Deborah Riley Draper is an award-winning and critically-acclaimed filmmaker and advertising agency veteran. Variety Magazine named Draper to their “2016 Top 10 Documakers to Watch“ list. Her 2016 documentary, Olympic Pride, American Prejudice, tells the untold story of 18 African Americans who defied Hitler and Jim Crow in 1936 and is a 2017 nominee for the NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Documentary - Film. The film qualified for the 2017 Oscars race and the film’s theme song, “Find My Victoy” is eligible for the Oscar for Best Original Song.0The film world-premiered at the 2016 LA Film Festival and is an official selection at many festivals, including the Traverse City Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, St. Louis International Film Festival, Cambridge International Film Festival (UK), and the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival; 0it was Audience Award and Best Documentary Winner at Atlanta’s BronzeLens Film Festival.
Her debut film, Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution, opened New York Fashion Week and Toronto Fashion Week in 2012. Versailles ‘73 is the first intimate look at the Palace of Versailles fundraiser, which catapulted the American fashion movement and was led by black models. The film appeared at festivals and fashion weeks around the world and premiered on Viacom’s Logo TV in September 2015. Director Tate Taylor optioned Versailles ’73, and Draper will serve as story consultant and executive producer of the upcoming narrative film. Draper’s leadership in advertising can be seen in campaigns and projects for Lamborghini, Coca-Cola classic, ExxonMobil, HP, AT&T, FedEx, and The Georgia Lottery Corporation. She has earned two regional Emmys, a Gold Effie, and several Addy Awards. Draper, a die-hard FSU seminole, resides in Atlanta and is a member of Film Fatales Atlanta.
What do I do best?
Best. I am not sure about best. But, I do feel strongly that I have a couple of things that I do that stand out. 1. I am a great archival researcher; I spent a lot of time in libraries as a child with my mother when she was in graduate school. 2. I know how to find an incredibly smart and talented team and then motivate us to crush our goal.
What makes me the best version of myself?
Work ethic and stamina. When I am excited about something, I just can’t stop. I just want to work on it all day and night.
What are my aspirations?
I aspire to tell stories about the African American experience in new and different ways with seldom seen or expected characters in film, television and immersive experiences.
My Biggest Success?
My biggest success is balancing two careers at once (advertising agency executive and filmmaking) and still having the love and support of a wonderful husband and the best circle of friends.
My Most Challenging Moment?
The most challenging moment in my life was watching my mother pass away from Renal Cell Carcinoma. And knowing that there was nothing I could do to stop it. I told her one day, “Mama, I wish I could be the one in pain instead of you.” She said,” That’s what I used to say to you.” I still remember that lump in my throat and the uncontrollable flood of tears I tried to fight back..
Greenlight yourself and then hustle.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
My favorite people, role models and mentors include both personally and professionally are Octavia Spencer, Tate Taylor and John Norris. Tracee Ellis Ross is friend in my head and an incredible role model. Plus, she attended a screening of my first film and posted a video about it. Yay! I love everything about my forever Flotus Michelle Obama, the incomparable Gordan Parks and filmmaker/anthropologist/writer Zora Neale Hurston.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
I love visiting Dubrovnik, Croatia, Florence, Italy and the South of France for vacation, shopping and inspiration from food, history and culture. My quick getaways are heading to Coffee Bluff, GA, Santa Monica, CA and Miami. There are my go-to spots to reboot, connect or find time for myself or my writing.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
I am so addicted to my iPhone, La Mer, Harmless Harvest Coconut Water, and Chalkboard Mag. From a productivity standpoint, I am a Celtx, Canva and google calendar devotee. I think I have carried the same LV Never Full bag for the past 10 years. Every Beyonce performance, but especially, #Beychella.
My Current Passions?
I am excited about my “workout” and “sing out loud” playlists on Spotify. I am also excited about building a tour for Summer 2018 and Fall 2018 for my film “Olympic Pride, American Prejudice” to screen the film at HBCUs and other cultural institutions interested in bring new and different stories from the African American perspective to all communities to create important conversations. Anyone interested in supporting this effort or hosting a screening can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.