 

As Tackett kept building community and creating space for Black filmmakers, outside the film world, a racial reckoning was emerging. As a result of the George Floyd protests and as the fight to amplify Black voices continued, the Seattle Film Task Force was created. This was initially a space to start a conversation on how Seattle can be supportive of Black filmmakers and how the community can help them thrive in the industry. Tackett was part of the task force and wasn’t afraid to be honest about his experience. “We have to be courageous beyond the insecurities of losing a job or even a friendship,” he said. 

The task force wanted to know how to make Seattle’s film scene more inclusive for Black filmmakers. Tackett gathered the responses from the Seattle Filmmakers of the African Diaspora and took those answers directly to the task force. 

The bylaws of the Seattle Film Commission ended up being modeled from those answers. “Councilmember Sara Nelson told me that everything that the film commission is based off of is because of that conversation that I had with everyone,” Tackett stated. 

Tackett understands how far his courage has brought him and how his work with building community has helped him create the type of space he wished he had when he first started out in the film industry. So much so that it caught the eye of the Seattle City Council, and on April 23 of this year, he was appointed to the 10th seat on the Seattle Film Commission, which was created by Nelson last month. Tackett’s role is to help support traditionally underrepresented film organizations in the industry. His objective on the commission is to make sure the film industry is as equitable as possible, and that there are measures for accountability in place. “Every conversation we will have on the commission will be layered with diversity, equity, and inclusion,” he said. 

He knows his work is what brought him there, and it is those same things that will help him succeed as commissioner. “If you care about DEI in the industry,” Tackett said, “show it.” 

Everything Tackett has done in the moments leading up to his appointment is just his way of making sure that “we all get a place in the big beautiful sky above,” and that no one, regardless of race, ever gets left behind. “I really am just holding up my piece of the sky.”

“So much of what I do is because of my parents, who taught me from a very young age to advocate for myself in a world that tries so hard to silence you,” Tackett said. “I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.”

Nura Ahmed is an organizer, writer, and artist based in Seattle and South King County.

📸 Featured Image: Anthony Tackett filming at an event for Black mothers. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Tackett)

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