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Sunday, January 27, 2008

7 Questions...


I will be posting a bit about this gent this week....he was in an interesting film that I saw this summer called the Mannsfield 12. I will be talking about that film this week along with a film that he directed called Section 8. First up is a short interview. It has some very valuable suggestions in it that concur with some of your comments on making independent film. For you would be filmmakers out there, listen up:



Q&A With Carl Gilliard


Question #1


There have been a couple of movies on the radar from you this past year. One was a film called the Mannsfield 12, which I thought was a very powerful, affecting film. The other was Divine Intervention, a comedy. What are the differences and challenges/benefits of working in both genres? Was is hard working on such emotional subject matter on the former movie?


CG: Every project takes on its own personality. It was very different working on MANNSFIELD as opposed to DIVINE. BOTH were very pleasant, but in different ways. I appreciated VAN ELDER for offering me DIVINE because I needed it after MANNSFIELD. (I started DIVINE about a week after wrapping MANNSFIELD). At MANNSFIELD, we shot at the LINCOLN HEIGHTS JAIL, which was formerly the LA COUNTY JAIL. The space was cold, creepy and was crawling with loud birds. It wasn't terribly difficult to 'become' an inmate in jail because we were ACTUALLY IN ONE. Additionally, the material was so compellingly raw and emotionally moving. We shot those SOLITARY CONFINEMENT scenes in REAL SOLITARY CELLS. But this cast was so amazing as actors and as people.


We ALL got along famously and though we don't talk everyday, it is like OLD HOME WEEK when we see each other. It was a GREAT experience. Very intense with regard to the material, but a great experience. Lastly, working with C. Ross, Jr. was a dream come true. I have known him since his days at AFI and was happy that we finally found a way to work together. He is a very skilled director. You trust him to not just make you look good, but you know that when you're in a CRAIG ROSS film that it will be a visual, enjoyable piece of work. I started talking to VAN ELDER and his Producer, LISA DeWitt while I was shooting MANNSFIELD.


When I read this script (Divine), I knew that I wanted to do it because IT WAS A COMEDY and so different from MANNSFIELD. They offered me the role about 10 days after reading the script and off we went. Working on DIVINE with the likes of veterans like JAMES AVERY, ROZ RYAN and talented newcomers like WESLEY JONATHAN and LAZ ALONSO was also a blast. It was much lighter on this set, but we had to shoot some very difficult church scenes and had a limited amount of time to get it done.....but you know.......somehow......by the Grace of God....it always GETS DONE!!! I'd work with VAN ELDER or CRAIG ROSS, JR. in a heartbeat again if given the opportunity....




Question #2


What is working in an ensemble atmosphere like? It seems to be a commonality in Black Film these days.


CG: I love working in an ensemble especially when you're blessed to have committed and talented actors. Ensemble films are fastly becoming more common not just in Black Films, but films in general. My experience has always been pleasant in this environment. There were 'decided' leads in MANNSFIELD (Aaron Spears) and in DIVINE (Wesley Jonathan & Jazsmin Lewis), but both films did have an ensemble flair with plenty of opportunity of those around them to equally contribute to the process. Also, when you work in an ensemble, people seem more relaxed and I think it's because there isn't a lot of undue pressure on any one actor to 'carry' the film.




Question #3


I know that you directed an independent film called "Section 8". A lot of my readers are filmmakers and future screenwriters. How were you able to fund your film? What were your biggest challenges? Any advice for those wanting to go the same route?


CG: Funding is THE most challenging part of making a film; at least for me. In the case of SECTION 8, I made that film with my partner, TONY WINTERS for an incredibly low amount of money. We had made another film in 2000 called RETIRING TATIANA. TATIANA actually cost us about 50, 000.00 more to make. TATIANA has become somewhat of a little 'cult' film. We shot it on DIGITAL before it was as popular as it became a bit later. We used mostly friends to act in the film. Most ALL of the actors were personal friends of Tony and myself.


We shot that film over a year. We'd run out of money, shut down....raise more money, then resume shooting. Most of the money raised for both SECTION 8 and TATIANA came from FAMILY & FRIENDS. Every film has a different story on how to raise funds, but I have found that more often than not, it's some friend, family or personal contact. In the case of SECTION 8, Tony and I wanted to make another film. WINTERS had written a play called SECTION 8 and he had a primary funding source in place. (Who dropped out AFTER we started REHEARSALS) You ask of challenges, making a film.........ANY FILM is rife with challenges......raising money, hiring and scheduling actors & crew.....it's a total collaborative process. We decided to put SECTION 8 up as a play, then SHOOT IT FILM style on the stage in HIGH DEFINITION without the audience.........so, in a word.....SECTION 8 is a play shot as a film.


We had huge success with film festivals with SECTION 8, which was very gratifying to me as a Producer and a first time director. It has been generally received very positively, I think, because of it universality, performances and story. I am very proud of it. Advice? I would say to not give up. If you don't have money and are looking to make a film, keep it as simple as possible. Simple, yet compelling story. Make sure that your script is as tight as you can get it. Utilize your relationships. Find crew, actors and production people who share your vision and call in favors. This town is FULL of TALENT..........and most of them are a phone call away....




Question #4


You've also done a great deal of television acting. Do you have a preference for film or television acting? Why?


CG: Ha Ha Ha. I am an actor, IW. I have a wife and kids including ONE at HOWARD UNIVERSITY. So I enjoy working in any medium. Yes, I want people to like the films (or television) that I do. But ultimately? I like making money and my wife loves when I make money!!! :) Okay. Seriously. (Well, I was SERIOUS, but THAT wasn't THAT deep for interview purposes) I do like FILM a great deal more because of the time that is taken to get the work done. Directors in film also seem to be a bit more vested in the process and in the characters, so that is more rewarding as an artist.


Television is cool mainly because of the immediacy of it. You shoot a TV SHOW, then a month later, there it is and THAT's cool too. I am an actor. I feel privileged to work in any medium because this isn't REAL WORK in the way that working on a AUTO ASSEMBLY LINE (which I did at FORD one summer in college in DEARBORN, MI) or working 12 hours a day as a bus driver for 20 years as an example. This is a blessing. True, I'd love to do it more consistently (most actors want to work more), but to go to work on a film and shoot for a month or shoot a commercial and work for 5 or 6 hours, then go to your mailbox and pick up checks is a crazy blessing and I love that. I have been blessed to work in ALL ASPECTS of the business, but the one that has been most financially rewarding for me is TV COMMERCIALS. I do commercials so that I can do FILMS & TELEVISION. That said, we work in a tough business. One that we choose to work in. It isn't a right. It is a privilege that I don't take for granted. It takes lots of hard work, a positive mental outlook and attitude and most of all perseverance. If you don't have those things, coupled with at least a little talent, find yourself something else to do.........




Question #5


What projects do you have coming up in the future?


CG: I am currently co-producing a film play production called "PEACHES" with good friend MICHAEL WHALEY. "Peaches" stars Wendy Raquel Robinson, Dorien Wilson & comedian Buddy Lewis. Whaley is also directing. The play will run for 2 performances at The Los Angeles Theatre Center and will be filmed for DVD release through IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT. I just shot an action/drama short called 'Nose Candy' with director Lydia Martinelli as an actor. That film stars Mark Anthony Williams, Raymond Williams and April Parker. It's about an FBI Sting to bring down a ruthless drug dealer and killer. There are also two other projects that are being developed for me to work as a Producer on. It's a little early to disclose what they are. We're still working on bringing them to fruition. I also have a national COKE COMMERCIAL that needs to start running!!! :)




Question #6


CG: A subject that comes up here quite often is the dissatisfaction with what "The Hollywood Machine" is producing in the way of Black Cinema. What, in your opinion, can the public at large do to change things?

Well, IW I am very pleased with what HOLLYWOOD is doing. Think of it this way. BLACK ACTORS are continuously atop the the Box Office charts. Do we have some ways to go?? Sure. But we have much to be thankful for and to be encouraged by. Denzel Washington is consistently opening films at 18-22 million or better, Tyler Perry has been very successful doing what he does, David E, Talbert just opened a film at Number 2, Morgan Freeman is atop the B.O. with The Bucket List, THIS CHRISTMAS opened strongly with an ensemble cast of relative unknowns......


We have more BLACK DIRECTORS and PRODUCERS working than ever before. James Lassiter (Will Smith's Producer), Broderick Johnson (Alcorn Entertainment Founder), Will Packer, Kasi Lemmons, Kelly Shane (wrote recent film RENDITION)....not to mention more Black Actors than ever opening films. Sam Jackson, Halle Berry, Jamie Foxx, Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker (who also directs films cross genre).......and a host of newcomers including Laz Alonso, Jurnee Smollett and on and on. As I mentioned before. This is a tough business for EVERYONE. It is hard for EVERYONE who is in it. But as I see it, technology has created accessibility for everyone who wants to get in the game. Anyone can get an HD camera and shoot a film and by doing THAT successfully, you can create your own success. With regard to the 'studio system', it is what it is and it ain't changing.....It is not there purely to produce art, it is there to make a dollar and to make as much money as humanly possible to make it's shareholders happy. This is show business with an emphasis on the BUSINESS more than SHOW.......and as I see it? A film with a cast of color with any quality is a virtual success guarantee.


That speaks volumes to an industry that at one time almost NEVER featured a black lead actor, much less a black ensemble and to a country which just 40 years ago wouldn't think of seeing a film in large numbers with BLACK LEAD ACTOR. Today? Will Smith is America's most bankable actor.....and this is a dude who was The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air. I know that he didn't get there with a negative attitude and complaining about the 'system' (no offense IW)....and before any of us say well......he's WILL SMITH......you got to remember where WILL was in 1996. Did ANYONE predict that he would be doing what he is doing today? I did FRESH PRINCE back in 1996 and there is ONE THING that I remember about him. He was hugely positive, cordial and very easy to work with........... Advice to all my people? Accentuate the postive and build on it. There is plenty there to be encouraged by.



Question #7


Any thoughts you would like to relay to the readers?


CG: Just stay positive, try to have a personal life outside of this business.....stay close to God as you know Him and have fun. If you can't do that or have a hard time keeping a mental balance.....get out and do something else.........:)




I thank Carl so much for taking out time to share his thoughts with my readers. He is definitely keeping it positive. To find out a bit more about Section 8, please visit the film's myspace at www.myspace.com/section8themovie , tho I will be talking a bit about it this week.

12 comments:

The Obenson Report said...

Good post! He's right about relentless positivity. I'm starting to really believe that now... I hereby renounce my "hate" card, and embrace Will Smith, Tyler Perry, and others of their ilk. But I will uphold my right to revisit them and vent once in awhile, whenever they fu*k up! Side note: I just wondered why we replace letters in curse words with other characters, when we write in forums like this, like what I did above with "fu*k," or, as I've seen others do with "sh*t," and more. What's the point? It's not like others don't know what the word really is that we intended to use... just a moment of "deep thought" there. As you were... :o)

Qadree said...

I think he was playing it safe with his answer about Hollywood and I can understand that. In the past I have entertained the notion of Hollywood being loyal to the dollar and nothing else, but I can't support that idea any longer, politics are an integral part of Hollywood.

Remaining in control is more important than sheer profit. America presents itself to the rest of the world through film, television, and music. These are the only ways most foreign people form their ideas about what it's like to live in America and the established players aren't trying to lose control of that. There is a definite fear of what could happen if the "wrong" people were to have a say in things.

"We have more BLACK DIRECTORS and PRODUCERS working than ever..."

If you look at the history of Hollywood there are always peaks and troughs that correspond roughly to how well Hollywood is doing financially and the amount of non-whites getting work, the most extreme example is the black exploitation era.

The first wave was when sound was introduced to film. People promote this nonsense about the black voice being needed to make the most of sound in the beginning, but the simple fact is that the introduction of sound bankrupted most independents and sent the majors into panic mode. How much do you think it cost to shoot a black cast movie back then, next to nothing compared to a white cast, and if the films conform to certain preconceived notions everyone will pay to see it and that's just what happened.

The same thing happened with the black exploitation era. The box office was suffering and you could shoot a film with a black cast for under $400,000. They made a killing off of these and then the traditional films started making money again and non-white films suddenly became scarce.

There's so much that can be said about this, but I wouldn't give to much weigh to the number of non-whites getting work at any particular time in Hollywood.

Invisible Woman said...

I know...I always do the replacement curse thing, unless I'm really pissed off, then I don't give a f**k! haha

Btw, Carl made me reflect on being more positive as well.

qadree: I always value your opinions...I will shoot you an email in a day or 2 about this.

BLAktor said...

Qadree...

Thanks for your comments. I have to challenge you to do some objective research. I don't know how old you are, but I was 12-15 years old during BLAXPLOITATION. I was there. What we have TODAY is NOT the same. TODAY we have films and stars that are geared right AT the BLACK AUDIENCE (like BLAXPLOITATION), but today we have many more Black Actors playing in 'crossover' films with BLACK DIRECTORS and PRODUCERS actually working in these films as Producers and Directors. I named some of them. Antoine Fuqua, F Gary Gray, John Singleton, Spike Lee have ALL DIRECTED mainstream films,then you have others who direct URBAN FARE like DAVID TALBERT, MALCOLM D LEE, TYLER PERRY, BILL DUKE, THOMAS CARTER. Black Producers like James Lassiter, Broderick Johnson...

These cats were NOT around during BLAXPLOITATION, in fact, many of those films were directed and produced by WHITES. SAMUEL Z ARKOFF (American International Pictures) was one of the most prolific Black Exploitation producers.

You also write this:

"If you look at the history of Hollywood there are always peaks and troughs that correspond roughly to how well Hollywood is doing financially and the amount of non-whites getting work, the most extreme example is the black exploitation era."

And? As I said in my interview, this is show 'business'. 'Business'. I am not suggesting there is no race component at play, but not NEARLY AS MUCH as it once was...NOT EVEN CLOSE.

Do your own research, and with all due respect, REMOVE and EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT to whatever perceptions you have about RACE and the BUSINESS. TODAY? There is no excuse to use there anymore....

I, for one, would CHOOSE to be BLACK in this business today.

By the way, I didn't even NAME ALL THE FOLK I COULD HAVE NAMED....:)

And IW.

Thanks for the opportunity to talk to your audience!

Carl Gilliard.

Qadree said...

I think it's a matter of perspective at this point.

Call it emotional, but I'm not ready to tell people what a great job Hollywood is doing with black representation.

When we address the peaks and troughs it's important to note that each one is different because they have to respond to different issues. It would be suicidal for Hollywood to respond to issues of race today in the exact same way they did in the 1920's or any other era. The archetypes get updated, but they are still there, some of the people you listed are on record speaking out against this.

Stepin Fetchit made similar comments about Hollywood during his day, about how there were more black people in the industry than ever before etc. It's easy to count heads if you're willing to overlook the images some of these people are creating.

Diversity is important, but I'm more concerned with the mentality of the people creating the images than the color of their skin at this point.

BLAktor said...

Hey Qadree.

Your call, but unfortunately, it is not based in fact.

I never said that we had arrived, but to ignore the GREAT STRIDES that have been made since BLAXPLOITATION would be an error. Moreoever, you have a ride to quantify what 'you' feel is adequate strides in the business for Black folk.

However, to ignore my challenge to make an objective analysis of what indeed IS HAPPENING in our business is suspect on your part.

You 'should' always be able to back your rhetoric up with some factual or statistical analysis. If you can't do that, it is emotional....

And you are entitled to have that.

BLACK FOLK need to move to the next level in the game. This business is a tough one for EVERYONE. We do need to make some improvements to our images, but also WE NEED to support films that promote said images. WE don't do that. Check the most recent example in THE GREAT DEBATERS.

If you do an objective analysis of BOX OFFICE and employment data, we are doing quite well. We can always do better, but try doing an analysis of BOX OFFICE and employment data vs percentage of population (12%). You might surprise yourself......

This industry is not designed to meet every sensibility all the time. If you don't like the images?

Go out and create your own.

Is the white man stopping YOU from doing that?

I don't think so.

Just food for thought.

Thanks for the dialogue, my good brother....

Qadree said...

Is the white man stopping YOU from doing that?

Where did this come from? You seem to have some preconceived notions that are clouding your judgment. I'll quote myself unless you didn't understand it the first time.
"Diversity is important, but I'm more concerned with the mentality of the people creating the images than the color of their skin at this point."

You say:
However, to ignore my challenge to make an objective analysis of what indeed IS HAPPENING in our business is suspect on your part.

You 'should' always be able to back your rhetoric up with some factual or statistical analysis. If you can't do that, it is emotional.



This seems to be the key difference between our way of thinking. By your logic every film for an entire year could consist of a thousand black people raping, killing, stealing, and have one white hero and your dreams will have come true. Statistically it's a winning formula, I suppose your only question would be, when do I get paid and where is the next audition?

I am more concerned with creative control and since you like research you should pull up as many interviews as you can of the people you listed and when you're done tell them to move to the next level in the game. This business is a tough one for EVERYONE. For the most part, they seem to agree with what I've been saying. I know you probably want me to hold your hand and walk you through every word they've ever said, but if you were serious you would know these things and wouldn't need me to spoon feed you.

Spike Lee needs to be enlightened with the research and analysis that disproves what he says about "the gatekeepers" and I do too, but you conveniently forgot to include any of it in your commentary. Please let us emotional people know about this archetype shattering information so we can step our game up.

You should also let Spike, along with many others, know that Hollywood is to thank for what they've done. They seem to think that they had to work harder and deal with things that white filmmakers don't have to deal with and that the success they have had is in spite of Hollywood not because of it. On this very blog there was a post about Bill Duke's appearance on NPR, on which wasn't thanking Hollywood for how good it's been to him, but quite the opposite. You might want to set these people straight, their emotions have gotten the best of them.

It's strange that you would question my integrity because I assumed you knew what is essentially common knowledge to those that are serious about cinema. If you think I'm fabricating the information about archetypes and trends there's plenty of research on this subject out there. I can lead you to it (email me), but I'm not going to hold your hand.

Everyone, from the well knowns like Spike Lee, and the not so well knows like Charles Burnett, have spoken out about the issues I have raised. For you to feign ignorance, or to actually be that ignorant says more about you than it does about anyone else. You seem to be engaged in some serious self deception.

BLAktor said...

Quadree......

I'll leave this conversation with your own outlandish MAN IN A BUBBLE STATEMENT.

You write:

This seems to be the key difference between our way of thinking. By your logic every film for an entire year could consist of a thousand black people raping, killing, stealing, and have one white hero and your dreams will have come true. Statistically it's a winning formula, I suppose your only question would be, when do I get paid and where is the next audition?

HUH? HUH? EVERY FILM? RAPING? KILLING? EVERY FILM QUADREE'? Then you go on with your shallow little insult about auditoning for the next little acting job? Well let me tell your dreamy self something. FIRST. I don't just talk on a blog. I have PRODUCED 4 films and consulted on a half dozen others. NONE OF THEM had BLACK FOLK doing ANY of the things you mentioned. SECONDLY, there is a whole community of talented artists who are making wonderful films, but I guess your exposure is limited to STUDIO GENRE and EVENT FILMS....but even when you look at those.....you have many, many films where AFRICAN FOLK are NOT DOING the things you mention.

But at any rate......this convo is useless. WAVE the RED BLACK & GREEN HUEY and KEEP HOPE ALIVE!

Oh yeah.

I actually talked with CHARLES BURNETT today. He is making wonderful films OUTSIDE OF THE STUDIO SYSTEM and THAT IS HOW YOU CHANGE IMAGES.....not by BEGGING, whining and BITCHING about what the majority culture is doing. You get yourself out there and you make films with other likeminded people.....

THAT is what I advocate.

HOW MANY FILMS HAVE YOU MADE?

BLAktor said...

Oh, and a post script.

I don't need to get a copy of BILL DUKE's NPR interview.

He is a mentor and a friend and the main one responsible for my start as a filmmaker. He is a HUGE PROPONENT of the philosophy of making it happen yourself.

Don't be just an actor. Don't wait for HOLLYWOOD to change. YOU GO OUT and create change.

THAT IS BILL DUKE......off NPR.....

Qadree said...

Don't wait for HOLLYWOOD to change. YOU GO OUT and create change.

Finally!

If you were as up front in your interview as you're being now this exchange wouldn't have been necessary.

Since there are many aspiring filmmakers who may come across this, I must stress the value of criticizing art and the society in which it is created.

To advocate silence or the sharing of insincere ideas is to advocate ignorance. If progress is going to be made we must embrace the technology, not just in making films, but in sharing our ideas about them. Do not underestimate the power of discourse, it is essential to the advancement of all creative arts.

BLAKtor said...

Cool Qadree.

My approach is multi layered. It is applauding our successes in the major marketplace combined with creating change in the way we can 'where' we live.

I thought that was implicit in my interview, but if you didn't pick that up, it's fair.

One more thing I'll throw out there. In the mainstream marketplace, they trade on familiar terrain which in some cases include negative characterizations. Now from where I sit, outside of comic situations, the depictions of 'us' as criminals has dramatically decreased primarily because of 'political correctness'. We have seen the TYLER PERRY FILMS (which I believe are generally positive), THIS CHRISTMAS, FIRST SUNDAY, THE GREAT DEBATERS (which we didn't support like we should), MORGAN, DENZEL, CHEADLE & SAM continue to do their thing, etc.........

That was what I was talking about. There is NO HISTORICAL REFERENCE to these people (and I didn't mention them all) THAT is a lot we have to BUILD ON....and that is important to me....

But I got you.

The Obenson Report said...

I was just made aware of this, so I'm coming in a little late...

I think you were both a little overzealous in your initial responses to each other, which led to the "war of words" that ensued, and it seems like the core issue got forgotten along the way.

First, I didn't get the impression that Carl was in anyway saying that blacks have finally "made it" in the biz and we should all shut up, stop complaining and be content with the status quo. But rather that while discourse and criticism are all necessary, they can prove to be rather useless and frustrating in the end, especially when not accompanied by action; and instead we should put more of that energy into actually doing. Essentially, less talking and more action. More positivity, less negativity! The industry is what it is and isn't going to change any time soon just because we want it to. Like any other business in a capitalist society, it's main objective is to maximize profit, regardless of everything else. So why expect anything more from it?

Secondly, I also get Qadree's point. Criticism and discourse are necessary and shouldn't be discounted. Ideas need to be challenged in order to be perfected and taught to others. While green is king in Hollywood, there is still a racial element that must be dealt with. Yes!

So, I guess you're both right. Now, how do we combine both paths into one complete, effective ideology? Useful discourse complemented with directed, relentless action. If we can bottle that up and maybe drop doses into the water supply in our neighborhoods, so that we can all drink it up, maybe we'll see actual results :o)