Under-Appreciated Black Directors
Cinema Junkie / January 29, 2016
On the heels of Oscar snubbing black actors and filmmakers again, and on the eve of Black History Month, Cinema Junkie sits down with a pair of black San Diego independent filmmakers to talk about some under-appreciated African-American directors whose works are worth seeking out.
Beth Accomando: Welcome back to another edition of the KPBS Cinema Junkie podcast. I am Beth Accomando.
Today, we are going to talk about Underappreciated African American directors and we are going to be speaking with filmmakers, Dante Moran and Sanns Dixon.
First though I want to talk a little bit about the Academy Awards. The nominations came out earlier this month and there has been an outcry about the lack of diversity among the nominations.
So, Dante, what do you think about these nominations? Should we be upset about this?
Dante Moran: I was just asking someone what were the highlighted African American films this year - the one that I definitely can think off the top of my head wasWar Room. It was an independent film. I want to say like a maybe one or two million dollar budget made something like 62 million dollars at the box office. That’s great. It was faith based. You know, that was definitely something I would see possibly even being nominated for something. What can you think of off the top of your head that was just [overlapping conversation] [00:01:07]
Beth Accomando: Well, Creed I think was the film that I was upset. I was upset that Ryan Coogler didn’t get nominated because I thought he did a nice job of straddling kind of independent film and big franchise film.
Dante Moran: Would you call a Rocky Balboa film an African American film? Or you just saying that because of the director?
Beth Accomando: I mean the complaint is that there are no African Americans nominated; two films that were sort of themed around African American characters, Creed and Straight Outta Compton got nominations, but both of those films got nominations for the white people that were involved in the film - Stallone and the four white writerswho wrote Straight Outta Compton.
Dante Moran: What you just said, you said the four white writers [overlapping conversation] [00:01:45]
Beth Accomando: Yeah.
Dante Moran: That wrote Straight Outta Compton.
Beth Accomando: Compton. Is that where the problem is?
Dante Moran: Let me see. You have got gangsta rappers being written by possibly ivy league or you know prep school writers.
Beth Accomando: They have been identified as four white writers; I think three men and one woman if I am not mistaken.
Dante Moran: Wow.
Beth Accomando: Alright. Well, Dante is dealing [laughter][indiscernible] [00:02:09]silence. Sanns, what do you think about the nominations?
Sanns Dixon: Well, I am good. I was to talk about Straight Outta Compton, but first what Dante said I agree with. I don’t even know too many films that came out. What I guess each one of you guys, what is your definition of a black film? Is it a black director, a black cast, the black story, all of the above, like how do you define it?
Beth Accomando: I think that’s part of the problem is that the complaint has been that the nominations are all white. The complaint that I am hearing has not been "We are boycottingthe Oscars because there aren’t enough black films, but because there haven’t been any African American nominations this year again." So, I mean for me, the problem I have is and I don’t particularly blame the academy, my issue is there aren’t enough minorities and there isn’t enough diversity in the executive offices in the places where films are greenlit and the places where the story ideas are coming because I think we need a bigger pool of films and I think the notion of a black film or a black themed film, the problem is is that we tend to get films that just have a central black character like Concussion, which really isn’t I don’t think you know about necessarily the black experience per se. So, I think the problem for me is that the pool of films needs to be bigger that we are choosing from and while the Academy can vote on what's best, the real change needs to come kind of deeper back and that’s you know in the executive offices at the studios and that’s where my complaint is. So, I don’t blame the Academy entirely for this. I think if they can change the diversity of their membership that might help to change things elsewhere, but you know nominating a couple of black actors or black director isn’t going to change necessarily what we are seeing at the actual theater.
Sanns Dixon: I am glad you said that because that’s actually how I feel and again, I have…the only film I have seen that’s been part of this whole controversy is Straight Outta Compton, which I thought was well directed. The cinematography was amazing, but I think the cinematographer was like…I forgot his name, he is the guy that did Aronofsky[phonetic] [00:04:31]so of course it looks good, but the guy that played Eric Wright, Eazy-E, he was great and you know this time of the year you always hear who did a great job and you know who is amazing. I never once have heard anything about him and for me if a film deserves an Oscar nomination, what about it deserves it? Just say there are no black nominees, but who deserves it and why? I haven’t seen Concussion. I hear Will Smith is good in it, but Will Smith is always going after an Oscar, so…and I am not…I am not…that’s not…I am not saying that that’s a bad thing. For me, just looking at Straight Outta Compton I thought it was well directed. I thought that the lead actor was really good, but other than that…those are the only two films that I would say probably should have…orthose are the only two people that I would say probably deserved a nomination, but then you have to compare to what else because I thought Straight Outta Compton was great, but then I see the trailer for The Revenant and there is no comparison you know. So…it is just the fact I mean…it is a fact. So, I mean I know there is four other people…there are four other spots.
Dante Moran: Yeah. Jason Mitchell - he did a fantastic job. Like you were saying, Will is always going after the Oscar. This guy was just in there doing his job. What he did it to the point where everybody wanted to know who that guy was. I remember when Eazy-E or his character passed away in the film, I was hearing people like sniffling behind me, I turn around, it's like grown men you know and what not. You know, this is one of their heroes and what not and he gave that performance where you know you thought you were watching Eazy-E.
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Yeah. That’s what I am talking about man.
Dante Moran: Yeah, if anybody should have gotten nominated, he definitely should have gotten something. But here is another thing. No matter what people have to understand that the Academy it’s about politics and who is out there politicking for you? Are you out meeting you know the members of the Academy, talking about your film, letting everybody know that, "Hey, I am a new director in town." Well…and not selling yourself as a black director, you know, or female director anything like that. "I am a director. I am a filmmaker." That’s how you get votes. That’s how people know who you are and you can make the best film in the world, nobody knows who you are, you are not going to get the award. I mean that’s just the way it works.
Beth Accomando: Well, and I think they also need the backing of the studios because as a film critic I get what are called the Academy screeners, I don’t vote in the Oscars, but I get the screeners, the same kind of screeners that the Academy members get and you know there are some films that you can screeners, you get copies of the screenplay, you get The Danish Girlsent me flowers [laughter]in order to convince me to vote for them. You know, I know in terms of the screeners I got and the kind of materials I got, films like Creed, films like Beasts of No Nation, I wasn’t getting a lot of stuff pushing those films for me to vote for. So, on top of what you said, I think those filmmakers need the support of a studio to say like, "Yeah, we think that the film you made is worthy of people voting and that it has a chance."
Sanns Dixon: That too, but you know, let's say if you don’t have the backing of the studio, you still can get out and….
Beth Accomando: Yeah.
Dante Moran: And support your film. You still you know have fans and what not. These people who are complaining about lack of nominations get in touch with them next year and say, "Hey let's go out and support these films. We need to make these films known you know to the world." Not after the voting, well before. And that’s something like Will Smith had talked about when the people were saying, "Oh, African American films don’t do well overseas," because it was ridiculous. Because my films do well overseas in fact a lot of them do better than they do in America. Because why? Because I get off my butt and I go out and I am marketing" which brings me to another point, what is the African American experience today? Because you know Will Smith's kids didn’t live like Will Smith or even Dr. Dre's kids are living like you know Dr. Dre or anybody that was you know part of the civil rights movement or before that. Me personally…I mean I went to prep school. So, I would like to see those type of stories of like you know black people dealing with those type of issues. I want to see black people dealing with rich peopleproblems, dealing with your company, your tech company that’s about to go on to [indiscernible] [00:10:02] things like that. I mean I don’t see I think having those type of stories of why people like say Denzelor even Will Smith are the big stars that they are because they play characters, not necessarily a stereotype and you can have a 70-year-old lady from Rancho Santa Fe walk into that film and still feel she can identify with the character or what's going on onthe screen.
Sanns Dixon: Going back to what you said about the pool being small, that’s something that’s always kind of bothered me is it seems like when there is a black film it gets notoriety or I guess Oscar attention is usually a historicfilm or an autobiography and….
Beth Accomando: [overlapping conversation] [00:10:49] Selma, 12 Years a Slave
Sanns Dixon: And my problem is there is more to…there is just more to it than that. You can make a black [indiscernible] [00:10:58]you know you can make…it's amazing how even in 2016 it's like there is this box of what it is to be like black you know. I am not just storing that towards one demography you know we do that to ourselves as well. So, if I am sitting across from an executive and they are like, "Okay, Mr. Dixon, we want you to make the autobiography of this person." I mean there is a lot of great black history, but just because I am black, I am not interested in everything you know. Say "We want you to do a story of Crispus Attucks."Okay, well, maybe I don’t want to do that. Okay.Am I a sell out? No, I just…I mean there is more stories. There are you know…you want to do Texas and whatever. I mean …you know the [indiscernible] [00:11:39] Jericho, whatever. But well I what to do[laughter]that story. What I am saying is…what I am saying is I think it’s…I guess going back to the Oscar thing, I think it’s about the quantity.
Beth Accomando: Well, there have been some calls for boycotting the Oscars. What do you think about that? Is that a way to make a point?
Dante Moran: No.
Sanns Dixon: No.
Dante Moran: No. I mean that’s just segregating yourself even further. You know if anything like I was saying, why this amount of energy that is being put into you know the negative, this boycott, you know, the Oscars, blah, blah, blah because we are not getting this, why is that not put into selling these films that they think should have been nominated, you know and that’s the problem I have with these type of protests. If everybody is aware of the fact, but nobody does anything until it is too late and then now we want to box ourselves in, going to boycott blah blah because of this, and this and that. It’s just like, "Hey, let's put that energy to making films that will be nominated next year." And again like we were saying, "What's a black film?" Again, you know my experience is going to be different than you know someone else who maybe grew up in the projects or whatnot,but then again you have a lot of African Americans not growing up in the projects.
Sanns Dixon: Yeah.
Dante Moran: Yet that’s the story that’s being told you know.
Sanns Dixon: Very true.
Dante Moran: You hear that "Oh yeah, there is more black men in prison than there are in college." You go, "Yes, that might be true, but there are also probably more black businessmen than there are black men in prison." But these are statements that are not being told by both sides. I think we need to make a change in that in that effort. I definitely think there should be a bigger pool, but when I say a bigger pool I want to see more diversity in African American films by African Americans also. I know there is a lot of people of color or even like say gender who struggle with that because they want to just make films. They don’t want to just, "I got to do this type of film." Momma got to be on crack,no. I don’t want a momma on crackyou know.
Sanns Dixon: [laughter]
Dante Moran: I want her to be struggling with getting her masters instead of smoking a pipe. That’s another subject that needs to be addressed also. What is a black film? If you have an African American president playing a character most people think is "white" is still a black film?
Beth Accomando: Or if you have an African American director of an all white cast….
Sanns Dixon: The Italian Job
Beth Accomando: [laughter]
Dante Moran: That was a good movie. I liked it.
Sanns Dixon: Oh yeah, F Gary Gray, he definitely goes a mile, list of underrated directors.
Beth Accomando: Alright. Actually, let's get to some of that. Let's start kind of giving out our own awards so to speak. One thing I would like to do with the show is talk about some of the directors who have worked in and outside of Hollywood who are….I would like to kind of focus on African American as opposed to a…I mean there are directors from Africa and globally that are very interesting too, but let's try to at least narrow the focus here, but there are some directors that I feel have been overlooked whose works don’t get showcased or played at retrospectives or highlighted or even if you just mention them sometimes, they are not always recognized. So, let's talk about some of the directors that you feel have not been appreciated enough, but first let me just ask you guys, when you were young, going to movies, like what kind of films were you seeing and at what point did you kind of feel either "I am not seeing people like me represented" or "Well, this is a film that I think is great because finally it’s kind of telling a story I identify with." What kind of films made an impact on you early on?
Sanns Dixon: As a kid, I was mad that there wasn’t a black gooney you really made me mad. [laughter]but that’s the one I guess. [Overlapping conversation] [00:15:25]
Dante Moran: Yeah. I was mad. I was like why isn’t there black gooney.
Sanns Dixon: That was the one that made me…I don’t know if it made me realize, I guess I just…I felt kind of left out because as a kid you are looking for someone that looks like you because as a kid I loved all of the adventure films like you know Monster Squad, the Explorers all those, Flight of the Navigator, those types of films and there was like no color at all. And when there was, I mean we all remember the '80s, it was very, very stereotypical; like everyone was a stereotype, everyone, but [indiscernible] [00:15:57]I think was the first film that really I feel kind of got it because a lot of times when black films, I always say black films, but like I remember around that time it was the time of the hood movie and there was this perception that black neighborhoods were like these war zones and everyone was on crack and everything. I grew up in a black neighborhood and Do the Right Thing really nails it. Because I grew up in a black neighborhood where there was like a family in every house and there was kids and you know with any sort of family or community there is the arguments and the dysfunction. I guess you have to…if you have seen Do the Right Thing, you get what I am talking about, but it just kind of nailed the dynamic of…even though all these people look the same, they are not the same because you deal with you know gender roles, you can deal with age.
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Mother Sister: Hey, you old drunk, what did I tell you about drinking in front of my stoop? Move on; you're blocking my view. You are ugly enough; don't stare at me. The evil eye doesn't work on me.
Da Mayor: Mother Sister, you've been talkin' about me for 18 years. What have I ever done to you?
Mother Sister: You a drunk fool.
Da Mayor: Besides that? Da Mayor don't bother nobody and nobody no bother da Mayor but you. The Man just tends to his own business. I love everybody; I even love you.
Mother Sister: Hold your tongue: you don't have that much love.
Da Mayor: One day you're gonna be nice to me. We may both be dead and buried, but you're gonna be nice - at least civil.
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Sanns Dixon: To me Do the Right Thing even to this day is a masterpiece because it doesn’t only give an accurate portrayal of black America, it gives a portrayal of just humans and Ernest Dickerson shot that film amazingly. So, I think that’s the one for me.
Beth Accomando: Dante?
Dante Moran: Well, I grew up on…grew up on exploitation films [laughter]you know, Kung Fu Theater and things like that. My uncles they were big into like you know the exploitation stuff, because I am sure…they grew up in a time where you wouldn't see a lot of African American heroes and anybody black that was on screen didn’t last probably through the credits. I am sure when the 70s rolled around and those type of films started coming out, they instantly gravitated towards it. It's basically black superheroes. Yeah. I mean Fred Williamsonis awesome you know. He is [overlapping conversation] [00:18:36]awesome and he is a very intelligent person who understands the system. I would rent his movies just to listen to the director's commentary, you know, when the DVD started coming out. And he…one of the things he always said, because they were talking about him and Jim Brown who was big during those times also and he was saying that he ended up being bigger and retaining his relevancy longer than Jim Brown, longer than Richard Roundtree because he took control of his career. He saw how things were going. So, his thing was, "Oh okay, you guys are going to give me you know this little bit of money to do these roles, that’s fine, but you spend a lot of money on marketing. I am going to let you guys get me famous, world famous. Then, once that happens, I am going to take control" and then he started directing his own films. He put his own money up and then he would take 25, 30000 turn it into a million. And like those type of stories would just intrigue me.
Sanns Dixon: Going back to what you were saying about Fred Williamson,you take 30000 and you turn it into a million, well, that’s not…that’s not so much unless you own everything.
Beth Accomando: Well, then you brought up to do the right thing. Do you guys consider Spike Lee an underappreciated director or is he one of the few black directors who has actually made it to the point that most people know him?
Dante Moran: Oh, Spike's made it. I mean he has been in the industry over 30 years and he is still making…he is still getting funding and I know he is upset about the amount of funding he is getting; however, this is a ROI business, return on investment. If I give you x amount of dollars, I want you know money back and you know 35 million dollars for Oldboy, 3 million dollar return, that’s going…that’s going to be rough. There are so many white directors that would…that envy his career, that would love to be in the position that he is in.
Sanns Dixon: I think that it's both. I think that he was appreciated and I think that he is now underappreciated. Spike Lee has a very activist voice which was huge in the late '80s, early the mid 90s and that’s…I mean if you look at his resumethat’s when he did his best films. I think now he still has that voice, but times have changed. Like you mentioned earlier Dante there are lot of black kids in the suburbs now that they don’t want…they won't identify with Do the Right Thing. I do think that school days is pretty…pretty much the relevant, but I think that Spike Lee for one is an independent filmmaker at heart and to me anindependent filmmaker typically is unafraid to say what's on their mind. And a lot of people…I mean don’t get me wrong, all the Spike's films are not great, but every time I look at a Spike Lee film, I get this sense that he was [indiscernible] [00:21:34]has something to say. Even in what was his, his last film, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, which was a remake of Ganja and Hess, I feel like Spike was going for something. I didn’t feel like he was just phoning it in.But one film I would suggest for anyone who kind of doesn’t appreciate Spike Lee is a film called Red Hook Summer.
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Sanns Dixon: It's very low budget, very independent, well made and it has the balls to talk about a lot of subjects that films, not just black films, but films in general will not touch and so I think now Spike Lee is very underappreciated because if you go back and look at his old films he…he has an amazing eye and his stories was you know maybe more so back then than now were very powerful and I think his most underappreciated film is actually Mo' Better Blues. I think that’s a great film and when you look at that film just it's…it could easily be his masterpiece, but is not because Malcolm X didn’t do the right thing with that much better.
Dante Moran: I always love [indiscernible] [00:23:49]Lee films just for like the cinematography and production - the way they were put together and I think that’s something lot of African American films, lot of films in general didn’t have that look, but especially when there is an African American team behind it, you know. I am just like, "Oh nice." Because I mean…I grew up as an artist and those are they type of things that I was influenced by you know, music, art, you know I was begin todrawing and painting and all that kind of stuff. So, when I see that where a film every shot could be a postcard or photo or something like that, I definitely give that the thumbs up and I don’t know - it seemed like later on was it after the 25th Hour?
Sanns Dixon: Yeah that was late 90s.
Dante Moran: Yeah. That kind of look seemed to go away. I don’t know if it's because you know production has changed whereas you don’t get 60 days to shoot something, [indiscernible] [00:24:41] 120.
Beth Accomando: Well, also, as I think his budgets went out.
Dante Moran: Yeah.
Beth Accomando: The studio pressure, there is challenges in making independent films, but the one thing you tend to have a little more of is creative control.
Dante Moran: Yes.
Beth Accomando: So….
Sanns Dixon: Right.
Beth Accomando: That could have been part of it as well.
Sanns Dixon: Right.
Beth Accomando: So, if you each had to pick for your first choice, who is a underappreciated black director that you would really like to shine a spotlight on? I would suggest that most people don’t know who Oscar Micheaux is because [overlapping conversation] [00:25:10]
Dante Moran: Seriously? Wow.
Beth Accomando: I would…I mean I think if you mention his name most people would not be able to name any of his films of note. He worked in the silent era. So, of course, there is the issue - some of his films have been lost and can't be screened. Lot of places don’t screen silent movies, but he was a groundbreaking filmmaker in the silent era - the first black filmmaker to make a feature film and I think the first to make a sound film and his films don't get shown veryoften. I think you can find some of them on YouTube if anybody wants to go out and explore, but I think he is a name that isn’t as well known as maybe it should be.
Dante Moran: Well, he set the bar high with Oscar Micheaux, but mine has been ever sinceshe did Eve's Bayou KasiLemmons.
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Dante Moran: I remember when that film came out - the whole Oscar thing that’s going on now - that film was the first time I felt like that because that film if you see it, it…that’s the type of film that the Oscar voters go crazy about and I will think, "Did youget any nominations?"
Beth Accomando: I don’t recall. I can look it up, I don’t think…but that had Samuel Jackson…. [overlapping conversation] [00:27:16]
Dante Moran: Yeah, Lynn Whitfield, young Meagan Good. I mean it was a great film that I don’t know again. When it comes to the Academy Awards you also have to consider what came out around that time so I don’t know…I can't remember now, but I remember watching that movie and it's kind of sad to think this way, but my thinking was, "Black films don’t look like this" and I mean…because that film was…it was set in the south, it was high society, it was very classy, it was shot with amazing detail and I…I just loved that film and these were characters…they weren’t…these were not stereotypes, this was a story and it was a journey and it just…it just worked for me. As I went further you know in the college I went to my you know the artyphase where the less sense something makes the more you love it, and I saw her film The Caveman's Valentine[laughter]. A lot of people don’t like that film because…I still don’t know what it is about,but I loved it and even her most recent film Talk to Me about a DJ in Detroit and he was very instrumental around the….
Sanns Dixon: Was that [overlapping conversation] [00:28:19]Cheadle?
Dante Moran: Yeah, that was Don CheadleCedric the Entertainer, I think Taraji P. Henson is in it. Great film and that film of all of her films I felt is the most underrated because Eves Bayou got attention because Roger Ebert declared it very underrated and that put more eyes on it and when The Caveman's Valentine came out that’s right when Samuel Jackson was you know at his peak, he was red hot, but when Talk to Me came out, it was just…it was in and out of theaters and no one saw it and I thought that it was a very good telling of a character's life, but it also kind of had that Forrest Gump thing where you saw history in the background and it was a very good you know chronicle of the times.
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Dante Moran: But yeah, she…I…she is that director, it’s funny because her and oh, I forget her name, James Cameron's ex-wife…
Beth Accomando: Gale Anne Hurdor do you mean Kathryn Bigelow?
Dante Moran: Bigelow.
Beth Accomando: Bigelow.
Dante Moran: But yeah, those for the longest times…seriously those two were my favorite like…those are the two directors I was like, "Why don’t they do more?" and then I am happy you know…what happened to Kathryn Bigelow happened, but I am like, "Why hasn’t KasiLemmons made more films then?" I still don’t know. I am still looking for an answer.
Sanns Dixon: You think she should have directed Selma?I am just talking about strictly on the fact that [overlapping conversation] [00:30:04]
Dante Moran: I think that she can direct anything. That’s why I don’t understand why she hasn’t done anything. You know there are some directors like if you see Michael Bay, I don’t want to see Shakespeare from Michael Bay. I want to see things more [laughter][indiscernible] [00:30:14]I will see Shakespeare [overlapping conversation] [00:30:16][laughter] Arnold Schwarzenegger is handling…
Sanns Dixon: Absolutely.
Dante Moran: But with KasiLemmons I really believe that she can do anything and I don’t know if it is a personal decision or if it is just Hollywood not giving her funding, but for me, that’s…that’s the one that I wish I could see.
Sanns Dixon: Well, [indiscernible] [00:30:36]the thing about it you know when people will have to really understand that you know there is a lot of films being made don’t have anything to do with Hollywood you know and you have a lot of people funding films - I think Bone Tomahawk was a completely independent film. You know, they raised their own money and in fact they got their film done for 1.8 million dollars, you know kudos to them and with all the actors that they had in there. That’s how you get stuff done. Sitting around, waiting on Hollywood you know to give you cash, especially if you have films like that where you have high African American society because it’s not…a lot of people have to understand it’s not just white people that would possibly have a problem with that, it is also black people that would have a problem with that. There is also black people have that problem with that, you know I ain't black people [indiscernible] [00:31:21]what are you talking about. Dude, this is…this is actually part of your history. You never lived in [indiscernible] [00:31:24]you never sold dope, you know and all that stuff but yet you think that’s what it means to be [overlapping conversation] [00:31:29]
Sanns Dixon: It's real.
Dante Moran: Yeah. Keep it real. Stop it with that mess. Instead of buying a Bugatti, go support a film.
Beth Accomando: [laughter]
Dante Moran: You know, when you guys are out there screaming about boycotting the Oscars, where did your dollars go that year?
Beth Accomando: Are you like throwing down the gauntlet to Will Smith and saying like, "Dude, instead of boycotting the Oscars, throw a million dollars to an independent filmmaker and get a film made for next year?"
Dante Moran: Absolutely.
Sanns Dixon: Absolutely.
Beth Accomando: Alright.
Dante Moran: I mean…[overlapping conversation] [00:31:57] I don’t want to hear from people that have hundreds of millions in dollars that don’t need to go to Hollywood. They can get anything done that they want. They have the distribution. They have the contacts. Yet they are not doing it and I hear that when people about wages and what not. You know when you have people who are making more money than the majority of the people that are in the industry and yet they are not putting that funds towards other projects whether it be African American, whether it be gender based, whether it be sexually orientation. I hear lot of people complaining, but I don’t see as much effort being put into making these projects happen. Even going out and buying a ticket….
Beth Accomando: Well, let me ask you this because one director…one black director that creates some controversy is Tyler Perry. He is…he is successful. He employs a lot of African Americans. He has his own company, but he makes a very particular type of film and some black audiences don’t appreciate what it is. What do you think of him? Is he underappreciated? Is he somebody that you care what he does?
Dante Moran: I think Tyler Perry is possibly one of the luckiest people on the face of the earth man, on the face of the earth. I mean 1, he has got a big faith-based audience, yet he is walking around in a dress.
Beth Accomando: [laughter]
Dante Moran:You know. To him be able to pull that off, I am just like, "Dude, I got to learn from you" and as the man who at one point was homeless and then over the years…I mean he has been at this for like 20 years possibly.
Beth Accomando: Yeah.
Dante Moran: And now he is worth you know close to half a billion dollars. You know, he has his own production company. He has left Hollywood, distributes his own film.
Beth Accomando: Yeah.
Dante Moran:I…thumbs up today. I mean Robert Rodriguez, you know, who is you know, Mexican, but he is my influence into making films. You know, when I saw El mariachi, I was like, "Man, what is this?" You know, it's low budget, but it looks great you know, just the way it was put together. Then I read his book and I am like, "That’s what I want to do." This guy made this film on seven thousand dollars and he broke all the myths that you need a hundred thousand dollars to get into the you know the industry, and blah, blah,blah,blah, blah and then that’s when video started taking off. I remember when I first came here to San Diego I was talking about my projects and [indiscernible] [00:34:10]"Oh, that sounds interesting.What are you shooting on?" "We are shooting onsuper VHS." "Oh, you will never be successful. Get out of here man.If you are not shooting on film, nobody is going to take you seriously." Okay. Well, flash forward 15 years and none of those people are doing anything. They are still trying to make film happen. Any time there is a story about Tyler Perry and you know his business model and what he has done to make it, I read it. The same way with Master P, Hammer…MC Hammer - anybody that has gone on and become self-made men.
Sanns Dixon: For Tyler Perry, I have to give two answers. As far as him as a filmmaker - one way I look at a lot of black films and this is more my negative view is if you kept his films exactly the same and switched it out with a white director, would that white director be called a racist? And when I look at Tyler Perry's films…I am serious…I mean just look at his films, if…I mean he wouldn't do it, but his first name came in my mind, let's say Christopher Nolan made MadeaGoes to Jail. Well, what happened you know? We…people would be losing their minds. So, that’s my problem with Tyler Perry because don’t say that we need more black films if you are only going to add stereotypes. That’s my problem with him as a filmmaker. Now, as a businessman, everything Dante said was correct. You should admire that and you should learn from it. So, I don’t think his filmmaking is all that good. I have yet to finish one of his films, but I can't say Hollywood would be better without him. I think that…
Dante Moran: Is he like Kevin Smith for you? Because some people [overlapping conversation] [00:35:42]
Sanns Dixon: No [overlapping conversation] [00:35:43]
Dante Moran: Kevin Smith as far as like a filmmaker?
Sanns Dixon: A comparison to Kevin Smith for me would be John Singletonbecause John Singleton came out with a lot to say and in 3 films he was gone.
Beth Accomando: Is he underappreciated or did he just kind of burn himself out?
Sanns Dixon: John Singleton?
Beth Accomando: John Singleton.
Sanns Dixon: I….
Beth Accomando: For people that don’t remember Boyz n the Hood was the film [overlapping conversation] [00:36:02]that put him on the map.
Sanns Dixon: Boyz n the Hood, then Higher Learning and what's the other one he did…Rosewood.
Dante Moran: Rosewood.
Beth Accomando: Rosewood.
Sanns Dixon: Actually I feel that he was appreciated for Boyz n the Hood.
Dante Moran: 2 Fast 2 Furiousand that was a rap.
Sanns Dixon: But…but yeah [overlapping conversation] [00:36:16]
Beth Accomando: [laughter]
Sanns Dixon: And I think I admire the fact that he tried to be a filmmaker. But I think like…just like with music, I think sometimes you just have one great album in you. Sometimes you just have two great films in you. Kevin Smith [indiscernible] [00:36:31] there was great directors, and then there was people that just made one or two great films.
Dante Moran: Well, also, you know, how do a lot of people grow? Okay. If you are an African American who comes from like the projects and you are a filmmaker, and you come out really big, next you know within 10 years you are worth a 100 million dollars, your life is changed, are you still making the same type of movies, especially if it is 30 years from now? That’s some of the complaints I have heard about like Spike. Spike is a multimillionaire. Yeah, you are still seeing those same type of you know…it's hard to be a black man in America and then…but you got people like looking at this guy and they are like, "What are you talking about dude?" People are actually shooting my block. Have you even experienced any of the things that I am seeing in your movies?" Not to say that he has not, I would never take that away from him, but those are some of the things that I know that young people are looking at when they see somebody talking about how hard it is yet they got everything. Maybe it is hard because you are not doing the right thing.
Sanns Dixon: But to me that’s not fair because Steven Spielberg has never seen a dinosauralive but he made [overlapping conversation] [00:37:35].
Dante Moran: Come on man.
Sanns Dixon: No, no…okay. And this is what kind of drives me nuts is like filmmaking…there is still make believe there. Everything doesn’t have to be….
Beth Accomando: Firsthand experience [overlapping conversation] [00:37:46]
Sanns Dixon: I don’t know…I don’t know…I know nothing about Ninjutsu, but I want to make a Ninja movie. You know it’s like…
Dante Moran: But if you are talking about social commentaries, if you have never…if you have never gone hungry, yet your last 8 films about people starving [indiscernible] [00:37:59] majority of your money doesn’t go to helping there. Then I think you know you are just a person who is just become an opportunist.
Sanns Dixon: What if you are a filmmaker and you just see a great story there?
Dante Moran: Well, if it is the same story and yet I am trying to make you feel guilty, especially make you feel guilty [overlapping conversation][00:38:15]
Sanns Dixon: So, you are saying outside of the film every…if you are making movies outside of the film [overlapping conversation] [00:38:20]
Dante Moran: Yeah. Well, that’s…you see that a lot. You know, if I make a film and you know like I don’t see Steven Spielberg going out and [overlapping conversation] [00:38:27]
Sanns Dixon: And save the dinosaurs [laughter]
Dante Moran: No. But…but…you know, guilting everybody, "Oh, you didn’t seeSchindler's List? Oh, you ain't really Jewish. Get out of here." But you will see that in the African American community. If you don’t support this film or if you don’t like it, oh, you will sell out,do this, blah, blah,blah,blah,blah. [overlapping conversation] [00:38:42] I like action films. I like war movies. Those are the movies I mostly go and see and I would love it if there were more African Americans involved in horror,if there were more African Americans involved in action films.Michael Jai Whitethat dude is primed to be the next Stallone man.
Beth Accomando: Let me ask you about blaxploitation films. Where do they stand? [laughter]
Dante Moran: He is ready to go. Black Dynamite, come on man.
Beth Accomando: I loved Black Dynamite. Blaxploitation films I don’t think get shown as often as maybe they should be because they don’t have a whole lot of respect. Yet, they are films that often had black directors, and definitely had almost all black cast and the black characters were the protagonists moving the story forward. They weren’t just some appendage to a white character or you know…but there are people like one of my favorite blaxploitation films was directed by an actor, Ossie Davis, who did Cotton Comes to Harlem. He didn’t make many films, maybe he was distracted by the fact that he was a well-respected actor, but I mean what do you think of someone like that in a film like that? Is that something that's underappreciated?
Dante Moran: Exploitation films? Oh absolutely. Absolutely. Anyway here is the thing - people complained about not seeing more black faces in front of the cameras doing more than just stereotypical stuff. Exploitations came along. That’s what happened. Everybody bitched. "Oh, we didn’t mean that" you know. "We meant something else."It's like….way…well, you know it's like you have a guy here, he is dealing with his problems and yet, there is violence, there is sex and what not. Again, to me, those are like black superhero movies. I love them and you saw people doing things in those films that you never, ever dreamed that you would ever see within your lifetime and not only was it just happening, it was happening consistently. There was a movie every month at the drive in you know. Sometimes a double feature. Black is back you know. Black is back 2. [laughter] The triple features -something like that and you are just like, "Yes." However, it would have been like horror. The phenomenal horrormovies came out in early 80s, next you know you got all the trash that piggybacked after it you know, low budget cash in films and of course, it killed it, but I also heard that exploitation, blaxploitation films saved Hollywood at one point. Hollywood was in some serious dire straits as far as like finance. They would spend millions of dollars and get hundreds of thousands back. Where here, they could spend a couple of thousand dollar and get millions.
Sanns Dixon: Like what was the time frame of exploitation films?
Beth Accomando: I think the '70s would be the [overlapping conversation] [00:41:33]
Dante Moran: Yeah. It wasn’t very long.
Sanns Dixon: So, that was…that was around the time where Hollywood directors had a lot of freedom?
Beth Accomando: Well, this is when the studios were pretty much falling by the ways. I mean the old studio system kind of died during the '70s and…I mean during the '60s and then during the '70s, more this kind of independent sensibility came up. So, there was a…that was a huge kind of like transitional period.
Dante Moran: For me,because I don’t know if you are older than me, but [laughter]
Sanns Dixon: Not by [overlapping conversation] [00:42:01]
Dante Moran: No, there is a reason I say that. This is because I…I didn’t see a lot of blaxploitation films until maybe…maybe high school, college, but I remember because a lot of my family is from the south and they had a huge…especially my father who was from Arkansas who grew up in like the '50s, they had a huge problem with blaxploitation films because you would have something like The [indiscernible] [00:42:30]which is you know a great film but then you have like Dolemite and I like them, but I never had you know a cross burn in my front yard. You know, I didn’t…and I think there is a big generational thing. So, I get why when I listen to my…you know my parents, my aunts and uncles and my grandparents, I get the problems that they had with those blaxploitation films, but I also get that when those films were made there is, you kind of have to just go with the fantasy. You know, you can kind of…they weren’t…I mean Coffey really wasn’t…it's not supposed to be serious, you know. Don’t be sad [indiscernible] [00:43:11] I love you know. For me, Bucktown, I love Bucktown because the…but it’s like I never really saw these films because my father would be like enraged by these films and I understand and I wonder if that’s just what's going on now because.
Sanns Dixon: Okay, but let me ask you this? Was he enraged by those films…?
Dante Moran: Because [overlapping conversation] [00:43:32]stereotype, there is stereotypes in those films.
Sanns Dixon: [indiscernible] [00:43:36]come on man.
Dante Moran: Why do we laugh at Black Dynamite? Why was Black Dynamite so funny? You had a couple of…you had this psyche who talked way too loud, come on…I mean the stereotypes are there. Black Dynamiteis always begging at you what's the stereotype of [indiscernible] [00:43:51] come on.
[Overlapping conversation] [00:43:54]
Dante Moran: No, it's not. It’s not. It’s not.
Sanns Dixon: I would rather be the [overlapping conversation] [00:43:57]black guy who is getting the sex than getting the bullets or the rope.
Dante Moran: But again, you are talking…you are talking like from the '80s and '90s. You are not talking from the '60s, '50s…'60s…
Sanns Dixon: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Dante Moran: It was a different country then.
Sanns Dixon: [overlapping conversation] [00:44:12] think part of it too was you know because then you had like the protagonists standing up to the man [overlapping conversation] [00:44:16]
Dante Moran: No. It’s not…it’s not…is not…okay…"You can't do that boy. You know [overlapping conversation] [00:44:21]
Sanns Dixon: Okay would you rather a film with Denzel Washington, like '90sDenzel Washington standing up before the supreme court or do you want Kevin Hart yelling from the supreme court.
Male Speaker: Well, that’s what we did now.
Dante Moran: But that’s my point…that’s what they saw back then. I am not saying…I love those films and I am not saying….
Sanns Dixon: You mean to tell me your dad is comparing Fred Williamson to Kevin Hart?
Dante Moran: He loved Fred Williamson as a football player and he probably liked…admired him as a person, but again you can’t…okay, whether or whether not stereotypes, you have understand [overlapping conversation] [00:44:53]
Sanns Dixon: Oh yes.
Dante Moran: With everything that was going on in the country at that time, you are going to think a little different. I mean try…try [indiscernible] [00:45:02] film. Come on.
Beth Accomando: But if you…if you were to look at…for me, the films that impacted me from that period were especially the Pam Grier films. Because I was a woman…
Dante Moran: It impacted me too.
Beth Accomando: Yeah. So, you know, to be able to see a woman kicking ass like she did was great and whether she was black or white, it didn’t matter. She was an amazing presence on screen. So, even if she copped out to some stereotypes, did you feel that they could be empowering? Is there such a thing as an empowering stereotype? Where something is limited but still somehow positive [overlapping conversation] [00:45:36] ? I don’t know.
Dante Moran: Sure. I mean, you had the perception that you know black man you know violent and you know crazy and this and this and that and that’s what you wanted in a revenge film. You know, you want your lead actor and especially if you have got somebody like Jim Brown or Fred Williamson, you know, these guys are 6' 2"- 6' 3" do something and it’s believable that they are going to put it on you. I don’t know I think some people any time there is a "stereotype" they freakout.
Sanns Dixon: I think…which he says is correct Beth you can…I mean I can see how a Pam Grier film would be empowering, but I think…and this is what I love about films like this is depending on the time in which you see it, it kind of changes. It really does because again talking to people older than me and given the climate in which they were in when they saw these films, but just the climate they raised them to see the film the way they did, I get it. However, I enjoyed it. So, yeah, it was kind of weird to…I remember what I told my father I had a seen few blaxploitation films he wasn’t happy,I was like, "But they were good." So….
Beth Accomando: I think there is a range of the blaxploitation too because we have someone like Gordon Parks who was a well-known photojournalist, who was very well respected, he was a novelist, he went to film, he did The Learning Tree, which was about his own life, but then he did Shaft, which is a high end Blaxploitation film.
Sanns Dixon: That’s right. Yeah.
Dante Moran: Yeah.
Beth Accomando: Is he underappreciated as a director?
Sanns Dixon: You know, I would say yes because when I hear Gordon Parks I think photography.
Dante Moran: Yeah. Well, I mean and the thing about it is you know you have that generation…you know, like you were saying with your father that don’t want to be associated with that. I you know like exploitation films because I like the way they were handled because you know…I guess sometimes you have to take the good with the bad and I would rather see more African Americans on screen doing something other than dying.
Sanns Dixon: Yeah, yeah.
Dante Moran: You know, or being a slave or anything like that. I don’t have any problems with the films like 12 Years as a Slave or you know the civil rights [indiscernible] [00:47:45] and whatnot. But I want other things too.
Beth Accomando: More.
Dante Moran: Not just that. If I can't get that in the African American community then I will get it in you know the Asian community, Korean community, you know Caucasian community whatever. Because I mean I love films, but I would you know as a…as a black man, I would love to see that.
Beth Accomando: Well, here's another director I wanted to throw out - Charles Burnett, who did Killer of Sheep and then To Sleep with Anger, are you guys familiar with him?
You should be.
Sanns Dixon: To Sleep with Anger - that sounds familiar. What's that?
Dante Moran: I have probably seen all of these films when we were younger, but they…I don’t remember them.
Beth Accomando: Well, the thing about him is he is a filmmaker who made this film Killer of Sheep….
Wait, you wait just one minute
You talk about "be a man, stand up"; don't you know it's more to it than just with your fists? The scars on your mug? You talk about an animal, and what - now, do you think you're still in the bush some damn where? You are here. You use your brain, that's what you use. Both of you nothin'-ass niggas got a lot o' nerve comin' up here, doin' some shit like this.
Wait a minute, wait a minute.
Wait a minute, wait a minute.
[indiscernible] [00:48:43] wait a minute because [indiscernible] [00:48:45]
Wait a minute
[Indiscernible] [00:48:53] You don’t even have a decent [indiscernible] [00:48:56]
All we are trying to do is help nigg
Hey, you can live [indiscernible] [00:49:01]Is that right? Is that right?
Forgive man, forgive….Let’s go..
Beth Accomando: It’s brilliant, but then there was this long silence and then he comes back with To Sleep with Anger and he is a filmmaker whose work I think is amazing, but Killer of Sheep was kind of revived…I think it was 30 years after it had come out with a re-release at one of the…some studio picked it up to do kind of a restoration thing, but he is a filmmaker I think I haven’t heard from in and also someone like Carl Franklin who did One False Move and Devil In a Blue Dress. There are filmmakers who make these really good films and then I feel like there should be coming…more films should be coming out from them.
Dante Moran: I am so glad you said that because I was actually going to kind of do the same thing where it's most of the filmmakers…when you first asked me to come on this show I started thinking of films, before filmmakers…like what great films did I like that were directed by black directors and you know what did they do and most of the stuff that I found, it was like a one and done.
Beth Accomando: Yeah.
Dante Moran: [overlapping conversation]00:50:05] just did one film and then they were gone. One director was…it was Theodore Witcher who did Love Jones and Love Jones to me, you hear complaints about there should be more black film. To me Love Jones like that’s your typical present day, regular people film. You know, the type of film you see like every week, granted it is a love story, I am not a big fan, but it…to me that was a really good film. I mean [indiscernible] [00:50:31]and so clearly people liked it, but he also wrote a film from the '90s that I loved called Body Count and I don’t know if either one of you have seen that. It’s…basically [indiscernible] [00:50:43]but has a road trip and it stars David Caruso, Forest Whitaker, VingRhames, John Leguizamo, and Linda Fiorentino. It was a really good film, really good film. You know it was directed was Robert Patton. So, it's brill and again…I mean I love this film. This is around the time of Tarantino and Kevin Smith when they were…you know, it was like '95 and I was so in love with that film and I was like "What else has he done?"To this dayhe hasn’t done anything. So, it's just…there is a lot of that.
Sanns Dixon: Those movies make money?
Dante Moran: I think Love Jones did and I mean going back to Black Dynamite Scott Sanders, which I think he is doing something now actually….
Sanns Dixon: Is he doing the sequel?
Dante Moran: No, he is doing…oh, I forgot the name. He is working on something right now, but I mean if you go for me…I was looking…I was like going down you know all these films and I was like, "Wow, that’s the onlymovie."
Beth Accomando: [indiscernible] [00:51:39] Carl Franklin who made One False Move which was a crime thriller, do you think part of the problem with him not being able to make as many films as maybe a white director is because Hollywood wanted to keep him like in that box and kind of say like, "Okay, that’s what made you famous" or "that’s what you did well and that was kind of a film that we expected from a black director and we want to keep you there." Is that…could that be part of why some of these directors don’t make more films or do you see other reasons?
Dante Moran: Well, I know for one that if you are of color or say a woman and you come out with a film, it's got to go gangbusters. Remember when Bruce Willis had like 5 or 6 like huge flops like [overlapping conversation] [00:52:24]
Beth Accomando: And Chevy Chase had flop after flop.
Dante Moran: Yeah, flop after flop. I mean these guys are racking up hundreds of millions of dollars worth of just you know write offs. And I remember it was an African American actor who was big at that time. He was like you know if I had done something like that they probably would have executed me.
Beth Accomando: [laughter]
Dante Moran: You know….well, he would have never gotten to that point.
Beth Accomando: To the next [overlapping conversation] [00:52:46]
Dante Moran: Yeah. Yeah. So, you have limited amount…I mean there is a lot of people expecting you to fail and then when you do, you know, "Well, we expected it." When you do something, it’s got to be great. So, if you have got a budget of 2 million, you better make a hundred million if you want to come out and do something else. Also…there is also negotiations after that. "Okay, so I made a movie. I made you a 2 million dollar movie, it made a 100 million dollars. Okay, on my next film that I do for you, I want a million dollars." "No, we are going to pay you 50 grand." "No, that’s not going to happen." They want an x amount of dollars, studio didn’t want to give it to them or you know they didn’t have…they had that one good film, I think you were saying that. Everybody has like one or two like good films in them. So, maybe…maybe you want to do a comedy you know. Because I mean a lot of times you know directors what made them big isn’t necessarily what they want to do. I mean we are all horrorfans. How many directors started in horror and just bailed, you know, the second they got big? So…I wonder if maybe he didn’t really want to do [indiscernible] [00:53:48] just maybe…that’s just what he did get.So, yeah, you may be onto something.
Beth Accomando: What about a director like Robert Townsend - the Hollywood Shuffle [overlapping conversation] [00:53:56]?
Dante Moran: Dude, that’s….we were talking about that. Hollywood Shuffle is a fantastic film you know. I mean for the mere fact that it is an independent, a true independent but it has so much to say that’s still relevant today.
Hi. My name is Robert Townsend and it’s hard to make a movie in Hollywood, but I did with the help of a few friends and a few credit cards.
I ain't be got no weapon
I ain't be got no weapons
My film is about making it as an actor in Hollywood.
The only role they got [indiscernible] [00:54:34]
Don’t [indiscernible] [00:54:36]
But the real trick is finding a juicy role when the odds are against you.
Good luck brother.
You are the worst actor I have ever seen in my life.
Then they said I wasn’t black enough for the part.
[indiscernible] [00:55:00] can you tell us what you have been doing since you have graduated [indiscernible] [00:55:02]
Well, Robert I have [indiscernible] [00:55:07]dope dealing, I played a rapist twice that was fun.
You will never play the Rambos until they stop playing the Sandbo.
I just want to be me. I don’t want to me Eddie Murphy.
He is the one we want.
I just want…
Hollywood Shuffle - that was a good movie.
I love this movie. It was genius.
Go see it today please because I got to pay off these credit cards. Tell your friends about it. Lots of friends, cousins, your aunts, your uncles, maybe your ex-wife. Take a bum to the movies. Go see Hollywood Shuffle today please.
Dante Moran: That’s a good one. I forgot. I totally forgot.
Sanns Dixon: And again, did he do Blankman?
Dante Moran: No. The Meteor Man.
Sanns Dixon: Okay.
Beth Accomando: [laughter]
Sanns Dixon: That was…'[indiscernible] [00:55:57][laughter] you want a black hero, he gave you a black hero. I am glad you brought out Robert Townsend because I actually saw Meteor Man like two weeks ago and it doesn’t hold up, but it's…nostalgia makes that film so much better and I admire the attempt more so than Blankman.
Dante Moran: Oh yeah, yeah. True.
Sanns Dixon: But yet and it is…that’s basically…we need more of that and the one benefit the white Hollywood has is they can throw out any idea. There are like you know…there are a lot of predominantly white films that just don’t work. They make no sense. They are stupid. It’s like so…yeah, Meteor Man was stupid, but he threw it out there. He tried it, you know. Not everything is going to be landmark and groundbreaking. So, I think just for that and I actually liked the movie as a kid, so…I love Meteor Man.
Beth Accomando: Well, from Dante's point of view I would say would you suggest then that for black filmmakers you really don’t have that opportunity to try something and fail because you almost have to kind of keep having these hits in order to keep making films?
Sanns Dixon: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean if you are a person that they want in the room in the first place, you have to come out and you have to do gangbusters, the same way if you are a woman. You know, how come majority of the more successful romance films that have come out are all directed by men. You know, you had…I am just going to throw this out, don’t have a connection, but well I say the first Twilight that was directed by a female and then they just [indiscernible] [00:57:33] her as soon as possible.
Dante Moran: Maybe she just ran.
Sanns Dixon: No, she was…she was set up to do it and then they got somebody else and they gave her Red Riding Hood [overlapping conversation] [00:57:33][laughter] and that was just it. It’s like you know…it was like they set her up to fail. [laughter]
Dante Moran: Because it sounds like you are talking studio which I think most people…I think you can fail in a studio once you have had like…I think Christopher Nolan can fail or Fincher could fail.
Sanns Dixon: Depends on how you fail.
Beth Accomando: We are talking [overlapping conversation] [00:57:59]white man.
Sanns Dixon: No, no, no…I know, I know, but what I am saying is…what I am saying is....
Beth Accomando: For the majority.
Sanns Dixon: Getting out of the studio system like independent, do you think you can…do you think that you can go out there, fail, and get investors on a second try? No.
Dante Moran: That depends on how badly you fail. Okay, like say if you come out, you make a movie, and it’s not a financial success, but you…was a gangbuster. Everybody involved is getting their picture taken and we are going to Cannes on Sunday and blah, blah, blah and meeting celebrities, then it’s all worth it.If there is no awards and no money, you are going to be washing cars. You know, unless you can get the financing yourself or you can create a package so like say you write something and Denzel Washington is interested. Then yeah, you will get investors but now…look at JoshTrank. He came off of Chronicle, which was a big hit. He got Fantastic Four with a 120 million dollar budget [laughter] . He already had Star Wars lined up and it's a no.
Sanns Dixon: You know…and I think…it seems like….
Dante Moran: After the contract was signed.
Sanns Dixon: It seems like there is a…right now it is a crazy time, because it seems like Hollywood is cranking out super…like these big budget films and it looks like they are just going after every inde director they can line.
Dante Moran: Yeah. [Overlapping conversation] [00:59:17] going to give him any hassle. That’s was they told.
Sanns Dixon: But it's…I am wondering…it seems like someone could get lucky. [laughter] But from your story, maybe not, but it would be interesting to see someone…because I have always wanted to see a black director do like a sci-fi. [overlapping conversation] [00:59:33]and I am just wondering….
Beth Accomando: Oh, Ryan Coogler from Creed is going to be doing Black Panther.
Sanns Dixon: Oh, that’s…that’s what I got.
Beth Accomando: That’s what…that’s…so, what do you think of that?
Sanns Dixon: Good director.
Dante Moran: I think so…I like him. But…yeah, I was happy to hear that and like Ava had it and did Selma, she was talking and also she turned it down. Now, I am just like "What are you doing? Are you kidding me. You could have wrote your own ticket."
Beth Accomando: Yeah, I think one director you had mentioned Dante who was Spike Lee's cinematographer Ernest Dickerson?
Dante Moran: Yeah.
Beth Accomando: Is that a director you said that you liked?
Dante Moran: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I have always dug him because he was one of the few African American directors that did horror and he did it well you know, I am just like "Nice, nice."
Beth Accomando: So, what would you recommend people to go see if his?
Dante Moran: Definitely Demon Knight. I thought that was well done. [laughter] Come on man.
Sanns Dixon: No, I agree. I agree.
Dante Moran: That was one of my favorite shows in him when they are like, "Oh, they are doing a movie." Am I great and then when I saw it that was awesome? Did some research and found out it was Ernest. Very cool.Very cool.
Sanns Dixon: Amazing stuff.
Dante Moran: I mean I like that…I would love to see more African Americans in genre filmmaking because they want to be there. Not because it's a job and you know if we want to see more black films, it's very easy to just vote with your dollars because you are…you know, Kevin Hart is never going to be out of business anytime soon you know. I mean he comes out…his worst stuff does 80-90 million dollars on a 20 million dollar budget. So, he is going to be doing all kinds of stuff. Now, these African American dramas or African American sci-fi, you know, if those things came out, are people going to flood you know the market with their dollars like they do for let's say a Kevin Hart movie? Because I mean…if you think about it, Kevin Hart's last movie did more money than Malcolm X and Selma combined.
Sanns Dixon: [overlapping conversation] [01:01:31]
Dante Moran: With adjusted inflation.
Beth Accomando: Well, if each of you could pick an upcoming director, an African American director, to push, to say like "Okay, Hollywood, here's someone up and coming, make sure you don’t let them fall by the wayside," who would you pick?
Dante Moran: [indiscernible] [01:01:51] Ryan Coogler I think he gets it. He gets it….Creed was a well done film. I was like you know didn’t know if it was going to be like you know a Rocky 5 or something like that, but you know he told a good story you know from all sides and yeah, it had some good action and what not and it made me interested in seeing what this guy is going to do. Anytime you have me looking at your past work and then looking at your future work, that’s just something. I did that with F Gary Gray when he came out and he does a lot of different films too, you know. He handles action very well. That’s what I want. I want somebody that understands business. I can put them in any film. So, "Hey, we got JackNicholson showing up today." "Cool. I got it." I want people that understand characters across the board and that’s usually when I write, I would like to write characters. I like my women…the women that I write…the women that I write in my films [laughter]to be tough, you know, being self sufficient, and what not and not just victims. But yeah, my vote isfor Ryan so far.
Sanns Dixon: First off, before I answer this, [indiscernible] [01:03:02]Bones Ernest Dickerson.
Dante Moran: You mean with the Snoop?
Sanns Dixon: Yes, great film. Mine…honestly, I guess I am realizing a trend that I like black female directors. Her name is TinaMabry and she did a film called Mississippi Damned. It's on Netflix right now and I…I just came across it on a whim because I try to watch every black film on Netflix. I am also realizing I like kind ofdark films. It’s not a happy film.
The only thing about getting old is that you can see 20/20, you can see all the good times, all the mistakes, you see options when you thought you never had none and since you ain't old and gray, I am going to be your sight, to tellyou that if you don’t go now, you ain’t[indiscernible] [01:03:59]never be gone, you are going to be sitting here just like me, old and alone with nothing to show for your life.”
I could stay here. I could help you out dinner.
By helping yourself, you helping us....you see that?
By helping yourself….
Sanns Dixon: And is basically just a story about a family and there is a one eventthat happens right in the middle of the second act…or towards the end of the second act that affects the rest of the film and it kind of takes on a different tone. It’s a really independent film. The only actor that you would recognize is actually in Creed it'sTessa Thompson, the low interest she in that.
Dante Moran: [overlapping conversation] [01:04:45]
Sanns Dixon: But it just…one thing about…because I watch…like I said I have seen probably every black film on Netflix, we…we can be conservative and maybe this…I think maybe sometimes female filmmakers are just more fearless anyway because this film kind of addresses a lot of things that typical black films kind of either joke about or kind of screw like homosexuality, like molestation; it's like…it's not a happy film, but it’s really good. I was looking at her IMDb and she also worked on a series called Futurestates which it’s like an anthology, a sci-fi anthology, I haven’t seen it any of her works. She did two episodes, I don’t know what it’s about, but of all the black directors I have seen recently, she is the one that intrigues me the most. Everyone else that I am a fan of like Coogler and Gary Gray, I mean they are already doing stuff. So, I really want to see what she is going to do, especially as a black female, lesbian black female director.
Dante Moran: That’s why you like her [overlapping conversation] [01:05:52]
Sanns Dixon: No. It’s not…I mean it’s not…it’s not even that. It’s just I…I came of age with films…as much as I love '80s, like the early '90s is my favorite time with Tarantino and Kevin Smith and I just…I know…I know every film you make doesn’t have to necessarily be…have to you know be bossy or challenging, but it helps and to me, it’s like I just feel like she has a voice. So….
Dante Moran: About the underappreciated directors, Hughes brothers.
Sanns Dixon: Yeah.
Dante Moran: Are they underappreciated?
Sanns Dixon: Dude, a lot of people[overlapping conversation] [01:06:28]
Dante Moran: Because they were…they were slated to do Akira. See for me, you are underappreciated if you made a great film and the studios aren’t even giving you a look. I wouldn't call them underappreciated. I think….
Sanns Dixon: My whole thing is like what I am thinking underappreciated, I am thinking like when a person comes out and does a film let's like say a game changer or groundbreaking, like say they did Menace II Society, which I say…say is the evil twin brother of Boyz n the Hood.
Dante Moran: Boyz n the Hood.
So what are you going to do Katie? You are going to mess around out there in the streets to get killed?
What's that sir?
You have to think about your life.
Being a black man in America isn’t easy. All I am saying is survive.
Sanns Dixon: And then he went on and did….
Dante Moran: Dead Presidents.
Sanns Dixon: Dead Presidents and then From Hell and then I think it was like a couple of documentaries.
Dante Moran: No, they did The Book of Eli.
Sanns Dixon: That's right. But again, it's…it's just they made films. I mean…I don’t…I don’t think…I think they are great filmmakers. I wouldn't call them groundbreaking because I know Menace II Society if you listen to the commentary that was basically their take on good fellows when they shot their film like a lot of the way it was structured and shot.
Dante Moran: Well, I think as an African American film I think you know that is groundbreaking because you don’t see a lot of…that’s one of the things that always caught me…my eye with Spike Lee is that he did films that you would expect a white people to be in and they had a very good look with that. I mean…you have got…but you guys hadcome from an independent background and also next you know they are working with Johnny Depp, which at the time was like one of the biggest stars in the word.
Sanns Dixon: Well, yeah, actually I agree and I will go one step further. The thing about Menace II Society and Boyz n the Hood because remember that was the time of the hood film, was those films the reason I liked them is you can show these people I guess…I guess the thugs - I mean not everybody, but you know it was the hood you know and…but you can still show these people in a…there is still dignity there you know. It's just not stereotypes you know. It's like these are actual characters, even if like Old Dog I mean he told me if it is a stereotype, but you see the character there.So, yeah. I guess I could see how that would be groundbreaking.
Dante Moran: But that’s something that resonated with people and then again, in the '90s was that turning point because then when you had like the gangsta rap era and everything was dark. All the [indiscernible] [01:09:21] was about killing people and selling dope….
Sanns Dixon: But even Menace II Society again like going back to I said about dignity like it was more you understood why he did that was one of my problems and a lot of the black films I see even today is they…I mean you will see this in any bad movie, but especially black movies, it’s like you just…they just do something. It’s like why you selling drug because I am black. They said "No." "What's your reason?" You know..
Dante Moran: Man [overlapping conversation] [01:09:48] give me nothing.
Sanns Dixon: Yeah and it’s like…I mean I know we are talking film but I remember when The Wire came out and that was considered so amazing, like so many people [indiscernible] [01:09:56] so amazing and I watched it and I have to admit I am not the hugest fan of The Wire. It's a good show, but…I was watching, I was like, "They are just presenting black people as people stereotypes, why is that so groundbreaking?" but it is and I think that’s what Menace II Society did as opposed to a lot of films that we make, that black people make and that’s…that’s what really bothers me. It’s one thing if like you mentioned earlier why Ivy League whatever, if you are writing stereotypes, but if you are like John Singleton or F Gary Gray someone who grew up in Compton and you know which they don’t do, but if you know what it is like and you are still pushing the stereotype, not the character, that’s when I have a problem.
Dante Moran: Well, that’s what you know…that’s one of the biggest problems I see in African American filmmaking period is that back in the day, we are like, "Oh, this is BS man. You guys are presenting you know people as stereotypes blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." Then when you started getting more African American people in the boardrooms, behind the cameras, and the producer chairs and whatnot it became worse. I don’t know anybody on this planet that’s like that. You don’t know anybody that’s like Meet The Browns. [laughter]
Sanns Dixon: Well, I mean and it goes back to what I said earlier Tyler Perry and this is my problem is if you kept everything about that film the same and just made it a white director, what would the reaction be? If…if Menace II Society was done by a white director, it would still be considered a good film. It wouldn't be offensive. Whereas if half of the crap on Netflix I see right now you know [indiscernible] [01:11:27] it would be extremely offensive. So….
Beth Accomando: Well, you are both filmmakers. What would you like to see change? Can you think of anything to change or that you would like to see change that you think would actually make a difference?
Dante Moran: As far as like…?
Beth Accomando: Oh, you know, the Academy is saying like "Okay, we are going to change our voting membership and wow, miraculously you know something is going to happen." I mean do you see it as the studio heads need to have more diversity, do you see that there just needs to be money put aside for independent filmmaking? I mean is there something you see that could be done that you think would help create a more diverse pool of films?
Dante Moran: How realistic do I have to be?
Beth Accomando: Go for the stars.
Dante Moran: Okay. I would like to see an all black cast directed by a black director in a film that makes a billion dollars. I think that would…that’s what it would - that’s what it would take I think.
Beth Accomando: We take like a Star Wars directed by a black director with an all black cast making it.
Sanns Dixon: You would…you would take….
Beth Accomando: To make Hollywood say like, "Oh maybe we can make films."
Sanns Dixon: I mean if you look throughout history anytime there has ever been like a segregation, it takes the…the unexpected to make the change, like JackieRobinson, like with baseball. When baseball was integrated, the best black baseball player was not Jackie Robinson. It was…oh, what was his name? JoshGibson. But Josh Gibson had a short temper. So, Jackie Robinson came in and Jackie Robinson was killing it and that’s basically what opened the doors, not that you know he was an okay player. He was one of the best. So, I think with film it will have to be something that is not offensive because anytime…for someone anytime a black film is made there is always that "Is it offensive for some reason?" and it would have to make like Dante is pointing out a lot of money. I think honestly the change has nothing to do with the Oscars. I think the Oscars is like a job, you know, the Oscars is that you may get a bonus. You need…you need a big pay day and for me, if a film…I don’t know…like, it couldn't even be like Black Panther, it couldn't be that because that’s a Marvel film, that’s expected. It would have to be like me and Dante randomly wrote something and we got not Will Smith, like…it would have to be so unexpected and we would have to come out like the Blair Witch Project, something like that. Because I mean [indiscernible] [01:13:49] it just sucks, but why is it so prevalent because the film came out of nowhere and made ridiculous money you know. That’s…that’s what…it’s not realistic but that’s…
Dante Moran: Well, not only that though it’s got to make a lot of money, but there also has to be potential for more.
Sanns Dixon: True.
Dante Moran: Can’t just be a one and done.
Sanns Dixon: Yeah.
Dante Moran: [overlapping conversation] [01:14:06] we have got to milk this, then we are going to reboot it and then we are going to reboot the reboot [laughter]
Sanns Dixon: He's right. Yeah. You are right.
Dante Moran: And that’s how you know you get…you get people…you get their attention. But also you know you have to understand how to navigate the waters. You will be surprised how many times people will tell you no, just to see how you react. So, here we have got Will Smith boycotting the Oscars. Well, what's Will going to do next year? The year after that? When he is looking to get an Oscar? When he has got his next big role that he actually could possibly win? And he is out here mouthing off now and they are going to sit there and remind him, "Hey, Will you know when you said this…?" and it’s like you know is that beneficial to him? You know especially when you are the person you have benefitted from Hollywood your entire career.
Beth Accomando: I mean that’s funny. I saw the Black Panther's documentary right before the Oscar nominations came out and after seeing that film, and seeing some of these…some of these archival footage of the Black Panthers going with their guns into Sacramento and just asserting themselves, I was thinking to myself, "You know, Hollywood already sees you as invisible," so boycotting the awards and having the entire world see a white audience and all white prisoners kind of in this weird way affirms your invisibility and I was thinking like, "Why don’t you like take over the red carpet and have you know…get all black people or minorities to line that red carpet so when the celebrities come in you only applaud when there is a black actor or a black director or a woman or whatever. I mean it just seems like you want to assert your presence as opposed to pull it away.
Sanns Dixon: Well, I was listening to…I was actually I forgot who it was but they were actually talking about this and a lot of the films then have been snubbed were or are independent films and Hollywood has a tendency to go Hollywood films with the Oscars. That’s just kind of the track record and it’s funny because it was an interview and the lady being interviewed said, and this is my stance too, "It's funny how you have these independent films that pride themselves with being made outside of Hollywood but they are mad that they are not getting a Hollywood prize" and that’s kind of the way I look at it and again, I am not saying it’s wrong because, I mean my stance is we need more films period and that would help it, but if you are an independent filmmaker and that’s…that’s who and what you are, you shouldn't be shocked that you are snubbed by the Oscars. [laughter]I mean you really shouldn't.
Beth Accomando: [overlapping conversation] [01:16:49] It should only be a badge of honor.
Sanns Dixon: Honestly. And if you are a black filmmaker, it should just be automatic and I am not saying…I am not going to do the whole you know sit there, take it and accept it, that’s fine. For me it’s like what's more important - being a filmmaker or winning an Oscar, because like Straight Outta Compton, okay, got that one nomination, but it made what? 500 hundred million dollars? So, F Gary Gray is going to make another movie. So, if I am F Gary Gray, I am like I didn’t get nominated, but…and for me, that’s…that’s the thing you know. It’s…if you don’t win this time, I would not taste that, okay, you didn’t get nominated this time, but what if the next film is the one that you could win on. If you don’t get it, just keep moving. That’s just me though.
Dante Moran: I mean yeah. There has to be a movement. Again, I was like you know segregation didn’t just happen overnight and just out of nowhere you know. People are like, "You know what? Yeah, we are just going to let these guys come have…you know, come to school with us. No, people have to get out there and they fought for it. But it wasn’t like, "Oh, well, we are not going to show up to school."
Beth Accomando: Well, that’s the other thing. From watching the Black Panther film and revisiting some of the civil rights stuff, boycotts worked when you boycotted something and when you had a financial impact like the bus boycotts in Montgomery, but when they was segregation like at the diners and stuff, you didn’t boycott them, you forced your presence there to say like, "No, we deserve to be at the table with you" and for the Academy Awards it seems like, I would love to see an entire black audience out there so that…you can’t…I mean it can or it can't happen, but because…
Sanns Dixon: Eat your words.
Beth Accomando: Yeah. I mean…I want to see a diverse audience sitting out there at the Oscars and presenting the awards so that you can't say like okay, you are invisible. You can’t be invisible if you are out there in those numbers.
Sanns Dixon: Yeah.
Beth Accomando: And it seems like a boycott which just removes your voice from the whole…I mean you will get media attention to a certain degree and you might embarrass the Oscars to a certain degree, but your actual kind of message that you want to get across I am not sure it's getting through if you are just not present,
Sanns Dixon: Absolutely not, especially you know if you are Will Smith and you are on the red carpet, they are going to hand you a microphone and you can sit there and say your piece in a positive way you know. It’s a shame that such and such film didn’t get nominated this year. If you haven’t seen the film, you should really go out and see it because it is starring such and such and such and such. But I am so happy for whoever got nominated that day. And then you have got people sitting up "Oh, I never heard of that film" just like you were just saying a couple of films right now. I am just like, "Oh, I have togo look those up," but you know, sitting there and going, "Oh, this is BS. The man is trying to keep me down and blah, blah,blah,blah,blah," and we [indiscernible] [01:19:26] showing up, you know what, if they don’t want you there, you just did them a favor. We are not going to be there. Great.[laughter] Put somebody else in your seat. It’s like you know the minute that the Oscars are over, this is all over. That the potential of making a change is done. Then you are going to have everybody kissing ass and was talking crap this year, next year because they want to get their film in the Oscars or you know what, you are going to have the political backlash, financial backing, distribution, all kinds of stuff you know and I am not saying you know "Oh, the person who doesn’t make waves is not going to get hurt," but yeah, the person that can consistently make waves with no payback, I mean here we have got Will Smith is in a movie, it’s not making money and you are being very vocal, especially when people feel that they have been very kind to you. This is going to affect him I guarantee it next year because they are already talking about his career is over anyway and it’s not just white people, black people too.
Beth Accomando: Well, let's wrap it up. Do you guys have any final thoughts on this underappreciated directors or…?
Sanns Dixon: You know, it’s…it’s...it's a tossup and I mean you just never know. I mean the entertainment industry is a weird, weird vehicle. Like you guys have talked about you know directors who have done some really good work and this is like whatever happened to this person, but yet you know you get these one directors they are just not going away and they keep turning out crap after crap after crap, but I guess…I also believe that the studio has a list of directors that they keep on hand, these guys are going to make movies and we are going to write them off. If they make money, great. If not, it’s going to be like the [indiscernible] [01:21:21].
Dante Moran: When…when he was writing off a lot of the losses and whatnot. I just want to see people honestly get involved in the filmmaking. I think one of the biggest problems is to meet people on the outside thinking that, "Well, this should happen. You know, you should vote for this." Blah, blah, blah, blah,blah, not even understanding the process because I remember when Mo'Niquegot the Oscar for Precious, well she didn’t do well the press that she supposed to. You know, they had set her up, she was supposed to go to these meetings and do this and this and that and she didn’t want to do it. Well, she got the Oscar, but that killed her career and it’s like you know there is a structure in Hollywood and you have to follow it to a degree and it’s unfortunate that it is like that because I think there is a…who was it…it was a…oh, Francis Ford Coppola - he was doing a speech and he was saying, "Anybody in this audience has a better chance of getting funding for their film than I do."
Beth Accomando: And Sanns, any closing thoughts?
Sanns Dixon: I guess I would say just based on this conversation…I guess advice I would give is someone who has yet to do a feature…if you want to make it in Hollywood, come up with an idea that makes money and if you want to make it as an independent filmmaker just come up with an idea that has a soul.
Beth Accomando: Alright. Well, thank you very much. I have been speaking with San Diego filmmakers Sanns Dixon and Dante Moran. Thank you guys very much for talking with me.
Sanns Dixon: Thank you Beth. It was fun.
Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando. So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place