Lens Spotlight: Interview with Director/Photographer, Jamal Ademola

Jamal Ademola - Portrait.jpg

Los Angeles, California

When did you become fascinated with Art? Was it a natural talent or a skill you acquired?

When I was a wee young lad, I used to draw in my mother's encyclopedias. I've always been fascinated with art, even before I knew what art was. My mother and father would say it was a natural talent, but being raised in a Nigerian American household meant professional degrees in medicine and law were promoted, so I really wasn't encouraged to pursue art as a career, but I rebelled and worked extremely hard at any artistic practice I have endeavored at to make it viable. Several years ago, I found a way to make a living so now my parents approve.

How did your interest lead to Animation?

I've always been interested in telling stories. A childhood friend and I, his name was Nigel, used to draw characters on every single page of those encyclopedias and flip the pages to watch them move. We'd create whole episodes and narratives in these books. This was before we knew what we were making was called animation. We must have been ten or eleven years old. It was quite cool to be able to draw in high school, but it was much cooler to be an athlete, so I stopped drawing and pursued that. After that didn't work out my passion for art and animation came back to me. Hand-drawn animation is probably one of the most intense and time-consuming art forms. It's very easy to burn out, and over the years I've become interested in other mediums like design, photography and filmmaking and how I can combine them.

What is your workflow process while animating?

It depends on the project. These days I animate and direct a lot of commercials. So that process is very different than something I am doing for myself. For commercial work, I usually work with a production company or an advertising agency, and they provide a treatment or a brief. In this case, I'm bound by an already established idea that I am brought on to execute and embellish. Sometimes, I can steer the concept into new territory, but that's rare. Depending on what state the project is in when I arrive we'll do storyboards, character designs, animation production and then post. Sometimes I'll hire other animators, other times I'll animate the entire piece myself.

What is your favorite project?

Lord, I've animated so many different things, but two spring to mind. There was a project called "Good Books" I animated in 2012 with a design-driven production company called BUCK. Other highlights are a Beatles tribute I did for Google that I created with The Mill. I just finished a campaign I directed with Motion Family for Fanta featuring popular music producer Mike Will Made it. That was fun because I got to hire my friends and had a lot of creative freedom. Shout out to Jean Tanis and David Berngartt at the advertising agency Fitzgerald & Company for really shepherding that project through. It should be released at the top of the year.

You are also an amazing photographer. You capture such stunning editorials with a great use of color. Where do you draw inspiration for your images.

Thank you. I draw inspiration from many different disparate and unlikely things. I get bored easily, so I very much like the cross-pollination of ideas, taking bits and pieces of anomalous things to create something fresh and new. I like clean, well-composed images. I'd say my use of color probably stems from my background in animation and my appreciation for good graphic design. I love black and white photography as well, but I think of color as a spiritual thing. Music is also an immense inspiration to me. When I hear euphonious sounds, I see ambrosial images.

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Editorials are a collaborative process. What is it like to always work with new stylists, models, & designers?

It's really fun. I love getting a bunch of talented people together to make something! When I have an idea, I've been fortunate to have stylists, models, and makeup artists just come by and experiment. Occasionally I may shoot something for a client, but I approach photography as more of my fine art. I'm looking forward to a solo exhibition soon.

You were recently cast in your first feature film, tell us about the project?

Yeah, it's the strangest thing. It's extremely meta and self-referential because I play a photographer. I don't think I am pursuing an acting career, I'm much more of an artist & filmmaker, but I'm not camera shy, and it felt like an opportunity that I could not pass up, mainly since the director Lisbon Okafor wanted to use my photography in the film. Not to mention It's a magical realism narrative film about black mermaids. It's called "Ten Cent Daisy." It's about three sisters who flee the Caribbean to find sanctuary in northern California after the youngest; a mermaid is sexually assaulted by a pastor. It's sort of like "Pan's Labyrinth" meets "Girlhood." I love all things fantastical and otherworldly, so I am excited about the project and the potential it has to inspire young girls and women. I could not see this project being done at a major Hollywood studio. I for one have slave movie fatigue. I think collectively, colonization has inhibited black people's ability to dream, so while I value film projects that explore the realities of life, I find it essential to make cinema that explores life's infinite and magical possibilities. It's why we're all so starved for "Black Panther." These are the things that inspire future generations.

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On risks and sacrifices:

Great question. There is always a palpable struggle between art and commerce. In a capitalistic system, it can be tough for artists to create authentically. The greatest risk I've taken is remaining freelance and steering my ship for almost ten years. I discriminately pick and choose the projects that I take on, and take lots of time off to merely exist and make my art. So in essence, I have sacrificed making a lot more money to be married to my creativity, which is not always easy.

What's next?

I'm working on putting together some pieces for an art exhibition, and I'm writing and directing two films. The first is about African masquerades, specifically Yoruba spirits and what it feels like to live between two worlds. The costumes were created by Mairig Fesshaye, who is a young amazing fashion designer from Eritrea, currently working in Amsterdam. The second is a surrealist experimental narrative film about love and relationships using plants. It's highly conceptual. One part scathing social commentary, the other Idyllic and hopelessly romantic. It's like "the Lobster" meets "40 days of dating". It's a very spiritual film; there's even a plant goddess in it. I'm going to get Tim Hecker to make the music.

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What quote or motto do you live your life by?

Your dreams tell you things, important clues about yourself, learn to listen.

For more on Jamal, please visit jamalademola.com and follow on social media @jamalademola




Aloha follows one new mom's quest to find the perfect birth announcement after the delivery of her baby doesn't go quite as planned. It's a lighthearted drama that touches on a pregnancy complication that isn't always easy to discuss.

We spoke with Executive Producer, Tara Tomicevic and Writer/Director, Brandi Nicole Payne about the new project.

How did you get your start in film making?

Tara: Brandi and I both began as actors and grew tired of waiting for permission. We met in an acting class and quickly began collaborating on small projects. Our short film MUTED was our first major project together.

Brandi Nicole Payne

Brandi Nicole Payne

Brandi: I was a theater major and started off as an actor. After moving to LA, I very quickly realized I would have to create my own work to have some control over my career, so I started writing. My first venture into filmmaking was a fun web series I wrote called Diary of a Wedding Planner, and from there I wrote and produced MUTED, a short film about a young girl who goes missing starring Chandra Wilson and Malcolm-Jamal Warner. With both projects, I hired someone else to direct my work. Now with ALOHA, for the first time, I'm directing myself.

Where did you find your ALOHA crew team?

Brandi and Tara: The majority of Team ALOHA came from our previous team on MUTED although a few were referred by colleagues and friends. There are a couple, however, that we found on Craigslist who has already been amazing, so you never know! We brought on people based on their resume, reputation (or references), their enthusiasm for the story and most importantly, if we wanted to work with them for 10-12 hours a day.

Tara Tomicevic

Tara Tomicevic

Tell me a little bit about ALOHA.

Brandi: ALOHA follows new mom Camille as she goes on a mission to find the perfect birth announcement for her daughter Bailey.  Despite her husband’s protests to use this time to rest, she spends hours searching, leaving no stone unturned until she finds the one that feels right. When the cards arrive, we discover her daughter's birth didn't go quite as expected and learn why finding the perfect birth announcement means so much to this new mom.

What are some lessons you have learned about the filmmaking process?

Brandi: Surround yourself with people who know their job and let them do it. The ideas they will come up with to support your vision will astound you. Trust your gut - if something seems good on paper, but you get a funny feeling about it, listen to that instinct. There's never enough time or money. Make it anyway. Have fun. At the end of the day, it's art, not brain surgery.

Tara: Get the train moving. You don't have to know everything, just START. Don't wait for others to open doors for you, build your own doors. Build a tribe with complementary ideologies, aspirations and work ethic and rise together (it's both business savvy and also more fun to work with people you love!)

You can donate to ALOHA by clicking on this link www.seedandspark.com/fund/alohafilm.

Lens Spotlight: Actor, Aspen Kennedy


Atlanta, Georgia

How did you get your start with acting?

I took a course at my university during my sophomore year at Jackson State University. The coursework for the class felt like second-nature. After the semester was over, I knew in my heart [that acting]  was something I was meant to do.

In your opinion, what is your best quality as an actor?

I'm able to produce naturally-grounded performances.


On memorable projects:

The most memorable project that I've worked on to date would have to be my recent co-starring role on Ava DuVernay/Oprah Winfrey's executive produced series, QUEEN SUGAR. I play a supplier name Dewey in Season 2, Episode 4. Being on set with so many talented and beautiful souls was an experience in itself. I'll never forget it.

Who are your acting role models?

I look up to Tom Cruise, Kofi Siriboe, Michael Ealy, and Matthew McConaughey

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What are some of your current and upcoming projects?

Earlier this year I worked on an international commercial for United Way: Live United Campaign.

Also, I wrapped on a feature-film earlier this spring, BLOOD COUNTRY, a true story of murder, injustice, and disorder in Mississippi following the Civil War, based on the short story "The Outlaw, the Sheriff, and the Governor" by Robert E. Jones. It will be released in select theaters throughout the southeast this fall; the director (Travis Mills) and production company (Running Wild Films) are currently working on additional states and showings.

What risks or sacrifices have you taken as an emerging actor?

Being an actor takes a lot of courage. No matter what, I have to keep myself uplifted. There have been many times that I've faced rejection. So regarding sacrifices, I'd have to say that they are mainly emotional and spiritual. I say this because it takes a lot of faith and a lot more faith. Not getting booked for a job can be very stressful, but anyone who is on this journey must never lose sight of the desired end-result and the fact that all things work together.

What is your dream role?

In television, I'd love to become a series regular on a show similar to THIS IS US or QUEEN SUGAR.  In film, I want to work in the leading role of a franchise similar to Mission Impossible or The Fast and The Furious.

What quote or motto do you live your life by?

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”

“God never creates a desire in the human heart that he has not already provided its satisfaction.”

For more on this artist, please follow on social media at @aspenkennedy

Series: The Graduates ATL


The Good folks at ASPIRE TV is back with another edition of the hit web series THE GRADUATES. This season we go down to the ATL where the hustle never stops.

THE GRADUATES ATL follows six driven HBCU graduates as they pursue their passions and build their careers in Atlanta. In this season, we will see how these aspiring moguls, entrepreneurs and executives, adjust to life in the real world – in their jobs, friendships and relationships – as they try to stay true to and achieve their dreams in various competitive industries. 

 This series was created by Randolph Sturrup and Keith Brown. Executive producers are Tom Cappello, Alana Goldstein, Keely Walker Muse and Sturrup.

Watch the first episode here and catch up with the rest of the season at ASPIRETV/THEGRADUATESATL

Fashion Film: Gucci's Dapper Dan-inspired Fall Line


Early this summer, the Italian fashion house came under fire for their "pre Fall" line when designs from the collection had a striking resemblance to the iconic Harlem designer Dapper Dan. Well, it appears Gucci made amends because the "Dapper Man" himself is the face of the brand's new men's tailoring campaign. 

Check out the amazing fashion film for the campaign that kicked off this collaboration. 

Short Animation: Hair Love - Interview with Filmmaker Matthew Cherry


Los Angeles, California

Award Winning Filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry has launched a Kickstarter campaign for his new animated short film, Hair Love. The Chicago native and former NFL wide receiver turned filmmaker has directed two feature films and over 20 music videos. Cherry collaborated with character designer, Vashti Harrison on the forthcoming animated short film about an African American Father attempting to do his daughter's hair for the first time. The Hair Love Kickstarter campaign closes on Wednesday, August 9th at 8p PST.

We spoke with Matthew about the new project and his emerging career in film.


About his new project, Hair Love:

Hair Love is a 5 min short film centering around the relationship between an African American father and daughter. When his wife becomes unavailable Stephen, the father, volunteers to do his daughter, Zuri's hair. He thinks it will be a fairly simple task but soon discovers that her hair has a mind of its own and from there hilarity ensues. I wanted to do a short project as my first foray into animation and put a spotlight on African American fathers in a way that is not normally depicted in the media.

What was the inspiration behind the project?

I’ve always wanted to do animation. They tend to be the most universal and tell the best stories. Typically the animation medium is a very expensive, these movies can cost up to a million dollars a minute. However, I found some shorter animation projects were completed within the six figure range.  I felt I had the social media following to help leverage that by fundraising.

Also, viral videos of black dads doing their daughters hair served as inspiration. Watching these videos go viral I knew there was a market for this concept. While a father doing his child’s hair should not be an anomaly, I hope this project will serve as a way to help normalize black families in the media.

You started a Kickstarter for the project and you have raised over 170,000 (at time of the interview). Were you expecting this level of support?

I felt confident we could reach our goal (100,000) just from my market research, but I did not expect this level of support. It has tapped into a market that wants this type of content. Every day I get a celebrity shout out via social media or an email from a company that has heard about the project. It’s kind of crazy to go viral while you are raising money.

You have a remarkable social media presence. How has social media helped with your career pursuit?

Social media has been extremely instrumental in my development and growth as a filmmaker. I have always seen Twitter as being an important tool because the feedback is so immediate.

In a weird way, Trump becoming President helped me grow my twitter following. It gave me the power to speak my mind more on issues with a clear opinion and people really to gravitated towards that. As a filmmaker, it has helped me to cultivate an audience. I believe that is the future of the film business, building your following and selling directing to them.

What advice would you give to a new filmmaker just starting out?

Don’t wait. You will never know enough information; the circumstances will never be ideal, just start now. I have learned so much from the projects I have done. If I had waited for conditions to be perfect, I would have never made anything. I think circumstances become ideal when you act and the universe transpires around you to help things move forward.

From your first film project until now, what has been the biggest lesson you have learned?

The biggest lesson I have learned is to listen. Do not believe you know everything. Hire people who are smarter than you and listen to them. Take their advice, use what works and forget what doesn’t.

What quote or affirmation do you live your life by?

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. - Henry David Thoreau

I’m 35, I have lived out two dreams, I played in the NFL for two years, and now I’m a filmmaker. I think a lot of that was willed into being by making a lot of sacrifices, but it was done with the confidence that everything was going to work.

For more information, please visit, Kickstarter - Hair Love and follow on social media @matthewacherry

Series: Milk + Honey


Brown Paper Dolls have rebooted the popular web series Milk+ Honey on Issa Rae’s Color Creative Youtube Channel. Many viewers have been eagerly anticipating the continuation of the story about four women living and loving in Los Angeles. So far this season has not disappointed as we see the women chasing their dreams, balances work and love and dealing with all the challenges that come with it.

Milk + Honey stars Yanni King Mondschien, Asha Kamali, and Alex Lavelant with Jeanette Mc Duffie returning as director. This season features Debbie Allen, Lance Gross, Boris Kodjoe and Faune Chambers.

 Catch up on episodes here:

For more on this series, please visit milkandhoneyseries and follow on social media @milkandhoneyseries

Lens Spotlight: Interview with Filmmaker Jaison Blackwater


Los Angeles, California

How did you get your start in filmmaking?

I picked my dad’s old video camera around the age of 14. I started filming one of my friends that lived across the street doing bike tricks around our neighborhood. My friends later encouraged me to shoot some short films. At first, I thought the idea was sort of corny but the projects came out well, and I fell in love with the process. After high school, I left the Bronx to attend Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. It was a great experience. The biggest lessons I learned at Full Sail were maintaining good work ethic and how to maintain relationships. It also taught me how to work under pressure and an almost militant style of repetition until things are perfect.

How would you describe your cinematography style?

Intimate and cinematic. I have developed a reputation for very cinematic images and storylines. Artists contact me when they want to make their projects “a movie.”

You film a lot of music videos. How do you go about defining the story and look for each project?

 First, I always speak with the artist to hear their thoughts since they are known to be fickle when it comes to visual representation of their work. If they know what they want, I take their idea and layout how we can get it accomplished. Other times I will pitch a concept based on what I get from the song.

On upcoming projects:

I have several upcoming projects that I’m looking forward to being released. A music video with artist Billy B is coming soon. I’m also working on my next short film, Worthless, which will be a series of four dramedy skits that have ironic endings. I wanted to create some fun content to draw people’s attention before I begin work on my feature.

What other filmmakers have influenced you and how have their influences help shape your craft?

Quentin Tarantino, his dialogue has always been amazing; he has a way of making characters timeless and unforgettable. I try to keep certain ailments of his style in dialogue in some of my projects.

F. Gary Gray, he has been able to transcend every lane. He can do mainstream projects while keeping it authentic. He can direct The Italian Job then move to Straight Outta Compton then move to Fast and Furious then do another Friday, and it’s effortless.

Larry Clarke, He made one of my favorite movies, Bully. I find this film so relatable and profound. He creates films with youthful vibes but shoots it dirty to give you a realistic feel.

What are some risks you have taken in pursuit of your craft?

The biggest risk was striking out on my own and creating Red Sydney Films. Coming out of Full Sail, it was rare to see people making a living off of shooting indie music videos. I was applying for jobs at the big networks in New York and wasn’t getting hired, but I kept shooting. All I had was a camera and a laptop. It was a huge risk, but it paid off to the point that I was able to turn down job offers.

What is your dream project?

At this point, I would say my dream project would be a dope, youthful project, similar to the Netflix’s series 13 Reasons Why, a great series to inspire the youth to live life and accept themselves. Also, I would like to do a project with a strong social message that’s beautifully shot.

What quote or motto do you live your life by?

“Do today what others won’t so you can live tomorrow like others can't...” I live life like a creator and not a consumer.

 “Stay true to yourself and don’t let others bring you down just for an opportunity." Don't lower your integrity for an opportunity always stay true to yourself. FACTS.


For more on this artist, please visit JaisonBlackRose.com and follow on social media at @sydneyblackwater

Series: Money & Violence


Money & Violence is a street- crime series that has become an instant cult favorite. Following the lives of characters Rafe, Miz, Kane, and Shane, we get an inside look at the gritty ups and downs of life in Flatbush, Brooklyn. The series balances the glorification of drugs and crime by showing the horrific consequences that comes with living the street life.  Money & Violence gives sobering contrast to the recent portrayals gentrified Brooklyn comprised of coffee shops and tapas bars (re: HBO’s Girls).

Money and Violence is produced by Cloud9tv and stars Moise Vernau (series creator), Nanawoods Napoleon, Kendo Hammond, and Rene Guercy.

Catch the first three episodes of Money & Violence. You can purchase digital HD versions of Seasons 1 and 2 at Lionsgate/MoneyandViolence.

Lens Spotlight: Interview with Producer/Director Rob Hardy


Los Angeles, CA

Your production company, Rainforest Entertainment is celebrating its second anniversary this year. How has that experience been leading a company by yourself this time around?

Striking out on my own has been great. I got the chance to partner with Mitzi Miller as my Head of Development, and we've had the opportunity to develop some cool stuff, one being The Quad for BET. Recently, we sold a project about the legalized marijuana trade and had a few other projects in the pipeline. This venture gave me the opportunity to apply a lot of the things I learned directing for television. The [entertainment] business is all about reinvention, and this is a reinvention for me.

The Quad is doing very well for BET and invoking a lot of conversation. Being a graduate of a Historically Black University yourself, how important was it bring a show about black college to the small screen?

It was full circle for me. Will [Packer] and I shot our first feature-length film, Chocolate City, at our alma mater, Florida A&M University (FAMU). Ten years after we graduated, we made Stomp the Yard, and the movie was like a homecoming a for us. Making Stomp, going back to campus, and seeing the feedback from the audiences, made me wonder what a serialized television version would look like. Now ten years after Stomp the Yard, we have The Quad. We had the chance to work with Anika Noni Rose who also graduated from FAMU. The college world is a great place to tell stories. It is an environment full of people trying to develop and reinvent themselves. With The Quad, we have new kids trying to figure out who they want to be, a President trying to resuscitate her career, and a football coach trying to turn around a losing team. It's all about new beginnings. For students and alums, we talk about HBCU-centered topics almost daily. Now we have a show where young and old people can talk weekly about what's going on at a black college.

There have been some tough critiques of the show, namely the President of Hampton University and most recently, the President of NAFEO (National Association For Equal Opportunity in Higher Education). What are your thoughts on the concerns that The Quad casts HBCUs in a negative light?

Being a new show, we tried to create a balancing act of telling interesting and compelling stories and doing HBCUs justice. While there is a level of drama, you will see kids going to class, having discussions about heartfelt, topical issues. You see teachers trying to inspire the kids.  You still see college traditions. You see a white guy from Texas who doesn't feel like this environment is for him, come in and be embraced by the school. You see a young guy from Chicago who doesn't want to be there and now finds a strange sense of pride in going there. I think all those things speak subliminally to the "magic” of HBCUs." It shows this is a place for everybody. Now you can't have a rose without its thorns and to make compelling television; you have to be real and be honest. We are not saying [The Quad] is all HBCUs. It was a matter of showing a realistic portrayal of what happens in some of these environments. It shows an incredible institution that, due to one bad administration, was left in peril. It opened the door for this President to come in and re-establish the legacy.

When I was in high school, School Daze came out. There was a concern that the movie made black colleges look horrible because it explored light vs. dark skin, pledging fraternities and the fact those schools were not divesting from South Africa. When I saw the film, as a kid, it made me think black colleges were cool. I believe that's what young people will take from The Quad.

What messages do you hope your audience gains from The Quad?

A Historically Black College is a place for you. It is a place that's steeped in tradition. A place where your peers support and accept you for who you are. A place where you can work to make your dreams come true.

Your director credits are impressive. Former Grey's Anatomy to Scandal to Empire to The Flash, you have directed episodes for some of the television's popular shows. What do you attribute to your success with television?

My desire to tell a good story. Whether it’s superheroes, drug dealers, or vampires, a good story is a good story. I’ve been fortunate enough to do that and keep getting calls back. It’s given me an opportunity to work with different people and tell some unique stories.

What advice would you give a first-time director working on their first project?

Tell your story and have a perspective. It's important to have a cool shot but what are trying to say with your story. I would encourage them to watch movies and television shows they like and figure out what it is about the storytelling that keeps them tuned in. I feel as filmmakers, if we put our heart and soul into it, it will last. A hot song is a hot song that may play out the following year, but a song with soul becomes a classic.

From your first film project to now, what has been the greatest lesson you have learned about the filmmaking process?

The greatest lesson I have learned is: Story first. When you write the script, does the story make sense? Can someone who speaks a different language from you turn the volume down hear no words, and still know what the story is about? Shots are great, but if the shots do not tell a story, then you are making a music video.

What sacrifices have you made in pursuit of your career?

One of the main sacrifices is time. This business is hard on relationships. You spend a lot of time on the road. You spend time away from your kids. The work is great but the hours are long. There are periods of time you are not around, and that is a huge sacrifice to your family.

Also, there is a financial sacrifice. You have to save for the lean years when you are in between gigs.

You also have to figure out what kind of person you want to be. When you start to make money, and your career takes off, what types of stories do you want to tell? Is it just about the money or are there other things you can do with your platform?

On upcoming projects:

I just finished directing the upcoming season finale of Power. I have a lot of development projects forthcoming. I'm also looking to gear up season two of The Quad.

What quote or affirmation do you live your life by?

When everything is finished, that will be the beginning.

This whole creative process is about constant reinvention and constantly redefining who we are. You try your hardest in whatever field you are in, but when it’s time to go you still give your all and finish strong because it opens the door to the next thing.

For more on this artist, please visit RainforestEnt.com and follow on social media at @TheRealRobHardy

Lens Spotlight: Interview with Casting Director Rhavynn Drummer


Atlanta, Georgia

What sparked your interest in a career in casting?

Starting out, I didn't know what I wanted to do when it came to this industry. Two weeks after I graduated from college I began interning with Tyler Perry Studios (TPS) in 2007. I interned with different departments and worked with various producers on set. One day someone asked me what I wanted to do, I told them I wanted to do something with actors. In college, I acted and worked a lot with actors, so I was interested in getting back to that. An opportunity opened in the casting department, and it felt familiar. It felt like a home I had already known.

How has your experience been with Tyler Perry Studios?

It has been phenomenal. I feel like I have grown as a casting director and an artist as well. Before working at TPS, I have no experience on a professional set. I have been able to learn so much about the business and about producing work. I was able to meet a lot of talented actors. When I first got to Atlanta, there were very few projects, and the pool of actors was pretty small. To see how much it has grown ten years later is just astonishing.

What are the hardest roles to cast for?

Series regular characters are the hardest to cast because we need to find something who can carry a show for seasons, possibly for years. You have to find actors that are prepared for that. It takes an actor who is properly adjusted and ready for that level of performance and commitment.

During auditions, what are some qualities you look for?

I think a lot of casting directors will say confidence. I'm going to say it too but in a context. I think an actor must understand [casting directors] aren't trying to pick the person we like the most. We are trying to choose someone who we can trust on set. I think all casting directors are seeking to find an actor we can trust with the material and someone to elevate the work on set. When an actor comes in, and they are timid or frightened, it makes us feel that we can't trust you with this role.

Another thing is people who come in and are ready to play. Understanding that I’m not looking for perfection, I'm looking for you to make a clear choice, be flexible, and ready to play. I always hear "What I rehearsed last night is so different from what I'm giving you in the audition room," and that's fine. You have to understand no matter what you do; it is always going to be different. As long as you are prepared and willing to be ready to play, it shows you are flexible enough to make adjustments and confident as a creative being.

What are some risks or sacrifices you have made during your career pursuit?

One of the smartest risks I made was coming to Atlanta. I was on my "intern hustle, " and I didn't know how I was going to pay to live here. I didn't have any family or friends. I just came with the expectation that something good was here. My first six months in Atlanta were ROUGH. I was lucky to get through a week without crying. Someone told me to "bloom where you are planted," and those words have held me on my journey here. I believe I was put in Atlanta and at TPS for a reason. I thought I was going to be in Atlanta for one summer but this year will be ten years living here and working at TPS.

Also, anyone who has a career in the entertainment industry knows this is a lifelong journey that you are on. I've made a lot of sacrifices, both money and time, by self-funding my projects, not going out or doing some things I want to do to make sure I'm properly prepared for projects I have written or created.

Regarding diversity, what is the role of a casting director in ensuring equal representation?

I think it is crucial. The interesting thing about casting directors is we don't make the final decision. We are more of the human resources of talent. I believe we are responsible for opening up the dialogue with it comes to diversity in a role. There is a responsibility for casting directors to scout and showcase diverse talent and make sure producers aware of the talent that might not be what they were thinking. Casting directors have more power than they know when it comes to ensuring a cast is very diverse.

What advice would you give an actor going on their first audition?

  1. Relax.
  2. Understand casting directors are for you and not against you. If you have been called for an audition, most likely the casting director believes it’s a good chance you may get the role.
  3. Prepare more than you think you have to. A lot of people think preparation means memorizing the lines but there is so much more to preparation than knowing the material. You have to be emotionally honest with the character you are portraying so try and find as much emotional depth as you can. The character as a life and a journey. Make sure you know the character biography, know the obstacles and the objectives. The actor who has prepared the most and gotten into the depths of the character are the ones who end up getting booked.

You recently filmed a new project, brooklyn.blue.sky. Can you give us some details on the project?

brooklyn.blue.sky. is a web series that follows two writers, Blue and Skylar, who are old college lovers that come together after years apart to write a pilot for a Netflix competition. During the process of reuniting to write the pilot, they uncover details about the relationship they never quite settled.

I filmed the series in Brooklyn with another writer/director Dui Jarrod. Michael Oloyede and Jennelle Simone play our lead roles. We are currently in post-production and shooting to have it released during the summer.

There are so many fantastic television shows right now. In your opinion, which show has the best cast?

I know this is a little old, but the casting for People vs. OJ Simpson was beyond brilliant. I was impressed. Also, This is Us is another beautifully cast show and the characters feel so real.

What’s next?

I'm working on the promotion for brooklyn.blue.sky. Also, I have a pilot for a comedy I wrote called "Before I met my wife" and I'm filming a sizzle reel this month. I'm going to begin work on a follow-up to my 2014 series Good Girls as well.

What quote or affirmation do you live your life by?

I live by so many, but my top two would be:

Take the risk or lose the chance.

The other has a little story behind it. When I was in high school, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee would come to our theater productions because their daughter was my principal. Before we went on, they would provide some inspiration nuggets, and instead of saying "break a leg" they would say "take flight."

So I always keep that in mind. “Rhavynn take flight.”

For more on this artist, please visit rhavynndrummer.com and follow on social media at @rhavynn

Everybody Digital: Interview with Actor Allen Maldonado on launch of Short Film App


Los Angeles, California 

You just wrapped another season of the acclaimed TV show, Black-ish, how has the experience been for you as a supporting cast member?

It has been incredible. As an actor, you strive to get a job to pay the bills. To be a part of a show that people gravitate to and is growingly becoming iconic is truly an incredible experience. It is an honor as an actor to be a part of a show that is contributing to society and starting those tough conversations by balancing comedy and seriousness in a way that's digestible on both sides.

You are preparing to launch a fresh application, Everybody Digital that will allow users to stream short films from their phones. What was the inspiration behind this project?

The inspiration for Everybody Digital came from the place all good ideas come from - heartbreak.

As a short filmmaker, I found myself in the ever so heartbreaking carousel of film festivals. Once you are done with that 12-15 month span, even if you win countless awards, it's over for you. Also, your audience is very small at this festival. They are mostly comprised of other filmmakers and people who work in production, so you are often preaching to the choir in a sense. The average consumer does not have the opportunity to see your film and probably does not know it exists. The idea behind Everybody Digital is to connect short filmmakers with the growing audience of millennials who are disconnecting from cable TV and digesting media through mobile devices. I believe short films can grow and get notoriety as a genre instead of a stepping stone that is not respected at a higher level in this industry.

Can you give us some insight on how the app will work?

The application with limited content will be free. You can purchase a subscription for $2.99 to unlock the entire catalog of about 50 films, along with new original content every month.

With people using YouTube via their phones as well as other streaming services, how does Everybody Digital fit into the world streaming?

Essentially, we are the short film version of Netflix. The app will be strictly on mobile devices to accompany to social media in consuming content in a short period. We are creating a platform where a filmmaker can become successful through the genre. There are commercial directors, music video directors, why not short film directors? We are creating a system to produce, create our stars, and generate our income inside of the business.

With the success of recent black television shows and movies, what is it like to be a working actor at this time when there is such a demand for quality talent of color?

It is truly a blessing. Our audience has finally grown tired of not seeing people who looks like them, not just black actors, but Latino actors, Asian actors, etc. I believe we have finally come to a point where the business of entertainment realizes the audience will gravitate, buy, and consume a diverse product. We have a long way to go, but we are headed in the right direction.

Courtesy of ABC.go.com/blackish

Courtesy of ABC.go.com/blackish

When will Everybody Digital be available for consumers?

It will be available late April on the Apple Store and available on Google Play in the summer.

You stated there would be original content on the app as well. Can you give some details on those projects?

We have Who the F* is Uncle Joe, a digital series starring myself and a ton of cameos and guest stars such as Affion Crockett. Another series entitled, The Struggle. A few actors from Black-ish will guest star on this series. A film called The Hollywood Way, starring another Black-ish co-star Peter Mckenzie. A docu-series Street Hitters, which follows the day in the life of street performers. We are rolling out a lot of content. We are trying to shoot a short film a month.

On upcoming projects:

I have a new show with Tracy Morgan, executive produced by Jordan Peele on TBS in the fall. Another film, Where’s the Money with King Bach, Mike Epps and Terry Crews it will be premiering in the summer/fall. I have a film called First Match on Netflix that is coming around Christmas time.

What quote or motto do you live your life by?

Success isn’t just suggested… it’s demanded.

You have to be relentless, can't take no for an answer. You have to demand success out of yourself and the people around you.


For more on this application, please visit EverybodyDigital.com and follow on social media @everybodyapp

Lens Spotlight: Interview with Filmmaker Tia Hendricks


Los Angeles, California

How did you get your start with filmmaking?

Filmmaking was not always the plan for me. I initially majored in Video-Film at the University of Miami. I wanted to learn the behind the camera responsibilities and experiences, so when I got in front of the camera, I would be fully aware of all aspects of this industry. However, after the first semester, I decided I didn't care too much for a certain professor or the classes, so I switched majors to Visual Journalism. Visual journalism mostly focuses on sharing true stories through graphics, photographs, and videos. The video aspect got me into filmmaking. I would say my passion was mostly for documentaries, but the more my acting evolved, I've grown to love and appreciate creating and sharing fictional pieces.

Where do you draw inspiration for your stories?

Inspiration is EVERYWHERE. Each person I encounter serves as inspiration. Each experience I'm blessed to have served as inspiration. We all have so many unique and ordinary life experiences; using those experiences to share stories that may impact others in some way or another is what's so beautiful about creating content. Traveling, fellowship and dreams are where most of my ideas come from. With travel, you're not only exposed to the country, city or space that you visit, but you're exposed to people from all over the world, all walks of life. These people have amazing stories to share. The things you learn and get to experience simply from speaking to someone on the plane, train, bus, tram, etc. is mesmerizing. Fellowship, specifically with close friends, also gifts me with endless inspiration. My girls, the FAB5, are a daily source of inspiration. Dreams (not goals, but real dreams when you're asleep) are probably my favorite source of inspiration. These are unique gifts from God to only you. No one else gets to be inside that beautiful mind of yours, but you and the Most High. The thing is you have to be quick about writing things down when you have a dream, the stories and memories usually don't last long. I like to keep a notebook near my bed or use the notes feature on my phone, so when I wake up from an amazing dream, all I have to do is write it down.

What are some of the messages you want your audience to take from your stories?

My goal is to share stories that spark and ignite something within people. I want people to watch my work and be moved. Whether it makes them curious, happy, sad, intrigued, inquisitive, or it teaches them something, I want them to feel connected to the story. No matter what the story is, whether it’s fiction, based on a true story or sci-fi, I want them to see a little bit of themselves within the work.

On current short film Glow:

Glow came about around three years ago. I started writing it a few months after my uncle passed away from esophageal cancer. I was battling with all sorts of emotions one night and just decided to write this story of both love and sadness. I wanted to create an open letter to God, lovingly called Papa throughout the film. Ironically, I got the idea to refer to God as Papa from my favorite book The Shack which was just released as a movie at the beginning of March.

The story takes you quickly through the life of Glow and Jazz. They fall in love, get engaged and married and then she's diagnosed with aggressive cancer that spreading rapidly. We follow her through her diary to Papa, and then through Jazz's diary to God. It's how I wished I talked to God as I watched my family members succumb to cancer. There are this love and respect for God, but also this desperation for Him to heal the one's you love. Glow shows the pain that comes along with cancer. I wasn't concerned with happily ever after, I just wanted the pain and sadness to be as real as the pain and sadness we all feel when we lose someone we love.

Glow is my very first completed short film. It was a challenge that took almost two years after shooting to commit to finishing finally. There's a level of vulnerability that comes along with releasing a project that is entirely yours. I wrote, directed, filmed, produced, starred and edited this entire project. I'm so grateful for the help of my co-star, Victor Ector, and my besties Shayla Love and Chazitear Martin for their assistance in filming some of the scenes.

What are some of the risks or sacrifices you have made in pursuit of your career?

I recently moved to Los Angeles. It is a pretty big leap for me. I've lived in Atlanta for the past five years. Atlanta has been great for my acting career so far, but something in my spirit has been telling me that LA is where I need to be. So, I sold most of my stuff, packed up the rest and made my way west. I'm excited to create more of my content and also thrilled to see where both my acting and film making career go from here.

From your first film project until now, what have been the greatest lessons you have learned about the filmmaking process?

I'm honestly still learning and hope that never changes. Glow is my first short film. Before Glow, I had the pleasure of working as director of photography and editor for my friend's, Ernestine Johnson, spoken word videos Formation and Red Bottoms. I think each project teaches you something different. You learn a little bit more about the editing software you're using, a bit more about how to share a story that is concise and to the point. Although it was fun doing most of the behind the camera work on this project on my own, I definitely would like to work with a larger team next time. Collaborating with other artists will inevitably create better art.

It has been a phenomenal two years for black film and television. What do this is the future of black cinema?

The past few years have been amazing! I think we already see forward progression. Whether it is subscription based content like Netflix, Hulu, YouTubeRed, or web series that are accessible for free via YouTube, Vimeo, etc., we are now able to be more selective on what content we consume. We are no longer limited to watching a show at 7 pm on a Thursday night. It's incredible. And with camera's being far more accessible we are getting to create and share more of our work and our stories. We are not limited to being the "token" or the maid or the servant. We can share our stories as complex, interesting, multi-dimensional Black people from a place of truth, using our words and skills. I'm ecstatic to be a part of this generation of creators.

On upcoming projects:

Currently, I'm working on getting Glow into film festivals. I'm also finishing up another short film as well as a couple of web series. Auditioning is also a constant and hopefully a film I worked on in October and November will be released sometime this year. :)

What advice would you give a first-time filmmaker working on their first project?

Just do it.

Your ideas are valid. Your stories deserve to be shared. Someone out there will appreciate what you have to say and share. Don't wait to have the best camera or the best editing software. Use what you have and go from there. Collaborate with other artists. Create. Create .Create. As my best friend Shayla likes to say, "Create Don't Wait."

What quote or affirmation do you live your life by?

"Start each day with a grateful heart"

Gratitude is one of the greatest feelings in the world. I strongly believe that God will never give you more until you appreciate what you have now. Be so abundantly grateful for every single thing in your life, the good, the bad, and the in-between. We all have so much to be grateful for. The beautiful thing about gratitude is the more you express gratitude, the more you'll have to be grateful for.

For more on this artist, please visit Tia Hendricks IMDb and follow on social media at @tiahendricks

Netflix Find: Burning Sands

Burning Sands takes you on a raw, voyeuristic journey of fraternity pledging through the eyes of one favored pledgee, who is torn between honoring a code of silence or standing up against the intensifying violence of underground hazing.

Led by a breakthrough performance by Trevor Jackson, director Gerard McMurray's feature directorial debut brings an emotional honesty to the classic tale of "rites of passage" and the complicated bonds of brotherhood.

Burning Sands also stars Alfre Woodard, Steve Harris, Tosin Cole, and Trevante Rhodes, was written by Christine Berg and executive produced by Caroline Connor and Common.

Burning Sands will be launching on Netflix on March 10, 2017. Watch Trailer here:

For more information on this film, please visit Burning Sands on Netflix

Series: GIANTS - An Interview with Writer/Creator James Bland


Los Angeles, California

Giants, an original scripted drama series about a group friends in Los Angeles determined to live life on their terms, no matter the cost. In a time when the world wonders if black lives matter, three millennials of color in search of their purpose, faces the issues of mental health, sexuality, and economic survival head quickly learn that when life starts to kick your ass, you either lie down or fight back.

Giants stars James Bland, Vanessa Baden, and Sean SamuelsBland also serves as writer, director, and producer. The series is airing on Issa Rae’s YouTube network, and actor Jussie Smollet serves as Executive Producer.  

We spoke with the writer and creator of GIANTS, actor James Bland. 


What was the inspiration behind the idea for Giants?

The inspiration for the series was Life. My life, my friend's life, things I had gone through and events that were happening around me. I believe art imitates life and I like to write from experiences.

You play Malachi in the series. What can we expect from the character as the series progresses?

One of Malachi’s Giants is economic survival. One thing I didn't tell the audience in episode one was how he got to this place because I want it to unfold throughout the series. Malachi had a corporate job, and he was doing quite well for himself. He decided to quit his job and moved to L.A., not necessarily to pursue a dream, but to get away from a life he was unhappy with. Malachi didn't feel fulfilled or felt that he was living his best life.  So when we meet the character in episode one, he is trying to make some money because he has run through his savings. Until Malachi can figure out what his life plan is, he is doing what he has to do to survive. Throughout the series we watch him make some decisions that are all linked to him trying to pay the bills, all of Malachi’s decisions are related to survival and ultimately lead him to some challenges places and some obstacles he will have to overcome.

How did you come up with the title Giants?

Giants started as a short film I wrote around four years ago. During my first six months in Los Angeles, I was robbed at gunpoint. Two guys rolled up on me and told me “to give me your shit.” I refused, and we got in the fight. I ended up getting shot, but luckily it was a BB gun. Shortly after, I was having a conversation with mom about the situation, and she told me how the story reminded her of David and Goliath in the Bible. The Bible says, when Goliath came, David said: “The same God that delivered me from the mouth of the bear and the mouth of the lion would be the same God that will deliver me from the hand of the Giant.” My mom said “You need to stay in Los Angeles, continue your work and push forward. Those guys who robbed you were perhaps your lion or your bear, and sometimes you have to fight for yourself. Everything that you are going through at this time is only preparation for you to defeat your Giant.” I took that conversation and turned it into a short film that was never made, but I always held that story very close to my heart. When things get tough, I remember "you have to defeat your Giants," and on the other side there is a victory. A lot of the concept and storyline of the series surrounds that theme.

The series covers a lot of in depth topics such as mental illness, sexual identity, and the overall pursuit to live your dreams, what life experiences did you draw from to write about these themes?

Most of the topics in the series are things that I have lived or things that my friends have lived. For example, the relationship that Journee and Malachi have is extremely close to the relationship that Vanessa [Baden] and I have. The scene from episode one where Malachi questions Journee about being home early from work is a real story. Vanessa showed up at my house one day, and when I asked why she wasn't at work, she said she couldn't stop her car [at work]. Journee also goes through a heartbreak in the series, and I was going through a breakup at the time when I was writing those scenes, so I wrote how I felt. I utilized life and what I have been through because I know these life experiences will connect with people because it comes from a very honest place.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the series?

I hope these characters are reflective, and the audience takes away a bit of truth, not just the truth of these characters, but the truth for themselves. I hope people know they are not alone in their struggles. We all have our Giants. We all want happiness, peace and to be loved. I hope people watch this show and through these characters,  are inspired to live better lives, pursue their dreams, inspired to talk someone in their family or someone they know about mental illness, be more tolerated to someone who may be gay or maybe open to someone who may be struggling with their sexuality. At the end of the day, representation is important, and people need to know these people exist and matter. If you see yourself [in these characters] you know are not alone, and can make it to the other side.

How did you go about casting this project?

Living in Los Angeles, I have tons of friends who are actors. As I wrote the series, I thought about who I wanted to get to play these characters. Once the script was complete, I called friends who I thought would be a good fit. For the most part, everyone said yes. I did have a few people turn me down. One actress declined because it wasn't a paid gig. I funded this entire project out of pocket, and I could only afford to pay the crew to ensure production quality. I completely understood her reason, and I found another actress that is equally as talented. We all have to eat, but sometimes you have to invest and sow a seed.

From your first film project to Giants, what are some of the important lessons you have learned about the filmmaking process?

Filmmaking is a team sport, and you have to invest [in the process]. You have to invest in your equipment, and you have to invest in your production design. One thing I have been adamant about is production value. I understand production value isn't cheap, so I've committed to investing in my work. When you first start out, you have limited funds, but I've learned you have to sacrifice some things to yield the quality of a product you desire.  Filmmaking is also a muscle, and you can't grow that muscle unless you use it. I will meet people who want to act or write, but they are waiting for an opportunity. If you are an actor, you find a way act; whether it's on stage, in front of a camera, or in your living room filming on a computer. Lastly, I've learned it will always be about the work, not only the work of preparation but the work of execution. A lot of folks start, but a lot of folks do not finish. You have to put the work in and know that good work has legs. If your work is good, it will find its way into the right places, and it will provide opportunities for you.

What do you think is the future of internet television and web series?

I think we are living in [the future] right now. We will continue to see more digital content on an independent level as well as the big budget studio level. The way we consume television is vastly changing, and it is going to become more accessible and provide more opportunity for more voices. The challenge for content creators is to break through the crowd. There are so many creators and so much content that it has become difficult to stand out.

What’s next?

The Giants series has consumed my life for the past two years. I committed to myself not to work on any other projects until I finished the series. However, I am involved in a web series called "Get Your Life," which will premiere on Blavity, February 6. I'm an actor on the show with Amanda Seales (Insecure HBO). At this moment I'm doing some writing and figuring out what's the next story I want to tell. I’m definitely open to doing a season two of Giants if the opportunity arises.

Watch Episodes One and Two:

For more on this series, please visit GiantsTheSeries and follow on social at @giantstheseries



Atlanta, Georgia

Blossom is a digital television network dedicated to creating feel-good programming for women of color that redefines reality, presents new perspectives and encourages imagination.

Blossom is like Netflix, except it hosts content for women of color by women of color. Currently, subscribers can watch and enjoy short films, talk shows, short stories, web series and more. Ultimately, Blossom wants to stream the largest collection of content that is created, directed, shot, written, produced by and starring all women of color.

Diamonde Williamson, Founder of Blossom, launched the network after pitching her own content ideas to current networks. After being rejected more than a few times, she realized she had to do it herself. And after working at the American Black Film Festival last year, she realized, other content creators needed an opportunity to showcase their work even after they ran through the festival circuit.

Sign up for a 14-day free trial for today at watchblossom.com

Lens Spotlight: Interview with Actor Michael Oloyede

New York City, New York

How did you get your start with acting?

I started acting when I was a kid. I did local productions at school and it was always a hobby. I’m from a Nigerian household so acting isn't a career goal. I auditioned here and there but it was not something my family or I took seriously. My senior year of college, I was a marketing student at Georgia State Univeristy and I decided I might as well do (career-wise) what I enjoy. So I started studying outside of school in an acting studio in Atlanta. I moved to New York three years ago and I began to slowly make a transition from the “9 to 5” job to studying and auditioning. 2 years ago, I quit my job and decided to pursue acting full time. I’ve been auditioning and working on stage, film, and television ever since.

What sparked the decision to pursue acting full time?

It was a gradual realization. Being in New York and around everything that is "New York" really inspired me. My office was on 40th and Broadway, right in the Theatre District, I would walk pass all the Broadway shows and meet people who were acting and working. The dream became more tangible to me. I thought to myself I’m right here where it happens and I know people making it happen. That is what really push me to step out of my comfort zone to do what makes me happy.

In your opinion, what is your best quality as an actor?

I have always been good at understanding perspective. I believe this is one of the most important tools as an actor. You take on someone else story and it’s important to take on their perspective, and not judge that perspective, good or bad... right or wrong.

On memorable projects:

Recently, I did a play called “Someday Must Come” by Cyrus Aaron. It was a very emotional journey because a lot of the situations in the play are things that we currently face as black men in society. The play was really important to me because the effect it had on the audience. People will stop me on the street and tell me how the play changed their perspective.  That showed me how I as an actor can affect the culture, our society, and my peers.

What are some of the challenges you face as an emerging actor?

There are a lot of personal challenges. Acting isn’t a profession where you have someone to report to or have deadlines you have to meet. Right now, I am my own boss. My success is dependent on how hard I work. Transitioning from corporate America and the system of “this next step and this is the process to get to the next step” has been challenging but in a good way. It's challenged me to be disciplined and be diligent. I'm making my own story. Understanding the balance of being an independent artist and paving my own path.

Who are your acting role models?

David Oyelowo is someone I really look up to. We have a lot in common. He is of Nigerian descent and he was born in London like myself. Watching his career from his theatre days in London to his film career, he is really about the craft and being truthful to what he believes. Not only on screen but off screen as well. He is very vocal about what is going on in society and that’s the kind of actor I want to be. It’s not all about being in films and being on stage. It’s about having a platform to speak to truth, inspiring people to walk in their truth.

Denzel Washington for his discipline to the craft.  He is another actor who has words of wisdom that just hit and sticks with you.

Meryl Streep is another actor that I really admire. Watching her transform from role to role, have that longevity in the business and still be great at what she does after all these years. That is something I would like to emulate throughout my career.  

You stated you have the desire to use your platform for more than just acting. You wanted it to stand for something more.  Can you speak more on that desire?

When I made the decision to transition to acting as a career, I asked myself why and I thought long and hard about it. I believe acting can be a platform to give a voice to people who don't generally have a voice to tell their stories. Offstage, people look up to actors to explain what’s going on in the world. To help change perspectives about what one person thinks of another. I want to be able to put things on screen that brings people together.  Everyone has been given a gift and I believe we should use those gifts to spread goodness.

Outside of acting, You do some print work as well.  Do you consider yourself a style maker?

Yes, I would like to think so. I have a lot of friends as well as people on social media hit me up and ask advice on what to wear and places to shop. I enjoy looking nice, dressing up, and expressing myself through what I wear. Even as a spectator, I enjoy viewing and observing fashion.

How did you develop your personal style?

My mom taught me from a very early age to always look my best. Even if it was a Saturday morning and we were in the house. We would get up, take a shower and put on something nice, just in case we had company. Growing up, I went through a period where I tried to fit in and that didn't work out too well. Then,  I got really inspired by artists like Usher, Pharrell, and Kanye. I saw their fashion statements and decided I would step out of the box. That's when I began to develop my personal style.

What is your "go to item" for this winter?

I’m really obsessed with coats now. There are a lot of trench coat situations I think are really cool. I want all of them.

Switching back to acting, what is your dream role?

My dream role on Broadway would be to play Fela Kuti. As far as film, I definitely want to get into writing and producing so I think my dream role will be the one I create.

2016 was a great year for black actors in film and television. How has 2016 inspired you as an emerging actor?

It taught me you have to create the opportunities that you want for yourself. All of these stories were birth from someone saying the door isn’t being opened for me so I’m going to create my own. I’m from Atlanta, so watching (Atlanta FX),  I relate to almost everything because it comes from a place of truth. Insecure, my friends and I relate to everything because it comes from a place of truth. It has inspired me to create my own opportunity in truth. It showed me that my experiences, my friends' experiences are good enough to be told, shared and celebrated. It’s been a really good year for people of color in film and I’m excited to see what happens next.

What recent and upcoming projects are you working on?

2016 was a really good year, I was focused on the Broadway aspect of the craft. I did five very different, amazing plays. Some period pieces, some topical pieces with subject matter such as Black Lives Matter. Moving into this year, I’m doing more film. I just shot a short film, Curtis, with a good friend and amazing female director by the name of Tannis Spencer. A film I shot last year called Silent Morning is finally coming out this month. I'm going into production of another short called Love Letter written by Lauren Marissa Smith. It's directed by Marishka Phillips, who I worked with on the off-Broadway production of Their Eyes Were Watching God. I'm excited about this project because Hans Charles (13th) will be serving as director of photography. Also, I've been in talks with Shikeith, a visual artist who I believe is the next Steve McQueen, we worked on a project "Black Boy and a Tree" and we are in discussion about another project in 2017.

What quote or mantra do you live your life by?

Patience and Persistence.

With acting, you go into an audition and you might not hear back for three months... you might not hear back at all.  You have to be patient in the journey but at the same time, you have to be persistent. I wake up every day and think to myself have patience in the journey and in what's coming my way, but don't sit around, be persistent in the pursuit, always be doing something.

For more information on this artist, please visit MichaelOloyede.com and follow on social media at @TheMikeO

Documentary Series: TIME + The Kalief Browder Story


TIME: The Kalief Browder Story is a documentary series about a 16-year-old student from the Bronx who spent three years on Rikers Island without ever being convicted of a crime.

After being arrested and charged with second-degree robbery in May of 2010, Browder was unable to make the $10,000 bail and refused a plea bargain. He spent two of the three years in solitary confinement until he was released in 2013 due to lack of evidence. Media exposure of Browder's ordeal leads to proposed reforms regarding the overuse of solitary confinement in the New York Prison System. Browder struggled with life after incarceration, and he committed suicide two years after being released by hanging himself in his apartment.

TIME will air March 1st, 2017 at 10 pm est on SPIKE TV. Jay-Z and Harvey Weinstein will serve as producers. TIME has been chosen as an Official Selection at the 2017 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL.

For more information on this film, please visit TIME: THE KALIEF BROWDER STORY SPIKE TV

Short Film: Black America Again


Common released a 21-minute short film to accompany his new album Black America Again. The rapper stated this film is a meditation on Black America. A black and white composition of detailed shots of black spaces, paying homage to black life and those who have lost their life, in particular Baltimore teen, Freddie Gray.

The Black America Again short film was executive produced by Ava DuVernay and directed by Bradford Young (lead cinematographer for Selma).

Film: RUTH - An Exclusive Interview with Hosea Chanchez


James Jones is a single father raising his daughter Ruth in the forgotten city of Detroit. Ruth, a fourteen year old aspiring ballerina, faces growing up in the darkest city in America better than most. She is a survivor. Her mother, Paula, was killed in front of her when she was younger, forcing James to become her primary caregiver. As most parents do, he tries, fails, and he tries again. But unlike most parents, at some point he gives up. This is the story of a father who does the unthinkable as an effort to right his wrongs and provide a better life for his daughter. This single choice will change the path of his life forever.

We had the opportunity to speak with actor Hosea Chanchez about his directorial debut.


What inspired the idea behind the film RUTH?

The inspiration [for RUTH] stems from a love affair I have with the ideas of what it takes to be a man raising a daughter. That is the basis of this story, the father/daughter relationship. A single father who has no resources to help him be the best that he can be for his kid. I had the opportunity to witness a friend of mine being a single father to his daughter at a very young age and I really adore their relationship. We usually see narratives of a single fathers raising boys. There is something special about a father raising their daughter but we don't generally see those images.

RUTH takes place in Detroit, why did you decide to set the film in the Motor City?

I fell in love with that city about 10 years ago. There is a mix of decay, poverty and lack of resources in the area, but there are still families that are thriving, still doing their day to day business. Mothers and children playing, not necessarily knowing they have a lack of support . They are still there grinding away doing things that every American family does. So I knew I wanted to set this story there. Detroit was once the Mecca of our country... the heartbeat of America. I educated myself on the city’s historical value to our country. Then I got to know the people, the hustle that exist in the city. There is something that happens to a person when your resources have been diminished. A lot of people of other races had the opportunity to move farther east, a lot of minorities had no way to get out so they struggle with no safety net. There are people who want to raise their families the right way but have limited options. That's why I wanted to engulf my story in Detroit and pay homage to a city that has done so much for this country.

This is your directorial debut, what made you decide to "get behind the camera" after years of acting?

Being a director was not in my plan or my dream. The dream was just to be an actor. I never considered the other facets of the industry. As I learned more about my craft, I begin to have a desire to do something different, a desire to be a part of the structure. I've had scripts written, I've written a few scripts (they weren't very good lol). RUTH is a script I had written 9 years ago. As my producer (Cru Ennis) and I began shopping the script around for a director, I realized this was something I was passionate about. I knew I wanted to be a part of the architecture of bringing the film to life. That's when I knew if I wanted to direct something this would be the project.

I read you went to UCLA Film School to hone your filmmaking skills. How was that experience?

Before THE GAME ended a year ago, while on hiatus, I decided that I wanted to take some courses. I took some courses, then went we back to work, after the show ended, I took some more courses. I realized this was something I could do and not have to worry about "what's next". I wasn't concerned about my next move as an actor. I told my agent and my manager I was going to take some time off. THE GAME went for 10 seasons, so I wanted to find my bearings in the industry and discovered what I wanted to do and how I was going to do it. I also wanted to be in a space where I didn't have to think about auditioning and "actor stuff" right away. It felt like film school was a safe haven. I tucked away in these classes. I went to class four days a week. My class was full of 19 year foreigners who barely knew me. Learning with a bunch of people who have the same desire as me. Starting for ground zero, being inspired and energized by these young kids who see the world as their oyster. Being around that hunger and desire to be creative was perfect for me.

The young lady in the role of Ruth is captivating in the trailer, how did you select her for the role and what was your experience like working with her?

I'm so proud of this casting. Her name is Zada Luby, she is the daughter of a really good friend of mine, Zeus. I remembered she expressed a desire to be an actress one day. Six years later, my producers and I are trying to cast the girl to play the Ruth character. We needed someone who could be authentic. Detroit is a place you just can't fake. Living in those conditions isn't that is easy for a child to portray. I wanted someone new, so we put out a casting call. We auditioned about 40 young actresses. I was speaking to Zeus one day and he reminded me that Zeta is acting now. I said put her on tape and let's see how she does. He put her on tape and she was phenomenal. We did a Skype session, then an in-person audition and she was brilliant. She has a natural raw ability and there is so many ways she relates to the character. Her father is a single father who is caring for his daughter. That element made her perfect for the role.

The film also stars Naturi Naughton, who is always amazing, what was it like working with her? Can you give a little insight into her character?

Naturi has been a friend of mine for a very long time. We previously worked together in Regina King’s directorial debut “Let the Church Say Amen”. When I finally finished this script; I sent it out to some of my closest friends whose opinions I value. Naturi was one of the people who responded the material and told me she loved the work and the character. She actually helped me with the framing of the character. It can be difficult for a man to tell a woman's story so it's always good to get feedback from your female counterparts on how to ground the characters. Her character’s name is Faith, she is one of James' ride or die chick. Faith is "the heart of the hood", the nurturing aspect in what we call the ghetto. There is a pulse to the ghetto and this character resembles that pulse. She is the “around a way” girl that everyone gravitates to. She's a free spirit but she is a product of the environment. She is love but also has some dark elements.

From the trailer, there are a lot of gritty and sometimes dark images, explain your visual concept for the film?

Visually, I wanted Detroit to be a character in the film. I shot with anamorphic lens to capture the wide landscape so you can see some many facets of Detroit pass the characters. This is a very intimate film and it was important to me not to have a lot happening in the exteriors. My cinematographer and I wanted to set up each shot as a portrait with characters in them.

What's next?

We are currently in development. We are currently raising funds to finish the film, as well as getting the support we need from the city. We begin shooting the full feature in November. After production, we will hopefully hit the some of the festivals circuits. I'm not really concerned how we get the film in the theaters, I just want to get the movie to as many people as possible. I believe it’s an important story to tell.

Watch the trailer for RUTH here:

For more on this project, please visit RUTH FILM