Civic Pride highlights Black Cinema

Mass Communication

 The use of film media in propaganda as a way of controlling the masses is the modern day tool of slavery. Until African Americans obtain the means of cinematic production and maintain their autonomy in the creation of relevant movies our future will continue to be shaped by those who only wish to exploit, dominate and capitalize on our weakness.  The Chicago film industry is a central hub for motion picture production and exhibition that was established before Hollywood became the undisputed capital of film making. In the early 1900s, Chicago boasted the greatest number of production companies and filmmakers. 

John Singleton

Additional Information

 John Daniel Singleton was born on January 6, 1968 in South Central Los Angeles. While studying film at USC, he won three writing awards from the university, and was signed by Creative Artists Agency. He made his debut with the 1991 Columbia Picture Boyz N the Hood, whose widespread acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival that year extended to American audiences and critics that summer. Boyz was remembered by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences the following February, when Singleton garnered two Oscar nominations: one for Best Original Screenplay and the other for Best Director--becoming the first African-American and the youngest person to be nominated for the latter honor.

Since Boyz, Singleton's next two efforts were Poetic Justice (1993), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song ("Again"); and Higher Learning (1995). Both were not nearly as well-received by critics as Boyz, but they were profitable for their studio, Columbia, even if their final box office grosses did not approach that of Boyz. Critical acclaim returned with his next film, the 1997 Warner Bros. release Rosewood, but, ironically, the moviegoing audience that made Singleton's previous efforts popular successes failed to turn out for that film. Those viewers did return, however, for the summer 2000 hit Shaft, a revival of the '70s Blaxploitation icon, for Paramount Pictures. Between the releases of Boyz and Justice, Singleton helmed the Michael Jackson music video "Remember the Time" in 1992. Singleton returned to South Central Los Angeles ten years after Boyz with 2001's Baby Boy, from Columbia Pictures. While not an overwhelming box office success, the film garnered Singleton his best reviews since Boyz. He followed that heavy drama with a far different project in 2 Fast 2 Furious, the sequel to the 2001 sleeper hit The Fast and the Furious. Starring Paul Walker and Tyrese, the film was released by Universal Pictures on June 6, 2003 and went on to become a worldwide box office blockbuster. His latest project is the gritty crime drama Four Brothers, starring Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, André Benjamin, and Garrett Hedlund; the Paramount Picture was released on August 12, 2005.

In addition to his own directorial projects, Singleton has developed other projects through his production company, New Deal Entertainment. He served as executive producer on the Daisy V.S. Mayer-directed comedy Woo (1998), starring Jada Pinkett Smith and Tommy Davidson. New Deal's first independent producing effort, Hustle & Flow, written and directed by Brewer's following film, Black Snake Moan, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci; Paramount Vantage released the film on March 6, 2007.

Singleton has also appeared in front of the camera, appearing briefly as a mailman in Boyz, a prison guard in Shaft, a bootleg video vendor in Baby Boy, a fireman in John Landis' Beverly Hills Cop III (1994), and radio DJ "Detroit J" in Mario Van Peebles's Gettin' the Man's Foot Outta Your Baadasssss!(2003).

Singleton received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre on August 26, 2003.

--written by Michael Dequina

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 John Daniel Singleton (born January 6, 1968) is an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. A native of South Los Angeles, many of his early films consider the implications of inner-city violence like the critically acclaimed and popular Boyz n the Hood, Poetic Justice, Higher Learning and Baby Boy. He branched out into mainstream territory with the blockbusters 2 Fast 2 Furious, Four Brothers and Abduction

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Joseph M. Wilcots

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He was the first African American to join the International Cinematographers Guild. For 15 years, he also worked in various capacities on Michael Jackson's music videos, tours and other projects.

Joseph M. Wilcots, a trailblazing African American cinematographer whose credits include the landmark 1970s TV miniseries "Roots" and “Roots: The Next Generations," has died. He was 70. 


 

Joseph Morrow Wilcots (1 February 193930 December 2009; age 70) was an American Emmy Award-nominated cinematographer. Before he assumed that occupation, however, he was involved with the special effects for Star Trek: The Original Series while working at The Westheimer Company.[1]

Wilcots was born in Des Moines, Iowa. He served in the United States Navy as a photographer for four years and worked at The Westheimer Company for four and a half years after that. In 1967, he became the first African American to join the International Cinematographers Guild.

Following his stint at the The Westheimer Company, Wilcots was part of the camera crews for television shows such as The F.B.I. and Mission: Impossible and for such films as The Learning Tree, The Last Picture Show, Brother John (directed by James Goldstone), The Cowboys, and Lady Sings the Blues. He then became a camera operator on such films as Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (which featured Henry Gibson), The Mack (which featured George Murdock), and Cornbread, Earl and Me (which featured Bernie Casey, Stefan Gierasch, Thalmus Rasulala, Logan Ramsey, and Madge Sinclair).

As a cinematographer, Wilcots is best known for his work on parts four through twelve of the the groundbreaking 1977 mini-series Roots. Several Star Trek performers had roles on Roots, notably LeVar Burton, Ben Vereen, and the aforementioned Madge Sinclair. Describing Wilcots and his work on Roots, Burton said:

"What stands out immediately is that the look and feel of 'Roots' holds up today, in 2010; it does not feel dated at all. ... What I remember about Joe on that shoot is that he's a very gentle, gentle soul, as well as a very talented man."[1]

Wilcots received an Emmy Award nomination for his work on part seven of Roots. He returned as cinematographer for the 1979 sequel, Roots: The Next Generations, whose cast included Bernie Casey, Brock Peters, John Rubinstein, and Paul Winfield. His other credits as cinematographer include the comedy concert film Bill Cosby: Himself (for which he was also associate producer) and the television series Matlock and Brewster Place.

For fifteen years, Wilcots also worked variously as a cinematographer, photographer, producer, director and editor on music videos, tours, and other projects for music icon Michael Jackson. For example, he produced Jackson's Dangerous tour in 1992. Jackson died on 25 June 2009.

Wilcots suffered a stroke in 2008 and died from complications of it the following year. He was 70 years old. He was survived by his wife, Annette, and their children, Joseph Wilcots II and London Morrow Wilcots.

Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee

His production company

 Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee (born March 20, 1957) is an American film director, producer, writer, and actor. His production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, has produced over 35 films since 1983. 

Who Is Spike Lee?

 Spike Lee was born Shelton Jackson Lee on March 20, 1957, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was making amateur films by age 20, and won a Student Academy Award for his graduate thesis film. Lee drew attention with his first feature, She's Gotta Have It -- one of the most profitable films made in 1986 -- and continues to create films that explore provocative topics like race, politics and violence. He is also known for his documentaries and commercials. 

Early Life

 Actor, director, producer and writer Spike Lee was born Shelton Jackson Lee on March 20, 1957, in Atlanta, Georgia, and soon moved to Brooklyn, New York. Growing up in a relatively well-off African-American family, Lee was making amateur films by age 20. His first student film, Last Hustle in Brooklyn, was completed when he was an undergraduate at Morehouse College. Lee went on to graduate from the New York University Film School in 1982. His thesis film, Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads, won a Student Academy Award. 

Cinematic Successes

 Lee became a director of promise with his first feature film, She's Gotta Have It, in 1986. The film was shot in two weeks and cost $175,000 to make, but grossed more than $7 million at the box office, making it one of the most profitable films created in 1986. 

 

No stranger to controversy for certain provocative elements in both his films and public statements, Lee often takes a critical look at race relations, political issues and urban crime and violence. His 1989 film, Do the Right Thing, examined all of the above and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Subsequent films, including Malcolm X, Mo' Better Blues, Summer of Samand She Hate Me, continued to explore social and political issues. 4 Little Girls, a documentary about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1998.

In 2006, Lee directed and produced a four-hour documentary for television, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, about life in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He also did well at the box office that year with the crime caper Inside Man, starring Clive Owen, Jodie Foster and Denzel Washington.

Lee has also had success in directing television commercials, most famously opposite Michael Jordan in Nike's Air Jordan campaign. Other commercial clients include Converse, Taco Bell and Ben & Jerry's. His production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, is located in his childhood neighborhood of Fort Greene in Brooklyn.

Recent Projects

 Lee's 2008 feature Miracle at St. Anna, about four African-American soldiers trapped in an Italian village during World War II, was praised for bringing the oft-overlooked experience of black infantrymen -- known as Buffalo Soldiers -- to the big screen. Lee followed with a variety of projects, including documentaries of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jackson and a remake of the Korean revenge film Oldboy. In 2012, he reprised his Do the Right Thing character of Mookie in Red Hook Summer.

Lee's 2015 film Chi-Raq, an adaptation of Aristophanes's Lysistrata set in modern-day Chicago, was the first feature produced by Amazon Studios. That year, the acclaimed filmmaker also received an honorary Oscar at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' annual Governors Awards. 

Melvin Van Peebles

Additional Information

 

Melvin "Block" Van Peebles(born August 21, 1932) is an American actor, director, screenwriter, playwright, novelist and composer.

He is most famous for creating the acclaimed film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, which heralded a new era of African American focused films. He is the father of actor and director Mario Van Peebles. (Read more...)


 Filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles has made his mark in movies, television, literature, music, and on Broadway.

He was born August 21, 1932, in Chicago, Illinois, to Marion Van Peebles, and Edward Griffin, a tailor.

Mr. Van Peebles graduated from Thornton Township High School in Phoenix, Illinois, in 1949, and attended predominantly African-American West Virginia State College. He transferred after one year to Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature.

In 1953, Mr. Van Peebles joined the U.S. Air Force. He met Maria Marx, a White German woman, and they married in 1955.

After leaving the U.S. Air Force, Mr. Van Peebles and his wife moved to Mexico where his son, Mario, was born in 1957.

That year, the family moved to San Francisco where Mr. Van Peebles wrote a book, The Big Heart, in 1957, about his life driving cable cars.

About this time, Mr. Van Peebles became disgusted with the racist portrayal of African-Americans in film. With no background in filmmaking, Mr. Van Peebles made two short films, Sunlight and Three Pick-up Men for Herrick. In turn, Hollywood offered him jobs as an elevator operator and dancer.

In 1959, he moved his family, which now included daughter Megan, to Holland where he studied astronomy at the University of Amsterdam and acting at the Dutch National Theater.

Mr. Van Peebles was invited to show his shorts at the Cinematheque Francaise film theater in Paris. As his marriage ended, he moved to France, and his wife and children moved to San Francisco.

He began to write books in France, and his fifth book was adapted into his first feature-length movie, Story of a Three Day Pass. The movie, an interracial love story, dealt with racism.

In 1968, Mr. Van Peebles, who never studied music, recorded the album Brer Soul , about urban life in a series of monologues set to music. Gil Scott Heron, who many consider the "godfather of rap," said he was influenced by Mr. Van Peebles' music. Some call Mr. Van Peebles the "grandfather of rap."

Mr. Van Peebles answered Hollywood's call in 1970 and directed Watermelon Man, the first mainstream studio-financed film directed by an African-American.

After Watermelon Man , Mr. Van Peebles wrote, produced and directed 1971's Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, which tells the story of a man who becomes a cop-killing anti-hero after watching police beat a community activist.

Mr. Van Peebles hired minorities with little film experience so they could learn the business. He also refused to submit his film for rating after the Motion Picture Association of America threatened to rate it "X" because of the movie's sex scenes. MPAA rated the movie "X" anyway. Mr. Van Peebles then came up with the slogan, "Rated X By An All-White Jury," which motivated African-American audiences to see his film. The film grossed $14 million dollars, making it one of the most successful independent movies of all time.

Some criticized the movie for its perceived role in the development of the blaxploitation genre. Mr. Van Peebles, however, says blaxploitation movies removed the revolutionary and political elements that were in his movie.

In 1971, Mr. Van Peebles created the Broadway musical Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death , which became the fifth-longest running show on Broadway.

Since then, Mr. Van Peebles has continued to direct, act, write, produce and compose music.

Mr. Van Peebles worked on Wall Street in 1985. The following year he wrote the book, Bold Money: A New Way to Play the Options Market, an introduction to options trading for the beginning investor.

In 1998, Mr. Van Peebles performed a cabaret show called Roadkill with Brer Soul . That same year, Mr. Van Peebles' documentary, Melvin Van Peebles' Classified X, about the negative images of African-Americans in film, appeared at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival.

Mr. Van Peebles was made a knight of the Legion of Honor, the highest decoration in France, in 2002.

In 2004, son Mario wrote, directed, and starred in Baadasssss! about the making of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song . In 2006, the documentary, How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It) , which chronicled Mr. Van Peebles' career, was released.

Mr. Van Peebles continues to perform, write, direct and discuss the role of African-Americans in film. Mr. Van Peebles' last film was 2008's Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha .  

Gordon Parks

Who is

 Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks(November 30, 1912 – March 7, 2006) was a groundbreaking American photographer, musician, poet, novelist, journalist, activist and film director. He is best remembered for his photo essays for Lifemagazine and as the director of the 1971 film Shaft(Read more...)  

Early Life

Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks was born on November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas. His father, Jackson Parks, was a vegetable farmer, and the family lived modestly.

Parks faced aggressive discrimination as a child. He attended a segregated elementary school and was not allowed to participate in activities at his high school because of his race. The teachers actively discouraged African-American students from seeking higher education. After the death of his mother, Sarah, when he was 14, Parks left home. He lived with relatives for a short time before setting off on his own, taking whatever odd jobs he could find.

Famed Photographer

Parks purchased his first camera at the age of 25 after viewing photographs of migrant workers in a magazine. His early fashion photographs caught the attention of Marva Louis, wife of the boxing champion Joe Louis, who encouraged Parks to move to a larger city. Parks and his wife, Sally, relocated to Chicago in 1940.

Parks began to explore subjects beyond portraits and fashion photographs in Chicago. He became interested in the low-income black neighborhoods of Chicago's South Side. In 1941, Parks won a photography fellowship with the Farm Security Administration for his images of the inner city. Parks created some of his most enduring photographs during this fellowship, including "American Gothic, Washington, D.C.," picturing a member of the FSA cleaning crew in front of an American flag.

After the FSA disbanded, Parks continued to take photographs for the Office of War Information and the Standard Oil Photography Project. He also became a freelance photographer for Vogue. Parks worked for Voguefor a number of years, developing a distinctive style that emphasized the look of models and garments in motion, rather than in static poses. 

 

Relocating to Harlem, Parks continued to document city images and characters while working in the fashion industry. His 1948 photographic essay on a Harlem gang leader won Parks a position as a staff photographer for LIFE magazine, the nation's highest-circulation photographic publication. Parks held this position for 20 years, producing photographs on subjects including fashion, sports and entertainment as well as poverty and racial segregation. He was also took portraits of African-American leaders, including Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael and Muhammad Ali.

Parks launched a writing career during this period, beginning with his 1962 autobiographical novel, The Learning Tree. He would publish a number of books throughout his lifetime, including a memoir, several works of fiction and volumes on photographic technique.

Filmmaker

 In 1969, Parks became the first African American to direct a major Hollywood movie, the film adaptation of The Learning Tree. He wrote the screenplay and composed the score for the film.

Parks's next film, Shaft, was one of the biggest box-office hits of 1971. Starring Richard Roundtree as detective John Shaft, the movie inspired a genre of films known as blaxploitation. Isaac Hayes won an Academy Award for the movie's theme song. Parks also directed a 1972 sequel, Shaft's Big Score. His attempt to deviate from the Shaft series, with the 1976 Leadbelly, was unsuccessful. Following this failure, Parks continued to make films for television, but did not return to Hollywood.

Personal Life

 Parks was married and divorced three times. He and Sally Alvis married in 1933, divorcing in 1961. Parks remarried in 1962, to Elizabeth Campbell. The couple divorced in 1973, at which time Parks married Genevieve Young. Young had met Parks in 1962 when she was assigned to be the editor of his book The Learning Tree. They divorced in 1979. Parks was also romantically linked to railroad heiress Gloria Vanderbilt for a period of years.

Parks had four children. His oldest son, filmmaker Gordon Parks Jr., died in a 1979 plane crash in Kenya.

The 93-year-old Gordon Parks died of cancer on March 7, 2006, in New York City. He is buried in his hometown of Fort Scott, Kansas. Today, Parks is remembered for his pioneering work in the field of photography, which has been an inspiration to many. The famed photographer once said, "People in millenniums ahead will know what we were like in the 1930's and the thing that, the important major things that shaped our history at that time. This is as important for historic reasons as any other."

African American Women Feature Film Directors

Additional Information

The film industry has been difficult for black women to break into. According to Nsenga Burton, writer for The Root, "the film industry remains overwhelmingly white and male." In her book Black Women Film and Video Artists, Jacqueline Bobo notes that "there is a substantial body of work created by Black women film/video makers, extending back to the early part of this century. Unfortunately, the work is overlooked not only by many distributors, but also by critical reviews and scholarly analyses, with the notable exception of those by Black women scholars, have been few and far between." One of the issues concerning the involvement of Black females in film making is not simply the involvement or lack in numbers, but the influence given to them. As Ada Gay Griffin examines in Seizing the Moving Image the issues in telling a Black story in film cannot be resolved by adding a couple of black actors or hiring black crews to produce the film, but by seizing control of the image as Griffin argues and this is done by gaining production ownership of the films which can be done by Black women gaining more Studio Executive positions in the film industry which is severely lacking. Therefore, when looking at Hollywood's industry Black women filmmakers become the most unnoticeable, they become existent only in the periphery of the industry. In other words, it may be somewhat apparent that Black women filmmakers are small in numbers but the fact of the matter is that there are many black woman filmmakers that are actively contributing to the film industry.


Jacqueline Bobo, an associate professor in the women's studies program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, argues that the general public sees Black women's works as small, irregular works of interest to small circle of intimate friends.

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 Black women filmmakers have contributed to the filmmaking industry across the world. There are disputes concerning whom the first black women filmmaker is, but the earliest director with undisputed evidence is Zora Neale Hurston, who created the film Children's Games in 1928. 

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Yvonne Welbon

Additional Information

 

In Yvonne Welbon’s short films and videos, memory laps at the crumbling shoreline of history. This promising young film and video-maker uses autobiography and the poetic self as a springboard into other discourses, challenging the conventional separation of personal recollections and official narratives of history. For Welbon, sentiment does not preclude critical reflection or narrative innovation. In Remembering Wei Yi-fang, Remembering Myself(recently aired on POV), she narrates in the English and Mandarin voices of her African-American and Chinese personae, weaving an account of her experiences learning Chinese in the “racism-free zone” of Taiwan with her grandmother’s recollections of coming to the US from Honduras and learning American traditions of racism. In Monique, Welbon fuses bruised black and white home movie footage with a disturbing remembrance of how white supremacist cultural values are internalized, even in the play of children. Welbon’s almost goofy Sister in the Life: First Love uses a self-reflexive mockumentary-style interview with a 30-something black lesbian to look at how memories, both real and electronic, shape our desires. As the interview subject recounts how she fell in love with her best friend in high school, Welbon pushes at a way of imagining the past beyond the cinematic flashback. By affirming the complex experiences of blackness through a growing experimental vision, Welbon shows us the truth of Artaud’s maxim: There are a million beings in the human heart. I is just one of them.

—Lawrence Chua

Maya Angelou

Who is she?

 born Marguerite Annie Johnson; April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) was an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees.[3] Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of 17 and brought her international recognition and acclaim.  (Read more...)

Screenplay Author and Director

After publishing Caged Bird, Angelou broke new ground artistically, educationally and socially with her drama Georgia, Georgia in 1972, which made her the first African-American woman to have her screenplay produced.

In 1998, seeking new creative challenges, Angelou made her directorial debut with Down in the Delta, starring Alfre Woodard.

Ava DuVernay

Additional Information

 

Ava Marie DuVernay (/ˈeɪvə ˌdjuːvərˈneɪ/; born August 24, 1972) is an American director, screenwriter, film marketer, and film distributor. At the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, DuVernay won the Best Director Prize for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere, becoming the first African-American woman to win the award. For her work in Selma, DuVernay was the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award. With Selma, she was also the first black female director to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, though she was not nominated for Best Director. In 2017, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for her film 13th.

Money And Violence Cast

Additional Information

 Money & Violence is a crime epic about gangsters, stick-up kids, hustlers, players and everyone in between set in a Brooklyn that is largely ignored by mainstream media. The gritty story lines center on compelling characters Rafe, Miz, Shane and Kane who navigate the streets, experiencing both the victories of being a wolf and the devastation of being caught as a sheep. 


 Flatbush, Brooklyn. Tourists, sights; Money & Violence. As a down-to-earth depiction of life in the gang-riddled streets – expect no less than somber realism as these characters play their part – and deliver in a very stunning fashion. ‘Money & Violence’ is a caricature of Brooklyn’s underground world. It’s violent, bloody – yet insightful in so many ways as it’s cast tries their hardest to survive from day-to-day. 


  Moses Verneau 

The Best New Director out of Tribeca Film Festival is not from a fancy film school. Moses Verneau is from the school of YouTube, and the meteoric rise of his web series Money&Violence might be this year’s greatest example of when the need to tell an untold story meets the democratic authoring tools of today. Money & Violence – whose first season has racked up 22M views and counting – is an authentic look into the complicated lives of those who hustle to survive, but never takes a definite moral stance on violence and crime. Verneau and his three main collaborators say the show’s content is inspired by their experiences growing up in Brooklyn. It plays as a candid peek into the lives of a group of people historically underrepresented on screen. And its audiences are passionate that the show is the voice of a community that has too often had their humanity overlooked on the small screen.

Money & Violence shows the realities of living through poverty in a hyper-policed community and the lengths to which people will go to survive, drawing on a diverse palette of experiences: the anger, pain, and fear of living outside the law. “There is a void that needs to be filled,” says Verneau. “That void is the voice of the older brother or father figure. The figure whom because he is respected, his words are taken as advice rather than landing on deaf ears. I wanted “Money & Violence” to serve as that voice which would reacquaint the viewer with a set of morals and principles that have seem to be long lost. I wanted it to serve as a teaching tool rather than entertainment.”

Verneau is a completely self-realized filmmaker – in fact, the entire team started the series as amateurs and have emerged as professionals both through their own work and incredible dedication to learning as they went. As the collaborators – actors, writers, directors, crew – worked around other jobs and kids, Verneau taught himself sound mixing and color correction through YouTube tutorials. To watch the series is not just to follow the story of the characters, but to witness the entire team learn their craft. Verneau created a ritual each week to create and release the show: He wrote the show on Wednesday and Thursday, shot Friday through Sunday,edited Sunday and Monday, and released each new episode on Tuesday.

The regularity of the release and the steady improvement of the series has garnered them incredibly loyal fans – fans who draw direct comparisons to what they’re not currently getting on TV, or who reference The Wire, which was on television almost 15 years ago. Fans were vocal very early on about a Season 2.

Their popularity is not lost on big media outfits: Lionsgate offered them six figures to produce the second season, and the team turned it down in favor of maintaining their independence, choosing instead to launch a crowdfunding campaign. Aware that their community is relatively new to crowdfunding and many live below the poverty line, their goal is get $1 each from 250,000 supporters for the second season of their show. They’ve been deeply engaged in educating their community about how and why to support the project, as well as receiving hundreds of messages of support and encouragement.

Says Verneau, “Things are very different for me now in my neighborhood. I cannot walk to the store without being noticed or asked to take a picture with someone. People are so happy when they bump in to me and always express how much they love the series and respect me for the lessons that I implanted within the storyline. It’s amazing to see how much joy to others can come out of a project that myself and a few friends put together from nothing. We are currently at about twenty-one million total views and it’s very humbling to see the love and attention that we’re receiving for something that at a time not too long ago was just a thought in my head. Nonetheless I constantly remind myself that this is a privilege.”

(It’s a privilege that others are interested in leveraging: a fake GoFundMe page and a fake Instagram account popped up last week promising starring roles in the series in exchange for contributions.)

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 About a year ago, Money & Violence might have just been a headline in the local paper. But fast-forward 8 months later and it’s the title of the hottest internet show online. With millions a month tuning in to Cloud9TV on youTube to see the brainchild of writer and director Moise Vernau take place on the streets of an extremely un-gentrified Brooklyn to show a side of NY that the fans of Friendsnever knew existed. 

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