This week we are featuring local documentarian, Kelly Creedon. Her recent short, “In This World,” was featured in Reel South – among about a dozen other film festivals. (Mad props, Kelly!).
We talk a lot about the power of story. If you aren’t a believer quite yet, watch this story. Kelly followed around a teen in Durham who wants to be a star. This is what story is all about. Connecting to people. Seeing into their world. Understanding them. Feeling empathy when they struggle. Recognizing that their lives are different than our own. This is the power of story.
She wrote the below post to accompany her piece.
If you live or work near downtown Durham, chances are you’ve met Courvosier “Vosiey” Cox. Maybe he’s stopped you on the street and asked you to support his dreams of going to LA, or maybe you’ve seen him cruising along on his bicycle, belting out Whitney Houston at full volume.
I met Vosiey in Summer 2014. I remember being surprised and captivated by the optimism, confidence and charisma pouring out of this young man who, even at age 14, looked like he was 11 or 12. He was planning a talent showcase to launch his career as an actor, singer and comedian and needed help making a demo reel to send to talent agents. I offered to help with the reel and asked if he’d be interested in working together on a larger project to document his life both on and off-stage. He thought it was a great idea and we struck up a collaboration.
Vosiey and I hung out and filmed together for about seven months. Showing up at his house was always an adventure, and I was consistently in awe of his creativity, resourcefulness and indefatigable spirit. I was also increasingly struck by the contrast between Vosiey’s optimism and confidence and some of the challenges and obstacles I could see him confronting in his environment. I questioned (and continue to question) the legitimacy of me as a white outsider filmmaker trying to represent the story of this young Black teen navigating adolescence in the urban South. At the same time, I had already developed a relationship with Vosiey and felt a responsibility to follow through and try to make as honest and ethical a portrait as I could. We finished filming in Spring 2015 and later that fall I shared the edited film with Vosiey, who gave it his stamp of approval, though he said it could have been a little flashier in parts.
In June 2016, over a year after we finished filming, a neighbor of Vosiey’s sent me the news that he had been arrested and charged in connection to a series of thefts. Seeing his mugshot on the 6 pm news, I was floored and heartbroken. At that time, North Carolina remained the only state to treat all 16 and 17 year olds as adults by default within the criminal justice system (NC has since raised the age of criminal responsibility), and Vosiey’s case was heard in Superior Court. In June 2017, nearly a year after the charges were filed, he pled guilty to three felonies and received a sentence of probation, restitution and community service.
Back in 2014, when I was beginning to think about this story, I focused a lot on the universal experience of adolescence. At 15, many of us are trying on new identities, testing boundaries, hungering to be grown and define our future selves. But as a young Black teen coming of age in the urban South, Vosiey is treading the tightrope of adolescence in a world that is not designed to support his success. When young people are moving through a society filled with institutions that are structurally biased against them, the mistakes of adolescence can carry a much heavier and more enduring weight.
As he follows through with the terms of his sentence, Vosiey remains as determined as ever to pursue his career as a performer, and even convinced the judge to let him take a trip to LA this summer. At the same time, the collateral consequences that come with a felony conviction are a heavy burden to bear, especially for someone who has not yet crossed the threshold to adulthood. As he approaches his 18th birthday this fall, I hope for Vosiey that that same incredible power of imagination, optimism and confidence can serve him as he confronts and overcomes the obstacles ahead.
Want to Make an Impact?
If you would like to support young people of color pursuing their dreams in the arts, please consider checking out these great local organizations:
Walltown Children’s Theatre:
More About Kelly
Kelly Creedon is a documentary filmmaker and visual journalist whose work focuses on using intimate storytelling as a means to explore communities and the issues and questions that unite and divide us.
Kelly graduated from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. She has taught visual journalism and documentary storytelling at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and the UNC Chapel Hill School of Media and Journalism, where she received her MA in Visual Communication.
Kelly is currently working on a handful of short and feature doc projects in collaboration with some wonderful filmmakers. Her main focus at the moment is editing the feature documentary Farmsteaders, by Shaena Mallett, about a young family’s struggle to revive an independent dairy farm in Southeastern Ohio.