MEET CICI FOSTER: Author, actress, Hollywood movie producer — these are just a few words that describe businesswoman on the rise, Ci Ci Foster. Hailing from Chicago, Foster started her career in entertainment while attending Chicago State University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Professionally, Ci Ci enjoyed success in a host of independent films, staged productions, print ads, and commercials before relocating to Los Angeles in 2007 to pursue her passion for entertainment. Foster’s writing career began when she penned her debut novel, Sunny Rain. The success of Sunny Rain put Ci Ci in demand with urban literary fans who dubbed her ‘The queen of sexy drama.’ After gaining attention as an author, Foster’s desire to provide empowering roles for actors and actresses of color led her to co-founding her own production company, Flower Goddess Productions, with fellow actress Mashari Laila Bain. One of the films Foster has worked on is I Heart Hollywood, a film that was screened at the Chinese American Film Festival and the Bronzeville Film Festival. In 2011, Foster partnered with husband, Kevin Foster, to produce Digg Into Books, an exciting web show that showcases book clubs across America. Foster’s work has appeared in a variety of publications including Suavv Magazine, Brown Sista, XI Magazine, Fever Magazine and FeSaad magazine. CiCi Foster is online at http://www.cicifoster.com
WMI: As a child did you dream of growing up and working in movies? If not, what did you dream of becoming when you were a child?
CF: I dreamt of being a performer while growing up. I used to memorize all the lines from my favorite movies and act them out. My sisters and I would make up dances to our favorite songs. Back then I loved it all, singing, dancing and acting.
WMI: You attended Chicago State University as a psychology major. How have you been able to leverage what you learned in psychology as a writer and Hollywood movie producer?
CF: My degree in psychology has helped me tremendously with writing and producing movies. As far as writing goes, I think the best stories are character driven, so psychology has really allowed me to dig deep into a character’s motivations. Before I write anything, I complete an extensive outline of each character’s background. With film producing, you have to know how to motivate other people to achieve their greatest work, so psychology comes into play there as well.
WMI: You’re a Chicago native. When and why did you pack your bags and head for the sunny hills of California?
CF: My family and I moved to California on Valentine’s Day in 2007. I really feel like to get to the next level it’s necessary for you to live where the industry is.
WMI: Tell us about a major challenge you faced in starting your business. Also tell Write Money Incorporated visitors what steps you took to overcome this challenge.
CF: The first challenge I faced was finding capital. It’s very hard to get someone to invest in an idea. Most of the time investors pop up once you have established a brand. My husband and I took survival jobs, saved as much money from there, and invested it into our business. It’s really easy for people to sit around and wait until they find someone that will give them the money to start their business, but I’ve never been the type to wait on anyone. I truly believe if you really want something badly enough you’ll find a way to make it happen.
WMI: What’s the title of the first independent movie you produced and what was that early movie making experience like?
CF: My first feature documentary was I Heart Hollywood. It was quite a learning experience. I often joke that I’ve made so many mistakes while making this film that I could write a “what not to do” book. I learned early on the tremendous amount of time, energy and dedication that goes into making a film. There were several times I asked myself, “what was I thinking?” But when it all comes together and you look at the film this sense of pride and joy overcomes you. I wouldn’t change it for nothing in the world.
WMI: Have your movies appeared at film festivals, and if so, which film festivals? Also, why is it important to debut or show films at these and other festivals?
CF: I Heart Hollywood has screened in The Chinese American Film festival, the Bronzville Film Festival, and the African American Film Marketplace. I think film festivals are a great way to get the word out about your film. The larger festivals tend to favor films with celebrities, but I still would recommend submitting your work because you never know.
WMI: To grow a business, you have to find and engage your target audience. That said, what strategies do you use to grow your businesses?
CF: We have had an amazing publicist since day one. When building a business, you need that person that knows how to get press. We use social media, film organizations and book clubs to reach our audience. We also attend a lot of industry mixers as this business is all about who you know.
WMI: How much capital did you initially invest in your business and how did you raise this initial investment?
CF: Initially we invested about $5K from our savings to get 4 Hearts off the ground. I thought about going to apply for a business loan, but was turned off by all the hoops you have to jump through. All of our profits are re-invested back into the business.
WMI: Tell us about Sunny Rain. When did you write the book? Please also provide a brief synopsis of Sunny Rain.
CF: I started writing Sunny Rain in 2005. It took me a while to finish it because I kept getting distracted with acting. Then one day I decided to just get it done. The moment I got serious about it everything came together quickly. Here is the synopsis: Social worker, Natalie, and her husband, Bryce’s opposite schedules make it difficult to have a normal marriage. When Natalie seeks solace in the arms of an older man, her troubled past resurfaces to haunt her. Another character, Monica, will stop at nothing to win back the love of her ex-husband, Ray. But the question is – can their love survive Ray’s new baggage and drained bank account or is Monica pumping herself up for another let down? Then there’s Leslie. Armed with a bodacious booty and razor sharp tongue, men can’t get enough of Leslie. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. That is, until she meets Derrick. He is fine in every sense of the word. The only problem…he knows it!
WMI: As if producing movies and writing books isn’t enough, in 2011 you partnered with your husband, Kevin, and started the literary web program, Digg Into Books. What inspired you to start Digg Into Books?
CF: I wish I could take credit for it, but Digg Into Books was my husband Kevin’s idea. He wanted to see a show that showcased book clubs all across America, so we started developing his idea. I couldn’t believe a show like this didn’t exist. The idea was simple yet brilliant.
WMI: What types of services are offered to writers, publishers, publicists and book clubs through your literary web program, Digg Into Books?
CF: We sometimes feature authors on Digg Into Books to help spread the word about their books. What I am really excited about is that we will be adding a new segment to the show that will feature books our viewers are talking about most.
WMI: What’s next for CiCi Foster? Where would you like to see yourself and your businesses two to three years from now?
CF: Right now I am producing a short film I wrote, Mirror Mirror (working title) based on a true story about a woman who overcomes her demons to be a positive influence in her children’s lives. Also, 4 Hearts will be hosting a red carpet short film showcased in my hometown of Chicago on July 21, 2012. A portion of the proceeds to this event will benefit Ceasefire Chicago, a non-profit dedicated to decreasing the crime in inner-city neighborhoods. Last, but not least, for this year, we will also film another episode of Digg Into Books in July showcasing a Chicago book club. Three years from now, I see myself in a better position to help more people. That’s what life is really all about, shining your light.
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