Archive For The “Profiles” Category
It’s hard to miss Lee Daniels.
Forget the pastel polos, the black rimmed glasses or the Don King-like hair – his personality alone demands attention. As he makes his way toward the table I’m sitting at, jotting down questions, I notice Lee Daniels doesn’t walk. He struts. I notice he doesn’t smile. He gleams.
He exudes the confidence that most first time directors usually hide behind doubt.
But, then again, Lee Daniels is different. And that may be the strongest quality he has. His confidence is the reason everyone within a fifteen foot radius knows Lee Daniels is, well, within a fifteen foot radius.
Although he’s making his directoral debut at the 2nd Anuual Bahamas International Film Festival with his film Shadowboxer, he is nowhere near being a rookie. He produced the Oscar-winning film Monster’s Ball, then followed that success with the critically acclaimed picture The Woodsman.
As Lee Daniels promotes Shadowboxer to whoever will listen, it’s apparent that the hair isn’t the only thing he and Don King have in common. King’s knack for promotion is also there.
“Shadowboxer is my soul,” he emphasizes. “I put my soul into whatever I do. Especially this movie. I put all I could into this.”
His soul wasn’t all he put into the movie. During production, Lee Daniels found himself putting his heart into the movie. Two months ago, the 46-year-old suffered a heart attack at the hands of exhaustion and hard work.
“Directing is… a tsunami,” Daniels laughs. “It’s very humbling. It’s easier to produce, but it’s so much more exciting to direct.”
Despite his success, Daniels’ greatest achievement has nothing to do with the cinema. He’s a proud father, something that makes all of his behind the camera success seem distant.
“That’s my greatest achievement,” Daniels said. “Being a dad.”
As a first time director at a sophomore film festival, Daniels sees positive outlooks for both him and the festival.
“I think the festival is going to grow and grow,” he said. “(Festival founder) Leslie Vanderpool has done a phenomenal job putting groups of people together. I think the future festivals will attract many people.”
As for him?
“I’ve got a couple movies left in me,” Daniels grins, the ultimate magician talking about future tricks up his sleeve. “I’m producing a new film called Tennesse and co-directing another with Lenny Kravitz.”
Despite a late start as a director, Daniels doesn’t take anything for granted. After his near-death experience, Daniels has developed a relationship with God and realizes how fortunate his is, not only to direct, but to still be alive.
“I’ve realized I’m very blessed,” Daniels said. “I’m trying to keep focus in prayer. I’m finding out what happiness is.”
One day, Anthony Mackie will be the one of the greatest actors in Hollywood.
He’ll be swarmed by agents, mobbed by fans and have enough Oscar statues to play chess with. His name will be top billing in box office hits that will attract half the world into the theatre.
But, right now, he’s just an optimistic actor from New Orleans, sitting next to me, gulping a Jack and Coke at the Bahamas International Film Festival.
“In five years I hope I’m blown up,” Mackie laughs, stirring his drink. ”I just want to continue to do diverse and interesting roles. Continue to do one play a year, continue to do three films a year.”
Mackie is evolving into a star, using his on-screen presence to turn ordinary films into extraordinary ones. In his film debut, the smash-hit 8 Mile, Mackie took the role of Eminem’s cross-town rival Papa Doc and made you absolutely hate him. In his two latest films, Spike Lee’s She Hate Me and Rodney Evans’ Brother to Brother, Mackie hasn’t just shown that he can really act, but that he’s one of the most versatile young actors in Hollywood.
“I’m on my way to that,” Mackie tells me, concerning his flexibility as an actor. “Well, like a few more projects and I might get up there. But, now, I wish.”
In Brother to Brother, Mackie plays Terry, a gay teenager who befriends an older black writer at a homeless shelter. The film has received critical acclaim for both the picture itself and Mackie’s too-good-to-be-true performance.
“I did a lot of research for Brother to Brother,” Mackie explains. “Like when (Marlon) Brando did Streetcar, he used to stand outside of strips clubs and watch men come in and out. When I read that, it tripped me out. So when I was doing this film, a friend of mine showed me this gay club and I used to stand outside and watch the men come in and out. I would watch their movements and everything like that. I just applied that to my work and didn’t judge it.”
Mackie’s other latest feature is Spike Lee’s She Hate Me, a politically driven film that deals with everything from whistleblowers to same-sex parenting. In the film, Mackie somehow finds himself in the middle of a moral dilemma as his successful life turns into a whirlwind of confusion. Playing a recently fired, desperate young executive who impregnates women for $10,000 each in one film, and a homeless gay teenager in the other, Mackie discovered similarities between directors Spike Lee and Rodney Evans, which helped him develop each character.
“Well it’s interesting, they just have similar styles of work,” Mackie said, leaning forward. “Rodney had a very specific vision about this film. It was basically him setting the performance on the actors. Where as with Spike, he casts people because of their ability and he works with that to form the character. So, Spike’s more of an actor’s director, where as Rodney’s really a director’s director.”
Mackie’s film resume includes cameos in The Manchurian Candidate, with Denzel Washington, and upcoming films such as Million Dollar Baby, with Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman, plus The Man with Samuel L. Jackson. He has worked with some of the best actors in the world, enhancing his own technique by observing the work of others.
“I would just hone in on my own working process by watching their process,” he tells me. ”And how to treat people.”
I ask him to explain that.
“When Sam (Jackson) got on the set everybody knew it because he knew everybody’s name. He made sure everybody was upbeat and cool. He was cracking jokes on everybody, cracking jokes with everybody. Everybody was cracking jokes on him. They really taught me, when you get to that level, how to treat people to make them want to come to work.”
For now, Anthony Mackie is cast into roles that either save or make the films, something that helps establish himself as one of the best young actors of Hollywood’s new generation.
When asked how he gets those roles, how he has met these people, he sums up his acting career in three words.
“I’ve been lucky.”
Originally Written For BahamasB2B.com
Eric Devendorf is better than you.
While most kids are enjoying their summer, Eric, a 6’3″, soon-to-be-junior guard, is busting his ass with his assistant coach.
Getting better than you.
Dribbling drills, passing, shooting. And shooting. And shooting.
What, you thought being a top-ranked player in Michigan happens overnight?
That’s why he’s better than you.
I call his house around lunchtime. A girl’s voice comes over the phone.
I can tell his family gets a lot of these calls. Inconsiderate reporters, writers, journalists, all calling and asking to speak with Eric.
I’m one of those pricks.
“Hi. Is Eric there?”
“Yeah. May I ask whose calling?”
“My name’s Matt, I write for–”
Before I can finish, she’s calling for Eric. She knows the deal. He comes to the phone, not annoyed. Maybe pleased even.
The first thing I bring up is college. He’s got the likes of Duke, Arizona State, Syracuse, Michigan State, and Michigan hanging onto him. He tells me Texas A & M, too. The list keeps rolling and the kid still has two years of high school left.
I decided to take my chances and ask him the question kids our age hate to hear.
“I know you get this a lot, but where do you see yourself in college? Do you want to stay close to home?”
“I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t think there’s a frontrunner really,” he says humbly. “My mom wants me to stay close to home – Michigan, Michigan State – but I’m really looking for the best offer.”
The best offer?
When you have dozens of schools after you that are ranked top 10 in the nation year after year, which is the best offer? I decide to take my chances again. I challenge him. Try to piss him off. I doubt him.
“You think you’ll be able to hold your own? I mean this is D1 college basketball. You think you can handle it?”
He’s almost eager to answer.
“I know I can. I’ve worked hard and been able to play against top competition. I’m working out with my assistant coach and I think I’m ready for all of that.”
We talk about his school, Bay City Central, and what it’s like coming from a school not known for hoops.
“(Bay City Central) isn’t a basketball school. It’s motivation for me to try and make it one,” Devendorf said.
He tells me about how he’s been working, hard, with his coaches and teammates. He tells me about his shooting workouts – “500 shots a day” – and his dribbling drills. I ask Eric to describe his game in three words. He uses – and only needs – one.
“I’m flashy.” Then: “I do a crossover dribble a lot and I learned that from Iverson,” Eric said. “But, I’m flashy and like to try things and I learned that from Pistol (Pete Maravich).”
I asked him if he mixed retro with new school, Iverson with Pistol.
“Oh yeah, I like to mix it up. The best of the best. The best part of my game is definitely my quickness and ability to get to the hoop. I also like the three.”
Eric’s factual, but modest. It might have even been a stretch to get him to talk about his game, much less talk about his high points.
I bring up competition, who’s the best he’s played against.
“The Saginaw Valley is tough, man,” Eric said. “The best players I’ve played against is probably (former Saginaw High, now University of Florida guard) Anthony Roberson and some players from the ABCD Camp.”
Although his future is still undecided, Eric Devendorf is the type of players coaches like. He’s good – shit, he knows he’s good – but why tell you about it?
You’ll see him soon enough.
Then you’ll know:
Damn. He is better than me.
Rochester, Michigan native Bryan Lackner, better known by his stage name Mister, isn’t exactly your average rapper.
He doesn’t dedicate entire songs to his fascination with drugs or guns or jail time. He isn’t weighed down by pounds of gaudy jewelry. He doesn’t sport designer sunglasses when he performs. Instead, he’s wearing oversized reading glasses and corduroys.
“I wear a suit on stage,” Mister said. “And I rap about macaroni and cheese.”
He isn’t joking.
Mister is known to perform in crooked golfer’s hats and loosely knotted ties, polyester vests and tailored dressed pants. At first glance, he looks like a bearded golf caddy with a microphone. But when you listen to his lyrics, you realize he’s much more than that.
As a teen, Mister used hip-hop as a way to creatively convey his emotions and ideas, crafting countless verses that he claims to have been “riddled with teen angst and awful wordplay.”
Since then, Mister has emerged as a word-of-mouth sensation around Oakland County, thanks to his vivid imagery, unique style and unwavering originality. Inspired by the eccentricity of Andy Kaufman and the brutal honesty of Louis C.K., Mister’s quick-witted rhymes capture the essence of being an outcast without having to bring attention to his race.
And, like most independent artists struggling to garner recognition in their hometown, Mister has to juggle his burgeoning music career with his regular 9-to-5 day job — an acquired skill that takes both patience and compromise.
“(Making music) doesn’t pay the bills, so I have to work to eat,” Mister said. “But, if there’s downtime at the job, I’m always updating my website and scribbling ideas for songs.”
Most of those ideas have flourished into impressively arrangement compositions.
In a song titled “What I Do,” Mister poetically explains the necessity of keeping his ego in check despite being constantly praised by his peers.
“They keep clappin’/gathers up his things and, some give dap, but/he barely makes time to acknowledge it/grateful yes, he’s just never been good at taking compliments.”
And in a track called “Need That Food,” Mister verbally debates over which snack to grab from the cupboard before settling on — you guessed it – a pouch of microwavable mac and cheese.
“After I leave my 9-5, I’m either writing, recording, shooting stupid promo videos, or promoting and putting together the next show,” Mister said. His undeniable dedication to hip-hop is commendable, considering how competitive Detroit’s music scene has become in the past few years. “The music in Detroit is better than anywhere else in the world,” Mister said.
Some of his favorite local artists include Illy Mack, House Phone, Bars of Gold, Child Bite, Of Mice and Musicians, Prussia and The Ashleys. Mister has joined forces with Cold Men Young’s Blaksmith to form Passalacqua, a conceptual hip-hop duo that successfully blends and complements each other’s intelligence and imagination.
The two are putting the finishing touches on a new full-length album, “Zebehazy Summer,” which will be available for digital download in August 2011.
The most frightening image of The Untold Story of Emmett Till isn’t young Emmett’s mutilated face as he lies in his coffin for the whole world to see. It isn’t Mamie Till Mobley’s reactions at the funeral, being held up by two men as she nearly faints while looking at her son’s lifeless corpse.
The most frightening image of the film is when the murderers, J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, smile in the courtroom as they get acquitted of kidnapping and murdering the 14-year-old boy who allegedly whistled at a white woman.
But, thanks to a relentless effort by the film’s director, Keith Beauchamp, the decision in that courtroom won’t stand much longer.
Beauchamp has dedicated nine years of his life to The Untold Story of Emmett Till, which not only received a standing ovation at its screening at the Bahamas International Film Festival, but has reopened the murder case of the 1955 killing of young Emmett Till.
“It was more than just a film,” Beauchamp said during our interview at the Atlantis Coral Towers. “This became a personal journey for myself.”
That personal journey started at the age of 10, when Beauchamp first learned of Emmett Till’s story. Having grown up in racially tense Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Beauchamp experienced racism as a high school senior, when he was beaten by an off-duty police officer for dancing with a white girl at prom.
“I was hands-on with this project because I lived this project,” Beauchamp told me expressively. “This is something that I was willing to die for.”
Having not worked a 9-to-5 in over seven years, Beauchamp has devoted a majority of his adult life working on The Untold Story, becoming sort of a second son to Emmett’s mother, the late Mamie Till Mobley.
“We became very close,” Beauchamp said. “Just knowing her, just speaking with her and just listening to her knowledge and her wisdom, that is what really kept me going.”
Mamie Till Mobley, who passed away last year, had fought for the reopening of the case for 47 years, trying to avenge her son’s brutal murder. That vengeance came when Beauchamp made his documentary, which opened the eyes of the justice system while dropping the jaws of viewers. I ask Keith if he, too, still gets chills when he watches the film.
“Oh yeah, man,” he says shaking his head emphatically. “It’s very unfortunate that Mrs. Mobley passed away, it’s very hurtful for me to see the footage of her.
Everything she had said to me before, I now know what she’s been trying to teach me.
I asked him what he learned.
The film that Beauchamp has persevered in is a 75-minute documentary that follows the events that happen before, during and after the abduction and murder of Emmett Louis Till, a 14-year-old Chicago native who traveled to Mississippi to visit his uncle. The film, which has no narration or onscreen appearances for Beauchamp, uses the witnesses that were with Till when he was abducted, the reporters who covered the case and, of course, the woman who lost her son.
“I’ve never considered this film to be my film,” Beauchamp said tapping his chest. “I always considered this their film; the witnesses, Mrs. Mobley’s film. I’m just the mouth piece.”
Since starting this documentary, Beauchamp has discovered evidence that proves even the most knowledgeable history books wrong. Beauchamp learned that there were over 14 people involved in the murder, much more than the historian’s story, which includes only two. Beauchamp has found witnesses who didn’t want to be found and possible suspects that desperately tried to clear their name. But, the most significant thing Beauchamp has done was force the re-opening of the nearly 50-year-old case and lit a match underneath the seat of America’s top politicians.
“I made this film to raise the American…” Beauchamp stops and thinks. “Not just the American consciousness, but to raise the conscience of all people about the contributions that were given by African-Americans.”
Now, Beauchamp is getting rewarded for his role in, what he calls, the hip-hop generation’s civil rights movement. He has been talking to plenty of producers and film distributors who are interested in making a feature-length film on his life and his involvement with the Emmett Till project.
“There are so many people we’ve been discussing to play me,” Beauchamp explained. “It was said that Will Smith had interest, same with Jamie Foxx, but I don’t see those people playing me.”
I laugh and say, yes, I could see Will Smith.
“Will Smith?” He too, begins to laugh. “A lot of people said that actually. I don’t know man, it’s up in the air.”
Although Beauchamp’s film has many frightening and horrifying images, it is laced with beauty that will keep a lasting impression on me and every other viewer. The most beautiful image in the film is watching Mamie Till Mobley sit on her couch, next to a baby picture of Emmett, still able to smile her gorgeous smile.
And, after watching all that Keith Beauchamp has done for her son, you know she is smiling down on him now.
Dryvel is a multifaceted rock/punk band devoted to promoting an optimistic message without diluting the edginess or high energy of their music.
Initially inspired by bands like Rage Against the Machine, Rancid, and NOFX, Dryvel has evolved from a street-level rock group to a must-see local sensation.
Formed in 2000, Dryvel has since undergone some lineup changes to maintain their characteristic punk-thrash sound by crafting tunes that are punchy enough to work individually but harmonic enough to be part of a concept album. Dryvel consists of Matt Marriott (drums), Robert Grupido (guitar/vocals), and John Cottone (bass/vocals).
“We got our start by finding out that we all enjoyed similar bands and decided to jam together,” drummer Matt Marriott said. “Jamming out eventually led us to write our own material, which then got us gigs at local venues.”
Local venues soon became venues all over the state, which soon turned into venues all across the Midwest. Dryvel has performed at various hot spots throughout Michigan, including The Crofoot, The Hayloft, Mac’s Bar, The Ritz, NYNY, The Bling Pig and Rack N Roll.
In addition to making a name for themselves in and around their hometown, Dryvel recently booked a three-day weekend tour called the “WHY NOT?! TOUR,” which consists of consecutive performances in Chicago, Minneapolis and North Dakota respectively. But despite their rigorous touring schedule, the members of Dryvel still must find time for their everyday lives and strenuous day jobs.
“It’s difficult to have most of your day taken up with something other than playing and writing music,” Marriott said. “But our day jobs allow us to pay for the things we need, so there’s a bit of a trade-off. You just have to work hard with both until there’s a day when the music can pay for everything.”
And that day may not be far off.
Dryvel’s sound is refreshingly distinctive; a punk-rock hybrid with equal parts Green Day, Blink 182 and My Chemical Romance. In a song titled “Go Time” from their album “He Walks Alone,” you won’t know whether to head-bang your way toward a mosh pit or listen intently to the arrangement of dueling guitars and an impressive drum pattern.
Although Dryvel has been recording and performing for more than 10 years now, the band still finds ways to garner new fans without compromising their style and sound. And even though the competition to get signed to a record deal is stronger than ever, Dryvel supports other local bands just as much as they support themselves.
“There are a ton of great local bands and we admire all of them for doing what we’re doing,” Marriott said. “Some of our closest friends are members of Konniption Fit, False City, Six Months Gone, Dirty Whiskey, The Product and Fall Prey.”
As for artists on the other end of the spectrum, Marriott offered a few words of wisdom to assist local bands that are just getting started.
“Do what makes you happy and what makes you proud,” he said. “Practice, play shows, be creative, get out to local shows, and support the local scene!”