The Power of Film: A Public Service

We're looking for a sponsor. Know anyone? People will probably be talking #Oscars all week. Let's continue that spirit when it comes to the power of film. My next project--a film short (drama)--will tackle the criminal justice system through the story of one man who still experiences PTSD after being exonerated. He's incredibly engaging, but has stopped making public appearances because he is still not used to his freedom after decades behind bars. I told him then maybe the best part about this film is that it will get his story out there without the personal trauma that comes with it. He agreed, but said what would be even better is if what happened to him behind bars never happened again to another human being. Corporate sponsorship is tax-deductible with EPIPHANY Inc. Please share. Let's make a difference.

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And #MeToo for Him too?

A young woman just asked me the following question for her upcoming article:

How quick are you to defend people you know who have been accused of harassment? What do you say to women or men who do defend people they know?

It's a very good question. As she clearly reveals, #MeToo cannot ignore all sides of this complex issue. I immediately recalled a situation where I was compelled to believe the male in question first and foremost, ride-or-die. Here is my response:

Harassment comes in many forms. Knowledge that it will most likely exist in a multitude of workspaces and wear many, unsuspecting faces is key. I have stepped up to defend a young man accused of rape before because he confided in me his story that was about to come to light and wanted to make me aware of how much he was prepared to profess his innocence and would work to make things right. The first thing I noticed is that he may be fighting this alone. I told him immediately I was on his side. I had not known him that long, but I’ve known abusers, molesters and monsters and he was not that person. When he then told me what he was up against with the accuser I knew he had a case—we had a case if he needed me to be vocal about it. She was clearly up to no good and I was embarrassed and appalled by her behavior. You’re talking about a young man—and in this case, a young man of color—and his future. He does not have the luxury of being presumed innocent. Luckily for him, he had strength in knowing that a few of his superiors, such as myself and another colleague, had his back. He went on to a supervisory position, fully aware that even though he has years ahead of him he now sees how easy it is for him to become a target.

Now let’s take this example into a situation where the young man could have already been in a supervisory role and the young woman was a solid worker of exemplary character. If I do not have a bias—which is very important in all of these cases coming to light—I start with the facts from both sides. And then I examine any history of the behavior coupled with the culture of the workplace or industry. Usually before too much time has passed, I now have a gut feeling as to who is in the wrong and in the right. And if I can prove someone is lying, manipulating the truth or threatening the weaker party, I must warn that person this hits very close to home as I was a very young victim—a preteen—of a predator. I do not take any of this lightly and it is never okay to enforce a degree of silence of an act so vile. If we’re going to defend someone we know who has been accused, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of both parties, and ultimately—and swiftly—give our full support to right over wrong, no matter the relationship to the accused.  

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It's an EPIPHANY thing

Caught the last moments of the St. Nicholas Nativity Scene before it went out to pasture. Here are the #ThreeKings whom we celebrate all weekend. The feast of the #Epiphany is complete. My company is named EPIPHANY Inc. after a conversation with my friend Ruby. I told her I have to name my film company. I want audiences and the industry to know all inspiration they seek has already been given to us. It’s all around. Ruby said, “So call your company Epiphany.” There, we had it. Formed, September 1999. Thank you, Ruby. #FeastOfTheEpiphany

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Black Film Pirate Let's Set Sail!

I hope each and every one of you are having an amazing start to this holiday season.

I'm launching an app--Black Film Pirate--early next year that I hope will accomplish two things: 

1) Finally address the age-old theory that "Black Films don't sell overseas," and,

2) Establish a growing catalogue of films from people of color or films prominently featuring characters of color.

This crowdfunding of film titles is something I've been looking forward to for a long time. This app will fill a gap I feel it's time to fill. Hope we can do this together and you'll recommend the below links to your friends and communities? 

The FB Evite is up for Black Film Pirate here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/493912224335667/.

The Eventbrite (for people off FB and beyond) is listed here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/black-film-pirate-lets-set-sail-tickets-40717598433.

Information is key and Black Film Pirate is set up to aggregate and distribute a one-of-a-kind catalogue, share behind-the-scenes strategies for indie filmmaking, and offer financing tips for indies and more.

We start with building a powerful list that establishes a film library like no other. 

It just takes a five-minute survey that may be found here:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfZyvVHFoKU4mQV7LJbtw7Wu3zSyG7l0FFPXomUhXDYowrnLg/viewform?c=0&w=1.

Will you become a pirate with us, fill out the form, share our e-vites and share our vision? Let me know and let's see this through! My hope is to make it go global, so I could really use your help if you're traveling in circles abroad as well. Let's do this! Thanks so much! Happy Holidays!

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What a Year

Am I thankful?

After all of you whose thoughts and support--near and far--powered me through, yes. I'm very very thankful.

Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving, Everyone!

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A Change is Coming....

Throughout my entire film career one Hollywood myth has been a constant in the dialogue concerning films by and about people of color. That stops now. Stay tuned....

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kweliTV is where you need to be!

HUGE congrats to kweliTV where I have the privilege of having six short docs on the channel. As of this week, kweliTV has launched out of Beta and Black female CEO DeShuna Moore Spencer is the indie filmmaker's dream distributor!

Please join the service known as "the Black Netflix" and see top global content from the African Diaspora. kweliTV is for all audiences, and is one of the few streaming services to compensate filmmakers fairly, promptly and with much respect (so filmmakers, check her out, and submit!!).

For your convenience, kweliTV is available online and through a number of apps.

Kweli means truth in Swahili so the mission is to curate content that is a true reflection of the black experience. The channel shares the African Diaspora experience through undiscovered documentaries, films, web shows, children’s programming, news and more from North America, Europe, Latin America, The Caribbean and Africa. Ninety-eight percent of films have been official selections at film festivals and more than 65% are award-winning.

kweliTV currently has nearly 200 titles on the platform that equals to more than 7,000 viewing hours and will be adding five new titles on the platform every Wednesday. More than 50 new titles will be added between September and Christmas. A sample: The Thorn Of The Rose (O Espinho Da Rosa) – Portugal; Black and Cuba – Cuba; Vivre – Barbados; Last Night – USA; The Flying Stars – Sierra Leone ; Catface – London; Accra Power – Ghana; Out of Darkness – USA.; and many more.

In addition to award-winning films and documentaries, the platform will be releasing four “kweliOriginals” in Fall 2017:

#WokeWebSeries - The live, weekly 30-minute show will give an on the ground report on news affecting black people around the world—from police brutality incidents, new legislation, protests, policies, petitions, etc. The one issue, solution-based show will be hosted by activist journalists, Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, a diversity coach and media commentator, and Janaye Ingram, an activist and lead organizer of the Women’s March on Washington. Dr. Jones-DeWeever and Ingram will tackle issues affecting black lives by interviewing community organizers and leaders across the globe.

60-seconds of Comedy - Enter the lives of the world’s up and coming comedians of African descent giving you 60 seconds of pure vlog hilarity. Can a comedian make you laugh in just 60 seconds?

#BlackRundown - A fast-paced, short-form daily countdown show that will highlight the top five most important news stories impacting the entire African diaspora.

Meet the Filmmaker - A one-on-one interview with upcoming and prolific independent filmmakers of color across the globe.

Other launch features include: Roku and Apple TV apps for subscribers as well as integration with Chromecast and Apple Airplay; a Live TV stream of some of kweliTV’s best shows and award-winning films for free on the platform; Member discounts and perks; and Weekly subscriber contests.

From kweliTV Founder/CEO DeShuna Spencer: “When you have people who like me overwhelmingly absent from leadership roles in newsrooms and film studios, you end up with scenarios in which black women being three times more likely to be viewed sexually on the screen according to research or a major news network allowing a former law enforcement officer to say that black people are naturally 'prone to criminality' and go on unchecked by a journalist. Media perception matters. I'm so excited to show what a true reflection of the global black experience really looks like through our dope films, documentaries and shows.”

Subscription plans include: $49.99 a year, $5.99 a month or $3.99 per 24-hour rental. Subscription include a 7-day free trial.

kweliTV slogan: Our Culture. Curated. Join now here: www.kweli.tv. Go, DeShuna and kweliTV! Yay!

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Back to School...Literally!

Summer is winding to a close and it has been a busy, fulfilling, challenging, ultimately gratifying three months for EPIPHANY Inc. and our projects.  Our first narrative feature, TITLE VII, is an official entry of 12 film festivals and on the slate of two screening series, book projects have the final chapter in sight and I'm off to a new teaching position at Hofstra University, for which I couldn't be more grateful--and excited. For a number of you who know me, you are already familiar with my Midwestern roots and my undergraduate days at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where I was one of the few Communication Majors among talented pre-med, architecture and engineering students. I had such good company there. And now a few of my friends from almost 30 years ago will be in attendance of my TITLE VII Chicago premiere for the famed Black Harvest Film Festival at Gene Siskel Film Center. Talk about coming full circle--it probably won't hit me until I get to hug those Chicago professionals who I spent time with as young idealists riding the gusts of winter winds into the concrete buildings for class. You guys had my back the whole time. Nostalgia hit with today's feature article on my work in the history Chicago Defender newspaper (thank you, Gina B. for the interview!) and I was overwhelmed with joy when the Chicago Sun-Times labeled our film "the bizarrely toned TITLE VII." I'm honored to be noticed! And as for "bizarre," we'll take it! We went down a bold road with our film on same-race discrimination. And as this country is in the midst of an ill wind, we all are learning that nothing about racial hate paints a pretty picture. It never did. It never will. Thank you for the education, Chicago. See you at the movies!

Producer Frustrations? Try Actor Frustrations

My friend and talented actor, Ariel Estrada from my latest film TITLE VII, schooled us all on the neverending (why is this still coming up?) question posed by a Black female producer on Facebook under the hashtag #ProducerFrustrations. Here is a recap:

"#ProducerFrustrations: Every time I am casting for something I can find 3,000 white women but like (2) black women, (1) latina actress, and ZERO Asian women!!!!

From Ariel:

There are TONS and TONS of talented Actors of Color who are impeccably trained, and hungry for work (me included!). When producers and casting directors bemoan the seeming dearth of actors of color I ask "where are you looking, and how are you looking for them"?

Invariably, they answer the usual channels, that is, expecting the actors to show up and/or submit. This is not a case of "if we build it they will come." Unfortunately, the reality of most open calls is that we, as POCs are SO BURNED by them, that we don't really believe you when you say that you are casting a particular role race specific, and that instead, the default race for any character is white. And even if you ARE specific, again, you can't depend on an open call. As actors of color, we've learned for the most part that they are a complete waste of time. I can't speak for anyone else, but I generally get cast by direct contact (or contact with our agent/manager) from the director/casting director.

Believe me: we are just as frustrated as you are. Yet the reality of how power works in this industry is that THERE IS ONLY SO MUCH AN ACTOR, ESPECIALLY AN ACTOR OF COLOR, CAN DO TO REACH YOU. So the responsibility lies primarily with the producers and casting directors TO COMMIT TO THE MORE DIFFICULT PROCESS OF REACHING OUT TO ACTORS OF COLOR. And I say difficult only because there ARE less of us, but not because we're that hard to find.

If you are truly committed to using Actors of Color, THEN YOU MUST ACTIVELY SEARCH AND ASK THEM OR THEIR REPRESENTATION DIRECTLY. It's not that we're hard to find, it's often that people aren't looking in the right place, and then throw up their hands in despair, "there aren't any actors of color"! 

Start with any of the theatre companies of color, and ACTIVELY REACHING OUT TO THEIR ARTISTIC DIRECTORS:

AFRICAN AMERICAN:
651 ARTS
Billie Holiday Theatre, Inc.
Black Spectrum Theatre Company
Blackboard Reading Series
Colloquy Collective
Harlem9
Harlem Repertory Theatre
Harlem Stage
IMPACT Repertory Theatre
Juneteenth Legacy Theatre
Take Wing And Soar Productions, Inc.
Liberation Theatre Company
The Movement Theatre Company
The National Black Theater
The New Black Fest
New Federal Theatre
New Heritage Theatre Group
The Negro Ensemble Company
NuAFrikan Theatre
Opera Ebony
Shades of Truth Theatre
Theater Loft: Ujima Theatre Company

ASIAN AMERICAN:
We So Hapa
National Asian Artists Project, Inc.
Leviathan Lab
Ma-Yi Theater Company
Vampire Cowboys
National Asian American Theatre Company (NAATCO)
Pan Asian Rep
Rising Circle Theater Collective
Noor Theatre
Hypokrit Theatre Company

LATINX
Sol Collective
Caborca
INTAR Theatre
Pregones / PRTT
Repertorio Español
Teatro SEA
Teatro Iati
Thalia Spanish Theatre
Teatro LATEA
Teatro Círculo NYC
La Cooperativa of NYC Latinx Theatre Artists

AGENTS/MANAGERS THAT SPECIFICALLY HANDLE AOCS OR HAVE A GOOD HISTORY OF TAKING ON AOCS

First, read this article:

https://www.nytimes.com/.../fighting-to-give-minority...

Ken Park Management (Asian primarily)
Annette E. Alvarez of Multi-Ethnic Talent & Promotion, Inc.
Take 3 Talent Agency
Makalina Abalos (Asian primarily)
KPA Talent Management/Production (Hispanic primarily)
Anonymous Content
Untitled Entertainment
3 Arts Entertainment
Principato Young

Also ask my friend Nicole Franklin of Nicole Films, and a fellow African American filmmaker. She'll have some casting leads as well!"

Bravo, Ariel!! 'Nuff said!

#FilmAFeatureIn8Days SOLD OUT!

So excited to present my #FilmAFeatureIn8Days seminar twice in the next few weeks in Manhattan and Newark, NJ! One session is already sold out! Please click here for the session on May 6! I'm happy to present this workshop again and again. A microbudget feature is the calling card to be an industry player these days--if not Hollywood, a promising career as an indie filmmaker.  Can you have a career solely as an indie filmmaker? It takes a heck of a lot of work, but it's possible! I did not have too many references to filming a feature in a few hours excess of a week when we set out to film TITLE VII, but we did it! And you can do it too!

This seminar is a #TITLEVIIFilm Case Study. Workshop highlights:

*Planning your microbudget
*Financing your microbudget
*Attracting heavy hitters to your microbudget
*Filming your microbudget in eight days
*Taking your microbudget to market
*Leveraging your next career move by investing in your microbudget

Follow our hashtag, #FilmAFeatureIn8Days, and you'll see tips online and more! See you at the movies! Your movie!

NYWIFT presents...#FilmAFeatureIn8Days

7 is a Magic Number

Happy Spring, Everyone! And thank you for making the Spring, Summer and Fall season a very special one for EPIPHANY Inc. with multiple screenings of #TITLEVIIFilm! Our TITLE VII NJ Premiere is here! The Women in Media - Newark Film Festival is FREE and all info about our April 6 NJ Premiere may be found on our event page by clicking here. Seating is first come, first served. Even cooler news? As of this post TITLE VII is expected to grace the screens of at least seven film festivals. Yep, we had our preview at Urbanworld last year, our world premiere at the recent Hollywood Black Film Festival (February), and with NJ and four more acceptance letters we're on a roll--from Harlem to Brooklyn to Martha's Vineyard and more! Please visit our event pages by clicking here, RSVP and share. We're also encouraging audiences to visit our page on Rotten Tomatoes after screening the film. Click here to submit your reviews! Special shoutout to intern Justin Bramwell who put together some really fun memes to share on our social media. We're excited to release our little-film-that-could to the world! See you at the movies!

Chicava HoneyChild and Fidel Vicioso as Hillary Kelsey and Darryl Montgomery in TITLE VII.

 

Volunteering Our Way to a Better St Louis!

As I channel Oprah for a moment (haha) our nonprofit coding academy, Hack4Hope in St. Louis, is "one of my most favorite things!" Our students are introduced to coding as a career option and we have the honor of connecting the booming tech industry in St. Louis to its youngest potential candidates in the field! We like when corporate citizens take notice of students from all neighborhoods. That's what it's all about! Hack4Hope's lead partners are Educational Exchange Corps and ITEN. We meet monthly for six months with our partner Claim Academy with donated laptops from MasterCard (thank you, MasterCard!). And we're thrilled to welcome our latest sponsor BIM Object who is establishing some pretty firm roots in our fair city. So thrilled to have their support and confidence. What do the students experience with Hack4Hope? An annual hackathon, fun ice-breakers to encourage fellowship, coding instruction focusing this year on Python and the fundamentals of writing strong essays. Did we mention we're a nonprofit? We aim for introducing 50 students per year to incredible opportunities to improve their lives and the lives of their families through technology. Join us as a volunteer or a donor by clicking on Hack4Hope.org. As always, please spread our news and just drop an email to say "hello"!  See you online! Photos by Kirsten Petty.

Our #BlerdDating Monday Nights Keep Us In The Game!

On the first Monday of 2017 I was privileged to help launch #BlerdDating, created by ChilltownTV's Leesa Dean. We're a Monday night Twitter chat with confessions (Twitter Story-style), memes, celebrity guests and a whole lot of laughs. In fact, a very special #BlerdDating Valentine's Day episode brought R&B Superstar and Grammy-winner Anthony Hamilton to the show and what can we say? This Monday night date is the most exciting of my life! We're having so much fun. To date we have more than 40 million Twitter impressions and our sharing of #BadDates has reached across the globe. #Blerds who date (this includes married #Blerds) are supercool. Who knew? We'll keep bringing you gems every week. Check us out on Twitter at 9pmEST by searching #BlerdDating, then join us on FaceBook for the AfterParty that gets pretty wild! Need more info about the world's first Twitter Stories/Chat-Mashup phenomenon? Just check us out at BlerdDating.com. We're having a ball and want you to join us! See you Monday nights!

TITLE VII Announces Two Premieres!

#TITLEVIIFilm Excited to finally announce what everyone has been waiting for: Our narrative feature film, TITLE VII, starring Chicava HoneyChild, Fidel Vicioso, Brian Anthony Wilson and a talented ensemble cast, will have its world premiere at the Hollywood Black Film Festival this February and its New Jersey Premiere at "Women in the World," Women in Media - Newark's 2017 Women's History Month Film Festival this March! We are thrilled to finally have all of you who made this film possible see the film publicly and celebrate its completion and festival run with us! Screening dates are still to be determined, but HBFF will be held February 22 - 26 in Marina del Rey and the Newark festival will be held March 28 - April 5.  Will we see you there? Thanks for championing our #FilmAFeatureIn8Days Microbudget Film! We did it! Please let us know how to bring TITLE VII to a neighborhood near you! #TITLEVII #JusticeontheJob #SameRaceDiscrimination #Grateful

2017 may be Intimidating, but not when your Armed with James Baldwin

When I watched the film I Am Not Your Negro (twice) this year I knew that in spite of an unpredictable President-Elect who fires from the hip, racial tensions at an all-time high, and gender and racial equality in this business I'm in still having the length of 50 football fields to go towards progress, seeing James Baldwin speak of our same situation 30 years ago was what I needed--what this country needs--because this prolific icon left us with instructions on how to improve. The gifted filmmaker Raoul Peck recognized this and spent 10 years perfecting this magnificent portrait of an author's book proposal turned memoir. When I first met Raoul Peck a little more than 10 years ago I never thought he'd be the one to inspire me any more than I could be at 17 years into my career. I feel blessed to share news of this beautiful film through an article in the Toronto publication ByBlacks.com. Please click this link to read and share (and leave comments!). Remember, no matter who leads "the free world" in the next coming weeks, no one can tamper with our humanity and our hope. 

 Filmmakers Raoul Peck and Nicole Franklin after a screening of  I Am Not Your Negro.

Filmmakers Raoul Peck and Nicole Franklin after a screening of I Am Not Your Negro.

New Year, New Show!

It's been a busy year of filming, editing--and now writing.  In fact, I've teamed up with talented creator Leesa Dean (ChilltownTV) for a new concept that we hope will be the place to be on Twitter! Making its debut on Monday, January 2, 2017 is #BlerdDating a new Twitter stories/chat-mashup--52 confessions (Yep, I'm confessing!) on dates from hell that can only happen to us #Blerds
Join us with celebrity guests on Mondays on Twitter at 9pmEST with the hashtag #BlerdDating (follow me as well @Nicoleedits on Twitter if you think you'll be lost). At 10pmEST, head back over to Facebook for our #BlerdDating Afterparty with host Lisa Durden for a live online chat fest that gets deeper, darker and wilder. (Like we said--it's the Afterparty!)
One of my favorite parts about #BlerdDating is because the #Blerds on Twitter will probably help us get super popular, why keep all of that attention to ourselves? At certain times during the year, we'll spotlight some hard-working nonprofits for the entire month. We have merch! Purchase our t-shirts that month and 20% of the profits goes right to that featured charity. It's a month of love--because when our dates go low, we go high! :) Hang out with us! More info: BlerdDating.com. 
We're thrilled to have a show where we can talk good times, relationship issues and outrageously bad dates. Yeah...we all went through them for some reason, right? Here we go! 

Sometimes Thankless Encounters Bring Home the Thankful

It's been quite a year personally and professionally for me and my work with EPIPHANY Inc. We filmed a feature (in 8 days, in case you haven't heard...yes!) and we are currently in wait-and-see mode for festival acceptances/rejections while our post production team is working in a realm nothing short of magical. I am blessed to have an incredible crew that said, "Let's do this!" and made something beyond my wildest dreams happen. I am truly grateful. I also experienced a bout of racism in the process of making a dream happen this year and other than the emotional toll that takes on one's soul, I'm learning from the vitriol many of us have experienced publicly due to one of the wildest U.S. election cycles ever, we WILL move forward and thrive in spite of people trying to pit all of the beautiful communities that make up the U.S. and our incoming residents against each other. I've been personally moved by individuals who have reached out to me to acknowledge the decades of work I've been so focused on producing for audiences and I've been a bit kicked in the stomach by some who build you up with false promises then expect you to just roll with it because it makes them feel better. There's been love, there's been loss. It's a life lived and sometimes it can be challenging. But as President Obama says, "The sun will rise in the morning." I realize that having good days and bad days are why God provided the strongest healing ever: A passion for the arts. Music and storytelling always saves. It's been there for the solitary bouts of depression and underscored the most joyous of occasions. My work as a filmmaker, writer and television director have been my favorite full-time side gig for 17 years. I'm excited to say 2017 will see the full-time hours now in EPIPHANY Inc.'s hands and it will be my pleasure to churn out a slate of projects for you--a very patient, receptive and supportive audience. We even are collaborating on a new show premiering the first week of January that will hopefully be the comic relief for any tough days ahead. More details to come.... In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving! Let's celebrate our love and support for one another this holiday season and forever ever after.    

More #FilmAFeatureIn8Days News to Share!

As many of you are learning, our narrative feature, TITLE VII, filmed this summer in Florham Park, NJ and was lensed in eight days. And,  we wrapped by 6pm each day.  As we look back to say, "We did that!" I love the idea of looking ahead to the very near future when I get to share tips on the "Why" and "How" this production schedule came to be! So join me Sunday, October 23 at 2pm, Spike Lee Screening Room, LIU Brooklyn Campus for the #ReelSisters microbudgeting workshop, #FilmAFeatureIn8Days. Please register by clicking here. I'll be there to give lots of behind-the-scenes lessons that may help you get your first narrative feature in the can as well! Have you tried the hashtag #FilmAFeatureIn8Days on Twitter? Please catch my numbered tips there--tryin' to get to 100 (which would be longer than the film!). A great way to launch the conversation, though, was an interview I was thrilled to do with Directed by Women. You may check that out by clicking here.  Would love to hear your thoughts. I already admitted, we were crazy! But it turned out to be a good crazy. :) I can't wait to hear your reviews! For now, see you in class! 

    TITLE VII   scene with Darryl (Fidel Vicioso) and Hillary (Chicava HoneyChild) as they work out a lifechanging deal.

TITLE VII scene with Darryl (Fidel Vicioso) and Hillary (Chicava HoneyChild) as they work out a lifechanging deal.