Recently, I had the pleasure of being able to interview two of the powerful forces behind a web series that has recently joined the Black Talent TV family and the series is Docket 32557. If you have not checked out Docket 32357 then you should by clicking HERE because it is amazing. The two powerful forces I was able to interview are director Randy Wilkins & screenwriter Eljon Wardally. I did a bit of research on them and even without the greatness of Docket 32357, these two individuals have amazing talent and I can see them becoming HUGE within the entertainment world VERY SOON. Check out the interview below.
1-Growing up, did you always want to do something in the entertainment/film industry?
RANDY WILKINS: The film and entertainment industry was never seen as an option when I was growing up. I thought movies were these magical things that were created out of thin air. I didn’t know anyone who was in the industry and all the movies I watched were big budget experiences like Star Wars, ET and Raiders of the Lost Ark. My focus was always on education and sports. I wanted to be a professional baseball player and ended up with an invited tryout with the Kansas City Royals after my junior year in college. That dream ended when I hurt my knee, so at the urging of my mom, I was strongly considering attending law school to be a sports agent. I took a video narrative course during my senior year and the professors, Mary Haverstick and Michele Mercure, believed I had some talent. They were encouraging me to pursue film, but it didn’t feel realistic. I eventually took the plunge with a documentary 100% Live on a black owned barbershop and I’ve been moving forward in film ever since.
ELJON WARDALLY: Growing up in Manhattan, I was always surrounded by film crews and theater. The streets of the city were my playground. I would always hang around the sets as a child and be in complete disbelief about the magic of making movies. This interest carried through to when I was in college. I would write on the side but never took a Playwriting class focusing rather on being on the stage than behind it. When I graduated, I worked behind the scenes at MTV but still kept writing in my back pocket entering short plays in festivals. My writing was never brought to the forefront until it was threatened to be taken away. In 2010, I had a stroke. I didn’t write for a few months because I was so scared I wouldn’t be able to. When I was finally able to put pen to paper and saw that my creativity wasn’t gone, I basically didn’t stop.
2-Wilkins, you were urged by the legendary Spike Lee to enroll in NYU’s esteemed Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Film Program. How did that advice even come about from such an amazing, talented, and infamous filmmaker such as Lee? I met Spike when he came to visit my Alma Mater, Franklin and Marshall College, for a few days. By that time, I had established a reputation on campus as the film guy and was given a job by the then-President of the college, John Fry, to create some video projects for the school. The job allowed me the chance to create more projects. I was able to talk to Spike at a dinner and I handed him a copy of my second documentary Kaleidoscope. I had the honor of being his host around campus and he mentioned that he liked my work, but I needed to learn how to make narrative films. So he gave me a recommendation for NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and I had the fortune of being accepted.
3-Wardally, you’ve had much success writing plays. Recently, you’ve graduated from Fordham U. and already have success from Docket 32357. With the skills and knowledge you learned, do you plan on doing more series and short films or going back to plays? Why?
I love both forms of writing for different reasons. With Playwriting, I look forward to hearing and seeing an audience’s reaction every night. There is an opportunity to have different casts and directors translate poetic text time and time again. To me, Screenwriting is more finite. While you still get an audience reaction, you will always have this permanent thing unable to be changed. I am a bit of a perfectionist. With plays, I can always go back into the text and change a line 6 months from now. With film, once it’s edited and up on that screen, I can’t but I still love it! I plan on doing both. They both have my heart.
4-Wardally, where did you get the inspiration to even come up with Docket 32357?
Docket 32357 was the first thing I wrote post stroke. I was watching Law & Order and was very curious about what would happen if we focused on the relationships of victims instead of police officers and law officials. What happens when you turn the lens just slightly? There are stories there too. Docket 32357 was actually a full length play and the short was the first scene. Randy came to see a reading of the first scene after I completed the play and it went from there. With such a powerful audience response at festivals always with the same question of “What happens now?”, it made perfect sense to continue Valerie and Lois’ story especially since I already knew what happened!
5-Wilkins, you earned an Emmy for your cinematography on Indiana Made. How was that feeling when you won?
Winning an Emmy for the FOX 59 Promo Indiana Made was surreal. It still feels that way. I never thought I would be able to refer to myself as an Emmy award winner. It didn’t seem attainable or even relevant to what I was doing at the time. I know we worked incredibly hard to make a good spot. We also knew that we made a really good piece of work, but to have it recognized in that manner is amazing and rewarding. I’ve been fortunate to win a second one recently, but you never get used to it. The goal is to always maximize your skill set and experience when you set out on a project. You aren’t aiming for awards or accolades. You want to tell the story in the best way possible. The rewards are great affirmations that an audience recognizes the storytelling, but if you can’t honestly say that you did your absolute best to tell the narrative than no award will compensate for that inability to truly get the job done.
6-Wardally, what were your inspirations for both Valerie and Lois?
It was very important to me to portray two strong female protagonists of diverse backgrounds. This had to be about them, no one else, a rarity these days. Fun fact, Ashley(Denise Robinson) actually performed as Lois during the staged reading! I wanted to make these two women two sides of the same coin. With both Valerie and Lois, you have two successful women in their own way whether it be housewife or business woman but then you look underneath the exterior and you see that even though they are from two different classes, two different worlds, they still have many of the same problems. I’ve spent so much time crafting these characters that when we wrapped, I felt sad because I was going to miss them! The funny thing is that after spending almost three years with these characters, Randy, Ashley and Tara(Gadomski) echo my sentiments.
7-Were you shocked by the successful response to Docket 32357 with the many selections for film festivals and such? Why?
WILKINS: I had tremendous faith in Eljon’s script. I knew that Ashley and Tara put the work in to give outstanding performances. Those elements made my job much easier. I believe we had something different and audiences would appreciate it. I’ll admit there was some trepidation when we first sent the film out to festivals because the film is simple in many ways. We’re watching two women on a bench talking to one another. But I felt confident that people would understand and appreciate the layers present through the writing, the performances, the camera and the pacing and it would do well. I didn’t anticipate as much success as we’ve had or that audience demand would lead to a web series, but I know we made good work. I always feel that if we meet our creative standards the film will be strong and well received.
WARDALLY: I wasn’t surprised but I was a bit nervous to see it up on the screen for the first time not only because this was my script but because if it was so personal to me and represented a very difficult time in my life. I was happy to see that everyone saw what Randy and I worked so hard on getting across-a different type of story, one that makes you feel like you’re a fly on the wall. Our team worked so hard at bringing this to life that everything, even down to the smallest detail and layer was treated with the utmost care. Because of the language, you can tell that this was a play. Randy was very respectful of that poeticism and used that to our advantage taking Docket 32357 to another level. Watching the talented Tara and Ashley perform made me feel the way I did when I was a young girl staring at the film crews on the streets of Manhattan–magical. This is also a personal success. I want this to serve as an inspiration to other stroke survivors to prove that you can persevere and still follow your dreams.
8-Is there any plans for a season 2 and if so, what can you say?
WILKINS: Yes, there will be a season two. We will be introducing the audience to brand new characters and a whole new world. We believe this one will be more intense than the first season and we’re excited with the progress on the development of the narrative. It’s going to be good.
WARDALLY: I am so excited about the new characters, especially our new protagonist. It’s going to be bigger, better and include our supporters in a different way. The community is who our fans are and I am very dedicated in involving them in a new way. I can’t say much but throughout the season, a homage will be paid to our Jurors.
9-For both of you, what is NEXT as far as in the film industry?
WILKINS: We’re continuing to work on more projects. Eljon and I are in the fundraising stage for our new short Rum and Coke, which will be shot on the islands of Grenada and Trinidad. We’re developing season 2 of Docket 32357. While all of that is going on, I’m developing my first feature script Pray For A Little More Spring and in the early stages of negotiating a documentary project for a major cable network so hopefully that comes to fruition. I’m also continuing my career as an editor. We’re looking to make a long standing impact on the industry and emerging as a standard for other filmmakers to aspire to and surpass so that not only does the quality of Black film rise, but American film also.
WARDALLY: Rum & Coke will be a tearjerker! Aside from that I am working on a pilot and exploring different ways to bring diverse films to the screen. As Randy said our goal is to make a long standing impact on the industry, to go above and beyond what expectation is and to continue to entertain, engage and inform audiences around the world.