Sundance 2013 Video: JD Walker, Writer and Director of The Postwoman speaks abt the Film Fest.
The good news? She won the Sundance pitching contest for her second feature film! Whooo hooo.
Sundance 2013 Video: JD Walker, Writer and Director of The Postwoman speaks abt the Film Fest.
The good news? She won the Sundance pitching contest for her second feature film! Whooo hooo.
Screenplay Semi-Finalists and Finalists at HBFF.
From L to R: Malcolm Rector, Regina Junior, Manny Johnson, JD Walker, Corey Moore, and Eric Richardson.
It’s been an eventful weekend at the Hollywood Black Film Festival (October 24-28, 2012) where writers from around the country convened at the W Hotel to showcase their films, feature length screenplays, or works in progress.
I was glad to be included, as a semi-finalist, for my first feature script “The Postwoman,” a story that deals with the inextricable link between gender, race, class, and sexuality, and shows how one mother’s decision to create her own “alternative” family impacts her entire family.
As part of being accepted into the festival, I was granted a VIP pass to the festival and the opportunity to participate in a four hour workshop with all of the screenplay finalists.
The finalists included a brilliant writer from Arkansas by the name of Regina Junior whose screenplay revolved around the lives of two notable football players who come to grips with their relationship after a tragic car accident (Regina Junior is the winner of the Screenplay competition); a writer and professor based in Texas by the name of Malcolm Rector whose screenplay, “Raped,” explores the first few minutes after such a horrific event; and another gifted writer with rich Southern themes by the name of Corey Moore whose screenplay, full of folklore and its own unique speech idiom, was entitled “Blu’s Country.”
Three semi-finalists were selected to participate in the Storyteller workshop with the finalists: myself, JD Walker, writer and director of The Postwoman; a talented writer by the name of Leslie from New York who possessed numerous story ideas and whose emerging TV pilot is entitled “Lear”; Eric Richardson, whose screenplay was not only selected as a semi-finalist, but whose short film “Bubble Gum” was also selected to be included in the Film Festival; and Manny Johnson, the impressive and extremely resourceful writer of a screenplay called “Underbelly.”
The screenwriting workshop was led by Harrison Reiner, a CBS staffer, who previously was production executive on the Academy Award-winning film, CINEMA PARADISO. For over 11 years, Reiner has been instrumental in nurturing the screenplay development of all of the Storyteller finalists at the Hollywood Black Film Festival. His notes on our feature scripts and, more importantly, his ability to empower us and engage us about the motivation for our ideas and other feature scripts was extremely valuable. I look forward to being mentored by Harrison. He is generous, thoughtful, down to earth, and resourceful.
I am glad that my pitches, which were shared with Harrison, were celebrated and highly praised. That means, I need to get back to those scripts and finish them quickly. :)
Perhaps what is most interesting about being included in this celebrated Storyteller Workshop is that all of the writers who were included were engaged in deconstructing myths about the African American experience. We were tired of seeing the “single story” about African American culture or life on the silver screen; that is, a limited and narrow perspective on African American culture and life that restricts or binds our subjects, flattening their experience in this battlefield called life. We wrote because we wanted to shift the discourse about our incredibly complex characters whose lives or experiences were not stereotypical — not bound by a western worldview or perspective.
By creating complex characters, rich with African history, we celebrate our own culture, dialect, speech rhythms, cadences, and euphemisms.
In “Understanding the New Black Poetry,” Stephen Henderson informs us of the “jazz elements” inherent within African American poetry, elements comprised of signifying, improvisation, and “worrying the line,” to name a few. These unique elements can also be found in the writing of established and emerging Black screenwriters. Gratefully, the Hollywood Black Film Festival celebrates both. To an outsider, who might not find these elements in our stories unique, they are meaningless and to be quickly discarded; largely, because they do not uphold popular myths or stereotypes about our culture which is often perpetuated in the media, in the literary canon, and in Hollywood. To an outsider, who is only in the business of upholding the status quo or one single stereotypical story, our multilayered and complex stories, influenced by our diverse background, journey, or vision, may seem invalid.
Indeed, this is why writers of the African diaspora must continue write — to establish balance in the literary world and on the big screen. We must reject popular myths, resist popular stereotypes about our people, and dig deeper to present to the world a universal “human” story, one that is richly complex and allows for the diversity of our spirit and unique cultural perspective. We must be allowed to write what Langston Hughes in “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” calls “free within ourselves” — unashamed and unabashed about our rich African history and culture.
This, of course, is where the demand for more Black critics, storytellers, film festival judges, and script consultants comes in. It is also where critics and storyteller consultants, who are open to deconstructing such richness and complexity, shine. Alain Locke, a philosopher and scholar from Howard University, my alma mater, called for the need for “mutual understanding between the races” in his text, “The New Negro.” Indeed, all voices and experiences should be represented in the literary playing field and on the big screen. And where our stories are not represented, we, as writers, must create them, beckoning other writers behind us and those who are still not born to pick up the torch … and resist.
With Manny Johnson, writer of “Underbelly”
This morning, I am standing on the shoulders of several literary giants and screenwriters who have gone before me. And I know it. I watch Ava DuVernay trailblazing in the independent film world, setting a path for all of us, creating her own distribution model while lifting as she climbs. Like several Black screenwriters and directors who have gone before her, she resists the popular myth of a single story about our existence. “Middle of Nowhere,” for instance, is richly complex. It’s beautiful and lyrical — not just another prison story about a drug dealer or violent felon. We delve deep into the psychology of her working class heroine who experiences her own “dark night of the soul” after witnessing a loved one within the prison industrial complex. DuVernay places the experiences of women into the forefront in her films. They are no longer marginal, voiceless characters, or objects. Rather, they are multilayered and complex. They have voice, vision, and agency.
Last night, while doing some research on “Half of a Yellow Sun” (2013), an upcoming movie based on the novel by Chimamanda Adichie, I discovered this speech she delivered called “The Danger of a Single Story” and knew I had to share it with a much larger audience.
I think all of us should watch this video below over and over until we have learned the lesson: there is no single story. Our lives are far more complex and, as writers, filmmakers, producers, and critics, we must never forget.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
JD Walker is the writer and director of the upcoming romantic drama, “The Postwoman,” which earned a Finalist mention at the LA Femme Film Festival (October 11-14, 2012) and a Semi-Finalist mention at the Hollywood Black Film Festival for the feature script. A Kickstarter campaign for her debut feature launches this Fall. Star the project now on Kickstarter by clicking on the following link:
Follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/PostwomanMovie
A graduate of San Francisco State and Howard University, JD was a Theater major in undergrad and an English major in Grad School. She has an extensive background in publishing, sales and marketing, having worked for several years in the Marketing and Editorial Department at a University Press and having served as a Trade Book Buyer for the Howard University Bookstore. Walker has not only worked with and served on panels with numerous African American poets and writers, but has also written countless feature stories on poets and writers for leading Black newspapers and magazines. She is currently completing two other screenplays while preparing for pre-production on The Postwoman.
Are you still stuck for ideas for National Novel Writing Month? Or are you working on a novel at a more leisurely pace? Here are 102 resources on Character, Point of View, Dialogue, Plot, Conflict, Structure, Outlining, Setting, and World Building, plus some links to generate Ideas and Inspiration.
CHARACTER, POINT OF VIEW, DIALOGUE
Advantages, Disadvantages and Skills (character traits)
Family Echo (family tree website)
PLOT, CONFLICT, STRUCTURE, OUTLINE
SETTING, WORLD BUILDING
TOOLS and SOFTWARE
My Writing Nook (online text editor; free)
Bubbl.us (online mind map application; free)
Freemind (mind map application; free; Windows, Mac, Linux, portable)
XMind (mind map application; free; Windows, Mac, Linux, portable)
Liquid Story Binder (novel organization and writing software; free trial, $45.95; Windows, portable)
Scrivener (novel organization and writing software; free trial, $39.95; Mac)
SuperNotecard (novel organization and writing software; free trial, $29; Windows, Mac, Linux, portable)
yWriter (novel organization and writing software; free; Windows, Linux, portable)
JDarkRoom (minimalist text editor; free; Windows, Mac, Linux, portable)
AutoRealm (map creation software; free; Windows, Linux with Wine)
“The Postwoman” Feature Script Earns Finalist Mention at LA Femme Film Festival (October 11-14, 2012).
Find out more:
I love the movement, acting, production design, and dialogue in this show. Here, Kerry Washington discusses more about her the world of her character, Olivia Pope.
I surmise that many of us could benefit from learning to open our hands. Too many of us walk around this earth with our hands clenched, clutching cell phones, laptops, or other unnecessary baggage. We are more connected to our virtual friends and family members on social network sites like Facebook or Twitter than we are to real, live human beings in our own communities. We praise our deep investment in technology more than we do our deep investment in local and national social justice organizations that are committed to eradicating some of the world’s greatest problems: xenophobia, racism, classism, poverty, hunger, exploitation, sexism, and homophobia (to name a few)
What we need is a revolution of mind, body, and Spirit — the result of which stems from not only taking the time to tap into the God/dess within, but also detaching from that which has been our greatest distraction.
A clenched fist or a closed hand cannot receive. It cannot recognize the power of community or unconditional love. A closed hand does not trust that the Universe will provide, that there are Angels all around us, and help on the way, if we are willing to ask for it. Closed hands often wallow in self-pity and doubt. A closed hand may feel powerless to effect any real change; to understand the power of political efficacy. A closed hand can never attempt to tell a universal human story. A closed hand is thus disconnected from the Spirit and often subjects itself to carpal tunnel.
How can we benefit from opening our hands?
Opening our hands not only allows us to connect with the Spirit — to touch the life breath that fuels the world, but it also allows us to connect with other communities and worlds we may not have ever known existed. When we open our hands, we give ourselves permission to the let the kundalini energy run through our bodies, helping us to become realigned with the Source. When we step away from our computers and cell phones to connect with local communities, to volunteer at local shelters, to experience the joy of experiential learning, we have a greater sense of our purpose and agency. We understand that we all thread cut from the same cloth — striving for peace and justice for all here on earth.
Take a moment. Unclench your hand. Open your third eye, your left and right ear, your left and right hand. Listen to the Spirit and let it guide you, reminding you of your humanity and your connection to all other life. Tap into the power within.
In this video, I sit down to discuss updates on my upcoming feature film, “The Postwoman,” a romantic drama starring Margaret Kemp (Children of God 2010). I also include an announcement that our feature script is currently a finalist at La Femme Festival in Los Angeles.
“knock the mother****er out.” indeed spike, indeed.
DuVERNAY: There’s this glaring missing link for all of our filmmakers who have done amazing work and the allowances that they have to make to get films made later in life. Charles Burnett, Julie Dash, etc. It’s just not there. It’s not happening.
LEE: I agree with you. I mean, but this game … you’re playing in Boston.
DuVERNAY: [Laughs] Okay.
LEE: You’re playing in the old Boston Garden with Red Auerbach smoking a cigar, you know? [Laughs] It’s not set up for you to win.
DuVERNAY: Right, right.
LEE: It’s a boxing match and the judges are looking at you funny. You’re not going to get the decision [laughs] unless you knock the motherfucker out. If it comes down to decision, you’re not going to win.
It seems odd that I’m writing a blog post listing 11 essential tips to consider before launching your own crowdfunding campaign, especially since I, a writer and director, don’t launch our own Kickstarter campaign for our feature film, “The Postwoman,” until November 2012. Yes, our launch date is coming this Fall.
Our feature film, “The Postwoman” is a romantic drama that stars Margaret Kemp (Children of God 2010) as a newly divorced mother of two who struggles to come out to her ex-husband and kids after falling in love with a butch graphic designer she meets in an independent women’s bookstore.
You can view a clip of Margaret Kemp’s acting work by clicking the link below:
Enough about our feature film. If you really wanted to stay abreast of when our Kickstarter campaign launches this Fall, you’d star our romantic drama on Kickstarter. Or click on the Kickstarter link below, right?
I’m a bit of a comedienne, if you didn’t know. I’m also the writer and director of “The Postwoman.”
But I digress. :-) I am writing this blog post because, over the past few months, I have become intrigued witnessing very successful crowdfunding campaigns. I have also felt quite disturbed witnessing crowdfunding campaigns that not only never reach their targeted goal, but also lose everything. Do you hear me, people? Everything!!!
It’s every filmmaker’s crowdfunding nightmare to get so close to reaching their targeted funding goal only to lose everything. But we run that risk because we are not afraid, because we are deeply invested in bringing our precious film (our precious dreams) to a theater near you.
Perhaps we could all benefit if we had a few essential tips to consider before launching a crowdfunding campaign. It is for this reason that I write. Who can remember, for instance, the successful crowdfunding campaign of Ryan Koo (Writer and Director of “Man Child”) and also founder of http://nofilmschool.com whose targeted goal on Kickstarter was $115,000, but he surpassed his goal by raising $125,000?
Or Amanda Palmer whose targeted goal was $100,000, but she also broke records on Kickstarter when she raised a whopping $1,192,793? Palmer is an artist and singer who launched her campaign to help raise funds for her new tour.
Do you remember when Aurora Guerrero raised raised $82,469 of her targeted $80,000 goal for “Mosquita y Mari”?
How about when Issa Rae raised $56,259 of her targeted $30,000 goal for “The Adventures of Awkward Black Girl”?
What about when Dee Rees and Nekisa Cooper raised over $11,000 of their $10,000 goal for “Pariah” to help with post-production (e.g., sound, music clearances, etc) before heading off to Sundance? Do you remember that campaign?
Even Whoopi Goldberg ran a successful campaign for her upcoming documentary about Mom’s Mabley entitled “I Got Somethin to Tell You.” Whoopi’s targeted goal was $65,000 but she raised $75,765.” It might seem surprising that a well known actress like Whoopi, who has received a host of notable awards, including an Emmy, Academy Award, and Golden Globe Award, would launch a Kickstarter campaign, but, let’s face it, all of us can use some help. Filmmaking is an expensive business.
I donated to all of these new voices in independent cinema (including Whoopi’s project) because they were opening new doors for indie filmmakers (women of color, especially), pushing new boundaries, telling heartfelt stories that were infused with hope, culture, and meaning. They were essentially, to quote Julie Dash, “recoding and reframing” the image of marginalized subjects in the mainstream. They were refusing to be silent, giving voice to those who had been absent or misrepresented in Hollywood or the media. I believed not only in their product, but especially in their unique individual stories — as writers, creative artists, and directors.
Audience members are often drawn to universal human stories or film projects that they connect with on a deep personal level. So, yes, filmmaking “is” personal. It is as much a business as it is about creating, nurturing, and sustaining relationships with crew members, actors, casting directors, investors, sponsors, and fans.
I hope these 11 Essential Tips written, primarily, to myself, are helpful. Perhaps they will help no one at all. But the good news is that I wrote it and I shared it. It’s up to you whether or not you will take heed.
1. You’re Screwed
You should go into a crowdfunding launch thinking of all of the possible things that can go wrong to help you better assess possible loopholes and pitfalls to avoid. Here are some things to consider:
2. Toot Your Own Horn
My background, while saturated in theater and film, is also in journalism. I have an extensive sales and marketing background — mostly as a trade book buyer for independent bookstores and as a Marketing Consultant for a publishing company. Perhaps this gives me some insight into the importance of tooting your own horn. This process should be carefully calculated. You should proceed consciously. You should also be cautious. In other words, don’t spam people. Coax them gently. Invite them to participate in your film’s “event.” Collect emails for a newsletter.
If you’ve launched your crowdfunding campaign, don’t expect to go on vacation and wish that folks will continue donating while you’re tanning on the beach. You have to stay active throughout its entire duration. One tweet on Twitter and one post on Facebook at 6am PST (probably 8am your time) are not enough. You have to build momentum, reminding investors, supporters, fans, family, and friends that this baby is still kicking and their support would be invaluable. But you have to tread lightly. Posting your Kickstarter website or link on friend’s Facebook pages may be desirable but also may seem invasive. Know your audience.
A good idea is to bring those friends and supporters along through a solid grassroots direct marketing or email campaign; the result of signing folks up for your newletter. That way, when they get the announcement about your campaign, it’s because they’ve already invested in your work and have been awaiting such news. They weren’t bombarded with it. So, toot your own horn but remember, audiences are, most likely, interested in you — the creator. So be yourself. Post at your own risk.
3. Connect with Audiences in Advance
Several filmmakers testify to the need of connecting with one’s film base. As the following PDF article, entitled “From Distribution to Audience Engagement: Social Change Through Film” by the Fledgling Fund assures us, connecting with our audience base can consist of any of the following:
Online social networking tools (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube Channel, etc.)
A website dedicated to the film
Radio stories, newspaper articles, magazine or television coverage, blog coverage or other e- communications
Mutually beneficial partnerships with non-profit organizations, corporations, religious bodies or educational institutions
Word of mouth
Public stunts or other creative methods that are focused on making a splash that attracts media and public attention
It’s not enough to try to build an audience base at the launch of your crowdfunding campaign. It is essential that you network early, bringing on supporters and engaging them as early as you can.
4. Diversify Your Portfolio
Perhaps you figure that to really produce an exceptional independent feature film, you need at least $3 million dollars. So you tread in pursuit of a crowdfunding platform that will allow you to do such. You note that supporters not only in the U.S. will be able to contribute to your campaign, but also note that your platform allows for money to be invested from other countries as well to help you reach your targeted goal.
But what we must realize is that there are host of notable independent feature films have been produced for far less than $1 million. A lot of wonderful independent film projects that have gained distribution were produced for under $40,000. And here’s the catch here: one wants to keep their production costs as LOW AS POSSIBLE (regardless of how much you can raise) to ensure that you can not only recoup your expenses, but also provide a generous return to investors.
Ask yourself the following questions:
5. The Rewards Don’t Mean Much
Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need to go broke giving away ipads, the new Iphone 5 (you can’t do this anyway), or expensive t-shirts to lure people to donate to your campaign. The rewards don’t matter. People are drawn to a clear execution of goals and the story. They are equally drawn to the writers, producers, and creators behind the project.
Okay, the jag does look cute doesn’t it? :-) Anyway, the point is this: realize that when someone invests in your project, they are investing in your long-term career. They want your debut drama to be a success, but they also want to ensure your longevity in your field because you have proven to them that you are a valuable voice in the community and are needed.
6. Are Your Friends Broke?
The sad reality is that the economy is unstable. People are struggling. Some are robbing Peter to pay Paul (this is the first time I used that phrase in a sentence). Hopefully, you are robbing no one but rather thinking carefully about how to invest your funds. Imagine if “you” are struggling. If you are struggling then your broke friends might be too. Your rich friends may also be cautious about their investments. Why? It’s too risky.
There’s too many other important projects on the line. For some, investing in your project means supporting your campaign vs. paying the mortgage or rent vs. buying groceries vs. filling up the tank (you know the gas is high, right?) vs. paying off another bill. Who hast time to invest in a luxury item produced by an unknown that may never exist?
I’ve said this before, but maybe you’re launching a campaign at a time when your friends just donated to 29 other crowdfunding campaigns in the past week. We certainly can’t cripple the urban poor or middle class poor either. Maybe the peeps you want to market to just paid for their child’s college tuition. School is starting again soon — after all.
Your friends may simply LOVE what you are doing but can’t afford to support you right now. That’s why you should have options for them to contribute towards your campaign even if they can’t donate now:
7. Set Clear Goals
Be sure your audience knows the direction and course of your crowdfunding project. What should they expect a month from now, three months from now, a year after the film is launched? How will funds be allocated? Be up front. Be clear.
8. Trailer’s Work
This may seem cliche’ but trailers that are embedded within your crowdfunding page really do work. Perhaps the reason why you’re launching the campaign in the first place is because you NEED the expenses to get the contracts signed, music releases cleared, hair and make up department on board, locations in place so that you can shoot the trailer in the first place. Trust me, I know. We all do.
If you can afford to insert a short trailer or even a clip from the crowdfunding project (any sample), you will entice your audience. If you can’t afford it, then consider inserting your DP or Cinematographer’s reel, your lead actor’s video of her most recent production, a previous short film or IMDb link to a feature you did. Filmmaking is a visual medium. Don’t leave audience members who want to invest in your feature film saturated with Gawd awful text. (Quite like this long post. I did say I’m a writer, right?)
If you’re able, weave your trailer or clip into your main crowdfunding video, as Dee Rees and Nekisa Cooper do above for their Kickstarter campaign, produced in advance of their Sundace premiere. Remember, folks are investing in you as much as they are in your project. Just believe.
9. Do You Link Back to your Film’s Website?
It sounds simple doesn’t it, but is there even a link on your crowdfunding page back to your film’s website? Where can folks go to find out more? Are you on IMDb? Did you win an award? Did you screen at another festival? Is there a place where audiences can read a complete list of screenings? All of these things are helpful.
10. How is the Timing of Your Launch?
It takes guts to launch a crowdfunding campaign. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it. Plan your launch carefully. Hopefully, you have done this after engaging an audience, after building a solid film base, after carefully calculating your expenses, and separating your wants from needs.
What other campaigns have been launched since yours have? Will you launch simultaneously with the launch of other friend’s projects? Will you launch during a topical event, in the midst of a crisis? I’m not saying do so. I’m saying assess what you have. Then, go forth and brave the new terrain. If you don’t reach your targeted goal, there’s always tomorrow and good reputable producers who are willing to help.
11. Are You Likable?
Whew. We’ve finally reached 11 and I’ve certainly got to get back to our feature script for our upcoming romantic drama “The Postwoman.” One question that new audience members want to know is who are you? Yes. Who are you? Are you a new filmmaker? If you are, what other relevant work have you done? What makes you likeable? Reliable? Credible? How are your social skills? Are you approachable? Friendly? Easy to collaborate with?
JD Walker, Writer/Director, “The Postwoman”
This might seem like something small but everyone knows in Hollywood and in independent filmmaking that if you are terrible to work with, you might not get very far. :-( Ouch. Hurts. Doesn’t it?
Do you have a personality? Do you have any human soul at all? :-) The point is this (and this may seem redundant), your supporters will donate because they LIKE YOU because you have proven to them that YOU are a worthy investment. So, believe in your project, rally people to your cause, and get to filmmaking.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
JD Walker is the writer and director of the upcoming romantic drama, “The Postwoman.” A Kickstarter campaign for the debut feature launches this Fall. Star the project now on Kickstarter by clicking on the following link:
Follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/PostwomanMovie