Ladies! (oh and gents too…)

7 03 2014

I was scrolling through Facebook and found this photo…brought back a lot of memories for me, growing up with these guys being the household names of black entertainment.

Then it dawned on me. When have we seen a picture like this of women? Has there ever been a time when a group of black women have been as powerful and recognizable as these guys and have taken a picture together? Somebody correct me if I’m wrong!

Today we have Shonda Rhimes and Ava Duvernay. Somebody get them in a room together for a picture! We need more women, though! Ladies, let’s stand up, unite, and create!


One Year Down…15 Things I Learned From Seminary

21 09 2013

It’s official. I have now completed my first year of seminary. And what a year it has been…I think this past quarter has been the most formative for me since I’ve been here at Fuller for so many reasons. And I am so thankful for it all. Here are some things I’ve learned both about myself, about my life, about Christianity, during the last year:

  1. It’s interesting how many people assume that since I am in seminary, I want to be a pastor or minister. Trends are changing, and more and more people are choosing to take their seminary education into the marketplace instead of the pulpit. The majority of my friends in seminary don’t want to be pastors–which has its pros and cons–but that’s for another post. There are some seminarians who want to be teachers, so people should consider that as well. While I don’t feel called to pastor in the traditional sense, I am starting to see how teaching is a form of ministry itself. It’s amazing to start to see how what I am learning in seminary is related to what/how I teach my students in the classroom.
  2. Seminary is draining. Good though, but draining…
  3. I remember writing a paper during my first quarter at Fuller that I want to help the church to “see”. I think I’m just now starting to understand what I meant by that…
  4. I’m realizing that our American definition of Christianity is totally skewed. After taking Christian Ethics, I realize that I think we have the wrong idea of what it means to be a disciple. We consume and assume a heckuvalot for people who are supposed to be standing up for justice for the oppressed. There are people right in our community who are suffering, but yet we still want more. And then I see commercials for shows like Preachers of LA and it sickens me. What are we doing?? Don’t believe me? Go read the Sermon on the Mount.
  5. There’s no such thing as a perfect church. So why should I deem one church’s imperfection better than another church’s imperfection? I realize that I don’t want to throw away all my church traditions because of imperfections, instead I want to figure out how I can help. That said, I wonder sometimes if my generations’ abandonment of our church traditions was a mistake. This theory hasn’t been proven yet, I just wonder.
  6. It’s really hard explaining my program of study to people (“Oh, you’re in seminary?” “Yes, I’m studying theology and film.” *blank stare*)
  7. Theology is best when it’s lived out with real people in community.
  8. I’m getting old and stuck in my ways. And I’m ok with this.
  9. I’m slowly beginning to understand what my platform is in regards to film, the arts, and the church. Stay tuned for more info/posts about that…
  10. I learned that I don’t study well in groups, or in the library. Which kinda sucks because people seem to be having so much fun in the library.
  11. The past year has taught me how much I value quality time with people. Spending an evening with room full of people is not really my idea of a good time, even less so if I don’t know the people. Coffee or dinner with a few close friends–whether old or new–now that’s what gives me life…
  12. I realized how thankful I am to have great friends in several different states and countries that I can seek counsel from or just process things with, and that they can tell me when I’m crazy. I’m also thankful for those friends who have walked with me through some major decisions in my life.
  13. I realized that teaching is very important to me. I spin my wheels every day thinking of ways to make my students “get it” and sometimes I just feel like I don’t have enough tools to do that.
  14. I keep flip flopping back and forth about whether or not I want to stay on this track and still get a PhD. I feel like I’m starting to get some understanding of what I might like to study, but I don’t know of any program that has what I am looking for, even on an interdisciplinary level. I could use some advice in this area. So if anybody has any, please share.
  15. I am really glad that I came to Fuller. It had its flaws, but overall I think it’s the best seminary ever. (I might be just a tad bit biased 😉

I know there’s more but I leave you with those for now. Here’s to year #2! At this point, I have no idea where this journey is going to end, but its quite an adventure!

Self-Service Gas Stations for Creatives

27 02 2013

photo (1)

Every now and then, I think all creatives go through a period where we start wondering “What am I doing with my life?” If you’re anything like me, this question creeps up during those moments when you can’t see what is in front of you clearly, and you start to second-guess whether or not you made the right decision to do what you are currently doing.

I can’t stress enough how important it is for people like us to keep a journal. They’re like self-service gas stations for creatives. Anytime I’m feeling empty, or doubtful or unsure of my calling, reading past journal entries is always a good pick-me-up. Why? Because I’m always brutally honest in my journal. Somehow, re-reading the goals, dreams, fears and frustrations you have  written down in the privacy of your own room during times of vulnerability can provide great perspective on where your life is now.

If you don’t keep a journal, I’d encourage you to do so, or find some other means of giving yourself a needed refill. If you do keep a journal, I’d encourage you every now and then to go back and read it. Do a check-in, and see if you are on track. See if you still have the passion to do what you thought you’d be doing years ago. See if there’s any adjustments that need to be made, or if there’s anything that needs to be revisited. And if you’re a creative, you’ll probably find that you had some great project ideas back in the day that need to be resurrected!

Be encouraged today, my fellow creatives! And find your way to refill, recharge, and keep chugging along toward your dreams…


Harlem Shake 2.0

26 02 2013

You know what they say, “What goes around comes back around.” Or “History repeats itself.” Well, for some reason, dance history is repeating itself–well, kinda sorta–in this rash of Harlem Shake videos that have been circulating the ‘net as of late. One day I kept seeing these videos of people doing some weird kind of jerky dance with costumes pop up all over my newsfeed, and I couldn’t help think “This is strange, I thought the Harlem Shake came out years ago? Why are people doing videos about it now? And from what I remember, it didn’t look like that!”

It’s just so funny to me how the freedom of social media can allow for images, memes, and traditions to be rediscovered and reinvented, all with some editing and the click of a button. If I wanted to get all serious about it, I could look at this as yet another way in which street culture is hijacked, pimped by, and conformed to mainstream culture. It’s a C-O-N-Spiracy! But nah, I won’t.

I just listened to a short blurb on NPR about the origins of the Harlem Shake, in which they interviewed Jay Smooth, host of the hip-hop video blog “Ill Doctrine.” He says no harm, no foul, it’s all in good fun: “it’s sort of an example of how a cultural artifact can fly around in this sort of global game of telephone. And these questions of appropriation can rise up, but there isn’t really any intent to steal or make fun of. It’s jut the way that ideas propagate nowadays.” I agree with Jay…it’s all good. But I do agree with what he says at the end of the interview–can we have a compromise and just get at least one person in these videos to do the real Harlem Shake? LOL…

At any rate, I personally got excited about this video with some folks doing the Harlem Shake I’m more familiar with. I love to see young people dance, and I love the fact that social media has given them an outlet to in a sense reclaim their cultural artifact. You gotta love how sista’ girl in the green breaks it down, and then they put the impostor “Harlem Shake” in the garbage can…Have fun and dance on, chil’ren! 🙂

From SoCal to NorCal…And Director Pet Peeves

18 02 2013

Tonight I had the awesome opportunity to share some words of encouragement with The Creative Crew, an artist’s meet-up group that my friend Tony Gapastione started up in Redwood City, CA. I had a great time sharing via FaceTime (don’t you just love technology?!) what I’ve learned throughout the years as a writer/director, they had some great questions, and it was just a lot of fun. They asked me to write down my top pet peeves as a director and to post them on their Facebook page so I thought it’d be fun to share them with you all as well. Ok so here goes…

My Top 5 On-Set Pet Peeves:

  1. When people don’t follow instructions. Quiet on the set means quiet on the set. This is not the time for you to tip toe over to the craft services table, no matter how quiet you think you’re being. Just sit down. Don’t you know the sound guy has bionic ears?
  2. Know-It-Alls. I’m all for collaboration. But have some set etiquette, dude. When it’s time to hear your opinion (because I’m sure it’s great), we will most certainly ask for it!
  3. Divas. I usually try to keep a pretty laid back set, and there is nothing more annoying than someone going around snapping at the cast and crew so that they can get their way. Calm down. It’s only a movie. We’re all working hard to make a good product so take a chill pill and try not to think of yourself  as more important than the rest of us.
  4. Not being honest about time commitments. I once had a D.P. (Director of Photography, i.e. camera guy) to tell me in the middle of our last day of shooting that he had to leave. You can imagine my disbelief when my main camera guy (whom I was paying, by the way) didn’t offer an explanation but just decided as we were setting up the last scene that he had to go. Fortunately, most of the equipment was my own, and the 2nd camera operator stepped up to the plate and shot the rest of the film (which turned out to be my favorite scene, BTW). Point being, if you know you have an appointment or an obligation at some point during the day, be honest about it and tell the producer or the director as early as possible, not as they’re about to call “Action!” I think he told me later on that he had an emergency or something. Still, communication is key, and the earlier that happens the better.
  5. People who crowd the “Video Village”. For those of you who don’t know, the “Video Village” is a nickname some people use for the area surrounding the video monitor on set. The people that need to watch the monitor during the shoot are usually: the director, the D.P., the gaffer, the assistant director, the production designer, the make-up artist/stylist, the producer, the script supervisor. These are the people that have specialized positions when it comes to the image that is in front of the camera. If something is wrong, these people have the knowledge and expertise to fix it. If you don’t have that type of position, then you shouldn’t be around the Video Village, especially if you are blocking the view of one of those people that needs to be there. For the record, sometimes actors can be in the Video Village, just as long as they don’t get too self-conscious about seeing their performance in an unedited form.

Those are just a few of my pet peeves. A lot of it really just comes down to set etiquette. Exercise some common decorum and you’ll build some good relationships on-set and stay in good graces with the director. 🙂

Black Women an Anomaly at #Sundance?

12 02 2013

As i continue to reflect on my Sundance experience, the other morning I started thinking about all the films I saw and the wonderful Q&As that followed. Then I realized something–there was little to no representation of black women filmmakers at Sundance this year. This seemed to be the year for black men–Ryan Coogler’s wonderful film “Fruitvale”, Andrew Dosunmu’s visually stunning “Mother of George”, George Tillman’s “Ineviteable Defeat of Mister and Pete”–but I don’t recall seeing a black female lead any Q&As, or even black female crew members, with the exception of Frances Bodomo, the director of the short film “Boneshaker”.

Don’t worry, this is not a post about the lack of diversity at Sundance. Last year Ava Duvernay did her thing and won Sundance’s Best Director award for her film “Middle of Nowhere.” And I couldn’t be happier for the black men that represented this year. They all did great work. But sitting at a panel on women filmmakers, as I listened the stats on the lack of female directors in Hollywood in general, I couldn’t help but wonder if I even stand a chance as a black female filmmaker?

How is the voice of color being grafted into the conversation women are having on what it looks like to see images of ourselves on the screen? A woman in the audience tried to engage that conversation in the room, to which another woman in the audience basically answered in a tone that said “There was a panel for black people last week so stfu”. Well, so much for female empowerment.

My point today is simply to encourage my sister filmmakers to keep writing and making movies. My Twitter timeline stays full of feeds from black men who are doing web series and making films. Bravo for them. But we have a voice too, and let’s make sure it’s not silenced.

#60Movies – Day 14: Sundance “Blood Brother”

7 02 2013
Overall, this film probably affected me the most out of everything I saw at Sundance. It was about a man named Rocky Bratt, who wants to find meaning in his life so he moved to India to serve children at an HIV/AIDS orphanage. This film raises issues about what it really means to be the hands and feet of Christ.

I think this film was quite unique in its use of documentary technique and storytelling. First of all, the film was told from the perspective of Rocky’s best friend, Steve Hoover, who is also the filmmaker. I found it interesting that at the outset of the film, Steve stated that he did not want his friend to go to India and that he was hoping he would fail. His skepticism set up an excellent tension between him and his friend that gets resolved through the course of the film as viewers go on a journey with Steve to see and understand India and the orphanage the way that Rocky sees it: as a place of love. As the film progresses we see that Rocky has found a place where he feels accepted into a family, which is really what he was searching for all along.

This film challenged me as a Christian but also as a Christian filmmaker. It wasn’t preachy, it simply told a story about one man’s journey to find meaning and love. That is a universal concept. When the filmmakers came to Windrider, their commitment to faith was evident. However, they did a great job creating a story that would actually speak to the masses about the truth of God’s love, more clearly than any sermon from a pulpit. The filmmakers preached a message and the people listened, and I think this is evident by the fact that it won both the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary and the Audience Award.