Documentarian Cheryl Dunye on what makes a great story

What’s the Story? is a storytelling video series dedicated to learning what truly makes a great story, told through the lens of the world’s talent and practitioners of the craft in entertainment, marketing and beyond.

Filmmaker Cheryl Dunye tells strong, narrative stories derived from events. Dunye rose to prominence as part of the ‘queer new wave’ of filmmakers in the 1990s, and her films have often featured personal stories with a domestic context, featuring powerful issues of sexuality, race and identity.

She has made over 15 films, including her award-winning debut The Watermelon Woman, as well as Mommy is Coming, The Owls, My Baby’s Daddy, and HBO’s Stranger Inside. For her, events are really the best stories, and great stories are filled with loud, strong events, which can be told from any number of angles. If those events have changed the storyteller’s life, she says, they can probably change other people’s lives.

Dunye can’t pick one story that is the best, as she thinks every story she hears is good in its own way. It could be of her life, or of women of color, queer women, gay liberation, sci-fi, future stories – the list goes on. Ultimately, the best story is one she hasn’t heard yet.

Stranger Inside, Dunye believes, is the best story she has ever told on film. She started in 1999 exploring her and her partner’s mixed-race takes on family, motherhood and mother love, but ultimately led to a story about mothers in prison and who becomes someone’s mother when the mother is not there.

Dunye has received numerous awards and honors for her work including a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship, and she is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She is currently a professor in the School of Cinema at San Francisco State University and is at work on her next feature film Black is Blue.

What's the Story? is sponsored by Branded Entertainment Network (BEN), the first global network for branded product integration in the entertainment industry, across all media, including the influencer space.

If you would like to pitch someone for “What’s the Story?“ please complete the linked form.

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Kyle O'Brien

I am a reporter for The Drum covering a wide array of topics but always trying to tell the best stories possible. I am a former west coaster from California and Portland, Oregon, now living in Pennsylvania — with time spent in NYC each week.

I also play saxophone professionally.

All by Kyle