The Grace & Grit Speaker Series is a two-day virtual event that brings together inspiring talks from diverse women working in film and television. The speakers are a mix of industry veterans with over 20 years of experience, and young up-and-comers who have made incredible strides in the span of a few years. Based in Los Angeles, New York City and Atlanta, each speaker covers a different craft in the business, including directing, cinematography, production design, casting and acting.
These women share wisdom learned from career struggles and speak truth to being underrepresented in entertainment. Amid COVID-19 and renewed calls for systemic change across all facets of American society, the arrival of Grace & Grit is timely, to say the least. As Hollywood’s future hangs in the balance, this series intends to empower and encourage women struggling to make it in Tinseltown, and those desiring to break in.
The Grace & Grit Speaker Series occurs on Saturday, July 25 and Sunday, July 26. The event weekend is free to register, with an optional VIP upgrade.
ABOUT MORE MELANIN MEDIA
More Melanin Media was created to help women of color pursue thriving careers in entertainment. In the wake of ongoing dialogue surrounding representation and inclusivity, the current Hollywood landscape is still disappointingly homogeneous. The company continues to strive for media to reflect the world we live in by offering resources such as career coaching, online courses, digital guides and more.
Several months ago I ran a contest through Black TV Film Crew’s weekly newsletter. In the contest, the first two people who could me tell where the line “falling for a banana in the tailpipe” came from would receive a profile on Black TV Film Crew’s website. Actor / Writer / Producer, Malachi Rivers answered ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ and sent in his reply within 5 minutes. And so, here he is.
Malachi originally hails from Maryland but he now resides in Los Angeles, CA. He is currently on tour with a play called “Loving Him” (And He’s Not Ready) by NAACP Theatre award winning playwright Peachanda DuBose. He is also gearing up to reprise my role as “Chad Bossman” in the NAACP Theatre award winning play “Ferguson”: The Musical. In the fall, he starts shooting season 2 of “Rhonda Mitchell M.D.” web series which is an official selection at the Hip Hop Film Festival. He will also be filming the third season of the popular web series “LIPS” (Love Inside Prevails) in which he was nominated for best supporting actor for my role as “William Green” at the 2018 Urban Web Series Awards.
But, there is a new digital series, “Poz Roz” on the horizon for Malachi and he will be co-producing along with director Carlton Jordan. They shoot in July and have some heavy hitters attached to the project.
CHOOSING HIS CAREER PATH
Rivers explains how he was inspired to take his career path. “The arts have always been a driving force me in my life. Acting and music have been the catalyst for keeping me out of trouble. Creating is in my blood especially in subject matters that deal with people of the African diaspora.”
I think you must allow your work to first connect with you and make sure that it resonates in your soul. It must be genuine to your journey then God willing people will receive it. — Malachi Rivers
Rivers was inspired by many people throughout his life. He explains, “My teachers at the Performing Arts High School in Maryland taught me lessons that I still use to this day. The original stick outs for me are Whoopi Goldberg, Lauryn Hill, and Mario Van Peebles. I got the chance to tell Whoopi and Mario both in person in an intimate setting about how they have changed my life. “Sister Act 2” made me really want to make a career out of acting and music. “Posse” I used to watch that movie everyday. It gave me insight that black people can be anything, even bad ass cowboys running the west.
However, the biggest influence for me was one of my best friends who was like a brother to me, Nelsan Ellis. Nelsan was a well-known actor who became famous for his role as “Lafayette” on True Blood on HBO and we were extremely close. He always told me my time is coming and believed I was an amazing talent.
I say he is my biggest influence because with his passing I realized more so than ever that life is short, and you must do what makes your spirit happy.
He taught me that and I will always appreciate that. I’ve learned so much from him about what to do and not to do in this industry.”
Life has its share of ups and downs, but who you are emotionally and spiritually is key for Malachi. He shared with us a personal experience that really opened his eyes.
“One day I was hanging with some friends and woman who professed to be a spiritual reader decided she wanted to read us. Long story short, she ended up telling me I was protected. The crazy part was I always felt that way. But, what I started realizing through the reading is: it wasn’t about her telling me, it was about me believing it. I quickly realized you are what you believe. What you speak, what you think, and what you believe will have an impact on your life. So even when things don’t go as planned I always say things like,”you are protected and what God has for you is for you and what doesn’t come to fruition wasn’t meant for you.”
We’re proud to introduce you to Malachi Rivers. As is star continues to rise, follow him on all of his social media:
Theron Williams is a Vlogger, Editor and Photographer. Like many creatives who support their work through day jobs, Williams runs his own trucking company and as a result he is also the CEO of Williams Trucking. How does a person who loves moving pictures remain committed to his art while running a trucking business full time?
Theron came up with a plan. What better way to be creative than to capture your travels on camera? This film editor / vlogger / photographer drives some 500 – 600 miles a day. He’s shared many of his travel experiences on his daily vlog on Instagram and on YouTube. When he first thought of the idea to capture his travels on camera, his motivation was simple, “I wanted to get paid to travel while running my own company, producing media state to state and city to city.”
“I believe the creative spark comes with motion.”
Photographer / Editor / Vlogger, Theron Williams TV
But juggling is hard and Williams can attest to that. “My time is limited to take on outside projects right now, but as soon as I pay off my truck, I will be turning my attention toward media, production and advertising.”
Its admirable that Williams can commit to both generating income to support his art and his art itself. His motivation runs deep. He reveals, “I believe the creative spark comes with motion. I am always moving so motion is my motivation.”
Theron uses both Youtube and Instagram To Build His Audience
His Youtube and Instagram followers get the opportunity to see his motion at work. “People who connect and enjoy my photos and video are people who make the most of the environment, people, and things around them. Art lives in everything both living and dead.” Williams is inspired by life and as he spends his days traveling from one destination to the next, he decides on what to shoot or vlog based on what he witnesses. “I’m not around a lot of people all the time, but when I see something noteworthy, I pay attention.”
Most creatives have a unique childhood experience that has impacted their lives, Williams is no different. “When I was 7, I stood my ground with 3 adults in Detroit. I paid a stiff price for my defiance which included a ruptured appendix, 3 broken ribs and a massive infection that should’ve killed me. But, 2 and 1/2 years of recovery and 4 years later, all I could say was, “I didn’t run and I never will.”That experience helped to build Williams’ heart and determination.
As he continues to run his trucking business and develop media projects, Black TV Film Crew will continue to keep our eye on him. Williams offered one piece of advice for his fellow crew members. “ Sometimes ‘done’ is better than ‘perfect.’ Don’t let perfect stop you from completion.
More About Theron:
Theron was the first Black TV Film Crew member who became a patron in supporting the work we’re doing to uplift, educate, and promote our members. As an entrepreneur he sees the importance of supporting other entrepreneurs and black businesses whose goal is to further the reach of African American storytellers. We thank him and encourage others to join this movement.
Our team fell in love with The New Adult, a black web series created by Los Angeles based Writer / Director Katherine Murray Satchell. The series follows Amber, a millennial, who is struggling with becoming an adult, hence the title, “The New Adult.” The first season was shot in 16 days and Katherine’s take on story is refreshing. We interviewed her to learn about the inspiration behind The New Adult and introduce this talented writer / director to our readers.
Black Web Series Spotlight
Katherine was motivated to write The New Adult in what she calls, “the second wave of my quarter life crisis.” She explains, “I was having trouble adjusting to adulthood. I started to think about my peers in their late 20s who were going through the same thing. We didn’t know what we were doing, where we were going in our lives. Then, I started thinking about how my generation was raised, and how some of us were coddled so much, that we weren’t properly trained to survive in the real world. I thought to myself, how funny would it be if someone in their 30s was put into that situation? Someone who was coddled, spoiled, and just didn’t have their shit together?”
To say Amber doesn’t have it together is the understatement of the decade. She is hilariously clueless and unbelievable inept. And yet you believe in her, you route for her, and sometimes you scratch your head wondering, “Who did this to their child?”
All the way from Philadelphia
Katherine admits Amber’s character is influenced by a combination of people that she grew up around. A Philadelphia native, Katherine attended a diverse high school and in the city that spawned Will Smith, Eve, Boyz II Men, DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Roots, she fell in love with alt-rock. How’s that for a mind bender? But it’s not simply the alt-rock influence which shaped Katherine and thereby Amber, it’s the 6 foot black girl from high school who’s still fresh in her mind today.
“I met this girl and she blew my mind. She was black, six feet tall, with red streaks in her hair, and a punk rock/anime look going on…”
Katherine continues, “I thought she was amazing! I didn’t know there were black girls like that in the world. Her outward appearance and her outspoken, fun personality was a huge influence on Amber’s character.”
Amber’s character makes the “New Adult” one of the best web series ever. Like many directors who praise their lead actors, Katherine is no different. She beams talking about Amber Morse who plays the titular character, “She is an immensely talented actress and musician, and has the patience of a flood. I’m very fortunate to have her be a part of the series. She just got the show right away, and trusted me enough to be down for whatever. She’s great!”
A versatile writer, Katherine is interested in “projects that question generational standards, stories about small pockets of the Black community (goths, witches, nerds), and the occasional love story. All of this with at least a shred of humor.”
Katherine learned many things when shooting the first season of The New Adult but this nugget we had to share,
“Making a web series is hard, you guys. Like, seriously. Anyone who tells you it’s a piece of cake is full of shit…”
She continues, “It’s a commitment, it’s the monkey on your back, it’s a nightmare, and it’ll push you to the edge of your sanity. But it’s so rewarding and satisfying to say “That’s a wrap on season 1”. That monkey jumps off your back for like five minutes before it starts clawing at your toes again.”
A committed writer who knows how to manage her schedule, believes in writer’s groups and is thankful for having a strong production background, Katherine’s work is unique, insightful and funny as hell. Please watch the entire first season of The New Adult when you get a chance. The pilot is below.
Our Instagram crew members have spoken. And, they have voted for Brownie Babii, the creator, writer, and director of the “Cold Wold Web Series” to be featured on Black TV Film Crew.
Season Two of Cold World just premiered with 14,591 viewers for the first episode. With more than 4k subscribers and 250k views for the first season, folks love the gritty, realness of Cold World.
Black TV Film Crew took a moment to chop it up with the Executive Producer, herself, Brownie Babii. She’s a New Yorker, born and bred, and loves the support she’s received for her series. She’s grinds like she’s out here trying to make a difference. She is. She’s reminding us of the fact that we live in a Cold World.
When did you start filmmaking?
I started my journey in 2006 when I shot and starred in my first Web Series.
Cold World is a New York City based web series which shows the trials and tribulations of men and women as they go through relationships and finding their way in the Queens jungle. With more edge than a razor, in this show you’re either getting it or you’re getting got. There is no in between.
What motivates you to create your projects?
Life’s moments and people’s truths, and the environment in which we were molded. There are so many untold stories.
In season one, Brownie’s character, Kimberly, has remained faithful to her man on lockdown. But when he gets out, he starts acting real shady with his text messages. Hello, side chicks of the world! When Kimberly finds out, she goes Shaka Zulu on him and detonates the relationship. Not one for a whole lot of tears and Kleenex, she moves on and keeps it moving.
In real life, Brownie has dealt with being the black sheep of her family, a high school drop out and a problem student. But she’s also been a leader, ambitious and a motivator among her peers. She’s a mom and works hard to make her dreams come true.
What’s your favorite thing about yourself?
I have ambition and I’m a leader. I’m a Black woman and I dare to stand out in a world that is male dominated. I don’t use my body but knowledge to get the job done.
Writer / Director Danae Grandison recently connected with Black TV Film Crew on the eve of The Voice of A Woman Festival screening for her latest film, Unspoken. Grandison is a former Miss Jamaica USA who found her voice as a filmmaker as a result of gaining confidence through competition and being encouraged to take risks. This spirit-led woman talks with us about sharing her voice, empowering women and walking this winding path as creatives do.
Photo by Adjah John
What inspired you to adapt and direct Unspoken?
Unspoken is based on the book The Bed Head by Jennifer Grahame which explores the socio-economical construct of classism and the prevalence of sexual misconduct. The film gives voice to the underrepresented woman inspiring us to identify challenges and drive change.
How did you find The Bed Head?
This book was gifted to me by my Aunt for Christmas. It was the most cosmic gift she could have given me. It was as if she knew this book would inspire me to make my next film. I walked everywhere with my head buried within its pages. The Bed Head book kept saying “shoot me” through the pages and I was determined to do just that.
Photo by Adjah John
What do you hope viewers get from Unspoken?
I made some directorial choices with Unspoken that were intentionally focused on how we experienced these two women who are victims of someone else’s doing. Despite this film is set in Jamaica, with its cultural differences, it will resonate with everyone. I want the audience to look at both of these women, their position, their voice, their power, or lack there of.
As Miss Jamaica USA, what did that experience teach you about life?
After entering that competition, I learned I needed to be willing to take more risks and put myself out there. As much as I am an outgoing person, I am not the person you would ever think would care to enter a beauty pageant. From this competition I became more confident in myself. I wasn’t afraid to be seen or afraid to be heard.
How did you become a filmmaker?
I stumbled on filmmaking by being encouraged to take a course. It was there I discovered I have a voice and its in film. After shooting my first film, Unconditional Love, I won the Audience award which only pushed me to believe I could move an audience with my work.
Photo by Adjah John
What career advice would you give to other women filmmakers at this time?
Be careful which door you walk through. As you take on these other roles for the set experience, do not get comfortable in those roles if that is not what you want to do because you might find yourself stuck. So carefully find your place, listen to your heart and go for “it”. I have listened and I know my passion is directing.
What do you enjoy most about being a filmmaker?
I love working with actors. I love discovering the emotion that drives the moment. I love when I read a script and I close my eyes , and see, hear, smell and be moved by it. I like being able to visually feel its pulse. I also love responding to the voices in my own head that sees stories that need to be told about experiences that are universal and transcend borders. We are living very similar experiences beyond the borders. We just don’t know how connected we really are.
To connect with Danae Grandison, please check her out at the following links:
Instagram Handle: @dir.danae*Top photo of Danae Grandison shot by William Greenwood.*