All posts by Dapper Dr Feel

Avatar

About Dapper Dr Feel

Felipe Patterson aka Dapper Dr. Feel, #BlackLoveConvo & Entertainment | @dapperdrfel Dapper Dr. Feel is a burgeoning Southern gentleman looking for love in all the wrong places while applying to medical school. He volunteers with autism awareness projects and hopes to mentor other young Black men.

25Jul/20
old guard

Old Guard Was a Great Film but Would Be Better as a Series

old guard
THE OLD GUARD (2020) – (L to R) Matthias Schoenaerts as Booker, Marwan Kenzari as Joe, Charlize Theron as Andy, Luca Marinelli as Nicky, Kiki Layne as Nile. NETFLIX ©2020

Synopsis: Led by a warrior named Andy (Charlize Theron), a covert group of tight-knit mercenaries with a mysterious inability to die has fought to protect the mortal world for centuries. But when the team is recruited to take on an emergency mission and their extraordinary abilities are suddenly exposed, it’s up to Andy and Nile (KiKi Layne), the newest soldier, to join their ranks, to help the group eliminate the threat of those who seek to replicate and monetize their power by any means necessary. Based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Greg Rucka and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (LOVE & BASKETBALL, BEYOND THE LIGHTS), THE OLD GUARD is a gritty, grounded, action-packed story that shows living forever is harder than it looks. 

First off, I want to say that I was excited to see the film, Old Guard, was directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. If her name sounds familiar it’s because she helmed the classic film, Love and Basketball, one of my favorite films. I also saw the trailer featuring budding actress KiKi Layne and the talented Chiwetel Ejiofor as the co-stars, thinking “Oh, Netflix might have a nice action film on their hands?” As I read more about the comic-based film, I knew I had to see if I would recommend it or tell my friends to pass on it. 

What Worked? * Spoiler Alert *

The opening action scene with the immortal protagonists was awesome, one of the best fight scenes I have seen in a Netflix film. I mean it was crazy how the crew revived a la wolverine style and beat the living mess out of the special ops unit sent to “kill” them. Charlize Theron has done some decent action scenes in previous films, but Gina Prince-Bythewood had her looking like she could be Neo from the Matrix. 

Nile, Kiki Layne’s character, was also well developed. Seeing her character struggle to accept her newly developed immortality and adjust to killing was interesting and made the character more compelling. If I spontaneously became immortal and had to leave my life behind, it would definitely cause some inner turmoil. Especially knowing that I would have to watch people around me die and kill people for the rest of my life, that would be crazy! 

The plot twist involving Booker and Copley was one of the best parts. Their hope was to utilize the immortality as a means to find cures for diseases and ailments. I found this twist to be something that would cross my mind if immortality existed. Working in healthcare and experiencing the loss of loved ones due to aliments is rough so if we help people live longer through science, why not try to use the immortals DNA to help the medical world? The only problem, which is explored in the film, would be the greed and possible monopoly involved. I was truly irked by Booker and Copley for their betrayal but I could understand their perspectives. 

THE OLD GUARD – CHIWETEL EJIOFOR as COPLEY in THE OLD GUARD. Cr. AMY SPINKS/NETFLIX © 2020

“It’s such a universal story and it’s certainly been a theme in my work. But also inherent in my work is the normalcy of women being warriors. I love to reframe what it means to be a female, and I feel that movies can absolutely change the narrative and the conversation. Courage has no gender. Badass has no gender. It just is.” – Gina Prince-Bythewood.

Why It Would Be Better As A Series? 

The time travel element could be explored more and there are so many stories that could be told without giving away too much of how the heroes possessed immortality. I really felt act two of the film was a bit slow and had the interesting storytelling of the soldier who was left behind. I can imagine how great these stories could be explored in a series, like Highlander, you could span the centuries following each of our heroes’ origins. I understand Netflix is doing a sequel but I think they could pull off a series that would be just as interesting and would draw an excellent fan base. 

THE OLD GUARD (2020) – KIKI LAYNE as NILE. Photo Credit: AIMEE SPINKS/NETFLIX ©2020

I would love to see Nile’s life before she becomes one of the immortals, I would love to see Andy’s travel through time as a badass fighter and I would love to see the how each character dealt with the relationships they had (and lost). There was so much in the film that would be interesting to see in a series and director Gina Prince-Bythewood could bless the audience with more of her talents. 

In the end, Old Guard had some great action, strong plot points and the fight scenes were on point. I just felt, going into the third act of the film, Old Guard would’ve been better as a tv series. There was a whole world to explore, so many great stories to tell, and the film did an awesome job of covering it all, but a series would do the franchise more justice. I still enjoyed watching Gina Prince Bythewood put together a dope action film and can’t wait to see the sequel. Check out Old Guard now on Netflix.

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood 

Screenplay by Greg Rucka 

Based on the Graphic Novel Series by Greg Rucka and Illustrated by Leandro Fernández

Starring: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Harry Melling, Van Veronica Ngo, with Matthias Schoenaerts, and Chiwetel Ejiofor

19Jun/20

Alexis Chikaeze Chats about her Character in Miss Juneteenth

Synopsis: Built like a bird, Turquoise Jones is a single mom who holds down a household, a rebellious teenager, and pretty much everything that goes down at Wayman’s BBQ & Lounge. Turquoise is also a bona fide beauty queen—she was once crowned Miss Juneteenth, a title commemorating the day slavery was abolished in Texas. Life didn’t turn out as beautifully as the title promised, but Turquoise, determined to right her wrongs, is cultivating her daughter, Kai, to become Miss Juneteenth, even if Kai wants something else.

Miss Juneteenth is a compelling film that debuts on VOD just in time for Juneteenth, the most celebrated commemoration marking the end of slavery. The film stars Nicole Beharie (42, Sleepy Hollow), Kendrick Sampson (Insecure), and newcomer Alexis Chikaeze. Alexis is not only an up-and-coming actress, she is also an activist against racial injustice. The soon to be HBCU student took time from her busy schedule to talk to Taji Mag about her new film Miss Juneteenth. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What does Juneteenth mean to you and why is it important? 

Alexis Chikaeze (AC): It is about the end of slavery, it’s about our freedom to speak about what is right. Back in the day, we weren’t able to, but now we can speak up for change. 

FYI: Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Also known as Emancipation Day and Black Independence Day. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, and announced the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation was dated January 1, 1863, however, many slave owners continued to hold their slaves captive after the announcement. In turn, Juneteenth became a symbolic date representing African American freedom.

Alexis Chikaeze

DDF: Was this your first film?

AC: This is my first big role ever and my first audition ever. It’s surreal, a week after I signed with my agent, I got the audition. 

DDF: How much of the Kai character was relatable to you? 

AC: Honestly, we are just about the same. It made embodying the character a little easier. Kai is outgoing, she’s headstrong, she is willing to do just about anything to make sure that she can do what she loves. Kai loves her mother and I feel she was set on showing her mother that dancing was her passion. She is really trying to convince her mother just as I had to convince my parents that I wanted to pursue acting. My parents are Nigerian immigrants and the preference that was given career-wise was Doctor or Engineer. Venturing out into other professions is not really something to consider. When I first started, they were skeptical. They were questioning if acting would secure my future. It’s similar to how Kai’s mother wants the best for her. 

“Hold those things that tell your history and protect them. During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything? The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important. It says: ‘I was here. I may be sold tomorrow. But you know I was here.” – Maya Angelou

DDF: What was it like working with Nicole Beharie and Channing Godfrey Peoples?

AC: Both of them are very humble individuals. It was a wonderful experience working with Nicole, she’s kind-hearted and high spirited. She was so happy to help me and, even before shooting, we would do some exercises to make sure we were both ready mentally and physically. Anytime I felt like I needed help or had to ask Nicole a question, she was more than happy to assist me in any way she could. As for Channing, she allowed me to put into the character what I thought would fit the character and use my own perspective. During the times I was frustrated and hard on myself she reassured me and gave me words of encouragement. 

Nicole Beharie

DDF: What do you think people will take away from the film?

AC: I really hope that people take the time to learn about Black History, the Black community, who we are as Black people, and how rich our culture is. I think more people, myself included, are taking time to learn more about Black history because we don’t learn enough in this educational system.

Miss Juneteenth is a must-watch that I found to be similar to Mommy Dearest but better and more relatable. So much so, that after the film I had to call my mother to tell her “I love you and thank you for your sacrifices.” With Nicole Beharie’s ability to pull the audience in through her character’s obstacles and Alexis’ charm, this is a film many should enjoy on Juneteenth. 

Directed and written by  Channing Godfrey Peoples 

Starring Nicole Beharie, Kendrick Sampson, and Alexis Chikaeze

11Jun/20
da 5 bloods

Spike Lee’s, Da 5 Bloods, is Reflective of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement

DA 5 BLOODS (L to R) Director SPIKE LEE, ISIAH WHITLOCK JR. as MELVIN, DELROY LINDO as PAUL, JONATHAN MAJORS as DAVID, CLARKE PETERS as OTIS and NORM LEWIS as EDDIE of DA 5 BLOODS. Cr. DAVID LEE/NETFLIX © 2020

SYNOPSIS: From Academy Award® Winner Spike Lee comes a New Joint: the story of four African-American Vets — Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) — who return to Vietnam. Searching for the remains of their fallen Squad Leader (Chadwick Boseman) and the promise of buried treasure, our heroes, joined by Paul’s concerned son (Jonathan Majors), battle forces of Man and Nature — while confronted by the lasting ravages of The Immorality of The Vietnam War.

From the very start of the film Da 5 Bloods, the tone is set with a clip of Muhammad Ali’s disagreement with the Vietnam war. Issues of racism, selective patriotism, poverty, discrimination, greed, and mental health awareness were covered throughout this film – and are pretty much a sign of the times. The film even had its moments making fun of Donald Trump and how the world mocks his leadership. There were times I felt reflective, upset, and disappointed, but overall the film was one of the better high profile films I’ve seen.

Da History

I always love when Spike Lee puts history into his films, some things I have to google to make sure there is accuracy, and sometimes it’s just comforting knowing he gives a damn about our history and Black culture. I was highly impressed with the story of Milton J. Olive III, the young soldier who was awarded the medal of honor after sacrificing himself covering a bomb to save his fellow soldiers. Spike will later pay homage to this in the film. He also mentions the story of Crispus Attacks and his sacrifice for injustice, which also serves as motivation for them to get gold years later.

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. … Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people?” – Muhammad Al

The appearance Hanoi Hannah, a Vietnamese radio personality who was most known for her broadcasting during the Vietnam war, was an interesting segment. The five soldiers listened to her speak via radio about the assassination of Martin Luther King and racially driven crimes that really had me connect with the characters. It was as if she was saying while you are over here killing people of color, the rights you claim to fight for are being stripped and Black people are being killed in the very same country you are fighting for.

DA 5 BLOODS (L to R) ISIAH WHITLOCK JR. as MELVIN, NORM LEWIS as EDDIE, CLARKE PETERS as OTIS, DELROY LINDO as PAUL, JONATHAN MAJORS as DAVID in DA 5 BLOODS. Cr. DAVID LEE/NETFLIX © 2020

I was intrigued by the French character’s interaction with the lead characters and the discussion of the French involvement with America during the war. It just made me think of how Americans perceive war and our reasons for war. 

Da Cause *Spoiler Alert*

The MacGuffin of the film, the gold, was definitely a reward the soldiers deserved. Just like many Black people feel today after the blood spilled, lives lost, ideas stolen, land stolen, etc. They don’t get to enjoy the riches of a thriving economy? Damn right they made a smart call to return for that fortune. To me, it was a way they were fighting to receive their overdue reparations. 

By the end of the film, it was compelling to see how it compares to what we are all experiencing right now – the importance of family and other people. I am not going to lie, during the parts where Chadwick Boseman’s character was talking about giving the money back to the people I thought, “Look at Black Panther over here taking some of the Killmonger beliefs!”

It was even cool seeing how the #BlackLivesMatter organization received some the money to help their cause…much like they are doing now after the lost lives of innocent Black people. 

DA 5 BLOODS (L to R) ISIAH WHITLOCK JR. as MELVIN, NORM LEWIS as EDDIE, DELROY LINDO as PAUL, CLARKE PETERS as OTIS and JONATHAN MAJORS as DAVID in DA 5 BLOODS Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2020

Da Relationships

The relationship between Paul (Delroy Lino) and David (Jonathan Majors) I found intriguing because of the exploration of mental health and display of masculinity. Although I did want a slightly better ending to the characters, it was still good. Paul suffered severely from mental issues and internal struggles, which is later discovered. I still think it’s funny they had him supporting Trump. 

Eddie (Clark Peters) and Tien was another interesting relationship, having an interracial relationship and child during the 1960s in Vietnam. Talk about a challenging time and tough situation? It was a twist I did not expect. 

Da Blackness

Spike Lee always represents Blackness in his films, it’s the little things that other executives, writers, and directors don’t show. Take for instance the Moorehouse paraphernalia the character David wears or the mention of Black Lives Matter, these are things Black people need to see. How things are organic, not token, not stereotypical but the effortless display of Black culture. Hollywood should do a better job with all representations, otherwise, it diminishes the integrity of the film.

I found the use of video clips from historical events and people to be satisfying. It really gave me a reason to have a connection to the characters and to feel their pain.

Da 5 Bloods will be released June 12th on Netflix and is definitely worth watching. It does have a lot of gore during the gunfights but that is all overshadowed by the storytelling, character relationships, and conflicts within the film. Spike Lee has definitely provided the viewers with a film we will be talking about for the upcoming months.

da 5 bloods

Directed by Spike Lee

Starring Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., Chadwick Boseman

DA 5 BLOODS releases globally on Netflix JUNE 12

09Jun/20

Tribeca Selection “Tangled Roots” Documents Attica Scott’s Fight Against Hair Discrimination

Kentucky House of Representative for the 41st district

Tangled Roots follows Attica Scott, the only black woman in the Kentucky state legislature, as she fights to dismantle a system of discrimination against black people penalized for something seemingly innocuous – their hair.

The lost lives of those like Breonna Taylor due to police brutality have been more than enough to encourage protests around the world. There have been many activists, such as Kentucky State Representative Attica Scott, who have been fighting on the frontlines against discrimination and injustice long before most recent events. 

Tribeca Film Festival selection and Queen Latifah produced documentary, Tangled Roots, follows Representative Scott in her fight for House Bill 33. House Bill 33 would ban the discrimination of hairstyles associated with African Americans and Kentucky is one of the last states to pass and not have an active bill against hair discrimination. Support from many around the world, activists, and filmmakers like Matthew Cherry (director of the Oscar-winning short film, Hair Love), have influenced states across the country to pass bills that ban hair discrimination. Tangled Roots shows the importance of this bill and the future of minority representation in legislation. Representative Scott was able to take time from her activism and participation for protesting in memory of Breonna Taylor for an interview with Taji Mag. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): How did you become involved in the film? 

Attica Scott (AS): I was contacted by the documentarian because she has seen my daughter’s issue of hair discrimination at her school and was interested in the bill I had filed against hair discrimination. 

DDF: What are the latest House Bill 33 updates, I can only imagine COVID-19 having some impact on things? 

AS: It’s interesting we find ourselves with COVID-19, the protesting, and uprising against discrimination. It’s a reminder for me how important it is that I work on legislation that is about us being able to show up as our whole selves and not have to fear discrimination.

DDF: What do you think it is going to take for people to realize this needs to be enforced? 

AS: We need to have people share their stories more. While Sam Knowles (director of Tangled Roots) was here during the shoot, I was able to get some people to share their stories with her. We’ve got to have more of that because it is part of how we make it real for people. It’s sad to say but we still, as Black people with our natural hair, are almost always justifying our existence and our humanity. We also need more people to understand that injustice is injustice, we have to have people that want a different world. 

As a legislator, I am going to support a bill I think has nothing to do with me because it affects the people that I serve and represent. I need more of my white colleagues to do that. I want them to know legislation shouldn’t be about you, it’s about making things better for the people of the Commonwealth. 

DDF: What reaction do you expect people to have once people see the film? 

AS: I am hopeful that people around the world will see how important it is to tell the story of advocacy for colored policy in southern states. I don’t imagine people around the country not seeing Kentucky as a place for human rights and social activism. I am glad to lift up that story for people right here in the Commonwealth. I am hopeful people get inspired and energized to help the passage of this bill during the next legislation. I am also hopeful our governor will see how important this is and make it a priority to support bills like this.

We’ve been talking about the impact of COVID-19 on Black people around country and support for Breonna Taylor and her family, it shows that white people and white people in power can no longer ignore us and think it is ok.

DDF: How have you been active during the protesting and police brutality cases? 

AS: Three years ago, my second year as representative. I had actually sponsored a bill related to independent investigations of police shootings and I will continue to file the bill. I will continue to be a champion of police accountability. One of the attorney’s who has been working on Breonna Taylor’s case and Kenneth Walker’s (Breonna’s boyfriend) case, is the same person that brought the bill to my attention because he was working on a case involving a young man named Darnel Wicker who was shot and killed by police. 

I have been currently sharing information about the Breonna Taylor case via social media because I have people who go to my page for information that they may not get otherwise. I’ve also been working with our legislation research commission on a suite of bills to address things like “No Knock” warrants across the Commonwealth and repealing Stand your ground laws. 

I also think it’s important to show up, to have my body in places where it’s needed, and be in the community where my people are in pain.  

DDF:  What is your advice to Black people during these times of the protest?

AS: I want Black people to know that you are beautiful, your skin is beautiful. What we are seeing right now comes from a deep place of love. People are in pain, people are hurting because they love. Keep leading with that love, keep showing up, keep resisting, and keep making white people uncomfortable because it is only in those places of discomfort that white people move. They do what they are supposed to do when they are in elected positions to make a difference in our lives so we don’t have to keep doing stuff like this time after time. 

Tangled Roots is a well organized short film that shows the struggle of minority support from the Kentucky government. With the increased support of Black Lives Matter, Attica Scott will hopefully have the support she needs to pass House Bill 33 and other bills to help improve the lives of many Black people. 

Tangled Roots

Directed by Samantha Knowles

Starring Attica Scott and Ashanti Scott

Tangled Roots is a QUEEN COLLECTIVE Film

The Queen Collective – a program developed in partnership with Queen Latifah, Procter & Gamble, and Tribeca Studios – aims to accelerate gender and racial equality behind the camera by opening doors through mentoring, production support, and creating distribution opportunities for content by the next generation of multicultural women directors.

05Jun/20
Gabrielle Dennis

Gabrielle Dennis Talks Tribeca X Win, Black Lady Sketch Show, and Luke Cage

Gabrielle Dennis

Gabrielle Dennis (@gabrielle_dennis) has the comedic charm, beauty, and talent that has given her the opportunity to play many roles in some notable shows. Now the actress can add award-winning writer to her accolades with her win in the 2020 Tribeca X category. She wrote and starred in a comedic short about a character named Nyssa repeating her Pay Day, a-la Ground Hog Day. Although Hollywood has been halted due to COVID-19, Gabrielle has been able to pick up the award for her writing and acting chops — while realizing her culinary skills are actually on point. Taji Mag was able to catch up with the actress/writer to discuss her Tribeca win, writing future, and how she’s throwing down in the kitchen. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What is the inspiration for Pay Day

Gabrielle Dennis (GD): A payday! Getting paid to be able to say that I am a writer because it’s actually what I went to school for. I went to school for tv production (Howard University…. HUUUUUUU). The acting was the thing that took off. I had been recently putting it out into the universe that I wanted to get back into a creative space and creating content. Then this opportunity fell in my lap when one of the producers from the Black Lady Sketch Show, who is actually one of the producers on Pay Day, Deniese Davis, said “I have an opportunity if you are willing to take a shot at it?”  From there, things felt so aligned. I felt motivated to follow this goal and follow through on this dream that I’ve had for years. The experience was really exciting and really fun. 

DDF: How was it working with Cooper Morgan

GD: Cooper Morgan is so awesome! He is such a visionary! He is a great visionary and has so much energy. I could not get over how he could just be on top of it all day. His vision is very clear. I am very excited to see what he has in line for the future. Cooper just gets it! From the colors to the music, he kind of catches all of the senses which makes him a great storyteller and I hope to work with him again. 

DDF: What was the atmosphere like on the set of Pay Day? Was there a hard day? 

GD: The atmosphere was cool but things seemed very fast. We had a lot of content, even though it was a six-minute film. The final script that we shot was about 8 mins, we had to cut it down some more. I got to work with people that I knew. We were working so fast, we didn’t have enough time to develop a conversation to make these friends feel like real friends. We had just enough time to say “Hey girl, good to see you!” Then it was like boom! Back to work. I think it was smart of the producers to bring together people we were familiar with each other as peers. 

DDF: How did it feel being on set as the writer and actress of the film? 

GD: It was different for me to be on set as the writer and actress, I developed more respect for our writers for whatever work they put on the page. I’m always an actress that tries to respect and honor what’s on the page. As the writer on set, you are like “ Oh no! They are cutting out another piece (of the script).” Our director was so great at adjusting to what we needed to get. He reassured me, allowed me to breathe, and understand we had enough footage to tell the story. Shout out to the entire team, the whole team was just awesome!  

DDF: What has been your greatest investment after you started landing larger roles? 

GD: I would say investing in the stock market. I am by no means an expert in stock but to have the ability to see how far your money can go and have the excitement of knowing your money is working. It’s like “Money has a job and it’s to make more money!” 

I’ve had fun investments. I was able to buy my SUV. When I booked my role on Rosewood, I thought about my long commute and it was time to turn in my college car. I thought to myself “I am going to treat myself!” I had this long commute, I get to be comfortable, I get to drive fast and sit up high in my new vehicle. We all know that an automobile is a depreciating item, as soon as you drive it off the lot.

DDF: What would be your reaction to being stuck in a time loop like Nyssa? 

GD: I think I would learn my lesson a little sooner than Nyssa for sure. I feel like I would have been extremely extravagant, I am talking about trips around the world as far as I could get in that 48 hr period. Like the morning of I’m buying a plane, I would spend 200 of those days learning to fly the plane myself. I feel like I would have had a lot more adventure and be more of a risk-taker because I know I would be ok the next day. I would have spent way more money than Nyssa did. 

DDF: Pay Day has been compared to skits on A Black Lady Sketch Show (ABLSS). How do you feel about the comparison? 

GD: I take that as a compliment. I think the writers from A Black Lady Sketch Show are brilliant. I love the full-color wheel we get with the types of comedy we get to create. We all have different experiences. I love quirky, bizarre comedy. We get things that make you think, so I take it as a compliment. The scenario in Pay Day is not a normal thing that would happen to anybody and the whole idea for the project with Synchrony Bank was to make people think about their finances. I feel like it was an education in disguise.

*Hopefully the writers and producers from A Black Lady Sketch Show read this and give Gabrielle a seat at the table*

DDF: Will you get more writing duties for the next season of ABLSS

GD: I don’t think I could write on ABLSS because the writing team is already intact. I think I am going to need a little bit more than 6 and a half minutes of experience before I get confident enough to be a part of a writer’s room. If the team from the show would have that, I would love that. It is a goal of mine to write some more for sure. 

Gabrielle Dennis and Ashley Nicole Black in Angela Bassett Is the Baddest Bitch

DDF: If there was a Luke Cage season 3, what do you think would’ve happened to Tilda Johnson in your opinion? 

GD: She wants what’s owed to her. Her mother used to preach family first and she left paradise to Luke Cage, which is a slap in the face to Matilda. Which ruined her relationship with her mother but then again we see what Tilda did to her mom. I would just have Tilda growing into her villain role. I am cheating a little because I know the plans for season three and it was for her to be one of the main villains. I would love to see the complexity in the role of how can someone get to the other side of the tracks? Does she have guilt for killing her mother? Does she feel emboldened about what she did to Mariah? 

I feel like when she walked into the club with her afro puffs at the end of season two, at that moment she was a different person. To be able to see all the things she was willing to do at all cost, like really, really allowing herself to no longer fight, deny or be ashamed of the villainy in her DNA. I could see her being like Cotton Mouth and Mariah times 10! From what is known in the comic books, I just would love to have seen her character just take off. I think Tilda and Bushmaster would team up at some point. 

Alfre Woodard and Gabrielle Dennis in Luke Cage Season 2

DDF: Would you be open to appearing in the MCU films? 

GD: Oh yeah! Who’s turning that down?! I wish that would happen, I would accept it with open arms. 

DDF: You have to write a romantic comedy using two characters you’ve played on tv and film. Who would you choose and what would the film be about? 

GD: I would say the first one would have to be my character from The Game, Janay. I feel like she was misunderstood by some people. She’s deemed as tough, but I would like to see the more thoughtful side of her, the romantic side of her, and see her relationship grow. 

Another character I would like to see in a rom-com is from Rosewood. To see where the relationship went with TMI. How they grow and blossom. I would also love to see if they could make it throughout the engagement and marriage because of the challenges TMI brought to the table with her past. Pippy wore her heart on her sleeve and put everything out there, then seeing the tables turn at some point with the two lovers.

Out of all the characters I have played, those two get talked about a lot and people miss those shows the most. So I would love an opportunity to bring those characters back. 

Gabrielle Dennis in Rosewood

DDF: If you had to be quarantined in a house with three other actors or actresses who would it be and why?  It can’t be anyone you know…

GD: Howie Mandel would be the first person because everyone knows he is a germophobe. We would definitely be clean. 

Erykah Badu because she’s going to have the vocals on deck, she’s going to have the vibes, the incense you need to mellow out, and she’s going to be able to keep my chakras in check. 

For the last person, I need someone that is going to feed me…I’ll go with Bobby Flay. 

DDF: What have you learned about yourself during this COVID-19 crisis? 

GD: I discovered that I am a really, really good cook, even though I don’t like cooking. I love eating, I always have. I can handle meals I didn’t think I could cook on my own before. I also don’t like cooking because it comes with having to clean up. I would say I was a recovering germophobe and when all the shutdown stuff happened I went into a full relapse. I envisioned everything being germy like everything has COVID-19 on it. I watched this handwashing demo where the guy used the glitter on his hands to demonstrate and everywhere I went I saw green glitter. I can’t wait to see what happens on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. If people are going to be more OCD with clean hygiene or just have reckless abandon and not care. 

I learned you can get to a point that you hate washing your hands and I am a really good cook. 

DDF: What are some of the dishes you have been cooking and are most proud of? 

GD: I made red snapper for the first time and I could not decide if I wanted to fry it or bake it, I just ended up making both. 

I make really good Brussels sprouts. I made collard greens for the very first time that weren’t from a can. Lol! I cleaned them really well, seasoned them, just being a mad scientist in the kitchen with ingredients. I’m very proud of the greens. My mother drove 45-mins and sat outside in my yard share waiting for me to make her a plate of food. I gave her fried chicken and greens, she raved about them for days. 

DDF: Is your family going to ask you to cook for the holidays? 

GD: Now that’s the danger since I’ve been cooking. People will be expecting me to cook and I will be “No, no, no!” Hopefully, I won’t have to fall back on it and I have a career after this (COVID-19) is over.

DDF: What was your reaction to your win at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival online?

GD: I couldn’t celebrate too much but I was super excited about it. When I saw the text message that Pay Day had won, I got on the phone and I squealed with Denise about it. It was surprising because I didn’t even know they had submitted the film for the Tribeca Film Festival. As an artist, you hope to be involved in a project at a festival like Tribeca. I am pretty sure I had a glass of wine and danced 

With all of this talent manifesting in Gabrielle Dennis’s life, we may see her get her own comedy show. Hey, maybe even a Black Comedy Cooking Show… For now, you can catch Gabrielle on Black Ladies Sketch Show season one on HBO, and be on the lookout for season two of the show. Check out her award-winning short Pay Day below. 

Nyssa Rose dreams of starting her own business. But she spends like there’s no tomorrow. She finds herself stuck in a time loop, reliving the same Pay Day. Again. And again. And again. That is, until she learns to make better choices and save for her future with Synchrony Bank.

Pay Day

Director: Morgan Cooper

Brand: Synchrony Bank

Agency: Giant Spoon

Production Co.: ColorCreative

TRIBECA X AWARD WINNER

Stateless

Stateless: The Systematic Denaturalization of Dark-Skin Haitians Born in the Dominican Republic

SYNOPSIS: In 1937, tens of thousands of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent were exterminated by the Dominican army, based on anti-Black hatred fomented by the Dominican government. Fast-forward to 2013, the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court stripped the citizenship of anyone with Haitian parents, retroactive to 1929. The ruling rendered more than 200,000 people stateless, without nationality, identity, or a homeland. In this dangerous climate, a young attorney named Rosa Iris mounts a grassroots campaign, challenging electoral corruption and advocating for social justice. Director Michèle Stephenson’s new documentary, Stateless, traces the complex tributaries of history and present-day politics, as state-sanctioned racism seeps into mundane offices, living room meetings, and street protests.

The 2020 Tribeca Film Festival selection, Stateless, is an extremely compelling film that touches on a discrimination narrative I find to be all too familiar. Watching the film, I could not help but feel emotionally drained by the actions of the Dominican Supreme Court’s decision to strip people of their nationality, rights, and life altogether. Given the state the United States has been in concerning immigration politics, I can not help but see a possible future where people in our country will meet the same demise.  

“As a child, growing up in a Haitian and Latinx household and diasporic communities in North America, I continued to overhear stories about the history of my birthplace relating to race, color, class, colonialism, and human rights. Those observations formed the basis of how I made sense of the world that surrounded me, especially as those notions collided with the racism, segregation, and discrimination that we faced in our adopted countries. Those experiences fueled my passion to dig deeper into the consequences of our deeply painful common history of slavery and colonialism and how we continue to internalize such self-hatred.” – Michele Stephenson 

I was really impressed by the work of young attorney Rosa Iris and her pursuit of justice for those wronged by the system. Her effort to free her people of oppression and discrimination so admirably left me rooting for her the whole documentary. I could see the drive in her eyes and the passion for her work pouring from her heart so badly and her wanting only the best for her people. Stephenson was very fond of Rosa’s efforts stating “I fell in love with Rosa and her vulnerability. She was an all-in collaborator, which you could not ask better for a project. She told me that when you get into a relationship of trust with your collaborator, they end up helping you find the story. They know what you are looking for and it’s that kind of exchange.”

It was heartbreaking to watch the system reject Rosa’s cousin, Teofilo Murat, who was one of the unfortunate stateless people displayed in the film. 

“She (Rosa) is the one that told me her cousin, Teofilo Murant, he’s stateless and he’s leaving for Haiti. He was a working-class guy, able to pay his rent, and one day to the next he lost his papers, he lost everything. So, we reached out to him and spent time with him before he moved to Haiti. He said I’m outta here because I’m suffering too much,  it’s too dangerous, it’s too precarious and he left for the mountains of Haiti. For me, there’s this flipping the narrative of what Haiti means to folks, there’s this idea that refugees have no place and they are in destitute situations. But for me, Teofilo represents a modern maroon. He’s escaping this oppression to what he perceives as freedom in the mountains of Haiti. You can see in the film that Rosa still has faith in the system when Teofilo does not believe the country has his best interest,” explained Stephenson about the origin of Teofilo’s involvement in the film. 

Rosa Iris with Juan Teofilo Murat

“The question of what citizenship means is shaken up in this beautiful documentary. Also, watching anti-immigration bias alongside garden variety racism spread globally, you realize how timely this film is. I’m proud to work with Michèle and bring this story to the world.” – Jennifer Holness, Producer (Hispaniola Productions)

Gladys, another featured person in the film, is a right-winged Dominican of Haitian descent who has a strong dislike for Haitians. When asked about Gladys, Stephen stated, “A couple of years into the project, I felt very strongly about Gladys. The whole right-wing nationalist in the country was so profound and I felt that being there I couldn’t ignore that narrative, that presence, but also I had to challenge myself as a light-skinned person that could have potential access to that narrative in a more intimate way that others may not be able to. I never really confront Gladys with my own ideology because I wanted to get what I could get. I challenged myself to be uncomfortable to get to the point where I can grab the story that Gladys had to tell because she really wanted to tell her story. I barely had to ask questions because she really wanted to make her point.”

Stephenson said she and producers did a casting and they approached a couple of people, who in her opinion were way too aggressive. She didn’t know if she could spend half a day with them. They were men, they were very aggressive when they talked about Haitians with great disdain. She said “their hatred was virulent, it was like spitting out of their mouths. It’s like here in the U.S., do you want the stereotypical hater to be the one to represent the other side and lose the complexity and the depths of the hatred?”

Gladys and the national mouvement group

Stephenson also said that when she met Gladys, she thought to herself, “here is this woman that presents a paradox. She presents a certain way, she presents as Black, and yet the hatred she has is hatred for Haitians.” She went on to explain how her friends and colleagues who watched the film in New York immediately recognized Gladys as an archetype. 

Filmmaker Michele Stephenson put together a powerful and enlightening piece, that will challenge you to think about the state the U.S. is in when it comes to immigration laws and the awful conditions that some of the Haitians and Dominicans with Haitians parents are in. The imagery and art used to display the sugar canes are visually pleasing and serve as short intermissions from the harsh realities within the film. 

My objective is to connect the film to a network of committed partners in the Caribbean region, Latin America, the U.S., and internationally, to utilize the film as a platform for their work on protecting the rights of migrants, and citizens, and to deepen people’s understanding of the intersection between anti-black racism, migration, and citizenship rights.” – Michele Stephenson

Hopefully, Stateless will be widespread and will inform people about the injustices some of the people in the Dominican Republic are facing. I also hope Michele achieves her goal to involve more people and organizations that can help give these people their rightful lives. This film encourages people to work together in this fight against oppression and discrimination worldwide. May this film tap into the viewers’ cores and enlighten their minds.  

Stateless Trailer

Hispaniola Productions and the National Film Board of Canada present

A Rada Film Group and Hungry Eyes Media film

Director: Michèle Stephenson

Producers: Michèle Stephenson, Jennifer Holness, Lea Marin

Screenwriter: Michèle Stephenson

Cinematographers: Alfredo Alcántara, Tito Rodriguez, Naiti Gámez, Nadia Hallgren, Pedro Arnau Bros Santana, Jaime Guerra

Editor: Sophie Farkas-Bolla 

Executive Producers: Joe Brewster, Anita Lee, Sudz Sutherland

Cast: Rosa Iris Diendomi-Álvarez, Teofilo Murat, Gladys Feliz

20May/20

I Thought The Lovebirds would be Issa Rae’s Fall Off, I Was Wrong

The Lovebirds
Issa Rae as Leilani and Kumail Nanjiana as Jibran of The Lovebirds on NETFLIX.

I have to be honest, when I first saw the trailer for The Lovebirds I thought, “Oh no, will this be Issa Rae’s fall-off movie, her ‘Will Smith Bomb’ she mentioned in her 2018 GQ article?” That negativity was dissolved by a friend pointing out the hilarious bacon grease scene that did make me chuckle. After watching the film, I found out he was right – the combination gave me a night of favorite scenes and a few scenes that will be re-created on Tik-Tok. I recommend people watch this film and here are the reasons why. 

In order to eventually succeed, you have to bomb. That’s what every comedian says—that’s when the fear goes away. And I feel like I’m still fearful because I haven’t publicly bombed yet, in terms of my career. Yeah, Insecure is successful now, but where’s my bomb coming? Where are my Will Smith bombs coming? Where, where is that happening?”
Issa Rae (GQ  May, 22nd 2018)

Guilt Free Entertainment 

At no time did I feel uncomfortable while watching his film. (You know that feeling where you hear or see  racist jokes/stereotypes in a film so offensive you can’t ignore it?) The scenes in the film were so well written and performed I was able to enjoy myself and laugh freely. It was a good feeling and that’s the way it should be. A great example of this was a scene where Issa Rae’s character, Leilani, was explaining to Kumail Nanjiani’s character, Jibran, as they were looking at some f*ck boys (frat boys whom they were sneaking up on), and Kumail’s character had no clue what that was and was very curious to know. He wasn’t making fun of the word, he was making fun of how oblivious a person can be to terminology.

More Than Trailer Clips

Plenty comedies present hilarious trailers before the films are released just for the audience to discover that those were the only funny parts of the film. Then you think to yourself, they wasted all this money on a mess of a movie and wasted your time. Love Birds was hilarious! I found myself Steve Urkel snorting a few times, the level of funny was totally unexpected. 

I felt like Issa and Kumail fed off of each other’s performances like the Splash Brothers, Clay Thompson, and Steph Curry when they both get hot in a game. 

The Lovebirds
Issa Rae as Leilani and Kumail Nanjiana as Jibran of The Lovebirds on NETFLIX.

The Lovebirds Chemistry 

Yeah, I didn’t know if the chemistry between Issa and Kumail would be good in The Lovebirds. Don’t ask me why, I just didn’t. They were able to play off of each other very well during both the serious scenes and the funny scenes. They definitely showed that they both have range and adaptability. 

One of the funniest scenes is the interrogation. They interrogate one of the frat boys and it kind of reminds me of a buddy cop interrogation scene akin to Bad Boys (Martin Lawrence and Will Smith). When I tell you Kumail ain’t got no sense, y’all I mean it! 

The Lovebirds
Issa Rae as Leilani and Kumail Nanjiana as Jibran of The Lovebirds on NETFLIX.

Imitating life (Spoiler Alert)

From the beginning of the film, where the couple transitions from the honeymoon stage to the ‘here’s your part of the deposit ‘cause we not going to make it’ stage, I really felt. Unfortunately, my ex and I didn’t make it after being almost killed by a crooked cop, but those moments did spark some memories.

There was also a moment when Leilani was fooled by the happy couple photos another character posted on social media, making her evaluate her own struggling relationship. This is understandable because some of us have been through social media jealously, hell, some are going through it right now. 

The film releases this Friday, May 22nd, on Netflix. Make sure to add The Lovebirds to your list of films to stream. I commend Issa Rae for being on this project and making a quality rom-com about an interracial couple. I really hope that The Lovebirds has created an example (not a formula to be consistently repeated) of how diversity in film should look. 

A couple (Issa Rae & Kumail Nanjiani) experiences a defining moment in their relationship when they are unintentionally embroiled in a murder mystery. As their journey to clear their names takes them from one extreme – and hilarious – circumstance to the next, they must figure out how they, and their relationship, can survive the night.

18May/20
Lenny Thomas

“Ruthless” Co-Star, Lenny Thomas, Talks Tyler Perry Studios and Life during COVID-19

Actor Lenny Thomas

Lenny Thomas portrays Dikhan on Tyler Perry’s new series Ruthless. Dikhan is one of the ruthless and intimidating antagonists in the series but, as for Lenny himself, he is far from it. The New Yorker has a heart of gold and an optimistic attitude. Taji Mag was able to find out how unlike Dikhan Lenny really is in an exclusive interview during this COVID-19 crisis. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What brought you to this role? 

Lenny Thomas (LT): Thankfully my agent has a great relationship with the casting director of most of Tyler Perry’s projects. I was thrown in the mix through a self take. Mind you, during the auditing process of tv and movies, there are multiple rounds. Lucky me, I got this role off of one self-tape which still, ’til this day, blows my mind. While putting together my self-tape, my agent coached me and I sent it in. A week later, I’m on set with Tyler Perry. I’ve had some success, so I was not a stranger to hard work and diving right in and getting the job done. 

Lenny Thomas as Dikhan in Ruthless

DFF: What was your inspiration for the role?

LT: Honestly, if I didn’t have the proper guidance that I did growing up, I could have been Dikhan. Exercising the demons in my life allowed me to tap into this character. Being in the New York area, the undercurrent is kind of negative, so I pulled from dealing with that and seeing the negative characters in my life while growing up.

DDF: Dikhan is the second in command and seems ruthless, how do you think he got to this point? 

LT: Apparently, he spent some time in jail and used to be involved with numerous gangs. Decade or so time he spent in jail, something broke him. In this broken state, he met The Highest and they decided they were no longer going to be the victims of their circumstances by taking matters into their own hands, thus creating the life they currently live.  

DDF: What is it like working with Tyler Perry? 

LT: It was tough, everyone was trying to keep up with him. I have not seen a person work as hard as that man works. We barely passed a 12-hour day somehow. That is unheard of in television, usually, it’s between 12 to 16 hours in my experience. It was all inspiring too because of the people he surrounds himself with. There’s so much love in Tyler Perry Studios, I have never been on a set that had so much love and care. Everyone was taking care of each other. Also, to be unapologetically Black, I have never been around so many Black people on set in my life. It was overwhelming, so many times it was overwhelming. I was thinking to myself, “Is this my life right now, is this really happening?” 

DDF: Who have you developed a relationship with on set? 

LT: That’s a hard question because I love my castmates. There are 11 leads on the show and the people I grew closest to are Blue Kimble who plays Andrew on the show and Melissa Williams who plays Ruth Truesdale. Melissa, in particular, set the stage, she is perfect to lead the show because her heart is big. I did not notice she was the lead of the show because it was like I was shot out of a cannon into shooting the series, once I got the role. I was still working before I flew out to set, so I was playing catch up the whole time.  When I met her I was like, you are unusually nice to me. I’m not used to this, I mean I’m from New York, we don’t treat each other like this.

 

DDF: What is the best acting advice you have received and who gave it to you?

LT: Best acting advice was from Risa Garcia. She has an acting podcast and is also an acting teacher/casting director. Her advice just blew my mind, it makes life worth living honestly. She says to her students, “When you get these jobs that you’ve been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is after you have some power, then you should empower somebody else. This is not just a grab bag candy game.” That wisdom really speaks to the person I am going to be for the rest of my life. 

DDF: What director would you like to work with next? 

LT: Steve McQueen! I would love to work with him. He got on my radar with his movie starring Micheal Fassbender called Shame. He just seems like an actors director. 

DDF: How has life been during COVID-19?

LT: I turned myself into an introvert years before this happened so staying inside, has not been a problem. The beautiful thing is, before I booked Ruthless, I was going through a breakup and my life was seemingly falling apart. Then, all of a sudden, the Ruthless opportunity comes along and it was like a defibrillator was used on my life. My lady and I started to reconcile and said we would start to build this life together. We unsuccessfully tried to reconcile before but I didn’t have the tools for it. Now I do. 

Social distancing has been cool, we have spent several weeks in the apartment and we have been more connected than before. I’m not missing outside. I’m not missing a thing. I want to do my part and make sure no one gets infected by my doing. I’m curious to see how life is going to change but I am hopeful for the future. 

As I was watching the first part of the show Ruthless, I developed a disdain for the Dihkan character and was ready to fight him myself. Luckily he is only a character on the show, so I guess you can say Lenny has done a great job at portraying this role. Check it out for yourself! 

Tyler Perry’s Ruthless,” a spin-off of the hit television series “Tyler Perry’s The Oval,” tells the riveting story of a woman named Ruth who kidnaps her young daughter to join her in the dark underworld of a fanatical religious cult. “Tyler Perry’s Ruthless stars Melissa L. WilliamsMatt CedeñoLenny D. Thomas, Yvonne Senat JonesBaadja-Lyne Odums, Jaime Callica, Nirine S. BrownBlue Kimble, Stephanie CharlesHervé Clermont, Anthony Bless, and Bobbi Baker.

Watch Ruthless on BET and Amazon Prime.

15May/20

Steven St. Pierre is Blazing a Trail Set by the Likes of Duvernay

Steven St. Pierre is a budding creative/actor I met at last year’s DC Black Film Festival. While interviewing him during my coverage of the film festival, he mentioned how he started film making just recently and that Ava Duvernay had been an inspiration to start on a desirable path towards acting. After the interview, we kept in contact and I watched his progression. Little did I know, he would be achieving a lot more than he could imagine. I had an opportunity to catch up with the rising creative. 

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): How does it feel to have so much success for your short film, Corey?

Steven St. Pierre (SSP): The success has been great! The way I have been perceived for making something great, for myself. Last time we spoke in person, I was halfway into my festival run and we went to places like Canada and DC and I had entered the film Corey in multiple film festivals in the New York area.” 

Note: St. Pierre’s short film Corey has won multiple awards that include but are not limited to: Best Short film at the Validate Yourself Film Festival, Wavemaker Award at the Everybody Digital Film Festival Black History Month Edition, Audience Choice award at the Astoria film festival, Best Short Film winner and Grand Prize Winner at the Queens City Film Festival. 

DDF: You won big at the Queens City Film Festival, what’s next? 

SSP: After I won the grand prize award, I now have the opportunity to have my next short produced from the Queens City Film Festival. The prize is worth $50,000. Taking the passion I had into my own work turned into something I could have never imagined.

DDF: That’s truly a blessing! I remember you telling me about the trials and tribulations you had putting Corey together. Your co-star, Chantal Maurice, put on a great performance, how has her career been since the short film?  

SSP: Chantal has since moved to Atlanta P-Valley (Starz), Queen Sugar, Dynasty, and other projects that are coming out later this year. She’s killing the game.

DDF: What women have influenced you? 

SSP: My mother and grandmother, the women who raised me in my household. Just seeing their work ethic. My mom worked two jobs, to this day she still works two jobs to help support my grandmother because she is not doing well. Just really seeing all the sacrifices shes made, as an adult, I have developed a deeper appreciation and respect for her. 

I have to give a shout to my work mom and my assistant director Catherine, she just retired. Always supported me, always had my back, she was amazing. When you are in the workplace, you always need an ally and she definitely was that for me.

Ava Duvernay has really been an influence on me. I don’t know how many people are aware that before she was a filmmaker, she was a publicist. She was pounding the pavement, making everyone else’s dream come true and she decided, at what some people would think as an older age, to pivot her whole career. I feel like that has been my journey as well.

“I was a film publicist, so I represented a lot of filmmakers and I was always around them. I [started thinking], ‘They’re just regular people, like me, with ideas. I’ve got ideas.’ That’s literally how it started. It was definitely a career change; I didn’t make my first little short until I was 32.” – Ava Duvernay 

DDF: You had your biggest role as a co-star on High Maintenance, how was that experience?

Steven St. Pierre appears in an episode of High Maintenance season 4

SSP: I got that role not too long after I spoke with you in DC, it’s my first major network role. I felt like I finally cracked that code. Going out on auditions is tough, especially being new to the scene, but it’s going on four years now. It brought two passions together because I am playing a basketball player. I played ball growing up, so going into the audition I felt comfortable. I got offered the job via email and was excited! That was the most excited I have been in a long time.

DDF: What are your other goals?

SSP: My ultimate goals are to establish myself in the industry so I can have the visibility to reach people from places in my community. Letting them know they can do anything they are passionate about. Even today, I go to a lot of career days for my friends who are teachers or are a part of programs for children. I think it helps children see someone like me, who is making it, but not a huge celebrity, to let them know goals are attainable. Otherwise, if they see someone who is a huge celebrity they won’t think things are attainable. They can also see the grind I am going through, so when I make it further into my acting career, it will hopefully inspire them. 

Steven St. Pierre looks to continue his success as a creative and achieve many of his entertainment goals during his career change. With Ava Duvernay serving as an inspiration, St. Pierre knows that, with hard work and persistence, the sky is the limit.

Follow Steven St. Pierre on social media or check out his web page here.

Steven St. Pierre’s award winning short Corey

12May/20

Filmmaker Morgan Cooper Wins Two Tribeca X Awards

Morgan Cooper writer and director of U Shoot Videos?

Morgan Cooper made a huge impression with his trending Fresh Prince of Bel-Air inspired short, Bel-Air, and the filmmaker continues his success. The award-winning filmmaker snagged two awards in the 2020 Tribeca X category of the Tribeca Film Festival. Morgan Cooper won “Best Feature Film” for U Shoot Videos? and “Best Short” for Pay Day, winning in the two out of the three categories of the Tribeca X category. Taji Mag was able to catch up with the multi-award-winning filmmaker to see how his projects came to life. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What moment did you decide you want to make films? 

Morgan Cooper (MC): My career started on my 18th birthday. I bought a Cannon P2I DSLR camera at Best Buy and, with that camera, I made a career. I felt like I had something to say through the medium. From that moment on, I just showed up and did the work every day. I took small steps to improve my skillset. Over the years I was able to find my voice.  

U Shoot Videos?

Morgan CooperU Shoot Videos is a powerful narrative following a filmmaker trying to excel in his career field. Being young, Black, and gifted but denied the opportunity to make commercials due to his lack of experience and no film school, Moji must figure out how to keep his dream alive and hurdle the obstacles in his path.  

DDF: U Shoot Videos? provides a narrative some Black creatives can relate to. What has been the most interesting response to your film? 

MC: Some of the people that reached out felt it was their story. They felt seen and heard through the film. I can’t think of any better feedback than that. There were people that were thinking about giving up, feeling so alone during their journey in filmmaking, and, after seeing this film, it gives them an extra boost. I was overwhelmed with how positive and how beautiful the feedback was. 

DDF: There was a lot of support for the lead character Moji, from characters like Aaron and Moji’s brother. Was that intentional during the course of the film? 

MC: The show of support was very important to me. You don’t see Black men supporting each other enough on screen. Everything in the film is based on real reactions that I had during the course of my career. I felt it was my responsibility to show these really honest moments where Black men support each other without any alternative motives. Like Aaron telling Moji “I’m down to help you because I want to learn. I have an interest in what you do and you inspire me.” I am really proud of that moment and I hope to see more support among Black males like that on film in the future.  

PayDay

PayDay is a collaborative project with Color Creative, Synchrony, Gian Spoon agency, and written by actress/comedian Gabrielle Dennis. The short follows Nyssa, a young woman who desires to open her own business but spends money like there is no tomorrow. On her payday, she gets caught in a time loop “Groundhog Day” style and is unable to break it until figures out a way to make better decisions. 

DDF: How did you become apart of the PayDay Project and how was it working with Gabrielle Dennis? 

MC: Denise from Color Creative reached out to my agent about the PayDay project. It just looked like an interesting and fun piece. I pitched on it and got the job. I locked arms with Color Creative, Giant Spoon, and Synchrony to make the film happen. It was a long two-day shoot but it turned out really nice in the end.

Gabrielle was great to work with. She brought a lot of enthusiasm to the table. She has a brilliant comedic mind. It was very fun being on set and creating space for her, letting her talent really shine. She trusted my vision from the start and throughout the shoot. We gave ourselves space to express the ideas that we both wanted to bring to the project. We were both aligned with the why behind the project and it was just a tremendous project from start to finish. 

DDF: How did you become so good at providing the right light for people of color while you shoot? 

MC: Perfecting that craft started from who I am, understand my background and culture. As a Black man, I wanted to make sure people of color are captured on film with care. That’s really the root of it. From there it filters into lighting, lens selection, and crafting the scene. Understanding how Black people have been captured on film historically, which hasn’t been great. Over the years I have tested, researched, and studied different techniques to maximize the quality in which our skin is captured. I often think about the actors who are overlooked especially from the city where I am from – Kansas City. With the opportunity for the actors to be on set, they can’t be wondering how they look, they have to just trust your direction. As a director, it’s something I take seriously. I like to make sure I capture actors in an honest way. 

DDF: Have you had other filmmakers ask you about lighting while filming actors of color? 

MC: I have had other colleagues that have sought out advice on lighting, different fusion techniques, transitions, lenses, etc.

DDF: What director inspires you? 

MC: Ernst Dickerson has been one of the biggest inspirations of my career. He’s a former cinematographer who shot films like Do the Right Thing. He’s a brilliant cinematographer who goes into writing and directing. He penned some of my favorite films like Juice. I followed the same trajectory – working as a cinematographer then transitioning into writing and directing. I’m actually getting a chance to speak with him after this interview. 

 DDF: How does it feel to win Best Short and Best Feature in the Tribeca X? 

MC: It feels amazing! I feel very humbled and I am full of gratitude, to be recognized by such a prestigious institution. More than anything, I am so happy for all of my collaborators and I am so thankful to the team for putting together these projects. I can not say enough about the honor. 

DDF: What would be your dream project?

MC: I have several dream projects. I can’t really discuss them but I am very excited about the dream projects I will get to bring to life over the next several years. So stay tuned. 

DDF: What actor/actress would you like to work with? 

MC: I definitely want to work with Mahersla Ali and Janelle Monae. I think they are great actors. When you watch them, you are really transported into the moment they are expressing. I think we would be able to create something special together.

We hope to see more amazing films from the talented filmmaker. Hopefully, one of his dream projects will feature Mahersala Ali and Janelle Monae and will be one that is celebrated as a cult classic. Keep up with Morgan Cooper on Instagram at @cooperfilms.