Last week we received a lot of EXCITING news around here, so I hope you are sitting down as you read this. First, on Wednesday, January 29th, we learned that one of our premiere coproduction projects, Waking Up White, is an official selection of the Charlotte Black Film Festival! This year the festival is being held April 23 - 26th. Congratulations to Writer/Director Jason Gregory and to the cast and crew.
Then, on Friday, the 31st, we learned that The Company You Keep was not only an official selection of the NYWIFT Online Shorts Film Festival, but it won 3rd Place, Best Suspense and Drama!!!! The lead actress, Aixa Kendrick was also chosen as Best Actress, 3rd Place. I can not tell you how honored I am to have been a part of this project. The Company You Keep's incredibly talented writer/director, Laura Fielder, remained true to her vision and created a work that is both thought provoking and timely. Congratulations to the cast, crew and co-producers. Support an emerging director by watching The Company You Keep here.
Thank you all for your continued support.
Greetings, Unscripted Content Producer!
I am excited to share a very special opportunity at the 2020 NATPE Miami Marketplace & Conference. NATPE deeply values their producer community and are continually developing ideas for their inclusion whenever we can. Nothing speaks to this passion more than the 13Brains initiative launched at this very conference in January 2018, under the tutelage of Scott Sternberg of Scott Sternberg Productions.
13Brains has grown into a full-fledged production company, developing and pitching ideas to top level networks and platforms. Their success took time and diligence, and a little bit of luck, but they are now ready to join NATPE in supporting emerging producers by providing a platform for those producers to pitch fresh, new series in a pitch competition format. The winner of the competition will receive ongoing development guidance from 13 Brains as well as high-level executive mentorship sessions.
If you are interested in this opportunity, please follow the link below, read and understand all the details, and complete the online submission form.
13BRAINS LIVE PITCH SUBMISSION FORM
Learn something new or revisit something old in 30 seconds.
More resources about Maidie Norman are available at the following links:
Clip from What Happened to Baby Jane:
Link to PopFlock Maidie Norman page:
If you are attending the NATPE conference in Miami next week, be sure to stop by the Shaping Content panel entitled The Diverse Producers of 13Brains, taking place on Wednesday, January 23rd @ 4:15 PM at the Fountainbleu.
We have an amazing story to tell and even more amazing content to present during the market. Joanna will be there, of course and would love to say hello.
Miami here we come!
I saw Sorry to Bother You two weeks ago and I can’t seem to stop thinking about it. It has really been a long time since a film has given me pause to re-evaluate my role in society and make me laugh at the same time.
This is not a typical review, because this is not a typical film. Tepid descriptions of plot points and talk about how fantastic the acting was feels oddly inadequate to me. All of the performances are top-notch, don’t get me wrong (special shout out to Tessa Thompson, Lakeith Stanfield and Steven Yuen) but, strangely I feel like approaching this magnificent work in this fashion would be doing it a disservice, so I won’t. I will tell you what I have been thinking about all week though, in terms of what resonated with me the most. In very broad strokes, I narrowed it down to two things to keep this brief:
The depiction of the inherent emotional strain of being Black and working in corporate America. The pressure to excel impacts people of color on an entirely different spectrum, compounded by the struggle to meet our basic needs. Boots Riley encapsulates this struggle perfectly. He also examines some of the difficult ethical choices people of color are faced with everyday, while blatantly bringing us face to face with racist stereotypes that are often perpetuated in the workplace.
The writing is brilliantly concise and unabashed in its disregard for conventional genre ‘norms’. It’s satirical comedy...no it’s science fiction...no it’s Boots Riley writing what the f*ck he wanted to write. As a screenwriter, I can not tell you how inspiring this is. As a film aficionado, I am refreshed and rejuvenated by the mere thought that this work will start a movement committed to the celebration of originality.
We need to more work like this. So, if you haven't seen it yet, make it your business to see Sorry To Bother You AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
Don't make me come looking for you.
When the #BookofRhymes club chose Born to Use Mics as our monthly read for the month of April, I was sooo excited. A book about Nas, unquestionably one of the greatest wordsmiths of all time and Illmatic...what could possibly go wrong, right?
A whole lot, apparently. Particularly when scholars over analyze hip hop and fail to root the conversation in aspects of the genre that true fans find of interest. One of the authors actually engages in ‘lyricsplaining’ one of my favorite tracks on the album, It’s Yours in Chapter Four:
“...immediately following the "It's Yours" sample, Pete Rock begins the hook by singing the question, "Whose world is this?" To which Nas immediately replies, "The world is yours. The world is yours.”
You get the idea.
The #BookofRhymes club featuring Porsha, Kil, Vince, Tone and Yours Truly, really break this book down without hesitation.
Last month my #Apt5B #BookofRhymes family decided on reading Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F&*k. I had never heard of the book, but was instantly intrigued by the title. Seriously, the subject matter could not be more timely. I am making a lot of changes in my life at the moment, some of which other people won’t be so happy about, so, while I’m in the mood of looking out for myself first, learning how to not give any more f&*ks sounded like a fantastic idea.
Let me tell you, Mr. Manson wastes no time and really breaks not giving a f&*k down. Check out a few gems from the first chapter entitled: Don’t Try:
On page five: “The world is constantly telling you that the key to good life is a nicer job, or a more rugged car, or a prettier girlfriend, or a hot tub with an inflatable pool for the kids. The world is constantly telling you that the path to a better life is more, more, more…”
Page nine: “The desire for more positive experiences is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”
Page fourteen: “Subtlety #1: Not giving a f&*k does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.”
Direct, to the point and spot on.
To hear more of my thoughts on this book, check out Kil’s #BookofRhymes podcast also featuring Porsha and Vince.
Roxanne, Roxanne is a biopic based on the life of one of Hip Hop’s first leading ladies, Lolita Gooden aka Roxanne Shanté, I highly anticipated this film’s March 23rd release by Netflix, as the “golden era” of Hip Hop took place during my formative years. However, this film is not a celebration of Hip Hop nostalgia. Instead, the writer and director, Michael Larell, chose to focus on the challenges Roxanne faced in her personal life behind the scenes. This was a refreshing surprise.
Known as a fierce battle MC from Queensbridge Projects, Gooden rose to fame at age fourteen after recording a diss track entitled Roxanne’s Revenge. The film begins before this track is recorded. Roxanne’s Revenge was released in 1984 in response to the UTFO hit, Roxanne, Roxanne.
Roxanne’s mom, Ms. Peggy (Nia Long) is a harsh, broken woman, twice abandoned; first, by the father of her children, and then, by her boyfriend, Mr. Lester. As Ms. Peggy drowns herself in alcohol, Shanté is thrust into an adult role of caring for herself and her sisters. Hip Hop helps to provide both a financial and emotional outlet for Shanté, most notably providing a mask to hide her vulnerability as a young child.
It is difficult to watch the cycle of abuse Roxanne suffers, particularly at the hands of men who enter her life. Cross (Mahershala Ali) is a particularly disgusting pedophile who begins a ‘relationship’ with Roxanne that includes showering her with expensive gifts to build her trust. As time progresses, he isolates her from her family and friends and beats her repeatedly, irrationally claiming that violence and love are one and the same.
Although the film provides insight into the making of Roxanne’s Revenge and introduces a few members of the Juice Crew, the script fails to provide adequate exposition of UTFO and the magnitude of their cultural influence. This is something that could have been accomplished with very little fanfare by strategically adding a scene or two. Without this information, the impact of Shanté’s success is one dimensional in that we see the impact it had on her life, but, we are not fully made privy to the movement this song helped to accelerate for women in Hip Hop. Viewers who are unfamiliar with the hip hop genre during this time need this additional information to fully embrace Shanté’s significance. I benefited directly from this movement as an MC by being invited to bless mics in situations in which I was previously ignored.
In spite of this oversight, Roxanne, Roxanne is a celebration of a trailblazer that proves to be inspirational. It’s about time this story finally made it to the screen.
Seven Seconds is a riveting episodic crime drama released by Netflix. Set in New Jersey, the first season chronicles the story of the accidental vehicular death of a 15-year-old black child at the hands of a police officer. The officer, Pete Jablonski (Beau Knapp) convinced that the child has died, is easily coerced by fellow officers to leave the scene and cover up the accident. Pete’s commanding officer, Mike DiAngelo (David Lyons) reasons that the race factor will overshadow good intentions, resulting in his crucifixion by the public. Ironically, race is indeed the overwhelming factor that motivates these officers to leave the child in a ditch like roadkill.
Regina King and Russell Hornsby earnestly portray the boy’s parents Latrice and Isaiah Butler. The dynamics within their family structure is so authentically layered, watching creates the feeling of being drawn into a family one might know personally. Latrice bears the emotional weight of the family. In contrast, Isaiah embodies the persona of a man that pours whatever emotions he may have into religion and considers providing for his family the ultimate display of love. He is not likeable for most of the series, but, his character’s evolution is well defined throughout.
KJ Harper (Clare-Hope Ashitey), the Assistant District Attorney, shares Isaiah’s affliction, as she avoids emotional espousal by crawling into a bottle and having trysts with strangers. She has perfected wearing an impenetrable mask while in public and has garnered an undesirable reputation. KJ’s backstory, once revealed, makes her motivations for being drawn to the Butler case clear. Ashitey’s performance can be misconstrued as flat, but KJ is a flat, broken character seeking a way out of perdition--subtle nuances that are all captured very well.
The police officers are such a despicable lot, it’s hard to determine who is more racist or corrupt than the other. Although we learn some sombering details about Pete and Mike’s family life, it is impossible to sympathize with them and overlook their actions. Thank goodness KJ has Fish Rinaldi, a dutiful newcomer to the precinct, to assist with the investigation. Michael Mosely’s portrayal of Fish is a delightful combination of optimism and sarcasm which is worthy of more screen time should there be a second season.
Seven Seconds is most definitely “binge-worthy,” filled with interesting subplots that continuously explore important social themes, dynamic characters that keep the story moving forward and a cast that realistically brings them to life.
I’d like to fully disclose at the beginning of this post that I am not a Westerns ‘expert’, but do have a few films I truly love within the genre. Once Upon A Time in the West and The Wild Bunch top my list of favorites. I can’t remember the last time I considered seeing a Western in a theatre, but the Hostiles’ marketing strategy, labelling it “best western since Unforgiven”, did the trick. I studied Unforgiven as a screenwriting student in film school, and really grew to appreciate it as a solid film. On a side note, The Quick and the Dead was released after Unforgiven and is a pretty good Western as well. To have the audacity to compare Hostiles to Unforgiven, it must be a good film, right?
Well, it’s not a bad film. The dark, psychological tone of the film is set from the opening frame containing the following quote written by English writer, D.H. Lawrence: “The essential American is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer”. This quote is followed by the brutal killings of Mrs. Rosalind Quaid’s entire family by the Comanche. It was hard for me to watch a wife and mother witness and survive such a brutal attack on screen. Rosalind Pike’s performance thoroughly manifests a realistic range of emotions during this story.
We meet quite a few killers throughout this film, most notably, Christian Bale as Captain Jonathan Blocker, a genocidal killer, renown for his efficiency during times of war. He is a well-read, hostile racist, who rationalizes and trivializes his murders as doing his “job”. In a twist of fate, Captain Blocker’s last assignment before retirement is to escort a Cheyenne family through perilous territory into Montana where the family patriarch, Chief Yellow Hawk, who is dying of cancer, will be laid to rest. Blocker hates Chief Yellow Hawk. In contrast, Blocker is accompanied by Master Sergeant Thomas Metz (Rory Cochran), a man that has not been able to process the brutal things he has done under the guise of democracy, and is struggling to cope with these realities both emotionally and psychologically.
Blocker insists on shackling the escorts as if they are prisoners, even when Chief Yellow Hawk confronts him with the likelihood they will encounter the Comanche during their journey. This likelihood becomes a reality during a confrontation with the murderers of Mrs. Quaid’s family, resulting in the loss of several of Blocker’s men. Violence serves as an interesting device to unify captors and captives against a common enemy in this film, which within itself is a powerful statement.
Hostiles lags at times but makes a powerful statement directly connected to the quote in the opening of the film--Violence is woven into the very foundation of America. During a panel at NATPE, Byron Allen of Entertainment Studios cited the need to highlight the violent displacement of Native Americans from their land as one of his primary motivators in acquiring this film. This is something we definitely need to talk more about. For some, however, Hostiles’ social significance will be overshadowed by the brutality of the Comanche, Christian Bale’s few strong moments won’t be enough, and the well executed homage to John Ford unimpressive.
My Rating: B