Back to IndieWire

American Black Film Festival (ABFF) 2011 Day 2 Highlights (John Singleton, Keenen Ivory Wayans)

American Black Film Festival (ABFF) 2011 Day 2 Highlights (John Singleton, Keenen Ivory Wayans)

Going into day #4, we’re finally seeing some sunshine; all of yesterday (day #3) actually, which was more than welcomed after the first 2 days of clouds and rain.

Day 2, Thursday, brought me my first set of one-on-ones with some of the attending talent, very brief chats, but I was pleased to have some time with these folks at least.

Highlights include meeting with and talking to John Singleton and Keenen Ivory Wayans; 2 gentlemen who’ve been working in the business for 20+ years, which didn’t really hit me until after I met with them. The new “old guard” we could call them. They both seemed… “settled,” for lack of a better term. Then again, I really only had a mere few minutes with them, so my read is based entirely on that short frame of time.

I shook Singleton’s hand; he asked me what outlet I was with; I said Shadow And Act; he gave me a silent, confused look, which I took to mean that he wasn’t familiar with the name; so I added that I’m with indieWIRE, and he replied with, “indieWIRE? Who’s that?

Hah! I laughed and waved it off; I didn’t feel like going into an explanation. Obviously, not everyone in the industry is familiar with our site might be, and the even more widely-known indieWIRE brand. C’est la vie

So… we sat as I saw my allotted 3 minutes quickly tick-tocking away.

Now, to be frank, I’m not a huge fan of these junkets, because you really can’t get much substance out of them; you have your few short minutes in which you can get in maybe 2 or 3 quick questions, and in reply, you’ll get 2 or 3 short answers. You really can’t ask anything that would require or inspire much reflection and dialogue. It’s all about the soundbite. And these folks have been asked the same kinds of questions repeatedly; by the time you get your shot, assuming you’re not the first 1 or 2 people given time with them, it starts to feel almost mechanical.

So, in preparation, I try to think of questions that aren’t the usual, nor expected, but also keeping in mind that I can’t really ask anything that would require an involved answer, or that might get me banned from further press junkets, if you catch my drift :)

That all presents a bit of a challenge.

Regardless, my questions to Singleton centered on whether the process, and getting projects greenlit have gotten easier for him, given that he’s essentially an industry veteran now; I also asked what he has coming up after the Taylor Lautner film Abduction, and if he has any dream projects completed, waiting to be financed and produced.

In summary, to the first question, his reply was to say that the process has absolutely not gotten any easier, and that it’s still very much a struggle for him to get projects greenlit by the studios, and his “veteran” status doesn’t really mean much to them; to the second question, he says he has a couple of projects in development which he hopes to make, with Abduction out of the way, but he couldn’t talk about them; and to the third question, of course he has several dream projects that he hopes he’ll one day be able to make, but, as always, financing is the hold-up. And, again, he couldn’t tell me what those dream projects were.

I should add Singleton was in a hurry, and did offer to allow me to ride with him and ABFF co-founder Jeff Friday, on their car ride to his next destination, so that I could get more questions in; but that idea was nipped when they realized that I wasn’t the last person waiting to interview him, and there were at least 2 or 3 other media outlets behind me, waiting for their own 3 minutes. So, he had to stay put. However, I would’ve loved to take that car ride with them since it would have obviously given me more time, and maybe I would have gotten a different Singleton too, one that wasn’t under lights, cameras, and surrounded by lots of people.

Alas, it didn’t happen! But, at least, I got my opportunity.

On to Keenen Ivory Wayans… the first thing that struck me about him was how lean he looks. If you saw the red carpet photos of him I posted a couple of days ago, you’d see what I mean. He didn’t ask what outlet I was with, nor did I volunteer, given the reaction I got from John Singleton above :)

My questions for Wayans focused on whether he feels or cares about being officially recognized by Hollywood (not just the ABFF) for his contributions to film (being one of the early cats alongside Spike Lee, Robert Townsend, John Singleton and others who helped define what black cinema was in the late 80s, early 90s), and TV (with the groundbreaking series In Living Color, which has never quite been replicated since, even though there’ve been a few attempts). He shrugged and said that he doesn’t really think about that, because it’s not solely about getting that kind of recognition, but about the work. That’s what keeps him looking ahead, instead of in the rear view.

On whether he plans to ever return to TV; he said he definitely plans to return to TV, take an old format and shake it up. But he wouldn’t elaborate on that.

On his siblings (Marlon Wayans especially) rising up the industry food chain; his reply was that they don’t really have time to sit and talk about these things, because they’re all so busy nurturing their individual careers. But he’s proud of where they all are currently, given that he pretty much helped pave the way for all of them.

I then asked him if he still enjoys what he does; whether it’s still a joy waking up every day and taking on the industry, or whether, after almost 30 years, he’s gotten tired of it all.

He replied saying that, he hasn’t gotten tired of the creative side of the business, but the business side is another matter. However, he refuses to dwell on the business aspects of the industry, and instead tries to focus his energy primarily on creating.

And lastly, I wanted to know what he has coming up, given that it’s been at least 2 years since he was last involved in any projects we know of. He said that he has films at various stages of development. He produced a show for Kim Wayans, and they’re shopping it around to the TV networks, and he’s finished writing a script for a project which he’s waiting to see what happens with in the fall.

Later that evening I attended the screenings of the 5 films in competition for the HBO Short Film Award – 2 of which I know we’ve written about on Shadow And Act (Ka’ramuu Kush’s Salvation Road and Nelsan Ellis’ Page 36). Instead of reviewing everyone (since I don’t really have the time right now), I’ll say this, frankly, the shorts are more impressive than the features!

So… those were the highlights of day two.

This Article is related to: Uncategorized and tagged