Bravery to Claim the Day

Above is a picture of Bree Newsome, fellow filmmaker and NYU alum, after she had bravely and boldly taken down the Confederate Flag from over the state capitol of South Carolina.  Bree is an activist who found the stride of her purpose after the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012.  She began organizing marches, documenting them the best way she knew how, and leading a vocal charge on social media.  Today she will be immortalized as the woman of color with enough gall to scale the state capitol pole and commit a crime for the good of our nation’s soul.  She is a pest to bigotry.  She is a hero to the countless U.S. citizens that opposed one of the most common symbols of oppression the United States knows.  I applauded her efforts after awakening to her triumphant news this morning.

Seeing this image mean’t so much to me because I decided to reclaim my day.  I have been working as a producer on a feature film set here in Chicago for the past 6 months.  This was not a film that I collaborated on, rather I was hired to assist with the organization efforts.  We were initially scheduled to begin production at the end of May.  As most independent films experience, financial matters pushed the production dates.  I won’t go into detail about the production on this blog but I slowly realized that I came to Chicago for a specific reason.  That reason was to save funds for a transition to Los Angeles.  While doing so, I was to be creatively prolific in whatever medium was viable, whether that mean’t acting, doing improv training, or directing another short.  Then I got involved with this project for a chance to be a lead producer on a feature film and for the extra money.  It seemed like a great idea.  Unfortunately, I found myself wrapped up in somebody else’s vision.  I had my own thoughts and concerns about the project which were forwarded.  Little heed was paid to my ideas which was unfortunate but I believed the project would go on to fruition.  And it may still do so but without me on board.  I had reached a point where I felt like a driver for hire.  Traversing whatever routes were determined by the higher powers regardless of the best financial decisions and my respect for the form of filmmaking.  I felt there was a slight disdain for the process of those that have studied the art of making films at the collegiate level.  That’s nothing new.  There’s always this tension between film schoolers and those that have learned through natural progression.  It is what it is.

But most of all, I felt that there was little regard for time.  That was the issue that ultimately broke the camel’s back.  Time is so precious and as I approach my 30th year on this Earth, time has become even more valuable.  When I looked at the day and how I spent every hour, very little time was going to my personal development.  Especially since I was attempting to mold guerilla level filmmaking into something that it is not.  I wasn’t learning.  I wasn’t growing.  Unless one considers growing frustrated as a part of personal growth.  The project was not a bad project.  The project simply was not a fit for me.  On this day of reclaiming my life, the largest lesson I have to look upon is that I must be much more cautious about handing over my time.  That’s a great lesson to learn.  Now I will be a much firmer person.  And I will be much more divested in myself.  And much more divested in what I truly believe in.

Amen to that.  And amen to Bree Newsome!

The Anatomy of a Riot: A Pathology of Desecrated Spirits

Baltimore is burning!  Ferguson is burning!  Detroit is burning!  LA is burning!  Chicago is burning!  America will burn.  That was the song of my spirit as I lay paralyzed from the bottle of pent-up rage that bled past the mouth yet again.  My television danced between various media coverage of the current unrest in Baltimore.  My eyes were the only living thing in me as they received images of militarized police, a pained community, bewildered Caucasians, exploitative politicians, mothers with haymakers, inept city officials and an empty stadium.  At times, the smoke was a thick curtain of dark matter.  A young man, Joseph Kent, was abducted live on CNN.  Masses of young people led by emotions ran in and out of broken stores with signs in one hand and rocks in the other.  The bravest of men and women stood ground on a front line walled up shoulder to shoulder with so-called authority figures padded in black riot gear.  Baltimore mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and her council team dismissed the rioting few as “thugs.”  President Obama disparaged the current unrest as being an unfortunate riot led by “criminals” and “thugs.”  Senator Rand Paul diagnosed the unrest as being a response from “fatherless children.”  The misguided rioters were acting ill out of anger and desecrating their own community rather than allowing the justice system to work as one would expect it to work.  And of course the ultimate checking of poor behavior on the part of Black and Brown peoples, “What would MLK do?”

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Middle of the Map

That beautiful view is the city I love.  And I am ready to move on.  I love Chicago like I love water in 90 degree weather.  I truly do.  The city of hard hope is at the epicenter of who I am and everything that I stand for.  The fact is that what I’m after and how I envision myself getting it doesn’t exist here for me.  I feel a bit disconnected from the artistry that I was once a part of and I’m here in transition.  I am keeping myself busy while here but my financial plan of escape has yet to pick up like I mapped out.

I am currently producing a feature film, directed by Ytasha Womack.  That has kept me active in regards to the language of cinema production.  I am grateful for that.  I desired to shoot a short film here in Chicago and I am still playing around with that plan in regards to my financial setback.  Do I invest money in the project or invest everything in the exodus?  I am leaning towards using every dollar I can accumulate into a migration plan.  That leaves me with no new project as I change scenery but I am in desperate need of a transition.  Yes, Chicago has its own artistic hub.  Yes, people are shooting film here.  I don’t believe the investment market is here because Chicago was never a large production center.  The films I see being produced on an independent level are working on headache budgets.  I consider them headache budgets because it becomes a headache to put something of substance together because the money is funny.  And it’s a shame because there is so much talent here but Chicago appears to be a very local market.  Local and loyal, which is beautiful, but I desire to work at a different capacity.

This is just a little air off of my chest.  I have been getting some great comments about the feature film that I penned and am working on a few lab applications, especially the Sundance screenwriters’ Lab.  This would be a great blessing and confidence boost as I am feeling like I exist on an isolated island.  I chose this path of course, so there are no complaints.  Just me constantly checking in with myself by way of absolute honesty.

Stray Dogs

Watch this quirky and very tight short film directed by Minka Farthing-Kohl.  This film reminds me of the epic appeal of simplicity.  One location.  An intersection in some industrial part of Brooklyn, NY.  Four actors.  Amazing cinematography and a clear vision.  Stray Dogs, for me, feels like a comment on how surreal living in NYC could actually get.  Any mundane moment has the potential of being grandiose.

Check out this write up by blogger, Katie Metcalfe:

The performances bring a great mix of familiarity and eccentricity and they communicate as much through nuance and facial expression as they do with dialogue. To me, Stray Dogs feels like many films I’ve seen before, yet completely original at the same time. Within seven minutes, the director succeeds in leading us seamlessly from the completely banal to the utterly bizarre and unthinkable.

Live Screening TONIGHT!

Sleep Google +-1

#SLEEPtheMovie will screen live on http://itsashort.com tonight at 8pm CST/ 9pm EST.  Please follow the directions below.  I’m suspecting most people that find this post will be new members of http://itsashort.com and so you will follow the NEW MEMBERS instructions.  The screening event is in support of the FOCUS initiative directed by Free Spirit Media, a Chicago based organization geared toward the fostering of youth led media and digital narratives.  Please visit Free Spirit Media by clicking http://freespiritmedia.org.

To see the live screening, please follow these instructions…

New Members of Itsashort.com

Register here: http://itsashort.com/users/new

Use promo code: film

Check:  Premiere Ticket while registering, it will take you to the ‘Purchase Ticket button’.

Buy a ticket using the paypal platform.

If you have paypal, sign in, if you don’t have paypal, no problem, choose ‘guest’ or the button that says click here if you want to pay by credit card. Follow these instructions.

Get your ticket (means buy your ticket) and you will be directed to the Premiere Lounge.  The premiere will begin this evening at 8:00 PM CDT.

Returning Member or Artist:

Login in: you will be taken to either the Lounge or the Lobby.

Click on the Browse button.  Click the Yellow premiere button in the shape of a star;

It will take you to the ‘Purchase Premiere Ticket page if you don’t have a ticket.

Click Premiere Ticket: you will be directed to a paypal portal.  Buy your ticket and you will be redirected back to the Premiere Lounge. The film will begin at 8:00 PM CDT.

FOR THE LIVE Q&A IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE FILM…

Keep your eyes on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google Plus, Free Spirit Media’s pages or this blog.  You will receive the link for the Q&A once the film premieres.  Look out for #SLEEPtheMovie to see the director and actors reconnect over our love for this shared experience.  REMEMBER:  @don_con, @MeekleyProd, @itsashort, @fsmtweets  #SLEEPtheMovie !!!

SLEEP on ItsAShort!

Founder of ItsAShort.com, Christine Boulware, will host a live screening of SLEEP this Thursday (4/09) at 8pm CST/9pm EST.  Interested viewers must visit http://itsashort.com and create a profile.  A link will be provided and the cost to view is $2.  A live Q&A featuring director, Donald Conley, and the two lead actors will immediately follow the screening of the movie.  Viewers will have a chance to submit their questions live.

SLEEP revolves around a single tragic morning that changes the lives of two young brothers.  SLEEP stars Gregory Barnes, Eric Shalah Ruffin and Mia Y. Anderson.  The runtime is 11 minutes.  ItsAShort is a digital platform for short form media creators to distribute their work.  Founder and creator, Christine Boulware, believes in the mission to create spaces where short form narrative and docu media projects can meet a built-in audience and benefit financially.

Ms. Boulware and the director of SLEEP, Donald Conley, are partnering together for Thursday night’s screening in support of Free Spirit Media, a Chicago based youth organization that focuses of strengthening the voices of underserved young artists interested in digital media.  Proceeds from the screening will be donated to Free Spirit Media in an effort to further update the organization’s equipment needs.  Free Spirit Media, a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation grant for non-profits, was founded by Emmy Award-winning producer, Jeff McCarter, and is located at 1327 W. Washington, Suite 103B, Chicago, IL 60607.

Evolution on Netflix

After making its world broadcast premiere on the PBS backed Independent Lens, feature-length documentary Evolution of a Criminal, directed by Darius Clark Monroe, is now available for streaming on Netflix.  If you are a Netflix subscriber and have not seen this magnificent personal recounting of an unlikely criminal act committed by an honor roll student, please search for Evolution of a Criminal and let the director know how the story has impacted you by tweeting to @daclamo.  If you are not a subscriber to Netflix, well one, you should get on that to view some inspiring original content, and two, Evolution of a Criminal can still be purchased for ownership or rent on iTunes.  I associate produced EOAC and this is my first feature film on Netflix.  Very exciting!

“You and I and You”

Terence Nance has yet again created the most beautiful visual poetry for The Dig’s ‘You and I and You.’  On one location, a brown skin couple is forced to give up a young soul and is hunted by mystical beings that reside in the woods and move by way of interpretive dance.  The video is brilliant, as is Mr. Nance.

Draft Down

Yargh!

Look above.  That’s exactly how I feel.  I’ve finally completed another draft of TEZ, which was about two and a half years in the making.  That sounds outlandish.  That sounds like I haven’t put any writing work in.  Some of that can be held as valid but for justified reasons…for the most part.  I had taken a hiatus to work on another script.  I went to graduate school to study drama.  I’ve traveled different countries.  I flirted with LA for a month.  I suffered a small bout of undiagnosed depression in NYC.  I’ve been occupied.  But now I have put one more draft to rest.  I have my handpicked eyes giving it a look over.  I stand to receive my notes and now I’m on to the next.

What is the next, you ask?  Interesting question.  I can honestly say that I don’t entirely know everything that comes next.  My first priority is the Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab.  The application opened this past weekend and closes in early May.  It’s not a convoluted application but it does take some creative thought as to become a desirable applicant.  There’s Tribeca All Access in September.  That application will be a beast, complete with realized budget and execution plan.  That’s something on my plate for the summer.  I have a product now that could land me into some screenwriting colonies if good enough.  Screenplay competitions that could possibly yield a dollar or two.  I have some good prospects for where to send it.  What about the next step for getting the story off of the page?  Great question.  I haven’t found the answer for that one either.  Well, somewhat but not exactly.  I understand that the best way to produce a film is to look yourself in the mirror late one night with a glass of whiskey in hand and tell yourself that you have to and you will make the movie.  Then pre-pro starts the following morning.  Or in many cases, the following Monday.  Outside of that, I need a team to put this thing together.  I need a producer and I need an actual budget.  As of current, I don’t actually even have a budget to get me through a good day at the grocery store.  Though that’s only a small hurdle.  I have this intimate story on hand about a Black family in the South.  The themes revolve around religion, lost time and death.  I think it’s a beautiful story.  An investor’s most pressing question will surely be “How in the Hell do you plan to make my money back?”  To which I shall answer with shrugged shoulders or an overconfident acclaim that Black people will support it.  I wish I could say all people will support it.  Maybe I’ll just have to direct the living Hell out of it to make it a Sundance darling, then maybe, just maybe more than Black people will support it.  Anyhoo, I need money!!!

Also, there’s the opportunity the conceive and beat out another script for a different story entirely.  Then I’ll have two scripts on my hand, which isn’t a bad idea.  I have the time and the opportunity.  I have been toying with a Thriller idea, which would also take a small scale but not ultra-small scale budget to produce.  I do have an ultra-small scale idea that I am looking to write.  So here’s the game plan:  I could write the Thriller as a business move and keep that under my armpit for the moments when some slick haired executive asks me if I have something else, or I could write the intimate story as a project to whip into production and beat out.  That would be the calling card.  There’s the “What else do you have,” or “The calling card.”  Calling card does sound lovely, doesn’t it?  Calling card is also small and still takes the hustle of getting someone to invest $50K.  The thriller would be interest bait.  Maybe even a spec sell.  I wouldn’t necessarily be sold on directing it if someone wanted the project and not me.  It’s not really my Rocky or anything but I think it’s an interesting and timely concept.  I won’t go into it here on the blog but this is something that’s been brewing in my mind through the second half of 2014.  Let’s just say that the idea has been inspired by recent events of police brutality.  I guess this is just me rambling off my thoughts at the moment because I am so happy to have finished a draft of TEZ and to take a much needed break from a story as personal to me as that one was. Cheers to that.

Selma: the not so review, review

Selma

Five minutes after the last frame of Selma transitioned into the rolling credits, I realized that I was still in my seat. I had yet to blink. My cheeks were sore and my eyes were moistened red. Selma had altered my perception on what the art form of cinema had the power to change. The catharsis I experienced while watching a representation and reenactment of my heritage shifted the manner by which I wanted to interact with my peoples. I stood and witnessed the silhouettes of other moviegoers exiting their respective rows and I realized that I loved each and every one of them. I wanted to hug them all. I began to think about the violence in Chicago and the revelation saddened me. Many of us were disconnected from the love and the spirit that the Diaspora invested within itself since the beginning of time. I weeped for those lost in a sea of spiritual oppression and for those scarred by the flames of aggression. I wanted to hug those suffering their afflictions. I assessed my Niece and Nephew, whom I brought to experience this cinematic gem, and I was concerned whether or not they were aware of the importance of seeing Selma. I did not know if they got it, or whether Selma was digested as just another film about Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black experience. They had no questions. They assured me of their knowledge of history. That was all well and good but the real query was…do they know their present? I mean, do they really know the times of their adolescence? Did they process just how similar the images in the film were to current images of violence committed against individuals of color at the hands of authority figures? Were they able to wager just how stagnant American race relations are? I feared how the wake up call could potentially affect the way they may communicate with and build fruitful prospective relationships with Caucasian peers but I came to the understanding that balancing consciousness with condonation had always been the pill that people of color were forced to swallow.

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