Hollywood’s Best kept Secret, Screenwriter Jeff Schimmel

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by Okema “Seven” Gunn

Jeff Schimmel is one of Hollywood’s best kept secrets. The fact that he’s an expert at research makes him a remarkable writer. He’s written and developed many projects over the years, but he started out in comedy. Let’s take a look at what he has to say about his peculiar path to Hollywood!

1.When did you discover that you wanted to be a screenwriter?

JS: The truth is, I didn’t. My case is very unique, and probably one of the strangest you’ll ever hear about when it comes to screenwriting. I pretty much fell into the business after writing two screenplays – while I was supposed to be studying for the bar exam. I was hired to write the first script, with absolutely no experience whatsoever, and I sold the second one based on a studio’s reaction to the first one. It’s unlikely that it will happen to anyone else, and I have Rodney Dangerfield and Harold Ramis to thank for introducing me to screenwriting and working with me at the kitchen table every day. In a way, I’m envious of the people who know they want to be writers. Knowing the ropes is key, and I learned most of it the very hard way.

2.Who inspired you to become a writer with your first manuscript?

JS: Let me back up from the last question. I’m the biggest movie fan around, but especially those films from the 1930’s through the 1980’s. I love movies to the point of nausea – in other people. When I was a kid, I got caught sneaking into a theater in New York. I wanted to see “Marooned,” but my father wouldn’t give me fifty cents for the ticket. When the usher asked me why I snuck in, I told him that my favorite thing in the world was movies. He smiled and said, “Me, too. That’s why I work here.” He let me in. The funny this is, “Marooned” wasn’t all that fantastic. Oh, yeah. The question. Who inspired me? It wasn’t a who, it was a what. One night, while I was in law school, I dreamed a spy movie. I woke up, wrote down as much as I could remember, and when I was bored in class, I would daydream and fill in the blanks in the story. Through a series of ridiculous events, I ended up selling that idea to Jerry Abrams and Jerry Eisenberg. The first Jerry is J.J. Abrams’ father. When I got the check for my story, I thought to myself, “Hey, this is easy! Why do people always say it’s hard to get a break in Hollywood?”

3. What 3 things did you learn about writing that shocked you?

JS: When I was just starting out in the 80’s, nothing shocked me. Working in the entertainment industry was all so new to me, I never knew what to expect. For that reason, I just took it as it came. But now that I’ve been writing and producing for several years – nothing shocks me! Of course, that’s because I’ve come to understand that this business has to be the toughest around. So, if I hear about something happening with a project, good or bad, I’m not surprised. Hollywood is a place where great things happen to good people, good things happen to horrible people, bad things happen to awesome people, well, you understand. Just when you think you have it figured out, you’re immediately, and perhaps cosmically, reminded that you don’t. Still, working in TV and film is so exciting, so rewarding, I get excited every time I set foot on a studio lot or inside a soundstage. I’m like a child, and I think that’s a good thing. The longer you can stay young at heart, the longer you’ll last.

4. Why is comedy difficult to write and how is it different from other genres?

JS: Yes, comedy is hard. However, in my experience, everything is equally hard. I always marvel at someone like Burt Bacharach, a man who wrote literally hundreds of songs. I can’t even imagine how he does it. It must be amazing to hear music in your head and be able to arrange the notes and put them down on paper. Then, someone like Burt Bacharach walks on the set, meets a screenwriter and says, “How the hell do you come up with stories and the words people say?” It’s all work, but when I’m writing, and I’m in my zone, it’s no longer a chore. I get lost in it, and before I know it, hours have passed – and hopefully, I’m not still on the same page! Comedy isn’t easier or harder than anything else. What scares me is when people who just aren’t funny are convinced they should be writing the next Seth Rogan movie.

5: What projects have you written/produced that turned out different than expected?

JS: Wow. I feel like every one of my answers is off target. I’m not trying to be evasive, or come at this from a weird angle, but I look at things as being all kinds of grey, and not so much black and white. The rules in screenwriting might be set in stone, but the experience is fluid, almost alive and ever changing. I’m too smart to mention anything by name, so let’s just say I’ve written some TV shows that were funny at the first draft stage, but were downright tragic by the time they were taped. It’s usually a symptom of too many rewrites, which you can’t control. Then again, I produced some stuff I thought was so awful, I opened a bottle of Chinaco tequila at the taping and had a few shots during audience warm-up. That project, a comedy special, went on to get high ratings and make the network $20 million in DVD sales. As a rule, it’s the scripts you think are the best that turn out receiving the most notes, and it’s the work you did while stopped at a red light, on the way to a meeting, that is often accepted as nearly flawless. It’s essential for writers to have a sense of humor.

6.How did you get the nickname the “Doc”?

JS: When I was a kid, I used to think I wanted to be a doctor. I saw myself on that big, white medical ship, Project Hope, traveling the world to help those less fortunate. Okay, first of all, I get seasick watching “Love Boat” reruns. I’m not kidding. I’m so sensitive, I can’t watch anything that’s shot on anything other than a locked down camera or Steadicam. So, in school, my friends started calling me Dr. Schimmel. Later, when I was a pre-teen, and a huge Steve McQueen fan, I preferred that “Doc” be associated with Doc McCoy, the ultra-cool bank robber in “The Getaway.” Years later, when I earned a Doctorate in Law, the “Doc” thing resurfaced. But enough about me. If we ever meet, be sure to ask me about my devotion to Steve McQueen, and why remaking his movies is a sin.

7: How is your military duty, CIA interest, and martial arts all connected? How have they helped your writing?

JS: The military stuff is kind of an obsession with me. When I have a few months off, I like to volunteer with the Israel Defense Force, but not in a combat role. I provide logistical support. Hmm. Whatever that is. But there’s nothing quite like living on base, in crappy barracks, with really bad food, no TV, no computer or internet, no phone, no nothing, and just a few dozen paratroopers to keep you company. As for the CIA, they offered me a job when I graduated from law school, but I was too paranoid to take it. When I asked if they would ever send a fellow agent to assassinate me if I screwed up, their response was, “You watch too many movies.” They’re right, I do. The martial arts era in my early life was just catching lightning in a bottle. I persisted until I was accepted into one of the most sought after schools in the world, and I’ll always be grateful. The way all of this has helped my writing is the way anyone’s life experiences, good or bad, happy or sad, find their way onto their pages. You write what you know, and the more you experience, the more you can relate to – and the more your characters can live through you. I look at it this way. If I never got kicked in the groin by a girl I liked in junior high, I wouldn’t really be able to describe it accurately. Then again, if I had my way, I’d go back in time and skip the part where I learn how to write about being in the worst pain ever. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re writing about something you’ve never actually seen, heard, tasted, felt, or experienced, there’s an easy fix for that. It’s called research. You can never do enough.

8: How have you been able to maintain your career as a writer? Does your brother (comedian) help with some of your writing/jokes?

JS: Writing careers are like the proverbial rollercoaster. You’re up, then down, then up. If you’re lucky, you can have more ups than downs. Sadly, the longevity of a writer’s career isn’t up to the writer. No matter how hard you work, or how prolific you are, someone has to hire you or buy your work. It isn’t a 9 to 5 job, it isn’t a salaried position. Aside from talent and energy, the most important thing a writer can have is a means of dealing with the hurt of rejection. Some people laugh it off, but others, like a good friend of mine, quit. One of the best writers I’ve ever known is living in Alabama and no longer writing because he was tired of having his heart broken. If you think I’m being negative, I’m not. Just keeping it real. But you should be encouraged by this. If you’re tough and your work has merit, and you don’t give up, it can happen for you. Trust me, if a guy with no education in writing movies can have a nearly 30 year career, you can definitely do it. As for my brother, Robert, he passed away in 2010. He was a very well known comedian, and a brilliant joke writer. His talent was to come up with jokes in an instant, organically, based on what he was going through at that moment. But when it came down to sitting at a desk and working on a script, that’s where he fell off. We worked together on a few projects, but they always resulted in fights. I’m extremely OCD when it comes to my work, and he was the opposite.

9: Where is your “secret” writing place?

JS: I’ve written in libraries, I’ve had many production offices, I’ve tried it in the local Starbucks, etc. Like everyone else. Lately, I’ve been working almost exclusively in my home office. It’s a loft near the laundry room, so I know that when I put in a load of dark, I have at least 45 minutes to type. Then, when the washer stops, and I transfer the clothes to the dryer, I know I have another 45. For every load I do, I get 90 minutes of work done. It’s not the ideal system, but my wife loves it. My advice to anyone trying to focus on writing a script is to give yourself every advantage. Sitting in a loud coffee shop with fifty other people isn’t going to help with your concentration. Blasting music in my earbuds while I write isn’t something I can do, and I don’t know how others do it. Music in the room is awesome, but I need a certain amount of distance from it. Another way to get more work done is to log off Facebook, email, and have someone hide your phone. If you’re smiling at any of this, it means you know you aren’t being as productive as you could be.

10.What advice would you give an aspiring screenwriter?
JS: The best advice I could give an aspiring screenwriter, especially in Chicago, is to come to my two day seminar on July 25th and 26th. I’m not kidding. I put together a unique, completely original curriculum that will teach writers all the crucial stuff they won’t find in books, and expose them to the inside information they won’t hear from other writers or producers. People who want to be successful screenwriters need to ask themselves if their career is worth the investment of two days. I wish this class would’ve existed when I was starting out. I would’ve cried a lot less!

For more info about Jeff Schimmel and Maximum Screenwriting

Go to http://www.maximumscreenwriting.com

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Commentary With Writer/Director Kimberly Townes

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by Okema “Seven” Gunn

Kim Townes chooses her subjects carefully. So, far… she has been right on point. The films that she creates and directs paint vivid pictures, while telling complex stories. Here’s what she has to say about it.

Why did you want to become a director?
KT: Something I’ve always wanted to do is tell stories. Because I wanted to communicate, wanted to be in entertainment, sharing my craft in an adventurous form of story-telling. Where you go to school does not determine the outcome of your life. I settled on Hampton University for my college education, which became inspiring and comfortable place to be creative… “My home by the sea”. I liked Hampton University and cherished the experience of being there. During my stay, I made short films, developed/ honed my screenwriting, and experimented with camera equipment that was available from the Communications/Marketing Department. My passion already existed; it just began budding. It didn’t matter that Hampton didn’t have the latest technology or film equipment. I still learned a great deal. I like the fact that I didn’t have to compete with others. We set our own pace of learning/experimentation. There were no boundaries that existed, which allowed individual creative control and gave artists a sense of ownership of their work.

When did your love for film begin?
KT: I figured I would try at something that I loved to do. Taking mini-classes on topics of interest. I wanted to make films that were unique. I kept telling myself “ I could do this!” In this industry, one definitely has to have a pocketful of tricks. Do more than one thing. Be a Jill of All Trades. Play Multiple Hats. Act upon Multiple Talents. When I was in primary school, I wanted to tell stories. Watching television helped to encourage/feed my creative juices. Story-telling just seemed natural. It always has been a natural desire for me to express my imagination through various art forms of media.

Who inspired you?
KT: In the beginning Julie Dash and Spike Lee. Daughters of the Dust is a beautiful and poignant part of African American experience. Spike Lee is a trailblazer and a master as far as intricate storytelling is concerned. By producing his films, he has chronicles the history of Americans, cultivates a unique perspective, and generates an on-going awareness in our culture.

How do you go about the process of creating your films and bringing together cast/crew?
KT: The cast/crew makeup is different for every project. I try to pull people in that will work well with the current agenda of the project. It’s about sitting with the casting director, looking at chemistry, and seeing how each character supports one another, based on the elements of the newly-created world. You gotta get the best out of what you are working with, by selecting what can and will be the most productive, effective, and believable. Every production has its own ebb and flow.

How does Los Angeles give a background and support for what you want to accomplish?
KT: Hollywood is where it’s at. You can come out here and create your own. Many people network and grow from their move. Some people have been raised around the business. It is beneficial when your professors are in the industry. Equipment is easily accessible. L.A. is a strong marketplace and a Hub for entertainment, like sound design, special effects, etc. You have to immerse yourself into the industry and atmosphere. The weather is a positive, too. Nice and sunny most of the time.
What kind of films do you like to make or would you like to make?
KT: I like narrative driven films that are meaty. Topiary, Science-based, Science-fiction. I want every new film project to be a different level of artistry and mastery. I want to look back at each film project and see how I grew in the process.

What projects are you most proud of?
KT: The last 3 have been most impactful. “Zero” (short narrative), “Hands to the Sky” (short narrative), and “Planting Hope” (short documentary). I got “Planting Hope” on Student Grant. I could go back home, grab some wisdom, and give voice to the main sites in South Carolina. Pearl Fryar was a topiary artist. His yard was like a magical fairyland, where he sculpts bears, birds, chess pieces and messages. He also creates art from discarded objects. Love pieces-wisdom that he carries. He’s 70 and is amazing. He gave me $100 to take pictures of trees with 35mm film. He has also used his donations for Scholarships for college students. Kids don’t have resources to do these things they need to. He felt like in school that he was the kid. He put some people through school with his donations. This was most special to me.

What do you want young girls of color to know?
KT:Don’t worry about how hard or easy the work is. Life in general is hard. Do what you have to do to make things work for you. Master your craft. Keep doing what you are doing, keep working, and don’t give up or give in. Figure out how YOU are going to navigate through this life.

Tell me about your latest film “Hands to the Sky”.
KT: I wanted to direct this film because it had never been done before. A role where an African American person with Autism tells their story in a unique way. My classmate in UCLA produced and acted in this film. It was personal for him because it was about a family member. He invited me back with this family. So many stories that are needed to be told. People are always looking for heroes. You always gotta reach back. Talking to relatives and friends. Understanding that 1st diagnosis with children and adults. Going deeper into understanding. Everybody is different in how they take in information. Challenge myself from those eyes. It was a challenge and helped to grow. Desire to understand the truth. New Jersey has the highest rate of Autism.

It is such a blessing to work with such amazing actors on the project. The actors were fully invested in their roles and took the wheel on trying the make it their best. Telling such an intimate and moving story and taking charge. Campaigning, driving, and pushing to be seen. Understanding different response and opening yourself up to a different language. Opening up your heart is being vulnerable, being true to yourself can be a fulfilling experience.
List of projects and Awards:
AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS
• 2015 Black Women In Film Network
Audience Buzz Award Winner

• 2015 Pan African Film Festival
Best Narrative Short Film Nomination

• 2014 Reel Sisters of the Diaspora
Best Screenplay and Best Director Award

• 2012 HBO/ABFF Short Film Competition
Top 5 Finalist

• 2011 TIME WARNER CABLE, IFC and YOUTUBE
Short Film Contest Winner

• 2010 UCLA/BILL & MELINDA GATES
UCLA Inspiring Action Filmmaker Grant

• 2009 THE ALFRED P. SLOAN FOUNDATION
UCLA Student Film Production Fellowship

• 2009 FELICIA HENDERSON
UCLA Screenwriting Award

• 2009 EDDIE & LEW WASSERMAN
UCLA Student Film Production Fellowship – Thesis Grant

• 2008 UCLA FOUR SISTERS
UCLA Fellowship in Screenwriting, Directing and Animation

• 2006 MPAA/ UCLA
Production Grant

Chicago International Movies and Music Festival (CIMMfest) 2015

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Musician Josh Chicoine and Filmmaker Ilko Davidov decided to create a new festival that was a fusion of Movies and Music, thus CIMMfest (Chicago International Movies and Music Festival) was born. It is now in it’s 7th year. Every year filmmakers, musicians, avid moviegoers and music lovers descend upon the Chicago scene to take part in the events of the CIMMfest. This year venues include over 99+ Films and bands from around the world. It takes place around the city in places like Wicker Park and Logan Square. The CIMMfest provides filmmakers and musicians the opportunity not only to collaborate, but to showcase and share their amazing talent. Chicago is the perfect city for this festival emphasizing a different perspective of joint ventures of movies and music. CIMMfest will take place April 16-19th, 2015. Co-Founder Josh Chicoine was gracious enough to share thoughts about his collaborative venture and involvement in the festival.

1.  How do you go about planning for CIMM (Chicago International Movies and Music Festival)?

JC: Complicated question. There is planning, but with no solid protocol.  The festival has evolved every year, so having a vision for success is probably the first step.  We have been working on the Milwaukee Ave footprint concept for a few years. We started with the dates then secured venue partnerships and holds afterwards.   We then launch our call for entries in the fall and start raising monies.  Fundraising and sales is much like programming.  We cast a big net and through many filters, fits, and starts, we end up with what the festival will look like.  It’s somewhat messy and we try to limit that, but a fest like ours has numerous musical genres from all over, finding audiences and partners takes us down many avenues.  Some opportunities bear fruit and others fall away.  We have a core festival that we then add on for as long as we can – until the print deadline.  Marketing keeps up with general messaging and becomes more program-specific the closer we get to the opening.

2. When CIMM first started what was the vision?

JC: The vision is very elementary. We show music-based films, connect as much live music to the films as possible, find intersections of film and live music wherever we could and let the chips fall where they may.  The vision wasn’t very far out past that particular year.  Maybe in year 3 when things were growing and we were still alive, the vision began to grow into something akin to what it actually is today.

3. How many movies and bands originally performed at the first CIMM compared to now?

JC: Approximately 20 films and 9 bands.  It was small.  Now, there’s over 100 films, shorts, and music videos.  Over 100 bands as well as some great of panels and presentations.  Lots and lots of entertainment!

4. Why highlight Movies and Music together?

JC: My co-founder, Ilko, is in the film industry and I am a musician.  I played in bands (M’s, Sabers, Cloudbirds) over the years and Ilko is a filmmaker with a big music focus. It’s just a part of who we are.  We collaborated with projects for years before CIMMfest and he came to me with the idea.  The idea is more prevalent in Europe, but we were both surprised that there wasn’t anything like this in the US.  At least not the focus on the interconnection.  So, we did this first because no one was doing it and then the bigger ideas followed – music as the great connector of people type thing.  Those bigger ideas are the ones that continue to drive the mission and spirit of everyone involved with CIMMfest.  The market has changed such that there’s a lot of innovation happening in that shared space, especially live.  3D Video mapping and live scoring to film is exciting to bands and we are a big platform for that stuff.  It’s a way of differentiating the festival and giving some focus programatically.  There are many opportunities and festivals in Chicago, but nothing like CIMMfest.

5.How can young people get involved in the CIMM?

JC: volunteer!  we have student passes and special priced tickets at http://cimmfest.org available as well.

Selma: Summary and Review

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By Okema “Seven” Gunn

“Selma” engenders a unique and empowering glimpse of wonderful storytelling about the events and details surrounding the Voting Act of 1965. This must see movie yields a more illuminating account of the marches on Selma and major players and contributors of history. This biopic film commences with a close-up of Dr. King (David Oyewolo) preparing for his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize Speech in Stockholm, while speaking intimately with wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo). I can only imagine that writer Paul Webb wished to portray the humility of King by rendering his appearance vulnerable, familiar, and authentic among audiences, since King has often been canonized as an icon of the Civil Rights Movement. Other eye-opening beginning sequences include: the persistent denial of voting rights to activist Annie Lee Cooper (played by Oprah Winfrey), who fills out a form, which was repudiated. Even though she was abreast of political knowledge of her county, the registrar denies Annie’s application claiming that she can’t recite all 67 county judges. The next sequence depicts the 16th Street Baptist Church incident in Birmingham, Alabama, where African American children chatted briefly. Subsequently, 4 little girls are killed after a bomb explodes within the basement church. This particular event has been regarded as a major turning point for the Civil Rights Movement also contributing to the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The scenes convey great imagery creating a racially charged, transitional Jim Crow South as a backdrop; however, these particular opening scenes were not developed in real chronological order as the events in history unfolded.


“Selma” serves as a compelling chronicle, which magnifies long-standing tension, racial inequality, and brutality embedded within the fabric of the United States. While federal law decreed all men and women possessed the right to vote, local and state government prevented citizens from voting without any rebuttal or argument. How could a country that claimed that it was fighting for democracy, send black troops to be slaughtered in Vietnam, while back at home these same individuals were not respected as citizens nor were they honored for their valor? In 1964, civil liberties were still being denied, the same as they had been for generations.
Our story develops as Dr. King urges President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) to uphold the enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, stating that blacks had still been refused the right to vote by de facto law (informal practices) and also physically violated/killed. He propositions Johnson to help pass legislation protecting blacks as they go to the polls to vote. Johnson acknowledges King’s request, but states that his hands are tied and that he has a lot on his plate like the Vietnam War. Johnson tells King that he has “bigger fish to fry” and asks him to be patient until the can get a handle on other national issues that take more precedent. Dr. King and other activists become irritated by Johnson’s lackadaisical concern to the Voting Rights issue. They begin planning for a strategic counter-response by garnering support from other advocates and civil rights groups.


King converses with SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) exploring numerous non-violent actions and strategies for protests. The collaboration causes a rift among the young activists of SNCC, spearheaded by James Forman (Trai Byers) and John Lewis (Stephan James). Dr. King makes a trip to Selma with activists, Andrew Young (Andre Holland), Ralph Abernathy (Coleman Domingo), James Orange (Omar Dorsey), and Diane Nash (Tessa Thompson). The group meets to talk about plans with (DVCL) Dallas County Voters League, Rev. James Bevel(Common) and other civil rights activists from SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) including Hosea Williams(Wendell Pierce) and Amelia Boynton (Lorraine Toussaint). While signing into a hotel, one of the white male guests assaults King in the lobby. Johnson hears of the event and proceeds carefully, not wishing to make Dr. King more of a martyr for the movement than he already appears to be. President Johnson conferences with J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker) about how to handle Dr. King. Hoover recommends a more strategic approach to trigger tension in the King household. Coretta receives disturbing phone calls and a tape that suggests that Dr. King has met with other women on his trips. She confronts him about her reservations about his fidelity. Later, he calls Mahalia Jackson (Ledisi Young) to pray and sing him a spiritual hymn to calm his anxiety.


During a gathering at Selma, black citizens assembled peaceably at the county courthouse. Protesters kneel down with their hands behind their heads. Annie assaults Sherriff Clark (Stan Houston) for beating down an elderly protester, Cager Lee (Henry G. Sanders). She is beaten down by police officers and thrown in jail along with other protesters with Dr. King. While in prison Coretta speaks to Amelia and is paid a visit by Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch), who offers her a source of support and comfort. Coretta speaks softly to her husband in jail, but he expresses his disdain for the likes of a militant Malcolm X, reminding Coretta that he called King an updated version of an “Uncle Tom”. After protesters are released, they participate in a night march. George Wallace (Tim Roth) and local officials planned an ambush of the protesters, police beating them and threw tear gas. During this night protest in Marion, Alabama, an unarmed protester, Jimmie Lee Jackson, the grandson of Cager Lee, (Keith Stanfield) dies in a restaurant after a state trooper shoots him in cold blood. Dr. King visits Cager Lee in the morgue offering continual support, furthermore, promising to continue what Jimmie Lee stood for.


King delivers a riveting speech, which addresses the deaths of John F. Kennedy and Malcolm X. He affirms that Jimmie Lee Jackson did not die in vain; that an unrelenting struggle would ensue until the voices of the people would be heard. Dr. King continues to get threats, especially pertaining to his children.
On March 7, 1965, Hosea Williams, Amelia Boynton, John Lewis and a few activists lead a peaceful protest march from Selma to Montgomery (approx. 600 people). Police tell marchers to turn back. They refuse. Tear gas is thrown and protesters are brutally beaten with police batons. The event becomes known throughout history as “Bloody Sunday”. The televised event swells into a National and International controversy. Gov. Wallace and Pres. Johnson become outraged trying to quell media frenzy and embarrassment. After this protest, King makes a call to white clergy sympathizers and other civil rights supporters to aid in the next march.


This second march on Selma, March 9, 1965, was known as “Turn Around Tuesday” lead by King. Protesters arrived at the Edmund Pettus Bridge unharmed. King decided not to continue a full march over the bridge, being cautious about the safety of protesters. He lead the group of 2500 back to the church, but was under scrutiny about the lack of action he took directly after the march. That night white protesters were beaten and one white minister from Boston, James Reeb, was murdered by two racist white men. The media is outraged and once again, the news of injustice has spread quickly.


Finally, In the case of Williams v. Wallace ( March 1965), Judge Frank Minis Johnson, Jr. grants the petition to the people to assemble freely, and orders Gov. George Wallace to permit the Selma to Montgomery march to take place, which was organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), (DCVL) and (SNCC). Black protestors crowd and picket near the gate at the White House. Johnson finally bolsters a strong front against Wallace while in a private meeting inquiring, “Oh. Why won’t you let the Niggers vote?” He realizes how inflexible Gov. Wallace has become. Johnson explained that he didn’t want to be on the wrong side of history. After wearing Wallace down with a barrage of talking points and opinions, known as the “The Treatment”, federal troops are allowed to come in to Alabama providing protestors protection for the third march from Selma to Montgomery. A few days, after the meeting with Gov. Wallace, on March 15, 1965, Pres. Johnson introduced a bill to a session in Congress. This bill turned into the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the televised proposal of the Bill, Johnson states “The Negro cause must be our cause, too, because it is not just Negroes but really it is all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.” The third and final march takes place from, March 21 to March 25, starting from Selma and ending at the steps of the capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama.


In the final scenes, protestors come from all around to participate in the March from Selma to Montgomery without upheaval from authorities. A montage is shown of scenes from the film along with original pictures and footage from the original marches. Once King arrives at the steps of the capital of Montgomery, he delivers another unforgettable speech. “How long will it take (for justice to prevail)? How long? Not long.” In closing, there are also brief summaries of what happened to specific persons in the film that played a vital role in the movement. Final scenes and credits are overlayed with the Original Song “Glory”. Overall, the film sheds light on a vital time in the history of our country, by serving as a great reference point, and a critical lens for future generations to rely upon. 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the Voting Act of 1965.
The star-studded cast of Selma includes, but limited to: Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr, David Oyewolo, Common, Niecy Nash, Wendell Pierce, Martin Sheen, Giovanni Ribisi, Tim Roth, Tom Wilkinson, and a host of others. Cinematographer Bradford Young captures the landscape beautifully as the marchers walk over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in all three events, specifically on the second march during “Bloody Sunday.”



Ava has to her directing credits “Kinyarwanda (2011), “The Middle of Nowhere “(2012), and “Scandal” TV Series Episodes (2013), and a few other shorts and documentaries. For Selma, she was the first African American woman director nominated for a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award. Ava Duvernay and David Oyewolo team up again for an extremely devoted endeavor for “Selma”. The two met in “The Middle of Nowhere” (2012). David’s credits also include the Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), Lincoln (2012), The Paperboy (2012), high praise for depicting character Louis Gaines in The Butler (2013), and Interstellar (2014). He was nominated for a Golden Globe, Critics Choice Award, Independent Spirit Award, NAACP Award, and countless others for Best Actor for 2014 for his role in “Selma”. It’s a shame that both DuVernay and Oyewolo were not nominated for 2015 Oscars. Thus far,“Glory” won for Best Original Song for the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards. “Selma” is also nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Song at the 87th Academy Awards. “Selma” is produced by Cloud Eight Films, Harpo Films, Plan B Entertainment and distributed by Paramount Pictures.

2015 List of Oscar Nominations

Seven Says……I’m so excited that they announced the Oscar Nominations! Looking forward to the “Road to the Oscars”. There are quite a few films to look at for critique and analysis. Good Luck to all of our nominees and congratulations to the great productions that did not make the list. YOU are winners too!

HERE is the link to the 2015 Oscar Nominees! (by Award Show News)

http://nominations2015.com/oscar-nominations-2015/

Seven Says

I scribbled something on a piece of paper today and shoved it into my pocket; then showed it to my co-worker….This is what it said. “I stopped writing for a while…consistently…and I ached all over. It almost darn near killed me. No can do again. It doesn’t matter now whether someone wants to steal my work….not meant for me to hide my light under a bushel, but shine my light before men…and women. It doesn’t matter whether I’m depressed or marooned on an island….I can’t let the words escape from me. I can write my name in the sand with a stick or write them with my finger on rolling clouds in the sky. My words disappear being whisked away by a slight gentle breeze. It’s who I am.  Dying would be not writing at all or never being able to write again. I’ve decided it. I’m sure of it….

X MEN: Days of Future Past (2014) Review

X-men

X Men: Days of Future Past. This story was created with a collaboration of Jane Goldman, Simon Kinberg, and Matthew Vaughn, with Kinberg writing the screenplay. Directing by Bryan Singer. This is an adaptation from the (Alternate Universe) or Marvel Mulitverse comic book series of Stan Lee by the same name. The movie details are slightly altered from the original conception. The story of the X Men has evolved, developing many subplots and character analysis along the way. Now, rules of space and time no longer apply. We are in a world where changing futures and pasts are possible. This leaves history wide open…….ripe and for the taking.

A future dystopia has occurred where mutants are being hunted. Wolverine, Storm, Kitty Pryde, Professor X, Magneto, Iceman, Bishop, Colossus, Sunspot, Warpath and Blink  are all that exist as the last of a dying breed of mutants. Wolverine is assigned to a mission that he may never recover from. He is the only one who is able to heal from the possible bodily damage and trauma that could be incurred by his journey to the past. Kitty Pryde teleports his mind to the past and must remain steadfast as his protector.

While Wolverine’s conscious is teleported back into 1973, the mutants still rage on against the killing machines called Sentinels, in the future. A mad scientist from the 1970’s, Bolivar Trask, has created and programmed adaptable, indestructible mutant-killers to eliminate any traces that the X Men ever existed. Wolverine must convince a young Professor X and a belligerent Magneto to stop the termination of this particular scientist. Beast (Hank McCoy) and Quicksilver (Peter Maximoff) help Wolverine and Professor X (Charles Xavier) break Magneto (Erik Lehnsherr) out of the Pentagon, who is also in solitary for supposedly killing JFK.

The possible assassination of Trask sets into motion an apocalyptic war with mutants fighting for their very lives in a bleak and gloomy future. Wolverine’s past and future are fused together as he recreates history. His mind is joggled eventually as he moves in and out of consciousness remembering moments of traumatic adamantium evolution with Colonel Stryker.

There must be a way to stop the elimination of the X Men! Things don’t go as well as planned and somehow Magneto and Mystique have their own agenda…. their own way about how things should turn out. President Nixon is tired of fighting (The Vietnam War), but is reluctant to get involved in any impending wars, until there is a fight among the mutants that the public witnesses at the Paris Peace Accords of 1973. Because of this upheaval, Nixon is convinced to sign off on the approval of the Sentinel program. Mystique must decide once and for all who she is and what she is fighting for. Her DNA holds the key to what could send both the Days of Future and Past crashing down forever.

Action. Suspense. Plot. Watcher’s Beware! You should have some prior knowledge of X Men history or bring a friend along to explain a few details. Overall, I thought the film was very entertaining, cinematic, and I cared about the characters enough to get involved. P.S. Don’t forget the ending after the credits. The next X Men (Apocalypse) comes out in May 2016! Until then….. I‘ll be waiting…. Yes!

Actors and Actresses: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen Page, Nicholas Hoult, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Patrick Stewart, Kelsey Grammar, Anna Paquin

 

 

 

Descriptors of Life:Words

book imagewriter

 

by Okema  “Seven” Gunn

I cannot breathe without notebook and pen,
I hold my breath and count to ten,
I live to write, about simple things
The greatest joy that words can bring.

I wish I may, I wish I might
It is my gift. It is my right!

When I was young,
My first craze was to look upon a book and gaze.
I’ve been to cities in Senegal, China, Italy,
Belgium, Canada, Panama, and Belize;
Climbed mountains, swam oceans,
ran beaches to catch the breeze.

I write about film, and love and life,
I write about obstacles, hardships, and strife,
I’ll write about dogs, cats, fish and birds,
I’ll write about anything in other words…

I’m passionate with words I can declare!
A long-standing love….a great affair.
Unstoppable, Unshakeable, Unbreakable bond.
The Essence of the best….Yes! Beau monde.

While I boast of this kinship, fraternity…..this way.
This friendship is not to be taken lightly…
No not today!

I can never see a world without adverbs, adjectives, and nouns…
Descriptors of life…
Sight, smell, touch and sounds.
I fear that my books will suddenly disappear…
My old-school thinking tossed to the rear.

An uncertain future of computers and machines…
My words must connect with real people if ya know what I mean.
A new world emerges ….a strange embrace….Facebook, youtube, and Twitter
In yo’ face!

I’ll hold onto my books and my old way.
Handle with care. Mend pages and binding with fray.
I’ll smile and hug my old friends taking on the new.
I have to change, catchup. It’s all I can do!

Finally…I can vividly..remember when it first began
My love affair with words…
My right Hand man.

 

 

A Man of Versatility

HaroldDennis1

Raw Talent. Consistency. Technique. Determination. These are only a few words that describe the attributes of an actor that I have had the pleasure of witnessing in action. I’m talking about veteran actor          Harold Dennis.

His passion for acting has driven him to set high standards and expectations for excellence in the film industry. Every role he touches……. he strives to connect with in an extraordinary way . And he does just that.

One afternoon, he was gracious enough to share his warm up techniques with me and how he goes about transforming words and dialogue, making them come to life. He wants you to see what he sees.

For example, in the film “Pieces of a Dream”, Dennis demonstrates through his character, the fragility of a soul of a man wanting to change. He plays a priest that is accused of having sexual contact with 5 boys. Dennis also uncovers the deepest levels of the human psyche, where the character finds his inner most demons emerging.

In the film “Adia”, he establishes control as the abusive husband of a 14 year old girl, where he is several years her senior.  This performance is both chilling and insightful; a snapshot of another culture;  taking  the page out of the life of a young Nigerian girl, who enters into an arranged marriage.      Dennis’s harsh  demeanor is so believable that he strikes a nerve, arousing true gritty emotion from his audience.

In the short film, “A Better End”, he plays a man on the brink of losing his mental stability. The end of desperation, a dark perspective his character expresses in front of a live audience of innocent bystanders. This emotionally charged performance quickly builds, peaking at a high level of intensity. In this remarkable role, Dennis exposes the ugly truth of the existence and mental state of a broken man.

“The Forgotten West” is a historical drama short. Harold conveys a lieutenant begging the question of the importance of the soldiers on a particular mission and why they are fighting in a war that is forgotten, a land where the pioneers have risked everything to be free. Manifest Destiny is calling….the open west.

And finally, “Dark and Quiet: The Execution of Trayvon Martin”, which was inspired by true events. This is the story of a teen that was killed in Florida with the occurrence involving “the stand your ground law.” Harold Dennis shows great progression of emotion and skill by giving a vivid interpretation of a father who has lost a son due to an unforeseen act of violence.

But this is not the end, my friends. Dennis has to his credit over 150 film projects, including features, shorts, commercials, infomercials, music videos, etc. Working in the industry for 17 years with 14 years spent in various types of training and acting classes gives him a great advantage. Harold is always evolving, perfecting his craft, laying down the path to be able to expand his opportunities for growth, while showcasing his depth of characters.

A few points that I can take away from meeting this man of many admirable traits: charm, charisma, humility, motivation, persistence, momentum, peeling-back-layers, and confidence. Dennis proves he is a commanding presence with whomever he collaborates and whatever challenges he takes on…….. he pulls his energy from life, jumping into his characters with full force. His dynamic ability to re-create characters is unparalleled. Dennis knows how to transform pages into life and does it with ease by embracing his natural versatility. I look forward to seeing much more from this distinguished actor….. this man of many faces …..Mr. Harold Dennis.

To see more of his work go to www.imdb.com/name/nm1815557
And follow him on Twitter @99filmsonthewal

Article written by Okema “Seven”Gunn,    photo by LaDonna Raeh Robinson

86th Academy Awards- Oscar Night

oscars.jpg Oscar Night! Check it Out!

Thank you to all my followers for your patience. Here are my Oscar picks for 2014.

I am casting my Oscar Ballot for the categories that I feel I am able to accurately assess and critique. Enjoy! from Writer7G

Best Picture

12   Years a Slave

Actor in A Leading Role

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

Actress in A Leading Role

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine

Supporting Actor in a Leading Role

Jared Leto in the Buyers Club

Supporting Actress in A Leading Role

Lupita Nyongo in 12 Years a Slave

Cinematography

Gravity

Animated Feature Film

Frozen

Directing

Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave

Costume Design

The  Great Gatsby

Makeup and Hairstyling

Dallas   Buyers Club

Film Editing

Gravity

Visual Effects

Gravity

Production Design

The Great Gatsby

Writing, Original Screenplay

Blue   Jasmine

Writing, Adapted Screenplay

12 Years   a Slave

Music, Original Song

“Ordinary   Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Thor: The Dark World

Thor

A full cast of Chris Hemsworth, Renee Russo, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins,  Tom Hiddleston, Idiris Elba, and many more. This action-packed, Marvel Studios Blockbuster (sequel)  lived up to its hype. Asgard is in danger and it is up to  Thor to find a solution. He must fight the Dark Elves,  stopping them from destroying Asgard and  the rest of the 9 Realms, including earth.

The characters had depth. Thor and Loki’s relationship played a vital role in the development of this story. The Dark World was more than I expected and better than the first installment. Loki was a key ingredient to the storyline. Tom Hiddleston continues to play the heck outta this role. Can’t wait to see what’s next!  I wasn’t surprised at the ending though. Clever to leave the film open-ended.

Last Vegas

Last Vegas

What can I say? Robert Deniro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Klein. This award winning cast joins together for a comedy. A last hurrah for Michael Douglas’s character, who is about to marry a woman half his age. The journey takes us through the long-standing relationship of 4 old friends and the unresolved issues that have kept them divided. The truth bubbles to the surface as the wedding day approaches.

I thoroughly enjoyed the quick pace, clever and timely insert of comedy. I would recommend this film to anyone, but I think that thirty and older would probably get the jokes better than a younger crowd. CBS put out a quality film and hopefully it will pay off in the end.

The Counselor

The-Counselor-2013-Movie-

Director Ridley Scott directs this blood-smeared, gritty thriller set in Juarez, Mexico. This wonderful cast of actors and actresses helps to bring horror and realism to the story. I kept wringing my hands at Micheal Fassbender (The Counselor). His inability to act aggressively and decisively costs everyone around him their lives. Be forewarned, this is a story of love, but not in a good way. Romance, greed, violence, and vanity is what pushes the wheel to go. This fast paced thriller is not for the weak of stomach! Brad Pitt’s character is sly, yet unable to resist his temptations.  It is humanity and character flaws that eventually leads to their untimely demise. Cameron Diaz gives a magnificent performance as Javier Bardem’s jealous, sexy, bizarre, hardened, unyielding, and relentless wife.

The puppet who pulls the strings earns their keep by ruining lives of everyone he/she touches and all without guilt. This movie had me screaming! I have to say;it is raunchy, yet I liked how Brad Pitt’s character knew that his day was coming.  What an exit it was! I went to this movie with my mom, we were screaming and so was the other women in our row! If you have a weak stomach for blood and violence….. Beware. This movie is definitely a discussion piece. The kind of films I like  still make you shudder hours after the show has ended. This would be one of those….

Gravity 3D

Gravity 3D

This is a 3D SciFi Thriller written, produced, and edited by Alfonso Cuaron. Sandra Bullock stars with George Clooney in this breathtaking, magical story of space and time. One woman’s journey among stars and planets and her obstacles coming home.  Sandra Bullock’s character (Dr. Ryan Stone), Mission Specialist, copes while an International Space station is destroyed and incoming debris presents challenges for her mission. Somehow, Stone finds strength of character after a ghost gives her counsel on how to return back to earth. She uses her resources cleverly although obviously inexperienced.

There are many things that caught my attention during this film. The cinematography, simplistic story (not too much), and character growth. George Clooney’s character (Lt. Matt Kowalski) asks Dr. Stone where is home she replies. “Lake Zurich, Illinois”. I love this.  Cuaron definitely gets points for the Illinois reference! ( I was born and raised in Illinois)    🙂

Pullman Porter Blues

Pullman Porter Blues

A dramatically driven historical musical comedy with a fresh look at the account of a Pullman Porter family in June of 1937. It takes place on the Panama Limited train beginning in Chicago and ending in New Orleans. During the trip the passengers experience the Joe Louis/James Braddock heavyweight championship fight. This spirited story tells of Gospel, segregation, African-American family history, the Black Pullman Union, the Chicago Defender, and much more.

This is an emotionally driven tale of the African-American people, which brings insight into a critical time period in history. It explained the intricacies of relationships of workers and passengers on the Panama Limited. My great great grandfather was a Pullman Porter. I believe that this definitely was a story that needed to be told. A story of struggle, resilience, endurance, and courage of a people and how the country responded as such. It’s a must see!

War Room: Movie Review

the-war-room

War Room provides an in-depth look at what happens when people pray. Elizabeth Jordan and her husband Tony have great jobs. He’s into selling pharmaceuticals, she’s into real estate. They have a daughter and a great home. But Elizabeth starts to realize all that glitters is not gold. Her marriage is deteriorating and it’s effecting everything around her including how her daughter feels about the family. Elizabeth takes on a new client, Ms. Clara.
While trying to sell her home, Ms. Clara shows Elizabeth all the rooms in the house. But she leaves the best one for last. Her prayer room. This is the room where Ms. Clara has done all of her prayer over the years. She has introduced this “War Room” to Elizabeth in hopes that she will use prayer and ask God for intercession with her husband and home life. Tony is up to no good… and the devil is alive and lurking in the midst. What will Elizabeth do? She must fight for her family and make sacrifices that are necessary in order to save her family.
In its second week at the Box Office “War Room” came in at the #1 spot with around $9 million dollars. This is the fifth film by the Kendrick brothers. They are also known for successes for Courageous and Fireproof. I have heard several stories about a prayer room. But never a “War Room” before. In the Bible it does talk about laying your burdens before God and praying in secret. It makes perfect sense.
I am very encouraged by this film because I have hope for Christian films and have seen that quality films are being made and becoming very successful. I thought the concept of the “War Room” was great. The story about the War Room is one of encouragement for not just African Americans, but for ALL people. This film was humorous, yet dealt with real issues that families deal with on a daily basis. Overall, I would give this film 3.5 stars out of 5.
Ephesians 6:12 King James Version (KJV)
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

2 Chronicles 20:17New King James Version (NKJV)
17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you.”

Review: Ant-Man

By Okema “Seven” Gunn

ant-man

Ant Man is a sci-fi superhero action film that is part of the 12th “Marvel Cinematic Universe”. Paul Rudd takes up the helm as Scott Lang, the mischievous Tech thief. Lang’s claim to fame was pulling off one of the biggest heists in history. Lang steals the Ant-man suit from billionare, scientist Dr. Hank Pym (an ex-SHIELD compatriot). Lang is put through a trial to see if he has what it takes to be Ant-Man. Afraid of the suit, Lang returns it to the house where he broke into. The police arrive and Lang goes to jail once more. Pym gives Lang an ultimatum…. stay in jail or use the suit to escape.

Eventually, Dr. Pym (Michael Douglas) uses Scott Lang, turning him into a good guy via the Ant-man suit. Dr. Pym and his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), train Lang to help them take down Darren Cross (Corey Stroll), infiltrate Cross Industries, and destroy the plans for Project Yellow Jacket. Scott Lang gathers his team of vagabonds and thieves (T.I., Michael Pena, David Dastmalchian) to assist Dr. Pym and Hope, to save the world from the secret of the Pym particle getting into the wrong hands .

Small points of Interest-

1. Who is Ant- Man in Marvel Comics? I hadn’t really heard too much about Ant-Man until now. Maybe they tucked him away for such a time as this. In the film, he is associated with trying to steal from the Avengers. Segway into next film…Falcon (Anthony Mackie) will be looking for Ant-Man…

2. He’s Single Sexy and Smart. Scott Lang has a Masters in Electrical Engineering and specifically chosen by Dr. Pym. He’s divorced and trying to prove to his little girl that he can be a great dad. Ant-man has met his match with Hope Van Dyne, too.

3. Cool Ant-Man Suit…. and boy Michael Douglas; you look great after what you’ve been through. The power and determination behind the suit is ability to be a leader among the ants. Pym (Douglas) developed the suit and used it to spy on the USSR during the Cold War. Consequently, Hank Pym’s wife, Maria (Wasp) was killed when she went subatomic to try to stop a nuclear missile from entering US soil. From then on he never stopped researching to try to find a way to get her back. Learning to shrink and grow is a skill that the wearer of the suit must master. It’s about life or death. But, once you shrink to the subatomic level….you are lost for eternity……

Overall, Ant-Man delivers. I would give it 4 stars out of 5. The plot is simple to the point, entertaining, and action packed without too much divergence. Characters are clearly defined and relevant. Great graphics and special effects, with the right amount of humor. As always stick around after the credits for defining moments for the sneak peek for the next film where Ant-Man will appear!

This film was Distributed by Walt Disney Studios in conjunction with Marvel Studios. Directed by Peyton Reed. Special guest appearance by Stan Lee. Running Time 117 minutes. Release date July 17, 2015.

*This is the original article by Okema “Seven” Gunn*

Interview With Playwright: Lydia Diamond

Lydia Diamond

Lydia Diamond’s phenomenal work shines through, but not without hard work and years of dedication. She has a critical, yet witty analysis of the world and her collection of memories. “Stick Fly” is no exception to the rule. In this play, she peels back layers of her characters and exposes them bare bones. The audience gets a clear glimpse of the reason and motivation, the ‘what makes him or her tick’. Pure genius with the interweaving of  individual African-American perspectives and conflict; while addressing cultural and emotional collective psyche.

1. When did you know you wanted to become a playwright?
I didn’t know right away that I wanted to ‘be’ a playwright. I considered myself an actor and wanted to write roles that I’d enjoy playing. Funny, flawed, complicated, contemporary black women.

2. Who has inspired you on your journey? Family and other artists?
I am so fortunate to have been well supported and mentored through the years. First of course there is my mother, who has cheered me on, and come to every play, from grade school on. Then there are the many mentors and colleagues along the way… Chuck Smith for instance, this kind man and talented director who is committed to mentoring young artists, through the years he has taught me so much. He directed my first play at a Regional theatre (The Gift Horse at the Goodman, in 2001). And of course, he directed the first production of Stick Fly. I won’t name all of the others, I can only leave some out. But I have been well brought up by friends, family, and colleagues and it has made all of the difference.

3. Where did you begin your education in developing characters and building worlds?
My first playwriting teacher was Charles (not to be confused with Chuck) Smith, the wonderful playwright, who was my playwriting professor at Northwestern University when I was an undergraduate. I don’t know that I’d have learned that I have a facility for the craft were it not for him. He gave me the foundation for making plays, on which I’ve built anything and everything else I’ve ever written.

4. What works have you done lately that led to “Stick Fly”? Inspiration for this play?

Well, Stick Fly has been around for so many years, that between writing it and now, I have been busy. Since Stick Fly there have been many others. Voyeurs de Venus (first produced while we were putting up Stick Fly – It won the Joseph Jefferson award for best play that year), An adaptation of Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” for Steppenwolf for Young Adults, Harriet Jacobs, also for Steppenwolf, and most recently Smart People.

I’m not sure that’s the answer you were looking for here’s a shorter version:

I was inspired to write Stick Fly while working on another play. I wanted to try my hand at a “well-made play” a traditional play, and I wanted to laugh and sort of escape the research I was doing for the other play that was deeply depressing. That other play was Voyeurs de Venus, and it is one of my favorites.

5. How would you describe “Stick Fly”?
I would call Stick Fly a comedy/drama about an a family who spends a weekend at their home on Martha’s Vineyard… and exciting stuff happens! The marketing people do that better…. but it’s definitely a play full of laughs, tears, and revealed secrets.

6. What specific character can you relate to the most and why?
There’s a little bit of me in all of my characters. Taylor is the character who some years ago I most identified with. Now I’m really understanding Kimber better, and now that my son is getting older, I have more compassion for Joe. But yeah, I’m in all of them.

What are pros and cons of Broadway vs. Off-Broadway? (In your opinion)
Having been raised in Chicago, it’s a hard question to answer. Chicago is a town that values the art above the venue. First of all, there are no Broadway cons. It’s an honor to be able to have had a play produced there, and it’s the same with off-broadway. A production is a production, you hope for talented people who bring the talent and not the drama, you hope that you’ll all make something beautiful together, and you hope that audiences will appreciate what you have made. The rest is just real-estate. I suppose that if I had to critique any of it, I’d say that the American Theatre still needs to figure out how to put on plays that represent the racial, economic, and sexual diversity that makes our country what it is. Right now theatre, particularly in the more established houses, can look very homogenous. I’m happy to see that changing…it could change faster.

7. Is it still difficult to be an African American playwright? Is there more tolerance to blacks and females in the theater, now?
It’s difficult to be a playwright, period. It’s challenging to be a person of color in this country that still has so many racial issues, and denies that it does so vigorously. Theatre is no different. It’s gotten a little better, but if you look at the statistics for who gets productions in this country, the reality is still very grim for women of color, and women in general.

8. Where do you go when you create? (Your own writing space)
Right now I have a specific table, near an outlet, at the Starbucks on Sherman Avenue in Evanston. I also have a nice spot at the bar at the restaurant Farm House in Evanston. (it has electricity too, good fries, and if I’ve had a good a day of writing, it’s nice to have a glass of wine at the end of the day.) I do have an office at home, but I find that if I try to write there I get too easily distracted, and tend to feel a little confined.

*This interview is by the original author Okema “Seven” Gunn*

Straight Outta Compton: Movie Review

 

straight_outta_compton_800_2015_0When I was a student at Hampton University in the late 90’s, I went to the Student Council Building and met Dr. Dre. He had signed a piece of paper that I had taken out of my backpack. I told him it was for my brother and to tell him to not give up and stay in school. I don’t know where that piece of paper is today, but I’ll never forget how he was when I saw him. I think he had just come back from Africa. He looked as if he had already lived 2 lifetimes. I had remembered that he was a part of NWA (Niggaz Wit’ Attitudes), which was one of the most influential groups of American culture.
“Straight Outta Compton” begins with Eric “Easy E” Wright trying to escape from a drug deal gone bad. He’s running from the law…and running to stay alive. A young Dre was looking for something better for his life and had great vision about the kind of music that he wanted to do as a DJ. Fed up with his monotonous, R&B slow-jam DJ job, Dre decided to meet up with Ice Cube and Easy E to join a group. MC Ren and DJ Yella joined the group also in 1986-87. They made their own label called “Ruthless Records” and created a single called “Boys in the Hood”.
These young boys were determined to change their fate and knew that if they stayed in Compton they would never make it. A man named Jerry Heller found NWA and signed them to Priority Records exposing them to the tour life and other promotions, while taking them on a ride by seducing them with lavish parties, big concerts, and women. Under Jerry’s management, NWA creates their first album “Straight Outta Compton”.
NWA gets threats from the government and the police for playing the song “F*** the Police”. This song generated a major media frenzy and outraged the authorities. The song was created by NWA because of the unwarranted disrespect by the police toward people of color. Later, Ice Cube became restless with “Ruthless and Priority” Records for not giving him and the other artists their due share of royalties. Not long afterwards, Dr. Dre follows suit leaving NWA and creating Death Row Records.
Suge Night the “Bully”, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, Warren G, The D.O.C. and Bone Thugs N Harmony come into the picture at crucial points in this NWA narrative. When Easy E finds that he has HIV it’s not long after that they must say their goodbye’s to an old friend…..
When the smoke has cleared Ice Cube and Dre begin again on a long journey of self-discovery, reflection, and recreation…..looking back on all they had accomplished and changed the lives of millions. NWA had just started out as young boys that wanted to make a better life for themselves and their families, to take a stand for civil rights and freedom of speech. Although, NWA was considered violent by some because of their emotionally charged lyrics. However, they stood for realism, creativity, and self-expression representing a people that had been ignored, victimized, and highly oppressed. NWA decided nothing was going to stop NWA from telling the world the truth.
“Straight Outta” the story line points
1. Who knew that some black kids out of Compton would go platinum and sell millions of records?

2. Observing the story was like reliving the past. I remembered where I was when certain events happened. Many lives were lost due to violence and ignorance. There are lessons to be learned from this. Yes. But black lives are still being lost and mistreated. So what have we accomplished? NWA’s words are still poignant today. We are still revisiting these issues. Police violence and brutality, humiliation of minorities…when will it end? Civil Rights violations of every kind….

3. We must remember who we are. Telling the truth isn’t easy. Standing up for what’s right and being who you are will make you better. What if there was no NWA? The face of Hip Hop would have been different. There is a long legacy of music to reflect upon, the culture was contagious. Eric Wright died from Aids. This was the beginning for many of a long struggle for this disease. He made us all aware that there are consequences for even the people that we love and look up to. The rules are the same. Aids does not discriminate of creed or color.
To date Ice Cube has written and performed several platinum albums, acted and done music for TV, movies, commercials, produced and directed many projects.
Dr. Dre has also written, produced, and performed several platinum albums, as well as finding/creating platinum and gold artists, and becoming the first African American male billionaire with his audio technology “Beats”.

by Seven “Okema” Gunn

Terminator Genysis Review

Terminator: Genisys
Terminator-Genisys-Poster-Movie-2015-Free-DownloadGenisys means “the Beginning”, where it all began. James Cameron takes us to a time where machines run the world. It’s quite terrifying. The film begins in the future with human soldiers John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance and Kyle Rees, 2nd in command (Aussie actor, Jai Courtney). The revolution is almost over…..a possible flawless victory for all humanity. But wait, something happened. The Time is altered. Kyle Rees must go back, but it is not the place that he was told would be there. Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) is different. There’s a twist in the plot. Everything as they know it is turned upside down and backwards… Skynet represents something different now and is one large step ahead of our protagonists! You don’t have to be well-versed in terminator verbage to know how complex this story is.

A few technical points-
The Machines and technology. Arnold Schwartzennegger’s character is revisited time and time again. This time he is an older model that comes to protect Sarah Conner in a varied and altered timeline. She calls him, “Pops” the T-800. I get used to Pops as a father figure for Sarah Conner and a voice of reason in the chaotic makeup of altered events. Also T-800 vs. T-1000 are at odds over humanity. I find it fascinating that the machines are fighting each other for our survival….

terminator-genisysTerminator-Genisys-Poster-Movie-2015-Free-Download.pngTerminator-Genisys-Poster-Movie-2015-Free-Download
Timelines. I saw all Terminator movies, I was a little confused about when and how the machines went back. It was a lot to take in at once, especially if you have not seen all of them from the beginning. However, I was mind-blown about the depths that they went to change to outcome of this story and intertwine characters fates. Now, the story can go on forever….
Relationships and casting. Sarah Connor’s character seemed a bit young compared to the Sarah Conner of the first terminator. If she was raised by the terminator, why wasn’t she more buff and chiseled. If I was raised by a machine, I would probably have about 2% fat on me. She was a good size, just seemed too young for her counterpart Kyles Rees. It just didn’t make sense. Sometimes sons and daughters are bigger than their parents, but both Kyle and Sarah were shorter in stature and physique than John Connor…it appeared.

Overall, I enjoyed the film, but some things I had to go back and research because it went over my head. I give this film 3 stars out of 5. This is the fourth installment of the Terminator Series. Characters were created by James Cameron. Film directed by Alan Taylor. The Production company is Skydance Productions, distributed by Paramount Pictures. Running Time, Released July 1, 2015.

*Please note. This is my work and any duplicated material has been taken from the original source and author of Okema “Seven” Gunn.

The Mysterious Case of Sandy Bland

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****This is not an entertainment article like my usual posts, but this is definitely news worthy and worth being paid careful attention to.****

Naperville, Illinois resident, Sandra Bland was a blogger, activist, youth mentor, a daughter, a sister, and an active, vibrant Dupage AME Church member. All of these things plus more. The weekend of July 10th Sandra visited Prarie View A&M for a interview job to help black youth. She was also an outspoken person with a vlog #SandraSpeaks and called for change, supporting #Black Lives Matter. Her passion and zeal for life spilled over into everything she did. A member of Dupage AME spoke about remembering her as energetic, hardworking, passionate, and had a love for God. She was a leader with great potential to change the world. Bland was supportive of causes that she believed in whole-heartedly; and was excited to be a part of the youth ministry network. She  was always polite and mannerable, but never afraid to speak her mind. Bland was also an active member in her black sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho, Inc.

Her life ended when she was taken into custody over the weekend of July 10-13th. A bystander took a video of Sandra Bland being handcuffed by police right outside Prarie State A&M. Allegedly, Sandra  “needed” two police officers to restrain her, although she was a small woman. The video showed Bland yelling about the police brutality towards her and that her rights were being violated. Eventually, Bland lost her life over the same inhumane issues that she spoke passionately about.

Family and friends that were interviewed, stated that Bland was targeted as an African American. They believed that after a stop by Waller County Police (Texas), she was taken into custody (on Friday) and assaulted again while in jail. Bland called home to talk to her family about her poor condition (pain from a suspected arm fracture) and bail. By the time the family arrived Monday, Sandra Bland had died allegedly from “strangulation and self-asphyxiation”.

This needs to be addressed at the Federal Level. Why are some people calling Sandy Bland a militant negro? What’s a “good negro” supposed to do? Is it militant to stand against police brutality and civil rights issues against people of color? I would have liked to know Sandy….She did everything right…living proud while being black….

There are many stories like this. But this one in particular strikes a hard nerve. Police brutality has no boundaries. This has been proven time and time again. Not ALL police officers are bad. And some encounters with policeman have been normal. But again, this specific (common) incident, does leave a bitter taste in my mouth and sometimes I do instinctually cringe when the police are near.

Research and reportings prove, Waller County has been known for racial profiling and voter intimidation/suppression against Prarie A & M students/county residents.
Race-based targeting by “People for the American Way” reports that:
“Earlier this year (2015) in Texas, a local district attorney claimed that students at a majority black college (Prarie View A &M) were not eligible to vote in the county where the school is located. It happened in Waller County the same county where 26 years earlier, a federal court order was required to prevent discrimination against the students.”

Where am I going with this? As a black woman, (minority)….where does that put me? Does my life really matter? What NOW are the statistics of me being stopped, being arrested and being killed? What should I be thinking about when I get pulled over? When do black lives matter? Because CLEARLY there is still a problem. IS this 1965 OR 2015? In some cases I still can’t tell the difference. Where does it end? What will come of this? Will it be swept under the carpet? Stand up for what is right. Make a difference. Do something. Say something…. Jim Crow is alive and well…
Chicago: ABC Channel 7- I team investigation reports:

“Bland’s friends say she had been with her family in suburban Chicago over the July 4th holiday, and drove to Texas for a job interview at her alma mater, Texas Prairie View A & M. Family members say she got the position and was to begin working in student outreach today. In the video of the arrest, an officer is heard telling the bystander taking the video to leave.

In the video the bystander shot, Bland is heard saying, “You just slammed my head into the ground. Do you not even care about that? I can’t even hear!”

Then, as she is taken into custody, she repeats, “You slammed me into the ground and everything.”

Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith says Bland “had been combative on the side of the road.”

Smith says that jailers saw Bland at 7 a.m. Monday when they gave her breakfast and again at 8 a.m. when they spoke with her over the jail intercom. Smith says she was found dead an hour later. In a press release from the sheriff’s department, authorities say they applied CPR, but that Bland was pronounced dead shortly after she was found.

The Willowbrook High School graduate died by “self-inflicted asphyxiation,” according to sheriff’s deputies, who have turned the investigation over to Texas Rangers. Some family members and friends say Bland was found hanging in the jail cell, but authorities have not confirmed the exact circumstances around her death.”
Also Go to Heavy.com for more details about/for the 5 Facts of Sandy Bland incident:
“1. Bland was in Texas to start a new job at Prarie View A&M
2. She was stopped on Friday for Improper Signaling & Allegedly Assaulted a police officer
3. Her death has been ruled a suicide by hanging, friends say she wouldn’t have hung herself (also she sustained major injury to her arm)
4. The Waller County Sherriff was fired from a previous job over racism allegations
5. Bland often spoke out against police brutality and racial injustice. “

#JusticeForSandy #SandySpeaks

I leave this quote by Maya Angelou for Sandy Bland

Still I Rise (excerpt)

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise…..”

We need to petition for this to be represented in federal court. For signing of this petition go to change.org.

https://www.change.org/p/the-united-states-department-of-justice-attorney-general-loretta-lynch-take-over-the-investigation-into-the-death-of-sandra-bland-from-the-waller-county-texas-police-department?

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Sandy Bland quote above.

Also for other sources about the Sandra Bland Case..Go to The Root.org, Watch The Yard.com, Jet Mag, Ebony.com, NBC.