Monday, December 6, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

Add Verb!

This is a quick blog about a black superhero I have an affinity for.

Back in the Brooklyn in the 70’s (yeah I’m that old) there weren’t any black cartoon characters really and DEFINITELY black superheroes. SchoolHouse Rock! was also in heavy rotation during Saturday morning cartoons (remember them?) and it was always great see this cat who looked like me and with such a catchy tune to boot.

I even designed a “vanity logo” based on homeboy for our company below


Well here he is. I’ll probably add more info later, but he is the best superhero from my childhood and to quote the most incredible Bill Cosby “if you’re not careful you might just learn something”.



UPDATE: MARCH 2013






Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Coming Soon-Two films to See!

I’ve been involved with the MFF (Maryland Film Festival) for 5 years so far. Three years of those years I was also a volunteer (that’s me as “Line Captain” to the left at the festival). I try to see all of the black films I’m interested in. Not every film I see is great and here is a list of them:


Ok there is no list. I will never do that to another filmmaker for I know what hard work it is to put together a film and no matter how crappy it is, I have to give them props for finishing the film.

I do come across some very good/excellent films and this year was a banner year. I want everyone to look out for these two films:

My tickets stubs from the films 'Freedom Riders' and 'Night Catches Us'.
First I want to talk about the wonderful Night Catches Us

Here is their trailer-


About the film:
In 1976, after years of mysterious absence, Marcus (Anthony Mackie, “The Hurt Locker”) returns to the Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age in the midst of the Black Power movement. While his arrival raises suspicion among his family and former neighbors, he finds acceptance from his old friend Patricia (Kerry Washington, “Ray,” “Lift”) and her daughter. However, Marcus quickly finds himself at odds with the organization he once embraced, whose members suspect he orchestrated the slaying of their former comrade-in-arms. In a startling sequence of events, Marcus must protect a secret that could shatter everyone's beliefs as he rediscovers his forbidden passion for Patricia.-Night Catches Us, official website
The film directed by Tanya Hamilton, distributed by Magnolia Pictures is available NOW on iTunes and OnDemand is scheduled to hit theaters December 3, 2010. I encourage you to check it out on any of those platforms.

About the stars:
I’ve been a fan of Anthony Mackie since I saw him play the lead in She Hate Me (2004). While the film wasn’t that great his performance was great and I could see he was a great talent. He has since starred in a ton of films like Notorious (2009) where he played Tupac Shakur and the Best Picture Oscar winners Million Dollar Baby (2004) and The Hurt Locker (2009). I think he is one of the next big black stars in Hollywood.

Another next big black star is the fantastic Kerry Washington. Kerry Washington also starred in a ton films including Ray (2004), The Last King of Scotland (2006), and the recent For Colored Girls. I’ve seen her in a lot of different films and Kerry is one of the BEST African American female actors in Hollywood.

Update-February 2011 Kerry Washington  has signed on to headline Shonda Rhimes' (Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice) drama pilot for ABC titled Scandal. Read more about it here

Based on what I described above is why I went to see this film. I really liked it and I think the director Tanya Hamilton did a fantastic job WITHOUT monitors or storyboards. (Filmmakers will know what I’m talking about.)

As usual for the Maryland Film Festival, after the film, there was a Q & A with someone/people from the film to talk about the film. At this Q & A was the director Tanya Hamilton and one of the co-stars Wendell Pierce. Pierce also starred in a ton of films, but is most famous for playing “Bunk” on The Wire. You can see my cell phone pic below. I know you can’t really tell, but it’s them. LOL.

Left to right: Co-star Wendell Pierce and Director Tanya Hamilton during the Q & A for 'Night Catches Us'

2013 UPDATE
New better photo from that night. LOL
Left to right: Co-star Wendell Pierce and Director Tanya Hamilton and MFF Executive Director Jed Dietz during the Q & A for 'Night Catches Us'
I found out Ms. Hamilton was a director much like myself, a person of few words in front of crowds. Wendell Pierce stepped in like the acTOR he is and “emceed” the Q & A. During this Q & A is where I found out that Ms. Hamilton directed this film without monitors and storyboards. (Again filmmakers will know what I’m talking about.)

After the Q & A I got a chance to meet Ms. Hamilton and Mr. Pierce. They both were very cool and Wendell Pierce was really cool. Of course I told him I was a filmmaker and he remarked “Maybe we’ll get a chance to work together”. Your lips to God’s ears bro.

UPDATE: Night Catches Us was released to DVD on February 1, 2011.
You can go to Night Catches Us official website below-

 http://www.nightcatchesus.com/


January 2010
Night Catches Us Producer Ron Simons Blogs From Sundance



Last, but definitely not least, I want to talk about the excellent Freedom Riders
Here is their trailer-



FREEDOM RIDERS is the powerful harrowing and ultimately inspirational story of six months in 1961 that changed America forever. From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives—and many endured savage beatings and imprisonment—for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South. Deliberately violating Jim Crow laws, the Freedom Riders met with bitter racism and mob violence along the way, sorely testing their belief in nonviolent activism.

From award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson (Wounded Knee, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, The Murder of Emmett Till) FREEDOM RIDERS features testimony from a fascinating cast of central characters: the Riders themselves, state and federal government officials, and journalists who witnessed the Rides firsthand.-Freedom Riders, official website
Of the movies I see at the MFF, most of them are African American (narrative) films and documentaries. These films always range from bad, good, very good and excellent. Most of the documentaries I see are good, but toooo looong. They start off good, end off good, but lose something in the middle. If they shaved 45 minutes out of the middle they would be great. Freedom Riders avoids all of those pitfalls.


The official website’s description “powerful harrowing and ultimately inspirational story” is absolutely right. I was interested, but did not know what a powerful experience this would be. I’ve heard and seen footage all my life about the civil rights movement, yet this was a story I never heard of before. The absolute CRAP the “riders” had to go through was shocking, yet then it wasn’t. I’m never surprised at the depths of depravity that racism would stoop to. What shocked me was my visceral reaction to the amazing real footage and interviews with most of the Riders.

Excellent work by the filmmaker Stanley Nelson and makes me want to check out his other work. I urge EVERYONE to check out this film!

Freedom Riders, a production of American Experience, Premieres on PBS May 16, 2011.

Check out their PBS webpage-
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/freedomriders/

Check out their Wikipedia page-
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_Rides


UPDATE: September 12, 2011
Freedom Riders wins Multiple Emmys! Read about it here


Friday, November 26, 2010

My Trip to Columbia-A photo essay

Exactly two weeks ago this time I was on my way to Columbia and I didn't even need to catch a plane. I wasn't going to the country I was going to
This is an excerpt from their invitation:

Please join Columbia University School of the Arts MFA Film Program for its annual Open House on Friday, November 12 from 5pm to 7 pm. This will be a great opportunity to learn more about the program and meet current students and faculty.
Instead of driving I decided to take a different mode of transportation.
The trip was great in less than 3 hours I was in the state of my birth NEW YORK. I was smack dab in Manhattan.

Less than 5 minutes after getting off the bus someone asked me for some money. WELCOME TO NEW YORK. My [New York] cousin asked me if I "looked lost". I guess I did and looked like an "easy mark". LOL. Yes I gave him some change.

I got to NYC early so I could see the fam before the Open House. So it was time to do something I hadn't done in over 20 years. Ride a New York subway.
The trains looked the same. I was expecting to see some graffiti and breakdancers, but no such luck :( LOL

By the way, there was TONS of graffiti back when I rode the NYC trains, but breakdancing wasn't even out like that. The trains used to look like this.

Photo courtesy of en-derin.com

I hear they still have breakdancing, but the whole trains covered in graffiti like you see above and in 'Beat Street' or something has been long gone.

In my second WELCOME TO NEW YORK statement, almost to my cousin's house, they kicked EVERYONE off the train. Something about "structual damage" to the tracks. I really felt home then.

They kicked us off here. People were on their way to JFK airport with luggage and stuff, but again WELCOME TO NEW YORK..."now do the Rockaway. Lean back, lean back". Sorry I couldn't resist. I do the same thing when I drive to Queens and I see Farmer's Blvd. (L.L. Cool J used to shout it out in like every other song.)


My cousin came to meet me and I told her before I even came to New York there was one place I had to stop.
You just can't get these burgers in Baltimore. Well you can, but they look like this.NOT the same. I got my real burger and went to my cousin's mother's house (also my cousin, but I'm trying to clarify things here.) When I got there...


SMASH TIME!

After enjoying my burgers and chilling with the fam for a sec it was time to go to the place I came to New York for in the first place COLUMBIA!

How was I going to get there? I had to go...

I'm going to admit, going to Queens to the visit the fam on the subway, I felt kinda lost. I felt like a tourist, but on the way back to Manhattan, I had it down! It was like riding a bike. I knew where I was going and how to get there! I knew the transfer point and the trains I needed to take. Just like old times.

On my way back I ran into rush hour.

I remember the packed trains too.



After a long trip from Queens to Manhattan...


I HAD ARRIVED!

I'm probably reading a whole lot of things into this, but this was the first thing I saw at the top of the subway steps.
I thought it was for the film school because the School of the Arts is like right there off the subway, but it turns out this is for the NYC tourism bureau, nycgo.com. I still think it was a sign that NY film is where I need to be!


I made my way here to Dodge Hall, home of Columbia's School of the Arts. I did not take this photo or can't you tell?

Inside was the most exhilarating part of my trip.
I got inside to a pack house. Here were a lot of prospective MFA candidates and the faculty leading a great introduction to the program. Afterwards there was a fantastic Q&A with the faculty and current students. I didn’t have to ask a question because a ton of the questions I had were already asked and answered.

It sounds like SUCH a great program full of collaborative artists. After the Q&A, was the reception where I had a chance to meet some of the MFA students and faculty one on one.

I really could have stayed there for more hours, but I had to go to catch my train to my bus. Besides having a chance to talk to some great artists I just met, I had a chance to talk to an artist I already knew, my boy the great AAA-African American animator-Mark Stansberry.
When I asked my cousin, who shall remain nameless, about which train I needed to take to her house she was a little too slow…a LOT too slow to give me an answer. You done got “bougie” on me cuz. Park that car and ride the trains once in a while. LOL.

Well, while my cuz was “slow in her role” I decided to ask my boy Mark and he gave an answer forthwith. Mark also met me at Columbia and we had a great discussion about art in Baltimore and the artistic possibilities and opportunities in New York.

Thanks Mark!


On my way back to my bus I had to get off of the subway and walk several blocks to the designated bus stop and I had to go past the most incredible...

I finally made my bus and made my way back to Baltimore. I arrived back home full of promise and a new invigoration about what I wanted to do...MAKE FILM. I had my great info and keepsakes from Columbia.



My Columbia University folder and Columbia Film Festival 2010 DVD
 
Finally, I have to make it clear I have not yet been accepted, even though I have applied.
Thank you for submitting your application to the Film - MFA Program at the School of the Arts. We look forward to reviewing the hard work that you have put into your application.
Please note that most admissions decisions will not be made until April of 2011.
Thank you for applying to the School of the Arts.
Best,
Admissions
And thus, the waiting game begins.
I am also applying to another MFA film program at another school, but this was such a great experience for me, I had to share it. I’ve been back to New York several times, but as I stated this was the first time I’ve been back on the subway and got that whole “city vibe”. It was a fun trip and I had a great time. Stay tuned, for when I do get accepted to Columbia “Start spreading the news…”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Check out this video of my friend Mark "Loves NYC" Stansberry at work!



Thursday, August 12, 2010

Happy Birthday Mark Baltimore [VIDEO]

Today is Mark's 37th birthday and to that end I have re-edited the last film. As I stated before Mark’s cousin is a childhood friend of mine. He stated that the family would perhaps like a “clean” version. The original version is raw hip hop the way I wanted it to be, but I could see how his family would like to see and hear him without all the swearing. Even Mark had his reservations later.

I asked Mark if he got my email with the film and this is what Mark wrote me via Facebook on November 10, 2008 at 11:35am.
yeah it was a good look...
it looks like i travel in time...
and back then saying [n-word] that much
wasnt that big of a deal... lol
but it looks great and thanks..
He didn't say "n-word", but everything else is him. I also included a special ending for Mark and his family in this second version that you can see below. I hope they enjoy it. Happy Birthday Mark!

Facebookers you can show love to Mark's page right here



You can see and read about the original film in the blog entry Hip Hop Rules

You can read more info about Mark right here

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

R.I.P. Mark Baltimore


Today Mark moved to another plane, a better plane. This is what I wrote about Mark in my blog entry Hip Hop Rules
I shot all this footage with the rapper and had to edit it down to I think 10 minutes or less. When I started editing I was like wow this stuff with Mark is good. Turns out after all the hours and days I shot with the rapper Mark’s stuff was the best. Every time I showed my piece (and it wasn’t many times) people would like what Mark had to say best. Truthfully even I did and one of Mark’s sound bites closed the piece because I thought it was so strong.
Mark was evertyhing a filmmaker would want in a subject. You can't manufacture that kind of charisma and personality. They say Baltimore is small and it's just "four corners" and that turns out to be very true. Mark is the cousin of a childhood friend of mine and we talked about him just yesterday. I only had a chance to work with Mark that one time, but as you can see he was memorable and that's what you will always be bro memorable.


Facebookers you can show love to Mark's page right here

The Baltimore Sun did an article on Mark at the link below
Party promoter Mark Baltimore dies at 36 - baltimoresun.com

You can see the one chance we had to work together, my 1999 student film featuring him below. First a WARNING, the video contains explicit language. Having said that...ladies and gentlemen Mark Baltimore


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Oscar Micheaux: Going Postal


The 33rd stamp in the Black Heritage series, issued June 22, 2010 honors pioneering filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, who wrote, directed, produced and distributed more than 40 movies during the first half of the 20th century. An ambitious, larger-than-life figure, Micheaux thrived at a time when African-American filmmakers were rare, venues for their work were scarce, and support from the industry did not exist. Micheaux’s entrepreneurial spirit and independent vision continue to inspire new generations of filmmakers and artists.

This stamp features a stylized portrait of Oscar Micheaux by Gary Kelley. The artwork is based on one of the few surviving photographs of Micheaux, a portrait that appeared in his 1913 novel The Conquest.

Although only 15 of his movies are known to have survived in whole or in part, Micheaux has become a cinematic icon. In 1986, he was posthumously awarded a special Directors Guild of America award. In 1995, the Producers Guild of America established the Oscar Micheaux Award to honor “an individual or individuals whose achievements in film and television have been accomplished despite difficult odds.”

Below you can read about the official Oscar Micheaux: First-Day-of-Issue Ceremony (Click the pictures to see bigger versions)


In the program you can see of note are remarks by pioneering black filmmaker and author Melvin Van Peebles and Adjunct Faculty of Film, Columbia University School of the Arts, Geoffrey Fletcher.

Fletcher is the screenwriter of Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire and received an Oscar for Writing (Adapted Screenplay) from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on March 7, 2010. He is the first and so far only African American to receive an Academy Award for writing.

Read more about Oscar Micheaux on Wikipedia here