February 16, 2012

Here’s an exclusive look at a clip from THE TESTED, a gritty drama that follows three people on vastly different paths as they search for understanding and redemption for the murder of an innocent teen.

THE TESTED screens as part of New Voices in Black Cinema festival on Friday February 17th at 6:50pm & Sunday February 19th at 2:00pm.  

Purchase your tickets at www.bam.org/actnow

February 14, 2012
A Sit-down with Dui Jarrod & Peyton Coles of LESSON BEFORE LOVE


Written by Noella Wynter

This Valentine’s Day marks a very special occasion for director Dui Jarrod and emerging actor  Peyton Coles of Lesson Before Love. No, it does not involve the trivial things like a box of chocolate or a bouquet of red roses. Instead, this year’s Valentine’s Day makes it four years since the inception of the film, Lesson Before Love.

What originally started in 2008 on Valentine’s Day as a group of single friends enjoying the company of one another by painting pottery, watching an independent film and having a meaningful discussion about why they were all single, resulted in the product of a labor of hard work and love as well as a feature film for this year’s Festival.

“I felt like, as far as black culture was concerned we didn’t have a film that displayed us in a really compelling light,” said Jarrod. “I wanted to write a film that displayed the current state of being young, black and progressive in modern times.”

However, the process was a lengthy one, and took three and a half years. When asked what kept him motivated throughout that time Jarrod said his community. “I was just committed to my community, I felt like we deserved it. I was also committed to myself and getting my first feature film done.”

Lesson Before Love centers around four singles who are unsatisfied with not only their love lives but their personal lives as well. This aspect of the film mimics Jarrod’s who left his job in corporate America to fulfill his dreams of being a filmmaker and subsequently making his first feature film.

It seems as though Lesson is a first for many involved in the film including Peyton Coles, who plays Cullen Jones. “This was my first feature film. I came from New York doing stage work,” said Coles. When asked what the environment on set was like, the New York native said “[We were] very much so like a family. We had to be a family in order to make a film like this.”

“I love the way that Dui and the producers kind of sent us out on these love dates with all the actors as their characters,” continued Coles. “We would go out to dinner [and] in one date we sculpted and painted our own pieces in this ceramic shop. We did that often and that’s what they did to prep us to get comfortable with one another.”

Hopefully the audience will sense the chemistry between the cast and walk away with lessons of their own. “I want people to leave with their own personal love lessons, said Jarrod. “I just want people to experience the journey of four characters and see yourself in those characters stories and to really think about it for yourself.”

“I would like them to leave with a better sense of themselves and the person beside them because we all go through the struggle,” said Coles.

If you are wondering what else you can expect from these creative gentlemen, Jarrod is currently working on a screenplay for Viola Davis and Peyton Coles is setting to release his first directorial short film.

Lesson Before Love screens at New Voices in Black Cinema Festival this Friday, Feb. 17 at 9:30pm at Brooklyn’s BAM Rose Cinemas. Tickets are going fast! Find them here.

February 13, 2012
Q&A with THE BECOMING BOX director Monique Walton

Monique Walton’s The Becoming Box is a a poetic sci-fi that follows one woman’s perilous journey through a time portal as she loses herself and struggles to piece together fragments of her identity and past.

The film screens on Sunday, February 18th in the 4:30pm shorts program at New Voices in Black Cinema Festival at BAM in Brooklyn. Find tickets here.



AF: What inspired this film?
 
MW: All of my films, whether fictional or documentary, have all dealt with identity in some way and how you shape and create your identity in relation to the world around you.  So with this film I was thinking about the concept of a portal that changes your identity immediately and you don’t remember who you are. Then I visited New Orleans last year and was really inspired by the place and culture and felt like this concept could be used there because there is this sense of loss and the people there identify themselves so strongly with the place.  When it was so abruptly changed and  destroyed people lost that part of themselves. Also, New Orleans is such a creative inspiration.  It’s just so culturally rich.  It almost feels like it’s not apart of  the rest of the U.S. because it’s so dynamic and the energy there is different from anything I had ever experienced.
 
AF: New Orleans is sort of a character in the movie.  It seems to be interwoven into the fabric of this film.   Could this movie have been made anywhere else?
 
MW: I tried to make it a character.  The themes that I was trying to explore, I feel, are universal in the terms of the history of the African diaspora.  So I tried to approach displacement as it pertains to the history of African Americans in the US. But once I set it in New Orleans, the city had to have a strong presence because it’s such a unique place.

AF: So when your character travels to this alternate reality you employ this cinema verite effect.  Talk about your decision in using that approach.

MW: That was kind of an experiment for us.  We really were trying to play with structure.  We thought it would be a really interesting visual break- because it occurs in the middle of the film- to completely subvert the whole style of the film.

AF: What message do you want to take away with this film?

MW: I wanted to leave some of the experience up to the viewer to interpret it in relation to their own experience.

AF: What was the most gratifying moment for you as director on set?

MW: There’s always a moment when the actors take the baton and they create a relationship between each other you didn’t even picture happening.  One of the actors is actually a first-time actor.   There was something about her that I knew she’d be able to execute the role.  But she brought a whole new spiritual dimension to the character that I didn’t even plan for.   It was gratifying in terms of  placing her in a room with two experienced actors and having her do such an excellent job of improvising. She was able to get in that world and really work with them in a way I didn’t expect would happen so smoothly.

AF: What was the biggest challenge in making this film?

MW: I’m based in Austin and we shot the majority of the movie in New Orleans. The challenge was doing something in another city I don’t live in.  Luckily,  I was able to have some crew that was based in New Orleans to help me with pre-production.  But it was a huge challenge to juggle all of that. I spent a lot of time on the road, driving eight hours on the weekends trying to manage everything, while going to school.

AF: How did you manage o find locations?

MW: It was through research and Monique, who’s in the film,  was a really big help.  We shot a lot of it at her house and she was so helpful driving me around to different locations.  She’s actually a choreographer born and raised in New Orleans, so she knew where all the great spots were.  

AF: How many days did you guys shoot:

MW: Four days of filming and a day of pick-ups.

AF: What did you guys shoot on?

MW: Super 16 and EX3

AF: Which parts used the super 16?

MW: First half is all Super 16.  The cinema verite sequence begins to use the digital.  


February 11, 2012

Lessons of Love screens February 17th at 9:30pm

February 11, 2012
Center Stage: SINGLE HILLS

In exactly one week New Voices in Black Cinema Festival returns to BAM Rose Cinemas during Black History Month, February 17-20.  ActNow is excited to announce the screening of Single Hills.

A Young Brooklyn writer, fearful of serious commitment, sends his longtime girlfriend mixed messages about the status of their future.  When she distances herself from their relationship, he realizes his loss and frantically pursues her until his life spirals out of control.  Starring J Kyle Manzay (American Gangster), Krystal Hill, Maryam Basir (Mooz-lum) &Victor L. Williams (King of Queens, CBS), this romantic drama about love and loss, examines male vulnerability pertaining to the matters of the heart.

Director Wilkie Cornelius is a write, director and producer of film and theatre.  He wrote and produced the plays The Longer The Tail  and Single Hills in New York ad he has also written dozens of short plays and comedy sketches, which were first presented at The Nuyorican Poets Cafe as part of ‘The Wa Wa Wilkie Show’.  He also wrote, directed and produced The Last 15 Hours, a political documentary, and the feature film version of Single Hills, which hits the film festival circuit this year.

Single Hills premieres February 18th at 6:50pm.

Tickets are selling out fast for this New York Premiere!  Vist bam.org/actnow for tickets.


February 10, 2012

View the trailer for the romance Lesson Before Love.  Screening Friday, February 17th at 9:30pm.  Purchase your tickets at bam.org/actnow

February 10, 2012
Center Stage: LESSON BEFORE LOVE

Center Stage is pleased to announce the New Voices in Black Cinema Festival screening of LESSON BEFORE LOVE, a film highlighting the rich complexities of relationships. The film features a quartet of young black professionals searching for love while searching for themselves. Join us for a charming film that puts a new spin on black love.

Eric, Alexis, Cullen and Janae are all unmarried and unsatisfied living their monochromatic lives.  The contentious, first time meeting between on-line chat buddies, Eric and Alexis, brings about a torrent of emotions as they and their friends all meet up for a night on the town.  After which, they begin to experience love lessons that force them to search their own hearts and lost passions for the love that has long eluded them.

One of six siblings from White Hall, Arkansas, young Jarrod grew up participating in local theatrical productions. That love for story would carry through to college where he majored in communications at Louisiana State University. Dui continued to hone his talent as a playwright and moved to New Orleans. It is there that he began working in the local entertainment industry, appearing, most notably, in “A Soldiers Story”. Founder of Cloud Nine Production, Dui Jarrod has written and produced five short films that have screened across the country. Lesson Before Love is his feature-length debut.
Lesson Before Love screens February 17th at 9:30pm.  Following the screening there will be a Q&A with director Dui Jarrod and his cast, moderated by Reggie Scott. Find tickets at bam.org/actnow

February 10, 2012
Center Stage: SINGLE HILLS

In exactly one week New Voices in Black Cinema Festival returns to BAM Rose Cinemas during Black History Month, February 17-20.  ActNow is excited to announce the screening of Single Hills.

A Young Brooklyn writer, fearful of serious commitment, sends his longtime girlfriend mixed messages about the status of their future.  When she distances herself from their relationship, he realizes his loss and frantically pursues her until his life spirals out of control.  Starring J Kyle Manzay (American Gangster), Krystal Hill, Maryam Basir (Mooz-lum) &Victor L. Williams (King of Queens, CBS), this romantic drama about love and loss, examines male vulnerability pertaining to the matters of the heart.

Director Wilkie Cornelius is a write, director and producer of film and theatre.  He wrote and produced the plays The Longer The Tail  and Single Hills in New York ad he has also written dozens of short plays and comedy sketches, which were first presented at The Nuyorican Poets Cafe as part of ‘The Wa Wa Wilkie Show’.  He also wrote, directed and produced The Last 15 Hours, a political documentary, and the feature film version of Single Hills, which hits the film festival circuit this year.

Single Hills premieres February 18th at 6:50pm.

Tickets are selling out fast for this New York Premiere!  Vist bam.org/actnow for tickets.


February 10, 2012

Watch the trailer to Single Hills, making its New York premiere Saturday, February 18th at 6:50pm. 

February 9, 2012
Q&A with THE THREE WAY director Julian Renner

We sat down with director Julian Renner to give us the deets on dramedy The Three Way. 

AF: What inspired this story?
 
JR: The movie originally started as a short film.  Which I posted on youtube.  Everybody kept asking me what happens next.  They were bombarding me.  It took a year to figure out how to construct a tricky feature. It took me six or seven months to write it.  Luckily, at the time I had the cast in place.  I gave the script to the lead, Tasha, and to one of my close friends from school who is also the producer and some 18 drafts later we started filming.

AF: Where does the short film end and the feature begins?

JR: The short films ends where Mike and Sam leave Tasha at the table. It ends on that cliffhanger where the phone rings.  Tasha picks up the phone, you hear the “hello”, and we cut to black.

AF: The film goes from comedic to intensely dramatic.  Can you talk about your decision with that tonal arc?

JR: The movie has all these twists and turns.  I broke it down into three major incidental changing events for the character.  It had to be about something.  I kept playing the same card over and over again and then it becomes very gimmicky.  There has to be some substance.  There has to be some form of accountability for what the characters- these people- were doing.  So that was the reason why I changed the tone.  I think of it as an expensive joke.  With an expensive joke there has to be repercussions at some point.  Somebody has to atone for all of this.  I figured if I could shift the genre from comedic to dramatic I could still find a way to preserve the twist and the audience would still be more taken by the dramatic elements as opposed to being clinched of it.  Just at the moment that they’re getting very  comfortable with what they’re seeing I  lay something on them.

AF: Was the improvisation done by the actors?
JR: There was a lot of improv.  I realized during the table read that it felt a bit too rehearsed.  I remember on set there was a dispute between a supporting character and one of the major characters and I sat behind the monitor with producers and I said, “I’m not buying this.” It was too scripted and too rehearsed.  So in the middle of shooting I walked up to the actors and I told them to say my lines but we’d let the camera roll for an extra three minutes and have them keep the momentum going.  It ended up being an acting exercise for them.  It was just amazing the kind of stuff they would say because they all knew what their objectives were.  And as long as they knew that, I trusted they would come up with something interesting.  

AF: Are there any artistic liberties you took as director?

JR: My DP and I had a little bit of a struggle in the early part.  Because he was trying to light the movie like a drama.  It had a very different tone.  So we had to come up with a style and he came up with a great idea to give everyone highlights.  Also, I think trusting the actors with some of their choices.  Sometimes they’d say a line and I’d think to myself, “ I don’t know how I’m gonna make that work in editing.” But I think editing was the most ambitious part once the movie was shot.  We had so much stuff from all the improv so it was a matter of finding what were the right moments that would work with the scene but also at the same time entertain the viewer.  

AF: What did you shoot on?  

JR: We shot on Red.  

AF: How many days

JR: 94 pages in 11 days

AF: How big was your crew?

JR: It was a pretty small crew of about 7 people.  I couldn’t really afford a big crew.  And considering 70 percent of the movie is shot in one location it would have been hard if we had a lot of people in terms of maneuvering.  It was pretty ambitious but we made it through 10 pages a day.  I think the longest day we shot was 15 pages.

AF: Is there anything you want your viewers to take away

JR: I think the ending says it all .  It makes a statement about women taking the reigns and men needing to step up to the plate.  Most of the people who have seen it find it to be an enjoyable experience and enjoy the twist and the turns the story takes.  Whatever the audience pulls from it is great.  But primarily I wanted it to be entertaining.

AF: Most gratifying moment for you as director on set.

JR: The final day when we actually completed all the pages. I remember telling the DP, “I don’t think we’re gonna make it.”  Then the producer got back and said we shot the entire script and have everything.  It was like, “Oh we actually did it!”  Based on what we were seeing in the monitor we had something that was really interesting and fun.

AF: Funniest moment on set.

JR: It was when the two leads Tasha and Mike were arguing. Karmia, who plays Tasha, is a very intense actress and there’s this scene which calls for her to slap Mike.  We’re all sitting in the back watching the monitor and they’ve already rehearsed it.  I call for action, they say their lines and then “WACK!” The guy who plays Mike calls for me and asks if he can have some aspirin. The entire crew just breaks down laughing and he basically told her that if she kept hitting him like that he wouldn’t be able to come to work tomorrow.

AF: What would you say was the biggest challenge making this film?

JR: There was a moment where the movie almost fell apart.  It was about a week before we started filming.  I initially had another DP and he backed out 6 days before we were to shoot and at that point I thought the movie was done. But one of the producers said he knew a guy.  I called him and he came to the location; we sat down and had coffee and he got it.  Based on how the movie looks I think he did a phenomenal job for a guy who only had six days to plan.  He’s set to shoot my next feature.  It sucked that I lost my DP but i was fortunate to find someone that I could develop a really good working relationship and friendship with.

The Three Way screens Monday, February 20th at 9:15pm.

February 8, 2012
Q&A with SAVE ME director Lena Waithe

We sat down with director Lena Waithe to gain insight on her short film, Save Me, a film that follows a nine-year-old boy on a journey to find the man that saved his life. 

AF: What would you say Save Me is about?

LW: Save Me is actually about the question of, “Why am I here?”  The young man in the film is going to find the man that saved his life.  His life was spared for some reason so he’s asking the literal question, “Why did you save me?”, whichIi think can be deeper defined as “Why am I here?”  Everyone asks that: “Why am I here?” “Why was I put on this planet?” “Why did I survive and others didn’t?”  So it definitely has a very literal meaning for a child but I think it has a deeper meaning for adults and that’s just another layer and the substance of the film.

AF: What inspired this story?

LW: I sort of got the idea when I was watching a documentary on HBO. I believe it was called Lottery.  It was on an HBO documentary series and it was really awesome because it basically follows these  four people who have won the lottery and  where they were a year later.  One  family gets the money and saves and is living well, another guy bought a bunch of stuff and now he lives at home with his mother, and another guy, this older man, is actually worse off after having won.  Because before the lottery he was this small town hero who had saved a kid. I was wondering about this older gentleman whose life became so bad after he won the lottery, what if that kid whose life he saved, who sort of made him beloved and this hometown hero, what if he went out to find him and he was this decrepit old man.  That’s really what sparked the idea.  Just watching that old man and somebody saying he had saved a little boy’s life years ago. That’s where it began because I wondered about that kid.

AF: When the little kid finally encounters this old man saved him.  There just seems to be a world of difference between the two of them both physically and socially.  Was that a deliberate or organic occurrence? 

LW: I always knew that this boy wouldn’t get the answer he wanted or needed.  I’m a person that’s very heavily influenced by the film Wizard of Oz.  So there’s something to the idea of wizard behind the curtain and once they finally discover him it’s this old white man behind the curtain.  You have  four characters who are wanting things that are not tangible and so it’s definitely influenced by that.  There’s this little boy asking “Why am I alive? Why am I here? That’s what I want to know before I can go home.”  But the truth is this guy, unlike the wizard, doesn’t give him a sense of security. He doesn’t give him something to make him feel better.   It’s sort of what we get when we ask the universe, “Why am I here?” We don’t get an answer. So I wanted there to be a drastic difference between this young black boy going to ask some old white man for an answer and the truth is that old white man  gives him no answers and that little boy has to answer those questions for himself.  They’re physically different and they’re also different in a lot of other ways.

AF: The old man doesn’t give him any answers but the little boy (Kenya) comes to a sense of resolve on his own. Can you talk about the decision to make that a personal resolution?

LW: I think that came to me in one of the rewrites.  I wanted  there to be some resolve for the audience and for the character and I thought that he realizes in this short period of time that he has something to live for and I wanted to put that in a very poetic way.  I actually tried to be poetic with the way I wrote it so people could try and lose themselves in it.  So, I wanted the wrap up to be this revelation which most kids today wouldn’t have that.  But I wanted the audience to get that we’re here because some divine power wanted us to be here; and we have a reason to be here.  We don’t know exactly what that reason is but we have a reason.  And I definitely wanted him to come to that conclusion for himself   And I think that was really cool and it speaks to his character.   That he would figure it out on his own.  Because throughout the film he’s very resourceful.  They say, “The children will lead them.” so it was cool for him to have the realization on his own- even though it’s not  what happened.  He sort of creates his own reality, which I think is cool.

AF: How’d you find your actor?

LW: He’s amazing.  Initially I wanted the kid to be 18, freed from the system. So I was gonna have a very young boy and then have him morph into an adult.  Somehow I decided, “What if it’s a kid throughout?”  It sort of became  a thing of, “Can I find a kid who can carry this film?”,  and trust me it was a long process.  We had about three casting sessions.  It was not easy because it’s a lot of weight on the kid.  We saw a lot of great little black boys: some very precocious, some very shy, some not ready, some that were too ready.  The lead’s name is Jaheem, he has two of the greatest parents in the world and he just literally walked in and we knew he was it by the way he walked in the room- before he even said a word.  He has little ‘fro and the most beautiful face I’ve ever seen.  He’s like this chocolate drop- he’s really like a Hershey’s bar. And then when he  started reading: he got it.  And I think it’s because there’s a lot of Kenya in Jaheem.  He’s very smart, intuitive and observant.  He was magic.  I’ve become very close friends with his parents.  He’s a great kid.  I’m just blown away by him and happy to even be in his orbit.

AF: Tell me about any artistic liberties that you might have taken on set.

LW: Sure, I think sometimes when you’re on set, and I tell a lot of directors this, when they’re like, “My film has to be at this time, when it’s raining and they have to be surrounded by white silk…”  I  always say, “Look, you gotta make due.  If it’s sunny outside and you gotta shoot that day, roll with it.”  A big thing for us was the skateboarding portions.  Obviously Jaheem  is not the most athletic kid in the world and he couldn’t skate board.  I thought I could teach him but it was not happening.  So we sort of changed things on set where we played that up.  Where he couldn’t skateboard and we made that a story point and it worked. We also did re-shoots where we show him in the room with the two boys to show that he’s in a foster home to make things clearer.  Because you don’t have that  time in a film to explain every little thing that’s going on so  you have to sort of trust your audience but at the same time there are incidents on set where you have to say, you know this wasn’t in the script but i think we should do this so that way it’ll be easier for the audience to understand  where we’re going.  

AF: What was the movie shot on?  How many days and how big was your crew?

LW: We shot on a  Canon 7D.  We shot overall four days. Three days and a day of re-shoots.  The crew was pretty skeletal because folks don’t have money. So we had to keep it really small:  about five to six people.

AF: Tell me about the funniest moment on set.  

LW: There are a lot of funny moments of Jaheem trying to skate board, all of us trying to teach him and  none of us being that good at it ourselves.  It was ridiculous. It was so crazy, it was funny.  It was a crew of mostly women;  we’d tell him to skateboard in the street go and then scream for him to stop whenever a car came.   So us preventing him from getting hit, yet telling him to go as fast as he could on a skateboard.

AF: Biggest challenge making this movie?

LW: Money, it being the first time I’d directed a kid and dealing with those arguments with the DP. I’m  very non-confrontational but the truth is that’s one of the things they don’t teach you in film school. You’re gonna be arguing with your director of photography and it’s not fun and you have to maintain a level of professionalism because it’s like the parents are arguing.

AF: Most gratifying moment on set?

LW: The first day of wrap.  I can remember driving home at the end of the first day. Nothing can compare to that feeling of accomplishment.

Save Me screens at New Voices in Black Cinema festival on Monday, February 20 at BAM Rose Cinemas in Brooklyn, NY.

The screening, titled ‘Growing Pains,’ includes four short films focused on black youth, and will be followed by a panel discussion with filmmakers Lena Waithe, Kristina Thomas, Nicole Franklin, Kobie Brown, and youth advocates Rev. Alfonso Wyatt and Marcus Littles. Find tickets here: bam.org/actnow

February 7, 2012

The Tested.  Playing at BAM on Sunday, February 19th at 2:00 pm.  Purchase your tickets here: bam.org/actnow 

February 4, 2012

New Voices in Black Cinema Fest: love jones week

love jones screens on Sunday, Feb. 19 at 6:50pm at BAM Rose Cinemas in Brooklyn, followed by a Q&A with director Theodore Witcher, moderated by Warrington Hudlin. Find tickets here.

(Source: embracingmydarkside)

February 1, 2012

New Voices in Black Cinema Fest: Love Jones week

love jones screens on Sunday, Feb. 19 at 6:50pm at BAM Rose Cinemas in Brooklyn, followed by a Q&A with director Theodore Witcher, moderated by Warrington Hudlin. Find tickets here.

(Source: bshepjr)

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