Episode 66: Unpacking Cultural Anthropology with Sydney Laws

In Episode 66, Dan Dissinger talks with recent graduate of USC’s Film and Television Production program Sydney Laws about how Black stories are represented in media, cultural anthropology, and Storytelling versus Story-breaking.

Sydney Laws is a very proud ATLien and recent graduate of USC’s Film and Television Production program. She defines herself as a creative, particularly a filmmaker, who finds her current interests at the exciting and often-overlooked intersection of storyteller and cultural anthropology. Her main focus is on marshalling ethnographic insight into the creative realm in an attempt to influence the interpersonal nature of society and shape broader social structures. Though her current projects are nonfiction, Sydney typically enjoys crafting fiction and fantasy stories to actualize this goal. She currently works as Associate Producer at The Skin Deep, an interactive studio focused on human connection and, what Sydney deems, a ‘true feat of visual anthropology’. 

This episode was recorded on June 25th, 2021. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod

People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode

“I currently find myself, at least storytelling wise, at the intersection of filmmaking and cultural anthropology.” -Sydney Laws

“If I dream about a story, and that’s coming from an alternate reality, [and] I’m bringing it into this reality, it feels exactly like you’re breaking it in here.” -Sydney Laws

“[Cultural anthropology] I love that word […] about a year ago or two years ago, I didn’t know the term for what it was I was consistently doing throughout my life, and then when I found it, it was like being in love for the first time.” -Sydney Laws

“I would like to be [Zora Neale Hurston] in the film realm, being able to use ethnographic insight to inform the creative realm.”
-Sydney Laws

“The first image of a Black person in this country, many times, was in shackles. So if that was the first thing that anyone in this nation saw, how do you think 400 years from now we’re going to be seen?”
-Sydney Laws

“Most of the things that I have written about in my films has been about, not even in my film class, it’s been in a literature class, it’s been in a history class, so if we’re banning critical race theory, it’s laughable […] it’s so ingrained in every part of who this nation is.”
-Sydney Laws

“[Birth of a Nation] led to the KKK being reborn and then all of this racial violence […] especially in the 1920s when you see the height of lynching […] particularly Black men being lynched […] and it’s all because of this image that was created in 1915 with Birth of a Nation.” -Sydney Laws

“It’s really nice to see yourself on screen […] but it’s much more than that, it genuinely comes down to a matter of life and death for a lot of people when you actually look into how it impacts the mind.”
-Sydney Laws

“You are at the whim of someone else’s imagination, constantly.”
-Sydney Laws

“I’m acutely aware of how the mind works given all of this history, so how can I tell the stories I want to tell, but tell them in an authentic and accurate way that’s also going to be putting humanity at the forefront and going to be ensuring my safety.” -Sydney Laws

“Is it possible for a film to actually hold a sense of double-consciousness?” -Sydney Laws

“It’s a tactic, honestly, this idea that Black stories and minority stories aren’t relatable […] That means that Black love is something that is not relatable and it leads to Black people [being] something that is not relatable and it’s just another tactic to further this divide.” -Sydney Laws

Call for Contributors
Humanities Podcasting Symposium
October 15-16, 2021

The Humanities Podcasting Network is inviting expressions of interest for our first annual symposium on academic podcasting. Please use this survey to indicate which kinds of event(s) you’d be interested in organizing and to briefly describe your proposed topic. The deadline for submissions is July 15, 2021.

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