Trailblazer of the month
As African Americans involved in film there are so many people
we owe our current artistic freedom to. If it weren't for people
like Oscar Micheaux, Spike Lee and the many pioneers in between, we
would still have countless barriers to break down before we got a
solid foothold on the film world. As you'll see by keeping up with
this column, Trailblazers come in all kinds of packages: directors,
actors, producers, hairdressers, dreamers and some folk you'd never
even imagine. We're even gonna make some educated guesses about
the people we think are gonna be the next generation's
trailblazers. Stay tuned.
Partner, Starpower, a multimedia production company. Clients:
The Source Magazine, The Metropolitan Teaching & Learning
(publisher of multicultural educational books), The Heritage
Collection (African American greeting card company), The Shooting
Gallery (independent film company)|
"Many hats." Marketing, production, capital raising, agenting…
Education: Williams College. Major: History & Political
Science. Minor: Women's Studies|
Like we've always been told, school is a place where you learn
how to think-- how to analyze information and make decisions-- and
what better place to come and test that out than New York City?
Based upon the opportunities that came my way I tried to figure out
where I could add value and find my passion. When I first came to
NY, I worked for Seagram's, then as a manager for a beer
distributor, then a manufacturer overseeing distributors. The best
part of all that was it was an opportunity to understand how
products-- regardless if it's food, clothes or whatever-- get into
stores; how they reach shelves where you and I can buy them. I was
learning how to market a brand to a target audience. After that, I
did a melange of things including product placement for
entertainment events and controlling the add space of the big TV
screen in Times Square. I created Starpower a couple years ago as
a way to help brands create effective messages to reach their
target audiences, specifically youth. In short, Starpower is a
"venture catalyst." We help people jumpstart their companies and
go in different directions-- whatever that company might be. It's
about leveraging brand power.
What is your motivation?
Have the initiative to go after your dreams. To do that, you
have to make sure you find your passion in life. Find something
that will make you happy everyday. Life is very long when you're
doing something you don't enjoy.
Laurence Fishburne's directorial debut, Once in the
Life, which is based on a play that Fishburne wrote and
performed in with Heavy D called "Riff Raff." It deals with
betrayal, brotherhood, and community. Gregory Hines co-stars as
well. It's slated to come out in April. Fishburne is serving as
writer, director, and star.
Goals for Starpower:
To be the next youth-based CMGI with a splash of CAA. CMGI is
an incubator of a number of different websites. It nurtures them,
helps develop them, and provides financial and human capital to
launch web-based brands. CAA is a Hollywood talent agency. By
"youth" I mean age eighteen to thirty-four.
What was your very first film experience?
This is my first film experience. I'm an experienced marketer,
in terms of marketing things to the youth. Film for me is just
another brand to market.
How or why did you select film as a career?
One of the biggest reasons I'm excited about what I'm doing is
that you always hear that it's difficult to market "urban" movies.
And, more importantly, you hear that these movies don't do well
overseas. That's bull. In Tokyo, kids have dreadlocks, kids have
'fros, kids are rocking Enyce, FUBU, Mecca, and Karl Kani. Our
culture has presence there. If you can't market movies over there,
then you can't market at all. So if Starpower does a credible job
helping market a lot of these urban movies throughout Europe and
Asia, we'll prove that it can be done… and that'll encourage the
movie studios to invest in more urban content. So, I got into film
to prove that there in nothing wrong with the urban movies, there's
been something wrong with the marketing of those movies.
Hardest part of the job?
Feeling like you can do better… because you're dealing with
people's lives and dreams. We're doing a great job, but you always
think you can do better. Especially for someone like Laurence
Fishburne who is practically an institution-- a twenty-seven year
institution. I wish I could make an international holiday for
people to appreciate the institution. Laurence Fishburne day!
In what way would you consider yourself to be a trailblazer in
the film industry?
By redefining the marketing of urban film, which will give us,
as well as other filmmakers, the opportunity to produce the
independent, compelling films that we've always wanted to make.
What would be your message to the next trailblazer?
Believe in yourself. Find your passion. Don't be afraid of
failure. It's true what they say, what doesn't kill you makes you
stronger. So, be man or woman of character.