February is black history month and as such (i.e. considering I’m a black filmmaker) I thought I’d share with you my experiences at being a black filmmaker for those of you who may be interested in being a black filmmaker yourself.
FYI: for purposes of this blog post, I am using the term “black” vs. African-American for brevity. Feel free to substitute black with African American, Afro-American, Negro, Black-Negro, Negroid, or Afro-Descendant. If you’re reading this post outside the United States, feel free to use Afro-European, Afro-Asian, Afro-Australian, Afro-Hispanic, Afro-Canadian, Afro-Antartican or Afro-African (which you could also shorten to just African). Where applicable you may also use Cablaisian.
1. Ebonics not Required. Contrary to popular belief, not all black filmmakers are adept at writing or speaking what is considered black slang. I’ve traditionally spoken what many consider to be proper English. Believe it or not, I actually know a LOT of black people who speak the way I do. (Fascinating, huh?) So, if you’d like to be a black filmmaker but don’t know Ebonics or similar dialects, that’s quite alright.
2. Hood Experience Not Required. Contrary to another popular belief, not all black filmmakers come from the hood. I could not write a “hood” film if my life depended on it. So, if you would like to be a black filmmaker but come from a middle class or upper class neighborhood, you could still be a black filmmaker. (You may from time to time have the term “boojy” added to the front of your title, just so you know).
3. Black Stories Not Required. Contrary to yet another popular belief, not all black filmmakers solely tell stories about black culture. Some of us can actually tell stories about red, brown, yellow, and even white people. Some black filmmakers tell stories not related to race at all.
4. Political Activism Not Required. Contrary to yet another very popular belief, not all black filmmakers are into political activism. For whatever reason, I for one have never been particularly interested in politics. I tend to not like ANY politicians and instead of aligning with any one party, I just vote for whomever I like the most (or dislike the least) in any given voting year. Which leads me to my next thing.
5. Liberal Mind-Set Not Required. Not all black filmmakers are liberally minded. Albeit, they may be a rare breed, but there are some black filmmakers whose personal, political and/or financial outlook on life tends more to the right. (Warning: if you choose to be a black filmmaker that is more conservatively aligned, be prepared to take some flack if you’re particularly vocal about your conservative beliefs. The irony is, by fighting against the prejudice of those who don’t share your affiliations, you in essence become even “blacker” by the sheer fact you are fighting oppression, and that’s a good thing.)
So, if you’re a “black” filmmaker but can’t speak or write Ebonics, are not from the hood, want to shoot sci-fi thrillers (or romantic comedies), could care less about politics, and are a fan of Fox News (just for the record, I’m not), I’m happy to tell you that you CAN be a black filmmaker. That is, if you are actually, well, um…black.
Click here for a hilarious scene from “Hollywood Shuffle” about black actors. I think it also gets the point across nicely. If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, please make sure to fast forward to about 3:44. (WARNING: Contains adult language.)