Friday, May 9, 2014

"Talking White" by Hank Byrd

This morning, I read a disturbing Facebook post by a good friend. He expressed his anger as a biracial man that people accuse him of not being "black enough"...I'm a dark-skinned black man, so I can't pretend to know what that's like, but the post brought up some memories from my youth and it angered me as well because even though it's 2014, we are STILL dealing with who is "black enough"...

As a child, my mother always made sure that we acted, wrote and spoke in a manner that showed the world that we not only had above average home training, but we were intelligent and commanded respect. Sure, we engaged in slang with our friends on the streets, but in the classroom and amongst adults, we stuck to our mother's teachings.

Unfortunately, doing so garnered the ire of many of my classmates, who accused me of "acting white", "talking white" or "actin' proper." It always confused me and caused me to "dumb down" who I was in order to fit in. I wouldn't dare tell my friends that on top of Miami Vice, The Cosby Show and BET, I also liked to curl up with a good sci-fi novel, watch re-runs of Star Trek and thumb through the mountain of comic books I hid in my room. I'm not complaining about my childhood, but it was painful not being able to fully be myself.

So when I hear someone in 2014 still being accused of not being black enough, it pisses me off. What exactly does that mean? Who determines ones blackness or lack thereof? When I look at leaders like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King; authors and orators like James Baldwin, Alex Haley, and Fredrick Douglass. These men spoke and wrote with extreme intelligence. They didn't write or speak in broken English, slang, nor did they write in a way that disgraced their station, upbringing or education. Were they talking white?

Are some you of the misguided opinion that when a white person opens his mouth everything they say is inherently good, intelligent, sound; and by sounding like a white person, you are dis-genuine in your speech? Are you saying that speaking in complete sentences, in a manner that allows you be heard and understood is wrong? Help me understand the hypocrisy of this thinking, because I'm up to my forehead with hearing it. As African Americans, we complain about being profiled and stereotyped, yet as many of us work not to be a walking stereotype, we are put down by our own for wanting to better ourselves and our children. That choosing not to engage in coonery and buffonery is somehow the antithesis of being black. I call bullshit.

I call bullshit on the people who look at our President and call him an Uncle Tom and not "black enough" because of his mixed race heritage, his white Midwestern upbringing, his proper speech, not growing up "in the hood", rather a well-traveled citizen of the world, and his dignified conduct befitting of the Commander in Chief. That bothers me that one would associate the lowest common factors (bad grammar, coming from the hood, sketchy education, a prison record etc.) with being black. Just like our white counterparts, being black is not a monolithic state of being. Not all white people speak proper English, come from great neighborhoods, have Ivy League educations or carry themselves in a dignified way. So when you say one is "acting white", "talking white" or "not black enough", what exactly are you saying? NO RACE has firmly planted the flag on dignity and intelligence on this planet, so we need not associate ones intelligence, conduct and speech with a race, rather let's accept that we are all wonderfully unique.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Case For Ben Affleck by Hank Byrd

So I've had less than 24 hours to digest the fact that Ben Affleck will be the next many fanboys, geeks and nerds, we don't ever agree on things, but I can safely say that there was a resounding chorus of HELL NAW's last night when Warner Brothers made the announcement. 

Don't get me wrong here, I don't dislike Affleck. I'll never forgive him for Daredevil however (I'm joking), but again, I'm not in the legion of Ben haters. Sure, Ben is a very capable producer/writer/director, having graced the Oscar stage on more than one occasion. He's put in some decent performances in films like "The Town" and the award-winning film "Argo". On the other hand, he's had a string of misses at the box office that are too numerous to list. 

Then I thought deeper. Ben has grown up a lot between "Paycheck" and "Gigli". He hasn't been given a role that will challenge him as physically and artistically as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Ben is a comic book fan and I'm sure he knows that he has a LOT of weight on his shoulders taking on such an iconic role. Ben will undoubtedly have to step his acting game up by playing dual roles: the brooding, troubled Bruce Wayne, who lives his life locked within the walls of Wayne manor plagued by his inner demons. Then there is Batman, the masked outlet for Wayne's angst. Physical, lethal, intimidating. Ben will have to pull off the intense physicality of the role as well as the dramatic arc. 

Then I thought deeper...we don't know how Snyder and screenwriter David Goyer will present Batman to us. Goyer, having been part of the "dynamic trio" writing team with the Nolan brothers on Christopher Nolan's vision of Batman may distance his take as far away as possible to the Nolanverse. We may get an entirely new version of the character we haven't seen before. "Man of Steel", while we knew we were essentially watching a Superman film, gave us an original take on the character. Why not Batman? Why not take the character somewhere it's never been with an actor who's never done it? Why don't we distance ourselves from the previous incarnations of the character and open our minds to something new. 

We complained that Hollywood doesn't do anything different, then Snyder gave us Man of Steel and the critics took a dump all over it. It was TOO different; drawing unneeded comparisons to other Superhero films, including the Christopher Reeves version.  The fans loved it! 

So I think deeper. The initial shock has worn off. Affleck, despite his missteps, is still a bankable star. He's a long shot. They could have gone with any number of actors to fill this role. All the "favorites", the shoe-ins. But isn't that what we miss about Hollywood? Isn't that what made Hollywood so great in the first place? THEY TOOK CHANCES!! Win or lose, succeed or fail, Snyder, like the filmmakers we grew up loving, has the balls to go against the fanboys, the critics and popular opinion and pick someone that will undoubtedly garner the ire of the comic book community and stand by his decision. 

Don't forget that MANY people scoffed at the idea of a short, balding comedian from Pennsylvania playing Batman...but Warner Brothers took a chance and it paid off. So I'll give Ben a chance...he'd better be worth the risk! 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

"House Call" is an online hit!

Our comedy short "House Call", made it's debut on April 5th to VERY positive reviews. Not only was there a huge outpouring of support from social media, many online radio and TV shows have already reached out to us to showcase the film. But don't take my word for it, check it out yourself!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

DJANGO UNCHAINED: Slavery, Racism and the Horse it Rode in on by Hank Byrd

DISCLAIMER: This isn't my "typical" review per se, just my take on the film and the controversy surrounding it:

"Django Unchained" is the latest film from director Quentin Tarantino, vastly different from any film he's done before. How can you say that Hank? This has all the earmarks of a "classic QT film": blood, profanity, a hot soundtrack and comedy. Sure, you'll find those in any QT film, but through this blood-soaked tale of the pre Civil War South, at its core, Django Unchained is by far the craziest love story ever committed to celluloid. It stars Jamie Foxx as Django, a bound, yet free thinking slave turned bounty hunter after his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) is sold off to a notorious Mississippi plantation called "Candyland". In his journey, Django meets and befriend Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German dentist, turned skilled bounty hunter, who conveniently is in pursuit of the Brittle Brothers, sadistic overseers for hire with a flair for bible verses and torture. It just so happens that Django knows what the brothers look like, and Schultz offers Django his freedom in exchange for his assistance in tracking them down. Repulsed by the brutality if slavery, Schultz finds something noble in Django's quest to find the love of his life and trains him in the art of gunslinging and bounty hunting. I won't give away much more of the plot, but this blog is for our sensitive brethren who refuse to see this film based solely on its slavery backstory.

Some even prescribe to Spike Lee's statement that "Slavery was not a spaghetti western, it was a holocaust" both points, I can say you're absolutely right! Slavery is and always will be a hard, jagged, bitter pill for African Americans to swallow in this country. It was a holocaust. It was the most shameful and demeaning act ever committed to another human being...and in Django Unchained, Tarantino doesn't let anyone off the hook for it.

This ain't "Song of the South" people. It's brutal, unflinching and very hard to watch.....but that was the point. You can't water down slavery. QT had a choice: tell it like it was or tell it like HE thinks it was. He chose option C: he told told it like it was and went WAY over the top telling it. Like Inglorious Basterds, this is alternate history. Of course they weren't listening to Johnny Cash, John Legend and Tupac in the old west, but the N-Word was used a lot more than we want to admit, black men fought to the death in barbaric matches that make the MMA look like pillow fighting, our women were relegated to sexual objects and we were considered property, to be bought and sold as nonchalantly as a horse. So while many will be up in arms that Tarantino took creative license with slavery, don't act like it didn't happen. The performances in this film are great. Waltz, DiCaprio and Samuel Jackson put in Oscar-caliber performances, but Dicaprio's performance as Monsieur Calvin Candie was nasty, over the top and a lot of fun to watch.

Only A gifted writer and filmmaker can take something so historically repulsive and make a movie that is hard to watch, but you can't take your eyes off of and a hero that you can root for. It makes you search your own heart to ask: how far down in the depths of hell on earth would YOU go to be with the one you love? By the end of this film Django let's you know how he, and in essence the filmmaker feels about true love, slavery and racism in this bullet at a time.

Grade: A-

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Crowdfunding for the Indie Filmmaker: A (Re-) Introduction to the Three P's of a Successful Indie Film Campaign by JOHN T. TRIGONIS


Welcome to my Film Slate blog of monthly crowdfunding tips and tactics, Crowdfunding for the Indie Filmmaker.
In this blog, I’ll be writing about topics that revolve around the numerous aspects of crowdfunding for indie film projects to provide a solid foundation of fundraising know-how for those of you planning a campaign in the future. Although I emphasize the personal touch and going with the natural flow of fundraising (what I call the Tao, or Way, of crowdfunding), I’ll sporadically examine other innovative tactics that don’t necessarily follow my own tenets of personalization. Success is success, after all.

What exactly is crowdfunding? It’s quickly becoming the primary way for today’s indie filmmakers to get the funds they need to bring their projects from script to screen. By setting up a campaign on Indiegogo, Kickstarter, or any of the other crowdfunding platforms out there, you can now reach out directly to your audience (the “crowd” in “crowdfunding”), and by recording a pitch video, offering rewards, and spreading the word via social media, you could be on your way to calling “action!” sooner than you think and without having to go through the rigmarole of finding investors, filling out grant proposals, or taking a loan from the bank.

As with everything, there’s a right way and a not so right way to crowdfund. Many people don’t realize that there’s as much art that goes into a successful crowdfunding campaign as there is in making a film. More than art, crowdfunding really revolves around convincing a group of people to band together and help make your dreams of shooting a motion picture a reality. In that sense, we –– as crowdfunders first, filmmakers second –– cannot be seen solely as filmmakers and certainly not as businesspeople. We must make our projects their projects. Simply stated, this means being a person before a petition.

John T. Trigonis is a published poet and storyteller, DIY filmmaker, freelance professor and author of "Crowdfunding for Filmmakers: The Way to a Successful Film Campaign." A cat lover, coffee aficionado, wine enthusiast and comic book geek, as well.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

TV TIME OUT!! -What Happened to Network TV? by Hank Byrd

It seems like reaching for the remote control these days has become an exercise in futility. With most of the so-called “good” shows on the cable networks, there has been an unstoppable influx of reality TV shows on every network station, gaining new fans and garnering the ire traditional TV watchers. So the million dollar question is: why so many reality TV shows?
According to the Wall Street Journal: the price per episode on series such as Top Model costs about $800,000 a show, while The Apprentice runs “just below $2 million an episode.” Compared to dramas, these prices are pretty low; despite its price tag, Trump’s show “is one of the most profitable programs on TV.” Still, reality isn’t staying cheap; “the industry is reverting to its profligate habits,” according to the Journal. Among the rising costs: “agents are ratcheting up prices for their clients,” “demand is so strong for experienced reality-show crews that salaries for casting coordinators and editors skilled at culling hundreds of hours of footage have soared 125 percent,” and sets are costing more as producers work to one-up each other and previous seasons of their shows.

Now look at your typical one-hour drama, which costs the studios around $2-$5 million per episode and you can see why the “fiscally responsible” studios often opt for the reality show, which is easier and inexpensive to shoot, devoid of inflated cast salaries, special or visual effects, a small writing staff and by shooting in existing homes, they avoid set construction and labor costs. Besides, studios often lose money on the first run of a show, but they can see a return on that investment of the show is sold into syndication (reruns). The problem is, many network shows, due to poor ratings, aren't even making it past their fist season. The downside is that reality programs have no real syndication potential. Once someone becomes the Apprentice, survives Survivor or sings their way into a record deal, the thrill is gone. Compare this to shows like Law and Order, where anywhere in America on a Sunday, Memaws are in their recliners watching the mini marathon.

Now let’s talk about content, or in the case of many shows, lack thereof. To call some of the sophomoric, stereotypical, ignorant and downright silly shows entertainment is frankly an insult. So why do they keep making them? See the paragraphs above and examine the state of the society we live in. We have always had a love affair with the rich, famous and infamous. It’s as Americana as apple pie. To get a peek into the lavish lifestyles of these individuals is one thing, but to know that they have real and often tragic lives underneath is the opiate of the masses.

Reality TV is sleazy, it is manipulative. It is as momentary as anything in popular culture -Morley Safer

And yet, in a culture like ours, which is given to material comforts, and addicted to forms of entertainment that offer immediate gratification, it is surprising that so much poetry is written. -Mark Strand

With shows like Jersey Shore, Basketball Wives, Mob Wives, The Real Housewives of Atlanta and both incarnations of Love and Hip Hop, many viewers have come out swinging, demanding that these shows be taken off of the air and ads pulled because of their stereotypical and often buffoonish portrayals of African Americans, Latinos and Italian Americans. Yet, viewership is at an all-time high for these shows despite the cries of the viewing public. So whats the solution?

I hate to leave this article and you, the reader, with more questions than answers, but are we destined to become a society where no aspect of our lives is sacred; where our pains, struggles and failures as human beings are simply fodder for the entertainment of the masses? I know that cable TV has been holding it down overt the past decade, but are we really witnessing the slow death of network television? Each sitcom as unfunny as the last, every hot new sci-fi, drama or action show is simply another rip-off of Lost, 24 and The X-Files. As a writer, I know we don't live in a world devoid of original ideas, but I cant tell from the recent crop of shows boring us to death on network TV. Again, what is the solution?

Maybe I should start a reality show about a group of out of work screenwriters who sit around and moan about there being nothing good on TV. And just to keep our “street cred”, we will engage in the occasional fist fight and drink’ll be GOLD!