Writer, Producer and Director
Over eight years ago, Alabama native Darcel Alford made a life-altering decision. She was working a lucrative job, which allowed her to provide a comfortable lifestyle for her 5-year-old son; however, she was missing key milestones in his life. Consequently, she quit her job and began to live off of her savings. Later, an opportunity presented itself. She was offered a non-paid internship at a production company that gave her the chance to learn the film making business.
Darcel commuted almost three hours everyday from Perry, GA to Atlanta. What was supposed to be a few weeks evolved into four months. Another four months passed, and her savings was almost gone; but Darcel kept the faith and it paid off. The CEO offered her a position and relocated her to Atlanta.
Darcel has never looked back. As the former executive assistant to a high-profiled production studio CEO, she quickly learned the skills needed for producing, writing and directing. During her tenure at the Production Company, she worked on projects like ESPNU’s “The Battle,” “UP TV’s “Raising Izzie,” “In the Meantime,” and TV One’s “The Rickey Smiley Show,” among others. As a director and producer, Today Darcel focuses on creating engaging content and providing provocative storylines that capture the hearts of everyday people, and today’s ever changing world. Her debut web series anthology, “Staying in Lane,” follows the heir to one of Atlanta’s wealthiest Black families.
“Staying in Lane” has launched the burgeoning careers of cast and crew members who have gone on to work on projects like Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow,” “House of Cards” on Netflix and BET’s “Being Mary Jane.” Its success has garnered a dedicated YouTube following. Darcel also directed the mind-bending short film, “Bruises,” which tells the story of a girl attacking a woman in her dreams to deter her from pursuing her passions. She is currently in post-production.
Now, a wife and mom of three boys, Darcel continues to balance her family life with her passion for storytelling. She continues to write, produce and direct her own projects. And she’s always willing to take risks and make sacrifices for it.
What are some ways that you promote mental health and wellness through your area of expertise?
Black mental wellness means so much to me. I’m a writer, producer and director in the film and television industry. And the majority of the crew members I work with are African American. Most of the work in this field is contracted, which can be stressful. But with the state of our country, it magnifies the anxiety of not knowing when you’ll work again.
I also have to wear different hats on my projects, which means I’m constantly interacting with so many personalities. On the set of my web series, “Staying in Lane,” I learned how important it is to build trusting relationships with each of them. They need to know that I’m not just interested in them completing the job. I want to be someone they can turn to if they need a listening ear. It’s more of a family atmosphere where we can lean on each other to get things done.
While producing my first play, “Chosen By God,” I can say I was tested in making sure everyone was on the same page. I started doing wellness checks, with the intention of making sure the energy was good. I wanted everyone to want to come to work. Sometimes, we can get caught up in personal problems. I wanted it to be a place they can zone out and do what they love. It makes it all enjoyable to work together.
What does Black Mental Wellness mean to you?
For so long, I dealt with issues on my own thinking it was just part of being a “Strong Black Independent Woman.” It wasn’t until I directed the short film, “Save Me From Myself,” that I actually connected with the character on a personal level.
In the film, the lead character is in therapy because of all of the internal turmoil based on past hurts from her childhood. On the outside, she looks like one of my friends. You’d never know she was dealing with a lot of pain. Our set was also filled with Black women who felt like their stories were being told. I was also five months pregnant with my third child, directing this film and struggling to make everything work. I realized that I had been pushing my feelings deep down. I wasn’t expressing my emotions in a healthy way.
Right now, there’s a huge movement concerning Black men and mental health, and I think it’s amazing. I would like to see the same support for Black women because we hold so much in! The film shows that we need a safe space where we can really talk about what’s bothering us without criticism and judgment. That’s why it was important to do a film like this that shows what women go through when no one is watching. And, we get to see her work out her issues and come out on the other side of it.
Do you have an experience with seeking mental health treatment that you would like to share with the Black Mental Wellness audience?
Over a year ago, I started getting mental health treatment. I was overwhelmed with being a wife and mother. I didn’t know how to manage it along with all the other responsibilities in my life. I knew I had to do something so I started researching therapy.
When I went to my first session, I didn’t really intend on talking because I felt I didn’t have any major issues. But after a few minutes, I was literally pouring my heart out to a stranger. I think it helped that she was a Black woman. She took time to hear me out without judgment. That was the day I began to heal.
She taught me techniques that I use in everyday life, and helped me see that I didn’t have to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. My family noticed a difference in me, and it made my relationship with my husband and children a lot better.
How do you make time for your own wellness and self-care?
Self-care can be different things to different people. I get massages and manicures to pamper myself. I make time to sit alone with my thoughts. I go on walks and listen to my surroundings. I also treat myself to long hot baths even when the house looks crazy. If I need a quick moment to myself, I grab my phone and listen to some calm, soothing music.
I keep my scheduled therapy sessions even when I don’t feel like talking. And I lean into my faith in God, meditate and stay focused on being grateful for my life.
Darcel Alford is a writer, producer, and writer in the film and television industry. Alford has had the opportunity to lead several projects that emphasize the importance of mental health awareness in the Black community, such as Save Me From Myself. Onset, Alford leads wellness check-ins to create a comfortable work environment for her colleagues and cast members. In her personal time, Alford is a major proponent of self-care, meditation, prayer, and therapy.