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Sunday, March 22, 2009

7 Questions With Black & Sexy Director Dennis Dortch...

There is one thing that really burns me, and that is folks that put down or discourage the dreams and aspirations of others. There is nothing more disheartening than sharing your thoughts and ideas with someone, only to be told that they are ridiculous and unattainable. To which I say this: Completely consider the source: A) Is this a person you would gladly trade lives with? OR B) Does this person lead a life that you admire and/or respect? If the answer is no, grains of salt, my friends, grains of salt.

One of my favorite things to do on this blog is to interview those I find interesting. The people interviewed here wholly deserve the attention and accolades they receive, as they are independent thinkers, free from the constraints of the conventional world. They learn from mistakes and experiences, and, most importantly, they are willing to share what they've learned with others. They are hustlers and sages, and I learn amazing life lessons and get inspired by each one of them; I hope you do too. Here is the latest--"A Good Day To Be Black and Sexy" director Dennis Dortch, a definite welcome addition to the halls of the new Black Renaissance in film...check it.

Question #1

The landscape is so barren on Black love/sexual situations in movies. I know you have been asked this many times over, but what gave you the idea to make this film? Who or what has been your inspiration in filmmaking? (That is really two questions--I'm cheating a bit)

Life. Real life. Our daily pursuit for happiness in love and sex drives and affects most of our decisions in life. We are living it everyday. These are basic human needs that find our white counterparts with oogles of quirky movies on the subject. When it comes to us, suddenly it's different even though we are all human beings with the same desires and needs. When you do see us in any sexual situation in a movie (especially a mixed cast movie) - we are either raping, overly sexually charged, or getting no ass whatsoever. Nothing but the extremes and nothing in between. Keep in mind that anytime you put a black person on the screen (esp. a black man), whatever they are doing or portraying holds much more weight. Put a gun in their hand, show them dead, show them running from the law, in court, or playing the President of the US or God, or Jesus, or simply having sex, it's suddenly a little bit heavier. Where our white male counterpart is just doing something as an action, the black counterpart becomes that *something* they are doing.

I think the second part of that is black folks are kinda prudish. I mean the West is sort of prudish overall compared to our European counterparts, but we all love sex but we just don't want people to know we love it. That's why the porn industry is booming. It's all about secrecy, so it carries over to the big screen and the lack of content on the subject. I've been asked plenty of times, why would I want to make a film just about this stuff? Like a porno or something. This usually comes from a woman. Deep inside, I'm thinking this person is probably a freak in bed, but a lady in the streets. Simply, I wanted to just get at the things we are doing and feeling today and tomorrow, and the next day in a realistic presentation.

To answer the second part of your question, it's almost the same answer... Life. Real life. Women are an inspiration especially. Sometimes I just want to talk to you. And film is an extravagant way to communicate. You ever had an argument with your significant other and you wish a third party was present so that they could validate your point of view or judge who is right or wrong in this situation? Cause you feel the other person is clearly not listening to reason. You just want someone fair and non-biased to call it. Making a film is like creating that opportunity for a third party assessment. I'm simply telling on someone, including myself.

Question #2

The visuals were wonderful in the film, and the performances from the actors are truly on point--very natural and affecting. What is your primary focus when you direct a film? What emotions and thoughts are you trying to elicit from the audience?

My primary focus is sensuality and naturalness. To capture those fleeting real moments in life that we all have experienced but never have captured on film. The actors are bringing a piece of themselves to the set. We discuss their own experiences related to the subject and pull from there. My cinematographer Brian Ali-Harding is by heart a documentary filmmaker. His style is pure cinéma vérité. We have been making films together since college focusing on real human emotion and moments not artificial movie moments and over-dramatic fake movie emotions. You put these two factors together and like peanut butter and chocolate, you got black and sexy.

My goal for the audience was to create some connectivity. If you watch the film and identified with something that's happening on the screen either by knowing this person in real life or applying a past experience you, yourself had, it feels real. You then feel connected.

Question #3

The title of your film "A Good Day To Be Black And Sexy" was sure to stir up attention. Was the intention to make people take strong notice? Were you pressured to change the name by anyone?

Yes, I wanted the marketing of the film built in to the title and live on beyond it. It was always a brand to me. More than one film with many spin-offs and connected lifestyle products (clothing, music, etc.).

Yes and no to your second question. Someone very close to the film tried to convince me to change the stories to match what they perceived the title to mean.

Question #4

You made some unknown casting choices and filmed on a limited budget, and your film turned out to be one of the most interesting pieces I've seen for some time. As advice to some of the filmmakers who read this blog, how does one get a feel that they are moving in the right direction on a project? How does one garner support from those inside the film and outside of it?

The first question is what is the definition of the right direction? For me it is when something affects you or intrigues you. You have to be your own guinea pig and be affected before it can transfer to someone else. Trust yourself and your instincts and the people who are supposed to be attracted to your project will find it and support it. It's just energy and there is not trick in it. Just truth and honesty.

To go further, don't pay attention to the haters. There will be a lot of them. It's not that they mean you direct harm, but they have so much self doubt in themselves, and misery loves company. I was told that I was crazy to take the money out of my house to finance this feature. I was told that my script was a porno and no one would want to see this. I was told that no company would want to distribute a "black art film." Those types of films are reserved for white people. If you have a strong vision and it truly makes you excited just thinking about it, then there is a good chance that excitement will transfer to someone else watching the film that you made from that inspiration. Everybody may not like your film, but your job is not to please everyone. That is an elusive goal.(from iw--amen!)

As far as gaining support, just do your thing. Most people just talk, very few actually do. It's not easy. It's takes a tremendous amount of focus, perseverance, and unwavering faith. Making a film and expecting a company to buy it and in turn people pay to watch it is not a solid business plan. It's crazy actually. So, when someone does it and breaks through, the law of attraction takes over and the support trickles in. It's still a struggle after you initially get that attention. Support is a fickle thing, trust me. It's really up to you to build on it in a timely manner.

Question #5

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? (Everyone gets asked this question, btw)

If we collectively stop supporting the bullshit, the bullshit will disappear. It's about natural selection. Hollywood is not against making money any way they can. But really, you have to ask yourself, why would white people collectively give a damn about what we want as black folks? They are too busy trying to get what they want. Our wants and needs are our problem. And we dictate what gets put out there every time we spend money on it.

Question #6

Tell us what projects you are working on now. Anything we can look forward to in the future?

The big project launching next month is what we are calling Black & Sexy TV. An online portal for black content from my team. The first out the gate is a spin-off web series from the film called BLACK & SEXY B-SIDES. We are basically expanding on the world and characters created in the film in 2-6 minute episodes online. Plus we are creating the sequel to the film tentatively called A GOOD DAY TO BE BLACK & SEXY: NEW YORK CITY.

Outside of Black & Sexy, I have a feature I'm currently writing that I'm real quiet on, but I'm real excited about. That's why I'm not saying anything really. You gotta stuff all that excitement and desired to blurt out the story into the script.

Question #7

Any thoughts or advice you would like to leave for the readers?

I guess this would go to the filmmakers...Distribution. Most filmmakers (including myself) look at obtaining distribution as the end-all and be-all goal. But that's really just the beginning. And we spend a lot of time stressing on the things that don't even matter in the end, when the real important things have slipped past us a long time ago. The great thing about making your own film from your own money is you have all the control. Suddenly when you get distribution, you see most of that control taken away. The biggest beef a filmmaker will have is how his/her film is marketed. And really it's just a divide between your goals and your distributor's goals. If you can identify what their true goal is, then you can better manage your expectations if you decide to sign with them. And you need to figure out what it is you want and how that fits in the current climate of the film industry. I stumbled upon a quote in a magazine on an airplane trip one day that said it all: "You don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate."

From IW: "You don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate." Truer words were never spoken, for reals! A phrase to live by folkses, and completely consider the source. Below is the new trailer for "A Good Day To Be Black and Sexy"--please add to your Netflix cue or get out to your nearest video store and support our new Renaissance....


Anonymous said...

Two things he said that I'd like to point out as fa-bu-lous!


As far as gaining support, just do your thing. Most people just talk, very few actually do. It's not easy. It's takes a tremendous amount of focus, perseverance, and unwavering faith.

These are words I need to live by in what own goals and dreams. Well said and boy do I need to be reminded of it each day.


If we collectively stop supporting the bullshit, the bullshit will disappear. It's about natural selection. Hollywood is not against making money any way they can. But really, you have to ask yourself, why would white people collectively give a damn about what we want as black folks? They are too busy trying to get what they want.


IW, great post. Dig the interview. Look forward to seeing more from this director, film already Queued up for Instant watch!

Sergio said...

Terrific film and it gives hope that there is a future in black cinema. I'm proud that we showed the film at last year's Black Harvest Film Festival here in Chicago where it got a great reception. I wish Dennis nothing but the best in the future

Lenoxave said...

Awesome! He's right about not supporting the b-s. You get what you negotiate. So true! I will remember that one big time!

I enjoyed this interview. He's a bright dude and I will support further efforts from him.

Marvalus said...

I've bitten...added this to my Netflix queue...I'll let you know what I think about the movie after I watch...

Great interview! I like this dude...

Tafari said...

Im about to rent this on iTunes. I hope I dont have to come back here & cuss anyone out.


Tafari said...

IW - I'm 30 minutes deep into this damn movie & it is off the chain! a bug up for Black cinema.

These 1st two vignettes are on point & almost too much

I'm loving you right about now boo!!!


Matt-suzaka said...

This movie is always recommended to me on Netflix and I wasn't all that sure about it. After reading this I will check it out for sure.

Also, if you have the means, it's available on Netflix instant watch.


The answer is LANTAWOOD

Unknown said...

I just watched the movie A Good Day to Be Black and Sexy on my Netflix account and suffice it to say, I was expecting a "B" grade flick. The title was a turn-off to begin with because- to me- it lacked originality. If the title of the movie was a book then the cliche "Don't judge a book by it's cover" just gave me a double slap- real hard, like red bruises and what not.

I'm not going to compare Dennis Dortch to any other director or writer, Black or white. That wouldn't be fair. But what I will say is, brother, your movie was excellent. Each vignette was on point. I'm going to watch it again very soon and I've already determined I'm sharing the movie's personal website and IMDb link with all of my Facebook friends.

What's upsetting me right now though is, although it's a predominately Black cast, the theme of the movie is for any one and every one who has experienced a relationship- a mature relationship. Tain't for kids. And it ain't just for Black folks (hence my displeasure with the title, but obviously that's my problem- I'll get over it).

Dennis' ability to get natural and true performances from his actors was incredible. I was thoroughly entertained from beginning to end. I loved, more importantly, his sequences of silence between the actors. It gave me, as the viewer, time to briefly reflect on my own experiences in relationships and I drew closer to the characters, dialog and action because of it.

So, Invisible Woman, thank you for the interview with Dennis Dortch. It was definitely insightful; gave me/us a deeper understanding of the creator of this wonderful work. I truly appreciate his comment, "Everybody may not like your film, but your job is not to please everyone. That is an elusive goal." Well I may not have liked the title but I truly loved everything else about the film.

If I might throw in a plug, if you haven't viewed or reviewed Amour Infinity, take a look at it too. We have a lot of talented Black writers, actors and directors that need our support for additional exposure.