Alumna’s documentary on Nashville’s Black music history chosen for two film festivals

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Tiffani Alexander (center) works on her film,
Tiffani Alexander, center, works on her film, "The Tale of 2 Music Cities." Photo courtesy Tiffani Alexander

Alumna Tiffani Alexander discovered an interest in documentary filmmaking as a student at Mercer. Now, a documentary she directed has been chosen for two film festivals. 

“The Tale of 2 Music Cities” was selected for the Bentonville Film Festival in Arkansas in June and will be screened at 2:45 p.m. Aug. 19 at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame during the Macon Film Festival

The 2019 Mercer graduate double-majored in Africana studies and media studies with a concentration in film studies. For her senior project, she created a documentary highlighting a project by the Bibb County Superior Court Clerk’s Office, Mercer University Libraries and the Department of Africana Studies to digitize historical documents related to slavery in Middle Georgia. 

The documentary Tiffani Alexander produced for her senior capstone project at Mercer.

Alexander had worked on shorter videos as a student in the Center for Collaborative Journalism, but this was her first large-scale project. The experience helped her realize how much she liked the documentary filmmaking process.

After graduating from Mercer, she went straight into the Master of Fine Arts in Film and Creative Media program at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, graduating in December 2021 and creating “The Tale of 2 Music Cities” as her capstone project. 

“‘The Tale of 2 Music Cities’ is a documentary about Nashville and Nashville’s music history,” she said. “There are a lot of different hip-hop communities, factions and labels here that nobody knows about because the focus here in Nashville is typically country music. The story highlights how the Black music history here in Nashville is often pushed aside because it wasn’t as profitable as country music.”

The film poster for "The Tale of 2 Music Cities"
Photo courtesy Tiffani Alexander

Originally from Atlanta, Alexander moved to Nashville for graduate school with the notion that the city’s music scene was solely country music. But after attending a hip-hop concert with an impressive lineup of artists, she discovered that wasn’t the case and set out to learn more. That curiosity led to her capstone project.

Alexander was the director and co-producer for “The Tale of 2 Music Cities,” which involved a team of about 15 others, most fellow film students. The 15-minute video is the pilot for a planned 10-episode series. 

“It took a lot of balancing, and a lot of it was hoping and praying everything would turn out how we wanted it to,” she said. 

In total, the first episode took about six months from start to finish. Alexander said it required a lot of research and networking to tell the story and connect with local artists. The film compares and contrasts stories and perceptions of artists in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s with what’s prevalent now.

Alexander said the skills and knowledge she gained at Mercer were vital to this project, as well as to her graduate studies and career. 

“In addition to everything being visually pleasing, you want everything to be correct,” she said. “Having that research background and not being scared of doing actual research has been very helpful. Also, being in the CCJ in the context of journalistic storytelling, those kind of skills have been necessary in the entire process.”

“The Tale of 2 Music Cities” has not yet been released to the public since it is currently premiering in festivals. Alexander said it was humbling to have her film selected for the two events. She thought the story needed to be told, and it was validating for others to acknowledge that. 

Tiffani Alexander (left) works on her film, "The Tale of 2 Music Cities."
Tiffani Alexander, left, works on her film, “The Tale of 2 Music Cities.” Photo courtesy Tiffani Alexander

“I think I’m most proud of how well of an artistic value it has,” she said. “I work with a really good art team and camera team. My entire crew did really well to bring the artistic vision to life. While a lot of documentaries are so informational, they’re sometimes not as interesting to look at. That was one of my main concerns, keeping things visually interesting. I think we were able to execute that.” 

Since finishing the project in December, Alexander has been helping with various film projects as a freelancer, doing re-edits of the documentary, looking for investors and funding for the remaining nine episodes of the series, and pitching ideas for other projects. She’s co-creating a television show about the young college experience. 

“Right now, I work all over the place as a freelancer,” she said. “In the future, I want to do more strictly producing and more documentary work as well. I’m also interested in developing a production company that focuses on marginalized communities and development of small projects.”

Nashville hip hop artists are pictured in a still photo from "A Tale of 2 Music Cities."
Nashville hip-hop artists are pictured in a still photo from “A Tale of 2 Music Cities.” Photo courtesy Tiffani Alexander

 

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Andrea is a digital content specialist at Mercer. She creates and maintains written and multimedia content for primary University web pages. She ensures a consistent, University “voice” throughout various forms of online communications platforms. She also plans and executes campaigns for the primary official Mercer University social media accounts.