When Rees wrote the screenplay for Pariah, the award-winning 2011 film about a young butch lesbian, she was going through her own coming out process a decade later in life than her fictional avatar. As she shares in an interview, the story was born as a coping mechanism for her own trials with family and spirituality.
Before moving into film, Rees’s first career was in marketing, where she worked for several large firms. The production of a commercial inspired her to make the switch to cinema through a New York University program where Spike Lee became her personal mentor. A shortened version of Pariah became her graduate thesis, and was shown in 40 festivals worldwide, winning a total of 25 awards. Even with its success she had to struggle to get the green light to develop it as the full-length film she had always intended it to be, remarking that critiques that the film was too niche were “code for too black and too gay.” What skeptics viewed as risky was welcomed by audiences as an exceptional, earnest work that offered representation to a community that does not often have the opportunity to appear in mainstream films.
Rees is still writing and directing, though IMDB does not include information on the projects mentioned in the above interview; the site does, however, credit Rees with working on the upcoming film Martian Time-Slip.