Black Future Month // 2-10-11 // Julian Breece, Writer/Dir.
Posted on February 10, 2011
Today’s look at #blackfuture comes from a guest contributor, Thembi Ford. Thembi and I shared a number of side eyes and half giggles during our favorite Critical Studies class last semester. She’s a brilliant writer and cultural analyst. Check for her on the regular at www.whatwouldthembido.com. Enjoy. -CH
Here’s one great thing about the world that we live in: we wander this earth trying to figure out what to do with ourselves when it comes to love, friendships, and making the rattlings in our brain a little less noisy by finding someplace outside of our heads to put them. More often than not, if we’re lucky, we find people on the same wavelength, whose rattlings are similar enough to ours that the world is less lonely and more beautiful than we expected.
Here’s one wack thing about the world: As much as we may find these special people, it often seems like the rest of the world, overwhelmingly composed of try-hards, impostors, and sell-outs, does everything it can to block the expression of the sharpest and most meaningful rattlings.
Let’s take one neutral thing (and I’m calling it neutral for argument’s sake) and focus on the world of black culture, art, and entertainment, a domain of society that possesses bits of all things wonderful and all things tragic at the same time. Viewing life through this lens to find the sharp and meaningful is no easy task, and leading the charge to infuse quality into this realm an even harder one. These are the kind of black history makers I’m pretty much obsessed with, so Chinaka has been gracious enough to let me have the mic today and honor my two favorites, present and past.
Film writer and director Julian Breece earned a B.A. at Harvard University and an M.F.A. at USC’s School of Cinema and Television. The plan was always to write, and to write well, to direct those words into authentic representations of life, and to tap the dusty minds of a world so accustomed to seeing watered down versions of the real people that those of us who aren’t represented in the mainstream know for a fact to exist. So that’s what Mr. Breece did.
Julian Breece’s first feature screenplay Ball won a Slamdance Feature Screenplay Award and was also a 2007 Finalist for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. His 2009 film, The Young Evil, is an intensely moving short about a young black man named Karel Andrews – mocha toned, super cute, nihilistic, very smart, and gay – who sets out to contract HIV intentionally. The film is, at it’s root, a study in human nature and vulnerability, but is powered by Breece’s gift for illuminating the truth in the existences of the oft-ignored. The Young and Evil was an Official Selection of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, was met with critical praise, and since then has shown numerous times to rave reviews.
In 2010 Julian Breece went on to write and direct Buppies starring Tatyana Ali, which was BET’s first web-series. Using his talent for bringing truth to fiction, he created the show after looking at the lives of his college peers, seeking to capture what he calls the “post-Cosby dilemma,” with character depth, drama, and humor. This past September, he was awarded the Urbanworld “Best Screenplay” prize for the crime drama Gracey. Julian’s understanding of smart dialogue spans across genres, a talent that has placed him on numerous industry “one to watch” lists. He continues to write and produce through his production company Game Theory, so keep an eye out for Mr. Breece in the future!
Let me switch gears but still focus on another creator of quality black art. I’m currently writing my Master’s thesis on the iconic series A Different World, so I’ve been thinking about Debbie Allen (who directed four seasons of the show) pretty much every day for the past 3 months. Her work on that show, especially her strict adherence to the black comedic tradition and the character realism and dialogue that supports it, pushed our view of black television from the overly binary labels “realistic” and “unrealistic” created by the dueling depictions of blackness found in shows like Good Times and The Cosby Show. A Different World was the first show to depict black college students and did so with classic humor and timely story lines. She continues to direct, and over the years has lent her vision to All of Us, Girlfriends, Everybody Hates Chris, and Grey’s Anatomy.
As an actress, Debbie Allen is perhaps best known as Lydia Grant from Fame, a role that leveraged her exceptional dance background – she’s been to Broadway and back too many times to count and her choreography has fueled everything from the television movie Polly (come on, you know you remember that black Pollyanna story starring Keisha Knight-Pulliam) to six consecutive years of the Academy Awards (and all of those Motown specials from back in the day too). If you happen to be in Los Angeles you might catch the now sixty-one year old Ms. Allen guest teaching an African Dance class or two at The Debbie Allen Dance Academy in the Baldwin Hills area. I’m not obsessed enough to full-on stalk her, just putting the information out there.
Here’s a great video of her from Fame that I stumbled upon while doing research. She is such an inspiration!
Thickwit celebrates Julian Breece and Thembi Ford, the #blackfuture of Media, and Ms. Debbie Allen, purveyor of fine arts everywhere.