MG: Films have always been a big part of my life as well as a part of my creative process. If I'm stuck while writing an article, short story or my novel, I'll put in a movie to get the juices flowing. Being a native New Yorker, directors Spike Lee, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese are my cinematic holy trinity. Still, I am a fan of many genres and styles. This might be cheating, but if I had to write to the world about TWO films they would be Annie Hall and Mo' Better Blues--both New York stories that document the ups and down of being an artist in this crazy city of mine.
Question #2 (kind of a 2 in 1)
MG: I read this cool book last year by Martha Southgate called "Third Girl From the Left" about three generations of women and their relation to movies; I'd love to see that. I would love if some cutting edge animator created a feature film based on the Parliament-Funkadelic album covers of Pedro Bell and Overton Lloyd. As much as I like the urban camp of Beat Street and Krush Groove, I'd love to see a film about hip-hop that was as powerful as Citizen Kane.
My good friend Barry Michael Cooper, who wrote New Jack City and Sugar Hill (see this: http://stopsmilingonline.com/story_detail.php?id=791) [and I] often have these discussions about where we want black film to go. Both of us are influenced by David Lynch, but don't bet on Hollywood ever investing in a Black director with that kind of bizarro vision.
Barry has been experimenting with film and different technologies, but I could only imagine what he could do with a few million dollers. I just wish Black filmmakers like AJ Fielder (who shot Daughters of the Dust and Crooklyn) and Malik Sayeed (director of photography on Clockers and Girl 6) were allowed to tell their stories too.
I had this crazy idea for a script about my family, but I'm sure if it was ever made it would be more like Martin Lawrence than Wes Anderson.
MG: My problem with some younger culture writers is that they limit themselves by not reading more, seeing different kinds of films or opening themselves up to different experiences. If you want to write about hip-hop and R&B, that's cool, but you should read up on jazz, old school soul, punk, etc. I'm not saying you should be an expert, but as a music writer you should know the difference between Monk, Miles and The Clash.
The cultural critics I admired when I was starting out, most noticeably Carol Cooper, Greg Tate, Nelson George, Barry Michael Cooper, Bell Hooks, Michele Wallace and Frank Owen all knew a little bit about a lot of things: old novels, films, paintings, poetry, art galleries and museums, playwrights and small theater, comic books, rock music, etc. It's all good to specialize, but don't be afraid to enrich your mind with something new. It can only make one a better writer.
Ms. Steele is based in part on my fascination with blaxploitation queens Pam Grier, Tamara Dobson and Judy Pace; my personal soundtrack while writing the story was Cree Summer (Street Faerie), Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Martina Topley-Bird, Stephanie McKay ("Tell Like It Is"), J-Dilla, DJ Shadow and Portishead. Needless to say, the story is funky and strange.
Darker Mask also features powerful stories from Walter Mosley, L.A. Banks, Ann Nocenti Gar Anthony Haywood and Jerry Rodriguez.
MG: My only thought is directed at those who want to writers. Me and my friend (and sometimes editor) Miles Marshall Lewis, like to proclaim, "Writers write." Which means, if you have a good idea you should write it instead of talking it. I know a lot of writers who talk a good game, but rarely produce. Of course we all need to pay bills, but don't wait for somebody to give you loot before you write screenplay, novel, short story or whatever...simply strive to be the best.