The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


Chatham alumna Najaa Young releases successful film, "Blood First"


It is every filmmakers dream to create a film that is not only successful, but that also has a real impact on the people who view it. For Chatham University Alumna Najaa Young (Class of 1995), that dream has become a reality.

With screenings in Los Angeles, New Orleans, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, her film, “Blood First,” which is now available online at Target, Best Buy, and Amazon, has made quite a name for her and her production company, NaRa Films.

Regarding her time at Chatham, Young spoke highly of the college, explaining that, “in an industry dominated by men, [it] helped to bolster my self-confidence and make me comfortable with being in leadership roles.”

While here, Young was an active member of the campus community. In addition to participating in campus events she was also the president of the Black Student Union, which she said, “helped me to learn how to work well with others, respect differences of opinion, and find common ground with others…skills that I employ everyday whether I am working on set or not.”

Despite wanting to major in film from the time she started college, Young said that Chatham did not have a film program, so she chose instead to major in Theatre Arts, to “develop [her] directing, acting, and writing skills while taking additional classes from the Communications department to get more technical experience with cameras.”

She also took classes from Pittsburgh Filmmakers, and from there, she went on to earn her Masters in Film from Florida State University.

Young’s first film after graduation, a documentary about, “African Americans reclaiming and practicing traditional African religions in the United States,” was one that she had wanted to make for a long time, so together with her friend Rasheed Jihad, she formed a production company and set to work making the film.

Now, a few years later, NaRa Films, in collaboration with O.Y.’s Spotlite Entertainment has recently released its first feature length film entitled, “Blood First.”

The idea for the film came from Young’s brother, who, “wanted to make a movie about brothers who grew up ‘in the streets’ with the same code of ethics and upbringing only to have one brother decide to go against that code.”

“I didn’t want to make another gangster film,” said Young, “and I thought it might be a good way to raise some important questions about what manhood in urban communities means and how boys are being raised to become men. Furthermore, I wanted to show the cyclical nature of crime, violence, and imprisonment so that we can all begin to have solution oriented discussions around these topics.”

According to Young after three drafts of the script, which took three months to write, the project “hit the ground running.”

In four weeks they had a cast, crew, locations, and equipment. The film itself only took 26 days to shoot, with another three months to edit it.

On her ability to balance writing, directing, and producing her films, Young said, “It’s definitely difficult at times, and if I had my druthers, I’d concentrate solely on writing and directing. But producing is great because you’re the boss, and I really like being the boss at times.”

Additionally, she said, “I rely on my partner as co-producer to oversee things on set, manage the crew, and basically, “put out fires.” So, I guess I’ve found balance by selecting a good business partner.”

“When I look back on the experience, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life and one of the hardest,” Young said of the process. “Every decision I made carried so much weight and impacted multiple people’s lives and careers including my own.”

When asked about her advice for burgeoning filmmakers currently studying at Chatham, Young highly recommended internships, and even just volunteering at production companies.

“The key is to get valuable experience under your belt so be enthusiastic, hard working, and reliable,” she said, “it will get you very far in this industry.”

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