Monday, September 24, 2007

Funny How Times Flies

August 17th, 2007, like any other day has come and gone. I've been so busy lately that I forgot to commemorate the day I arrived in Los Angeles with nothing but a lump of savings and a car filled with "cant' live withouts"--color television, stereo, CD and movie collection, and clothes. I had no master plan just a lot of hope and prayer. But I did tell myself, "Give it five years. If in five years you haven't reached the level of success that you envision then pack it all up and head back home."

Five years seemed like a sufficient measure of time, but little did I know that it would take at least two and half years just to get comfortable living here and to learn how the Hollywood game really works. Honestly, those first two years were difficult and by the end of 2004 I was really contemplating going back home permanently. Now, three years later, my soul doesn't have to look back and wonder how I got over, I know exactly. So while I'm looking back let me reflect on those moments that inspired me to push my way through.

  • Three months before relocating, I was featured on the 2002 Essence Awards in a tribute to one of the show's honorees. So what if it was only 10 seconds! Seeing my reflection flash across the big screen at Universal Amphitheater watered the mustard seed of faith I had in myself and my desire to live and work in Hollywood. I had prayed for a sign and I got it! Big time!

  • Several months after clapping for money like a trained seal in studio audiences, I got hired on my first major Hollywood television show as a PA. Two days a week, 5am until around 10pm, I worked on the Sunset Gower lot on former UPN sitcom, The Parkers. My job was to get breakfast for the cast and crew before craft services began. My shift ended at 10 am but I asked to stay longer to learn more about producing sitcoms. To date that has been one of my best Hollywood working experiences.

  • 2003. Working backstage at the Academy Awards. Striking up conversations with the celebrities was a no-no. But when Halle Berry stood right next to me all professionalism oozed right out. After graciously listening to my ramblings she gave me a hug and I, a grown woman, scurried away like a scared little girl. I was so embarrassed, but hey it happens to the best of us! That moment is special to me because it demonstrates what amazing things can happen if you're willing to make a leap of faith. Merely a year before--like everyone else--I tearfully witnessed her fulfill Dorothy Dandridge's dream while sitting alone in my apartment in Durham, NC. Who would have thought?

  • 2004 earned my first film credit as Associate Producer of the documentary, My Nappy ROOTS. Short film version won Best Documentary at the 2004 Hollywood Black Film Festival. Long Version won the 2007 Festival Choice Award at the Pan African Film Festival. Learn more about the film by clicking here.

  • And thanks to working on the film, I made my first trip to the Big Apple for a screening at the Director's Guild in 2005. Unfortunately, all I saw of New York City was a few blocks of Time Square, Toussaud's Wax Museum, and radio station Kiss 98.7's production studio as a guest on the midday radio show, Girlfriends. Just being in New York, though briefly, was a dream come true. And to be there not as a PA but as a producer. Yeah, that felt good. Real good. Pics

And now at long last I think I've found my niche, finally carved out a place for myself here. Entertainment writing, blogging, producing podcasts...everything is going digital these days and I want to be in the forefront of the effort. So I'm feeling no ways tired these days. Think I'll stay a little longer, run on and see what the end will be. Five years is too soon to fade to black and roll credits on this journey.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Hennessy Artistry Concert Tour Pours Latino Flavor

Great atmosphere, great cocktails, and great music...this is what the global art of mixing is all about. Hennessy, "the number one selling cognac in the world", provided it all Friday night in downtown Los Angeles as it kicked off the second phase of it's Artistry Concert Tour with Latino flavor at the Figueroa Hotel. Outside at the hotel's sultry Moroccan themed Veranda Bar the bilingual Latin trio The Dey, Grammy nominated band Kinky, and local DJ Eric Cubeechee kept the party crowd grooving to the beat of the rhythm of the night.

Hosted exclusively by Hennessy, the tour provides "guests an intimate experience where they will enjoy the mixing of exquisite global cocktails and great music performances," says Israel Cancél, Henneessy Communications Director. To bring Hollywood into the mix, the LA event was hosted in partnership with the Imagen Foundation which exists to improve opportunities in the entertainment industry for Latinos through various resources.

To wet your taste buds for the finale event occurring next month in Los Angeles, here's just a sip of my Hennessy experience.

Heroes' Dania Ramirez

Dania Ramirez and film director, Jesse Terrero

DJ D-Nice

Hennessy Artistry Tour Performers, The Dey

TV Guide Channel's Rosanna Tavarez

Want more? Here ya go! Performers The Dey and Kinky

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Universal's Kingdom

By now you've probably seen one of The Kingdom's action packed movie trailers ripe with explosions, Saudi Arabian gun men, and American federal agents ready to take action. Or maybe you've noticed gun wielding Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner pictured in an intense battle scene on a billboard to promote this new film. If so, then you may be thinking director Peter Berg and producer Michael Mann snatched news from American headlines to make a political statement in their timely movie. Think again says Berg. The Kingdom was primarily created to entertain.

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Led by F.B.I. Special Agent, Ronald Fluery (Jamie Foxx) an elite team of
investigators (Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman) travel to Saudi Arabia to find the culprit behind a terrorist bombing of an American housing compound in Riyadh. Treated like uninvited guests, the team faces unwelcoming Saudi authorities and residents as they attempt to do the job they've been sent to do. They need an ali, someone that can help them move beyond royal politics and through unfamiliar territory. Saudi Colonel, Al-Ghazi (Ashraf Barhoum) steps into the position. But even with his help, the team must still constantly watch their backs as they go toe to toe with a group of faceless killers willing to sacrifice anything for their beliefs.

To add to the intensity of this political thriller, Berg challenged the cast to really get into scenes and not worry about sticking soley to the script. For cast members Barhoum, Garner, Foxx his improvisational style really pushed them to turn up the heat in their performances. Listen as they talk about working with Berg, how they prepared for their roles, and what they hope audiences will get out of the film.

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And if by some chance you haven't seen a trailer for this great movie, here ya go:


Undoubtedly The Kingdom has what it takes to be crowned king at the box office opening weekend (September 28th). Great cast, great story, drama, lots of action, and's definitely worth seeing on the big screen. Berg even directed the actors to improvise to further turn up the heat in their performances. But remember, this is art imitating life, not a war time Hollywood polemic. Enter theaters with open minds and enjoy the show.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Spook Night: Brilliance or Buffoonery?

To a youngster Spook Night may sound like a special Halloween event complete with ghostly costumes and decorative skeletons. But to those of us a little older and wiser, we understand how being called a "spook" haunted African-Americans for generations. So what then is a Spook Night? And how does it relate to the world of stand up comedy? In a new play of the same name, you not only learn the answer but laugh until you cry in the process.

Written and directed by comedy writer and producer, T. Faye Griffin, Spook Night, explores the thin line between what's funny and what's not in the world of black stand up comedy. And to give us a better understanding of how the debate began Griffin took us to black comedy of the past, from 1910's minstrel stage to 1994's Los Angeles comedy club scene.

The majority of the story takes place at a comedy club that's almost as dilapidated as it owner, the cranky yet good natured Fletch (Alan Charof). His dutiful daughter Nadine (Lauren Schnipper) helps run the place. The only profitable show of the week is Spook Night, the night when black comics take center stage. Backstage we are introduced to an assortment of comedians representing the good, the bad, and the ugly in stand up comedy. Before they hit the stage, characters Old Dog (Bill Lee Brown) and Smokey Mo (Mike Estime) school Andy Fields (Steve Olson)--a quirky small town white boy at the right place at the wrong time--on what black comedy is all about. His lessons turn serious when one fellow comic is cut from an important night's line-up.

Having shared her comedic talents to the Emmy Award-winning, In Living Color, Steve Harvey's Big Time, Roseanne Barr's The Domestic Goddess Hour, and BET's Coming to the Stage, it's obvious Griffin is an expert on what makes people laugh. But what led her to write such an insightful and well-rounded play comes from an experience that's not so funny.


In regards to this play, I say brilliance!

Opening night several well known comedians including Sherri Shepard, Rodney Perry, Kym Whitley, and Tommy Ford came out to enjoy the show. I sat two rows behind Ford. The sound of his familiar laugh made famous on the sitcom, Martin, was almost as funny as the characters' jokes themselves. Even the proper little white ladies sitting next to me were rolling in their seats with laughter. Which goes to prove good comedy is universal and so is this play in its appeal. And while you're laughing you might even learn something.

Spook Night will continue running at the Lillian Theater in Hollywood until September 30th. For ticket information click here to visit the website and learn more about the great cast and producers, H.I.S. Life Productions and Page to Stage Entertainment.

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