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African-American Female Team Produce Indie Horror Film ‘The Dark Rite’

African-American Female Team Produce Indie Horror Film ‘The Dark Rite’

When most
people think about the combination of Black folks and horror films they think
of the stereotypical “first to die” trope (one that is too true), and then
depending on your generation, ‘Candyman,’ ‘Blacula,’ or even the TV series
‘True Blood.’ Though a shift is occurring through the continual work of the ladies
on the Graveyard Shift Sisters website, initial thoughts certainly do not bend to
Black people actually working to make horror films. But then you’d be wrong
there too. 

Dark Rite’ is a supernatural thriller by director Richard
LeMay (‘Naked As We Came) about
a family of witches who descend upon a small town.  In the vein of ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ the film begins as a thriller, and
slowly moves into a world of inescapable horror.   Dark in tone but not a “Black” film (the only Black characters involved are actor Justiin Davis (‘Boardwalk
Empire’) as the 4th lead, with Chester Jones III (‘Hey Diddle Diddle,’
‘Parallels’) and Margaret Laurena Kemp (‘Children of God’) in smaller roles) the
film is however produced by a Black female team.

Assembled to make “The Dark Rite’ happen, not by race
but by skill, were three talented women – producer Trevite A. Willis,
co-producer Nicole Sylvester, and line producer Stephanie Dawson – who have all
made their mark on the industry and are steadily climbing further. 

Trevite A.
Willis has produced award-winning short and feature films including the Bahamian
drama ‘Children of God,’ which aired on Showtime and had theatrical releases in
the USA, United Kingdom and The Netherlands. She previously produced the
romantic comedy, “What a Man Wouldn’t Do for a Woman”, and the Black gay
coming-of-age, “Blueprint”, a film festival favorite. Willis also produced the
DGA Best Student Film – African American Award winning “Uncle Killa,” which was
selected as an HBO finalist at the American Black Film Festival, and picked up by

Nicole Sylvester, a
Detroit-native, made a name for herself as a coordinator for independent and
studio productions such as  ‘8
Mile,’ ‘Hard Ball,’ ‘*61,’ and at Jeff Daniels’ company Purple Rose Films where
she was Distribution Coordinator for the feature ‘Super Sucker.’ She soon began
producing and directing her own films – 
shorts ‘The Stop’ and ‘Minor Blues,’ and her feature film directorial
debut ‘Layla’s Girl,’ a heartwarming film co-starring Richard Gant (‘Men of A
Certain Age’)’ about one woman’s journey toward peace and healing after the
death of her estranged mother. ‘Layla’s Girl,’ played at several film
festivals. Nicole also produced Pete Chatmon’s web series ‘Queen Hussy,’ a
raunchy mock reality show comedy based in 1974, and she is currently developing
the feature ‘Maya and Her…Lover?’ which focuses on a woman who finds herself
pushed beyond her limits when she begins an affair with a much younger man.

Stephanie Dawson worked
in the IT world before transitioning into video and film production. She
started EclectionMedia in 2006 to create short form videos for private clients
and under that banner produced several short films including ‘Not Another Heist
Movie’ (2009), ’A Little Bit of More’ (2010), and most recently
‘Hypothetically,’ currently in the festival circuit. She also produced
independent web series ‘Death’s Door’ (2011) and ‘Scout & Maggie’ (2014).Additionally, Stephanie works as a freelance production coordinator, production
manager and line producer for various mediums, with credits on ‘Kelly & Cal’
(IFC Films 2014), ‘Jamie Marks is Dead’ (2014), and ‘Beneath’ (Chiller Films,
2014). Stephanie has also assisted independent producers such as Laurie Parker,
Joyce Pierpoline, and director Alison MacLean. In her spare time, Dawson writes
film reviews for the lifestyle blog Limité

Check out the trailer for ‘The
Dark Rite’ below, and if you haven’t already, start to follow the work of these
three talented Black women. 

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Oh yeah what a film. I like it. How about this funny gifts fro gags and parties. Try the new fake Ultrasound design from fake ababy. This is a lot of fun.

Moikgantsi Kgama

I know Trevite and we haven’t discussed this project, but she has produced NUMEROUS Black projects. But I assume that was (A) work for hire. Or (B) a calling card to get more work for hire. Producers, generally are hired by directors. Sooooo, is the sentiment here that Black people shouldn’t be hired, or seek to be hired by white people? These women had the goal of establishing a sustainable business, so they need to be hired by every and anyone. Lord knows plenty of white people get paid to work on (or even lead) Black cast projects. Why should they have all of the options? And before you call me a Thomasina, know that O founded ImageNation Cinema Foundation and have dedicated years to promoting progressive Black cinema. If you want to see a great Black film, come see ‘1982’ starring Hill Harper on Feb. 10 at our Oscar-antidote, ‘Cocktails, Cinema & Revolution’ 2/10/16 at the SVA Theater.


I think it’s important to mention that these three talented women were hired to produce this film because they are talented, not because they are black. There is a black lead. Justin Davis from Boardwalk Empire. It’s not a "black" film. It’s a human story. The film is predominately Latino. But why should it matter?


News flash: freedom of expression applies to Black people too. Suggesting that Black filmmakers should only make films with Black leads is ridiculous and very Jim Crow. Yes, there is a need for Black leads in every genre — but there are also plenty of Black filmmakers creating those roles. I wonder if those with this view would say the same for filmmakers of other ethnicities? It’s a trap that only keeps creative people in a box. I am VERY GLAD that these ladies are getting things done. I happen to know that Ms. Sylvester’s feature in development features *multiple* Black leads and her doing this project is only going to help her get her film done that much faster. That’s how the business works. And not for nothing, storytelling transcends man-made divisions (e.g., the universal appeal of both Toni Morrison and Shakespeare). Lord knows Black filmmakers face enough obstacles, so I for one CELEBRATE the achievements of these Black filmmakers. Being truly free means not being relegated to making choices that are a product of oppression.

The Media Witch

Just want to mention an excellent 1973 horror film GANGA AND HESS starring Duane Jones, Marlene Clark and Bill Gunn.


@GHOST Understood but DWP was in key markets that have a huge black population and it still didn’t do well. Beyond the Lights had a wide release and a lot of publicity on this site and still didn’t do well. Spike Lee is well known and his film didn’t do well. Also, Kevin Smith an established white indie filmmaker did a horror movie with all white actors including the appearance of Johnny Depp in it and still it didn’t do well at the box-office. Producing a thriller/horror movie with an all white cast will not guarantee that this horror movie will go places. Fact is most horror movies don’t even make it to the big screen. Another fact is that most of them have an all white cast. There are several black producers who has produce all white films. However, I never see them advertise their film on a majority black film site or even target it to a black audience. The only thing that I can see in having an all white cast is it may be easier to get financing to make the film.


I know folks are mad about the lack of blacks but understand why-there are places this film will reach that a black one won’t. There are black horror movies where we save the day and live to the end-guess what-they all end up on DVD, IFG, SyFy or Hulu. Until we control distribution and ensure those black film have a theater to show in-we will get passed over for whites.


@Troublemaker-to be fair a lot of those films like Dear White People aren’t shown everywhere. Only 1 theater showed it in my state. So I can’t complain about black films not getting support when we don’t own movie theaters to show them in more places.@Carl-yes black folks have to show growth in front and behind the camera. That does mean doing films without blacks in the lead. We didn’t see black directors directing films making $100 million until Tim Story did it TWICE with Fantastic Four.


Thank God for the legacy of Spike Lee and ALL of the black talent in front of and behind the scenes that he fought and continues to fight to be a part of his films. Nuff said!


@ CARL So??? There are so many movies that feature black leads, written by black screenwriters and directed by black directors that black folks don’t support. For example, Beyond the lights and Red Hook Summer! Let me remind you this is a blogsite, where folks are free to express their opinions. If you don’t like what folks have to say, you can leave. It’s not like these black women have famous actors like Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence, Angelina Jolie etc in this movie. Like I have stated before, there are times where an all white cast is warranted but not in a black produced fictional thriller/horror where black leads who survived to the end are very rare.
@UMM… Black folks love horror movies also. The big difference is will the majority of black folks turned out in groves to theaters to see unknown white leads in a thriller/horror produced by three black women? Black folks can stay home and see this on cable(if this film reaches that far) or they can get a bootleg version on the many sites that offer these services.


@Troublemaker — main audience for a horror film produced by black women is only for white people?! So black folk don’t like horror? WTF are you talking about? Just because you live in a creative box doesn’t mean these sistas have to.


TROUBLE – BUT the PRODUCERS are three black women! All the complaining about more black folk behind the camera and not limiting black filmmakers…and you all come with the "having black producers isn’t enough" crap! Its hypocritical and screams slave mentality. Make up your damn mind! Do you want black folk with power behind the camera calling shots (producers) or not? Do you want black folk to stretch in the types of projects they do (genre films that don’t all have black casts) or not!


@PHREDG Agreed! But at the same token, why is this film being featured on this site? It’s safe to say, that black folks are not their target audience! I think this film should be on sites targeted to their main audience which we all know is white.


@CARL I don’t have any problems with black folks producing an all white movie because they are times where it warrants it. However, this film is in a genre that hardly features blacks in a leading role and when they do feature them in the lead, we all know what happens to them. Believe me I understand these ladies don’t want to make a "black" movie but they can at least add one black lead to go along with all the other white leads. Again, I could go along with an all white cast, if a black director and screenwriter were selected to work on this film. I can’t with this film because this thriller/horror doesn’t have a black screenwriter, director or lead actor.

House Negro

I agree PATHETIC! Black filmmakers should always have the same race in their cast because we are not capable enough to handle such a feat. Keep boot licking!


There would not be a Shadow and Act if all Black filmmakers were so shallow and self-hating as these ladies…there would be no need for it because there would be no cinema of our culture…just more stories where our voices and bodies are out on the margins of a white("normal") experience. Sickening…and they expect to get support from this blog? Send that trailer to a TeaParty website

House Negro

I agree! Black people have no business making films that have a white cast. We are not worthy to have a choice! We are OBLIGATED to cast black 24/7/365!


Not too thrilled with their choices eh? So… make your OWN damn films.


You guys are nuts! They have as much right to cast whatever race they want and for you to say they should n’t and to use their race AGAINST them is sad. I’m glad they are showing that ALL black filmmakers DON’T ALL HAVE TO HAVE black folks in ALL their films. Really?


Black actors are already not taken seriously in horror movies as it is. This wldv been a grrat chance to showcase that we r just as talented as other non black actors. I think they dropped the ball on this one.


Gotta say I agree with Troublemaker. I think its ludicrous that there arent any black roles. I understand they dnt want it to be considered a "black" movie but if we arent given the chances how can we prove we r diverse enough to be in any film without having an ethnicty attached to its description? Im sure when some ppl hear of three blk women dping a horror movie they wld prefer to be given a fair chance, let their work speak for itself and not be prejudged. Idk if I can support this. We shld be putting as much of us on as possible but fairly and tastefully.


These women don’t understand the value of being Black


So black folk can’t make films unless the leads are black? Thanks for confirming your narrow thinking and slave mentality.


WTF??? Where are the black leads in this movie? Oh, yeah I did see a black man getting stabbed at the end. What’s the point of this movie if these black women don’t put black leads in a thriller/horror movie? Oh, yeah they don’t want it to be considered a "black" film. I for one will not support a film like this because we need to see more black leads in thriller/horror movies.

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