Jamaal Submitted Kings to Black Talent TV about a year ago. So many great things have happened since then. Black Talent TV co- founders Diana McCay and Patricia Rivera became Executive Producers along with Art Burton. Other Black Talent Team members – Philip Hernandez and Bianca Liominy supported the social media and public relations. We all believed in Jamaal and the importance of Kings. This is our way of taking a stand against this social injustice. Kings was accepted at the Toronto Black Film festival which is February 14 to the 19th. We are all so happy to have been part of this journey which is just beginning. Police brutality is still a huge issue in this country which is why supporting Kings is so important. We’d like to share parts of the interview we did with Jamaal last year. To the many filmmakers who submit their projects to us on a daily basis we encourage you to never give up and keep moving forward. Our voices must be heard.
Interview with Jamaal Scott- Director, Writer and Producer
Tell us about Kings and why is it taking a stand against police brutality?
KINGS is a short film I started writing about a year and half ago and I wanted to tell a story that was relevant but not cliche, which was hard. But going back to “how do you tell the same story differently”, I had to figure out “why” i wanted to tell this story. What was I trying to say. And with KINGS I realized that I wanted to say was that not all cops are bad BUT until these so called good cops public stand up and call out the injustice going on in their departments then nothing will change. Their silence is looked at as an approval of the actions of their colleagues, not only to the community but to those corrupt officers as well. And that is one of the main reasons why a lot of black communities don’t trust the police, and that includes all police officers. So I wanted to explore what would happen to a rookie officer, who was also black, if put in a situation where his morals and ethics were compromised.
So KINGS follows rookie African American Brandon Billips the very first night after he’s sworn into the Oakland Police Department and the life changing decision he has to make when his veteran partner ditches the code of ethics and abuses the power of his badge. Does he stand up to his partner, risking everything, or does he back his partner up like he was trained to do?
What age were you when you first decided you wanted to be a filmmaker and what was it that made you decide and why?
I honestly didn’t know I wanted to become a filmmaker until I was 25 because my very first passion was acting. I acted when I was little in a lot of school and church plays and i just loved everything about it. my mother and I would watch all kinds of movies from musicals, to classic, to black and white films, to international movies, so I was engulfed in cinematic art early as a child. But as far as filmmaking, I was going into my senior year of college, at my HBCU Central State University, and my friends and I, who were all actors, decided to create a web series about black college life on campus. We worked on it everyday writing the script and coming up with creative ideas but at the end we realized that nobody really knew how to work a camera or even had one to use. So I went on Amazon and bought a camera for $400 and from there I went from acting to being the camera man. I had so much freedom to be creative with the shots and compositions because everybody else was focused on the acting. That was the beginning. Skip to the end of my senior year, before graduation, and we had a final project due for class which was to create a short documentary about something you love or has meaning to you. I created and documentary about my school and the students, faculty and staff that went there. And the whole entire school loved it. That’s when I knew I wanted to become a filmmaker. That’s when I knew I wanted to go deeper, learn more about the art of filmmaking and create narratives about stories that mattered.
Who is your favorite film maker and why? And if were in an elevator with them and could say something to them what would you say and why?
Of course my favorite filmmaker is Spike Lee hands down. And I’m talking about the classic Spike Lee movies like Crooklyn, School Daze, She’s Gotta Have It, Do The Right Thing, He Got Game, Mo Betta Blues, etc. Those film’s that exuded so much art and creativity and realness. They was stories about black people but the themes and messages were so universal.
If I was in the elevator with Spike Lee I would honestly just talk to him like s normal person and ask him how he grew up. I can find all the movie stuff on the internet but you really get to know a person when you learn about their past and their childhood. A lot of times those experiences are what shape who we are and our ideas and views on the world. And that’s where I’ll be able to understand his mindset on why he made certain films and the meaning and importance behind them.
As a creative filmmaker there are so many stories to be told but alot of the stories are similar how do you tell the same story in a different way to make people interested?
You have to be true to the art and understand why you’re telling that story. Why is it important to you? Why do you want people to know? What message do you want to say to your audience? Be real in your writing. Be honest. We can go through the same exact situation but our experiences are going to be totally different based off of who we are, how we were raised, our personality, etc. They will be two totally different stories that only we would be able to tell individually. But as soon as I try to tell “your” story, it won’t work because those aren’t my experiences, so things will be fabricated and not truthful and people can feel and see that onscreen right away.
If you could only tell one story in your lifetime what would that story be and why?
KINGS. Because its a story about finding your own conscience. About figuring out for yourself whats right and wrong and not making choices based on other peoples opinions. That is something that will always be relevant in life. No matter what race or ethnicity you are,what type of “character” do you have? Where does your integrity lie.
Besides money, why do you think its hard for up and coming filmmakers to get into the business?
Thats a tough question, but honestly I don’t think the business is how it used to be. People used to help young filmmakers and give them really good sound advice, something with meaning that you could live by for the rest of your life. They would treat you like a human being. They enjoyed helping people, whether it was getting somebody a job or really sitting and talking with that person and listening and giving advice and tricks and tips that you couldn’t learn in books or the internet. People in the business arent like that anymore. For a lot of people its all about the money now. And from filmmakers its always the same advice, “Just go shoot. You can make a feature on an iPhone now so just go shoot.” Thats not advice to me.
Why do you think its important to have more diversity in filmmaking?
I think it’s important to have more diversity in film because everyone has a story to tell and we are all too unique to continue to watch or be fed the same stories and narratives. Woman have different perspectives than men just like black people and asians and indians and muslims and transgender people. All of our stories need to be told. We have to learn about different cultures and different races and we have to let everybody tell their own stories. That’s the beauty in the art.
About the Toronto Black Film Festival
Founded by the Fabienne Coles Foundation, Toronto Black Film Festival is dedicated to celebrating the very best in cinematic work dealing with the varied experiences of black people from diverse communities. Their mandate is to provide an opportunity for filmmakers to shine the spotlight on authentic stories that reflect the realities of black experiences. Along with its sister festival, the Montreal International Black Film Festival (now in its thirteenth year), TBFF showcases new voices in cinema and encourages audiences to see the world in new ways. In connecting black films with viewers of all ethnic origins, they recognize the differences that make the communities they serve unique while celebrating the shared values that bring people together. For more information visit www.torontoblackfilm.com