Towards the end of summer, I represented Black Talent TV at The Urban Web Summit’s inauguration in Harlem, NY and the entire event was phenomenal. The Urban Web Summit, which was a featured partner at the 2017 Hip Hop Film Festival, is an “annual event dedicated to entertaining, educating, bringing together and showcasing the work of our most diverse and creative content creators on the web.” From screenings of some critically acclaimed web series like Makeup and Breakup & Tough Love to an informative panel with filmmakers & talent behind multiple projects, this was only the beginning for the rising event and the mastermind behind The Urban Web Summit is Dallas Alexis.
Founder of D.A. Media, Dallas is a Brooklyn born writer/filmmaker who “has worked on both sides of the business, TV/Film, and the music industry for the past 10 years. He started out writing music video treatments for popular R&B and Rap artists. Transitioning into the TV/Film business, over a period of over 10 years, Dallas has worked with and collaborated with several companies on creative content, such as MTV, VH1, NBC, HBO, Bravo, and TLC to name a few. With a knack for storytelling, Dallas started to write and cultivate short stories and scripts. Dallas has also written and directed his own short films/feature films.”
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dallas, whom I had met for the first time at the event and he was so humble & appreciative of every attendee. Check out the interview with Dallas Alexis where he discusses The Urban Web Summit, what’s to come for next year’s festival, his web series New York Underground Kingz, and more below.
1-At what point did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in film making?
The point where I decided to pursue a career in film making was after college. I knew long before that though—junior high/high school was where I knew I wanted to be a creator and partake in the entertainment business in some form of fashion. It started from having a love for watching films and the dialogue in them, that turned into writing random storylines into rap lyrics and eventually full fledge short stories. The writing gradually turned into me wanting to direct the content that I wrote.
2-Who is your favorite filmmaker?
My favorite filmmakers are Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese.
Spike I like for a few different reasons—first reason is he’s from Brooklyn, NY and he represents the borough and city to the fullest. As a kid, he was also able to inspire and motive a brand new crop of modern day black filmmakers. Spike showed you that it was obtainable. He was also fearless in the stories he told. He made social commentary in his films way before it was the cool thing to do. He was also a visionary is his style of shooting and his trendsetting composition. Spike also covered all bases as a filmmaker: he wrote, acted, directed, produced his own content meanwhile having his films technically and creatively flawless.
Martin Scorsese, also being an NYC filmmaker, makes him one of my favorites. But…that’s not the only reason. Similar to Spike Lee, he had a great ability to tell real captivating New York stories and also made the city an intricate character in their films. His visual storytelling style and his ability to bring out legendary performances out of his actors, definitely makes him one of my favorites.
3-How did you come up with The Urban Web Summit?
The motivation for creating TUWS came from being a filmmaker. It came from having my films in festivals for years and traveling all over the country to take part in them. Some of the festivals were really good and some weren’t. I would always say to myself “If I ever did a festival, this is what I would do different”.
I had the idea for the festival about 3 years ago. I just didn’t have the time to put it together because I was so busy working on other projects and fully did not have a real plan yet.
I had a chance to revisit the idea about a year ago coming off the heels of completing the first season of NY Underground Kingz. I had some free time to think everything through and come up with a plan. I then pitched the idea to the CEO of the Hip-Hop Film Festival, from there it was history.
Around that time I started to see that there weren’t much outlets or networks for urban and black web series or web-based programming. As a fan of the genre, as well as a content creator, I thought it was essential to have a platform and network for the content creators, fans and supporters of the culture can come together.
4-What was the highlight of the whole event?
The highlight for me was probably seeing the standing room only crowd packed into the theater. The highlight for me was the whole event its self, seeing an idea of yours come to fruition is amazing. The content creators Q&A’s and the award ceremony was a phenomenal part of the night for me as well.
5-Can you give us any hints on what your planning for the next year’s TWUS?
I can tell you this—TUWS 18′ will definitely capitalize on last year’s success and momentum. We are definitely planning an amazing show for you guys. We want to possibly add some new panels and maybe some more pre-festival events.
6-Besides TWUS, you have been part of many different projects including I Am Legend, P.S. I Love You, & more! What has been your favorite project to work on?
One of my favorite projects would have to be The Chappelle Show. It was a great crew to be part of. Dave really set a great tone on set and in the office, it was a fun and positive vibe all the way through. The cast and crew was a very diverse one. We had a family type bond on the show—some of us stay in contact ‘til this day.
7-How did you come up with NY Underground Kingz?
I actually didn’t create the original concept for NY Underground Kingz. The original concept was a feature film that had a totally different title when I first came on board to do the project. The title of the show and concept eventually evolved to what you know the show to be today. I directed, co-produced and co-wrote the series. I pretty much had the task of bringing the new concept of NY Underground Kingz to life and bringing it to screen. My role was to develop the characters, the storyline, the plots and visual style of the show. Putting the show together was a total team effort—there’s a lot of moving parts to the show, there’s a lot of aspects of the show that wouldn’t have been possible without our producers. We’re excited to start the process of putting the new season together for our fans.
8-Are there any plans to bring the web series back for another season?
The feedback from the show has been really good and we do plan to start working on a new season. Fans of the show can expect to see some of their favorite storylines from season one to evolve and have closure. They can also expect some surprises and new characters. We are currently working on an animated series of New York Underground Kingz as well. We’re excited to share that with the fans once it’s completed. I definitely have to thank our fans for the support and creating a cult following for the show.
9-What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a filmmaker?
Advice I would give to aspiring filmmakers would be to first figure out exactly what it is you want to do as a filmmaker. Figure out what you want out of the business. Figure out what stories you want to tell. Definitely set some short term and long term goals for yourself. Once you’ve figured out those things, you can then formulate your voice and visual style as a filmmaker. I would also advise to study, learn and practice as much as you can when it comes to the art of film making. Research and study the directors you like, the technical aspects of film making, screenwriting and most important, the business side. Try to get out there and get into a film making community or network by working or volunteering on projects, joining certain film making groups through social media can be beneficial as well.
10-What is NEXT for Dallas Alexis?
I currently have a few things in the works. I’m currently in the pre-production process on a new series and a feature film. I’m also developing content for a new podcast that will go into production later on this year. The Urban Web Summit will be back in the New Year as well. We’re also working on some cool collaborations and partnerships for the Summit.
VISIT Dallas Alexis’ official website.
Photo Credit: Dallas Alexis/Julio Monterrey/Instagram(The Urban Web Summit)