Mt. Airy native a multi-talented filmmaker and novelist

by Len Lear
Posted 7/13/21

I have had the good fortune to interview countless talented men and women in the arts in what I call the Greater Chestnut Hill area, but I don't think any of them are more multi-talented in more disciplines than Nikki Harmon.

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Mt. Airy native a multi-talented filmmaker and novelist

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I have had the good fortune to interview countless talented men and women in the arts in what I call the Greater Chestnut Hill area, but I don't think any of them are more multi-talented in more disciplines than Nikki Harmon.

Harmon, 51, who grew up near Lincoln Drive and Ellet Street in West Mt. Airy and now lives with her partner in Glenside (which she calls “Mt. Airy North”), graduated from Girls High School in 1987 and Wesleyan University in 1991 and received her MFA in Media and Film Arts from Temple University in 1999.

In addition to writing two novels (publisher, Mt. Airy Girl Press), Harmon has written, produced, directed and performed in various technical positions on several documentaries, short narratives, educational and industrial films, music videos and feature-length films.

In 2002, she joined Banyan Productions and worked on three seasons of TLC’s “A Wedding Story” as a researcher, associate producer and finally as a producer. Harmon also worked on Oprah Winfrey's "Beloved," Aishah Simmons' "NO! The Rape Documentary" and music videos such as Will Smith's "Freakin' It" and Jill Scott and Jeff Bradshaw's "Slide," et al.

Harmon, who has also taught video production and documentary studies at Drexel and Arcadia Universities, is very much involved with SIFTMedia215, a collective whose members are Black and Latinx female independent media artists in this area. It was founded by local filmmakers Nadine Patterson, Yolonda Johnson-Young and Tatiana Bacchus in March of 2019. (Members Eboni Zamani and Lois Moses are also from Northwest Philly.) They have an office at Mt. Airy Nexus, across from Big Blue Marble Bookstore.

SIFTMedia215 recently received a grant of $215,000 from the Independence Public Media Foundation that “will help support us as we work to become established and a consistent presence in the Philadelphia media ecosystem.

“Film projects are very expensive and generally take a lot of time, energy and connections to get any kind of proper funding,” Nikki said last week. “Even big names have trouble getting funded and can take years developing projects, so if you are in a smaller market like Philadelphia and are not a big name or connected to anyone famous or wealthy, it's almost impossible to get adequate investors or funding. There are lots of great, talented people here in Philadelphia who want to live and work here but struggle with this constant second-class status in money and stature.”

Nikki's novels, “When I was Your Girlfriend” and “Neither Here nor There,” are about Black gay women. “Both of my books have done OK,” said Nikki. “I would like to find more ways to get them into the hands of readers, but there are only so many hours in the day.”

“Neither Here nor There” is set mostly in West Oak Lane. The main character, Kim, “a typical rebellious Black gay nerd,” goes to Temple University but is biding her time in college, focused on her lifelong goal of working at NASA. “I'm a sci-fi nerd,” said Nikki, who is celebrating her 20th anniversary on June 30 with her partner, Kelly.

“We had our commitment ceremony in 100-degree heat in Blue Bell Park,” she said. “LGBTQ life was very different then, and we were one of the first of our crowd to have a ceremony in front of family and friends. It was important for me to be a role model then and set the tone for the way I wanted to live my life. It was incredibly empowering and validating.”

How has the pandemic affected Nikki's work and life? “Well, I have three children who came home for a long weekend, then two weeks, then for the rest of the year, then for the next school year. It was a huge adjustment, to say the least.

“I had to manage all the classes, schedules, moods and try to find make it all work while trying to keep everyone positive and productive. We lost some people in our friends and family circles, so we never took our health and blessings for granted. As far as work, I actually got busier and at one point was working four part-time jobs from home.”

Nikki just completed a screenplay for a short film about two cousins, and she is in post-production on a documentary about how the pandemic has affected Black businesses in Philadelphia, a funeral director in particular. “And I'm getting ready to teach this summer because bills must be paid, and I love working with young folks.”

Nikki's books can be found on amazon.com. More information at siftmedia215org or mtairygirlpress.com. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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