What is it that inspires you to create films?
My mind is like a television. There is this world with these characters who have lives and desires. Then, there is this conflict. I have so many stories in my head that need and deserve to come out and to be shared. Stories that can make people laugh, cry, feel inspired, and feel seen. There is something about being a vessel of art where you are the only person who initially experiences the work. You put in the time and the energy, forsaking so many other things that you would also like to do, to manifest this vision. There is immense gratification in seeing others experience concepts that were once just ideas in your head to then to see these concepts displayed and enjoyed or even critiqued by other people. It excites me!
What motivates you to seek opportunities in such a competitive industry?
I’ve always longed to be a part of this industry. It has always been a dream of mine. My house was very arts infused. We had soul train lines, we watched awards shows and rooted for our favorite actors, singers, and movies. My friends and I would act out scenes from our favorite films. Honestly, it was the very first thing I wanted to be a part of. I’m a leader in my family. As the oldest and the only son, I felt that I had a responsibility to graduate from college and choose a career where I could take care of myself and also help provide when the need came. I did those things. I graduated from college. Heck, I have a doctorate. I’ve made a significant impact in the lives of so many and I believed that I was at the right place at the right time. However, there was still a huge part of me that was starving and community theater just was not satisfying my hunger. I wanted more and needed more. After no longer having the ability to suppress my feelings for my first love, I simply must follow through and fearlessly enter this competitive space and give it everything I can. I don’t want to leave this Earth with regrets. So, here I am.
Tell us about the perfect space and time for you to write.The perfect space is “any place” and the perfect time is “anytime.” At the present, I live in two worlds: education and creativity. As an educator, there is so much of myself that I give to so many people at different levels and different ages. While I also give as a creative, there is never a time when I feel depleted. I’m left empty but energized.
If I have my phone, my laptop, or even a pencil and my notebook, I will write. When the story and characters begin to live in my head, I must take the time to get the story out. It doesn’t matter if I am on a plane, on the beach, or at home, the inspiration will fall on me and I will make the space for the zone even if I’m writing a summary right now to use as a springboard for later. I once began writing a script while sitting in an acting class after doing an improv scene. The characters would not let me go until they…became.
The other thing is that there isn’t a routine for me. I don’t need to sit in a certain chair or make sure I light a candle. The means for me to create really depends on what I need at the moment. There are times I need silence, but then there are times I am jamming to music – I’m an R&B junkie so more than likely that would be the genre of choice. I can be in the room with a bunch of people and write or I need to be in a space of solitude. It’s situational, but I think it is also reflective of what I am writing or whose perspective I am writing from at the time.
What does success look like for you?
As a living, breathing person, I believe that success is a journey. Instead of waiting to the end for someone to assess your success, I acknowledge the benchmarks of my success as they happen. I am a man who went to the cotton field at the age of 15 and got paid $30 a day, saved that money, and bought school clothes for my sister and me so we could start the school year with new clothes and decrease the probability of getting teased by peers. This, instead of having to wait for my mother to get paid from the school in October because she did not get paid during the summer months. Success looks like people enjoying and being inspired by my creativity. It is people respecting my work and my work ethic. Success looks like me being recognized for my work providing the opportunity for my family to get dressed up to walk red carpets with me for my premieres and to award ceremonies where I am a nominee and a winner.
What is your favorite movie and why?
My favorite movie is Lean on Me. I love an ending where the type of resolution is one that the “underdog” triumphs. Even though there are struggles and the obstacles are seemingly insurmountable, something happens when the forces of evil or the entities creating obstacles fall short and the world is a little better than it once was. Lean on Me inspired me! It wasn’t just the extraordinary portrayal of Mr. Joe Clark by one of my favorite actors – Morgan Freeman and the riveting performances of actors like Karen Malina White, Robert Guillaume and Michael Beach to name a few. It was one of those examples that made me believe that one can come from dire circumstances such as poverty, abandonment, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and still win. One can either be counted out or not even considered, but with the right support and self-determination one can rise above it all. That spoke to my spirit as a child. It left a considerable impression on me which I would often pull on during those many tough situation I encountered in my own life.
What stories would you like to tell about the black male and why?
I want to tell stories about black men that push past the stereotype of the brute and the drug dealer/rapper/businessman who show two feelings: lust and anger. Those shows with those characters have their place, and admittedly I watch and enjoy them. I want to tell stories about the black male that are truly indicative of who were and are – nuanced. We are not a monolith. While we can be the brute and the drug dealer/rapper/businessman, I want to show us in the many roles we fill and offer another perspective in the way we show up in positive ways and in the areas where we need to grow. Recently, I’ve planted a flag in creating worlds where fathers are dealing with the broken relationships with their sons. My purpose is to highlight generational and societal missteps which cause negative ripple effects in the lives of their sons who have a high probability to grow up and become broken men.
My acting coach, Angela Davis once told those of us who were/are students in her acting class, if there is something on television or on screen that you have not seen that you want to see, then you write it. I want to add to the body of work by providing the perspective of us as human beings who have been impacted by the systems of this world and the way we navigate manhood, leadership, sexuality, code switching, trauma, relationships, and survival. I want to not only challenge the status quo, but also to create films that spark the much-needed conversations about black manhood, to challenge mindsets, and also to inspire elevation in our thinking and our actions.