This series is a short introduction into the inspiration of why filmmaker Myron Ward believes black teen films like AFTER PROM needs to exist.
Over the course of this series, I’ve introduced the artistic motive behind a black teen romantic comedy film like AFTER PROM, and the internal struggles black filmmakers face when choosing between civic duty and cashing out.
As I leave you with this last chapter, my purpose was never to provide answers from my limited perspective, but rather raise questions. And just as we begun the series with a WHAT IF, I think it’s only fair that we end it on the same note. Two of the most powerful words in the human language is “WHAT IF”. And just like any tool, rather it’s a nail or hammer, “WHAT IF” can be used to build, or destroy.
WHAT IF a black woman owned her own television station. WHAT IF the president of America was black. WHAT IF you could drive a car without gas. WHAT IF we could harness resources and materials from passing meteoroids to replenish our own natural resources. Most “WHAT IF” questions sound far fetched and impossible, until they become possible.
Rick Famuyiwa had to contemplate the duality forces of “WHAT IF” when bringing his urban teen film “DOPE” to life after dealing with multiple rejections from the studio system.
While acceptance from the industry is a great indicator of a project’s success, WHAT IF they can’t see it’s potential. WHAT IF the development executives can’t comprehend a culture or world that you know exists but they’ve never experienced. WHAT IF you changed the character’s ethnicity to be more acceptable in white America. WHAT IF they’re right and you fail. WHAT IF you allow this limited scope of knowledge to define your worth.
These are the vicious cycle of negatives in which Rick Famuyiwa could of easily been lead astray, down a path of helpless victimization which eventually kills dreams and destroys ambition. Succumbing to the destructive forces of “WHAT IF” robs our community of vital treasures everyday. From the class room to the board room to the dinner table.
But I’m glad Rick Famuyiwa used his “WHAT IF” questions to build, rather than destroy, and in doing so, shifted his position from victim to empowerment and deposited an abundance of cultural riches to our community through a visual medium. A visual medium that shows an honest reflection of the American black teen experience.
WHAT IF we don’t go through the system and gain greater control of our narrative. WHAT IF there is an audience who understands not just the movie but the culture of the film. WHAT IF “DOPE” is more than an urban niche film, but an universal coming-of-age story and WHAT IF they found a company which understood that and released it as such.
If you haven’t followed “DOPE” that’s exactly what happened. The film not only created one of the fiercest bidding wars in Sundance History but also is receiving a wide release through Sony and Open Road to critic praise for it’s fresh and original take on the teenage coming-of-age story.
So it is with the likes of Spike Lee, Melvin Van Peebles, Gordan Parks, Oscar Micheaux and many more that we stand on the shoulder of giants. Giants who’ve challenged the industry with “What if’s” which has given us the ability to continue pushing for change and representation in the world of cinema.
I thank them all for believing in themselves, which has helped me to believe in myself as a black filmmaker, and Rick Famuyiwa is just more evidence that black teen films like AFTER PROM is on the right path.
So, now that this series has come to a close, I hope collectively that it has inspired some, made others angry enough for action and raised questions for the rest. And in closing, I’d just like to leave you with this.
Always keep fighting, challenging and questioning the very sources who tell you what you are and should be. Because we must always be aware of who’s narrative we’re following, theirs or our own. Always follow your own.
Myron Ward is a writer/director of the black teen romantic comedy feature film AFTER PROM that is currently undergoing an indiegogo fundraising campaign seeking to raise $10,000 of development funds. He resides in North Hollywood, CA where he writes, produces and freelances in Industrial Marketing for RK GLOBAL.