Lifetime Interprets the Flint Michigan Water Crisis in a New Made-For-Television Film

Talk about Girl Power!  Three women from Flint, Michigan – LeeAnne Walters, Nayyirah Shariff, and Melissa Mays – banded together to investigate and speak out about the Flint River water crisis and now Lifetime has allowed their story to be heard in a scripted drama for television.  

Who would have thought that something so simple and so precious as water could become a source of so much contamination, controversy, and corruption? 

The Flint water crisis – which some residents still claim is not over – was an environmental catastrophe that was mired in confusion and mystery for many years, even among its residents.  News reporters were covering the story sporadically but the rest of the nation didn’t seem to know what was really transpiring in this tiny, close-knit town. 

Lifetime has developed a movie staring Queen Latifah, Betsy Brandt, Jill Scott, and Marin Ireland which provides insight into this crisis.  The drama takes the real life story and makes it approachable, endearing, and comprehensive so that audiences can understand the political corruption behind the crisis and the damage it caused to families many years before it became national news.  

The movie first aired on Lifetime on October 28, 2017.  The movie is also still currently available On Demand and at Mylifetime.com.  

 

 


 

 

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Tiffany Haddish – The New Face of Comedy on SNL

What’s so special about Tiffany Haddish hosting Saturday Night Live?  Not much except that SHE IS THE FIRST BLACK WOMAN COMEDIENNE IN THE HISTORY OF THE SHOW TO SUCCESSFULLY HOST IT

This may not be special to some because 11 other black women, mostly actresses, have hosted the show before her.  But for many, this represents a huge victory among black comediennes and a major change in climate for a show that has very rarely included black women in its cast historically.  Not bad for an untrained actress who admittedly grew up in foster care.  

You may remember Tiffany from her staring role this summer in the high-grossing film, Girl’s Trip, in which she co-stars with Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Regina Hall.  After gaining much popularity for her role as Dina, Tiffany has now gone on to accomplish another major feat.  Many have been weighing in on performance on SNL this past Saturday night and it is all good.  Her much anticipated appearance on the show was well-received by audiences.

Did you see Tiffany Haddish on SNL this weekend?  How do you think she performed?  Share your comments below.  

 

 

 

 

Girls Trip movie poster courtesy of IMDb.

 


 

 

 

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2017 Atlanta Horror Film Festival

 

 

Halloween is approaching, and ghosts and goblins will be making their debut soon.  Some of these of these creepy beings will be appearing in the films this weekend hosted by the Atlanta Horror Film Festival.   This year will mark the 11th season for the festival and attendees at this year’s celebration are poised to have a ghoulish, good time.  Some films that will be showcased this weekend are as follows:

 

Replace

Elise’s Nightmare

Don’t Turn Me Off

The Glass Coffin

Earworm

The Frozen Eye

Here + After

Twin

 

These films will scare the living daylights out of you.  Check out the horror fest October 19-22 at the Sychronicity Theater.  For more info visit www.atlantahorrorfilmfest.com 

 


 

 

 

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The Home Depot – America’s Home Improvement Store Gets Involved in Film

 Home Depot Pinewood Studios

 

Film and home improvement – what could these two seemingly different business have to do with each other? Apparently, in Georgia they have a lot in common.  

A few years ago, Pinewood Studios was added to Georgia’s studio family and with it came The Home Depot Studio Store. Upon initial glance, these industries don’t seem to have anything to do with each other.  But closer introspection reveals that set-building is as crucial to Hollywood as its actors, scripts, and any other key component that make a movie come to life on screen.  With this in mind, we can see how these two different businesses can form a symbiotic relationship that results in a very beneficial outcome.

These week Reel Focus explores just how beneficial of a relationship this is by learning more about how The Home Depot is helping the film industry grow in Georgia, one wood plank at a time.

Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for our readers.  For starters, what is The Home Depot Studio Store and how is it different from regular stores?

 The Home Depot Studio Store is unique in that it’s located on the grounds of Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Fayetteville and was built to serve set builders and construction crews who work on movie and television production sets in the Atlanta area. Even though the store has the Home Depot sign on the outside, the inside looks more like a fulfillment center than a traditional store. It is 4,500 square feet with just 2,300 square feet of dedicated sales floor. The store carries about 2,500 different items, and lumber and other construction-related materials are the biggest sellers.

Is the location at Pinewood Studios Atlanta the only store of its kind?

While we do have another store that is exclusively for the Pro customer (contractors, commercial business, etc.) the Studio Store is the only store we’ve opened to exclusively serve customers in the television and film production industry.

Do you all supply product only for set-building or, are you also involved in the labor of set-building?

We only supply product for set-building. We do not build sets.

This seems like a great concept for The Home Depot.  Is there plans to expand this concept and how important do you think such a diversion from norm is this for The Home Depot in terms of new business development?

We do not have plans to expand this concept.

 


 

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Actress Taraji P. Henson’s New Film, Proud Mary, Looks Promising

Image courtesy of IMDb

 

Taraji P. Henson’s ascension from television star to full – fledged movie star continues with the upcoming action flick Proud Mary.

In this movie, Taraji portrays Mary, a hit woman for the Boston Mafia who while on a job comes across a young boy and her life is forever changed. The film boasts a cast that consists of Danny Glover, Billy Brown from How to Get Away with Murder, and Margaret Avery whom we remember as Shug Avery from The Color Purple and currently costars on Being Mary Jane.

The movie doesn’t open until January, but when the trailer dropped a few months ago, many, including myself, were excited to see Henson take on this role which is different from any we’ve seen with her. It’s also rare to see Black women as leads in action films if we’re in them at all. My question is after the lackluster reception of Atomic Blonde and the Tomb Raider trailer will people gravitate to this film?

Let’s hope that the popularity that Henson has gained over the years, especially from her leading role on Empire, will prove that black women can also lead action films to the number one spot at the box office.

 

 


 

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Oxygen Network’s New Crime TV Line Up

COLD JUSTICE -- Season: 1 -- Pictured: Kelly Siegler -- (Photo by: Kurt Iswarienko/Oxygen)

 

I don’t know if you have heard but Oxygen, the television channel that has touted itself as the channel for women, has recently re-branded itself as a crime television network.  It still is marketing to women but many of the non-crime themed shows will no longer be part of the lineup.  I was shocked to read the news but I was excited to know that some of my favorites will still be on like Snapped.  Remember, Reel Focus did a segment last year featuring Snapped Executive Producer, Sharon Martin.  I’m delighted with their new line up and I think you will be, too.  

Some of you are probably like me  — I have a tendency to binge watch crime television shows.  So, now that Oxygen is a full-scale crime network, I will likely binge watch the entire network all season long!

 

I recently saw The Jury Speaks and let me tell you – this is a great show. From what I gathered, this show covers really popular cases and pulls together the original members of the jury to get their opinion on whether they would stick with their original verdict.  In hindsight, some jury members change their mind but a majority tend to stick to their original decision.  This show has covered high profile cases such as the Michael Jackson trial, the O.J. Simpson trial, and the George Zimmerman trial.  

THE JURY SPEAKS -- Season: 1 -- Pictured: "The Jury Speaks" logo -- (Photo by: Oxygen)

 

Another show that I have fallen in love with is one called Cold Justice.  Former prosecutor Kelly Sigler visits a variety of small towns to help families of victims to solve murder cases that have lain dormant for many years.  She and her team of detectives dig up new evidence about the case that ends up leading to a conviction and helps grieving families finally put an end to their dilemma.

COLD JUSTICE -- Pictured: "Cold Justice" Logo -- (Photo by: Oxygen)

 

DATELINE: SECRETS UNCOVERED -- Season: 1 -- Pictured: Craig Melvin -- (Photo by: Hatnim Lee/Oxygen)

Just when I thought that this new crime line up couldn’t get any better, Oxygen added to its line up another show called Dateline:  Secrets Uncovered hosted by NBC news reporter Craig Melvin.  This was a recent addition to the Oxygen crime TV family this summer but the TV show Dateline, as you know, has been around on NBC for many years.  This is another spin off to the immensely popular show but this show explores chilling stories through first-hand accounts, told by those closest to the issue, including investigators entrusted with cracking the case and the families confronting tragedy.

These shows that I have mentioned are not all that Oxygen has to offer.  I can’t wait to dig into some of the other new shows that they have included in their line up.  I’m looking forward to the new one airing on October 1 called Criminal Confessions and the one that just released this weekend called The Disappearance of Maura Murray — both of which seem facinating.  

For more about what’s on Oxygen and schedule times, visit http://www.oxygen.com.  

 

 

Images courtesy of NBCUniversal Media Village

 


 


Interview with Tempest Storm Director, Nimisha Mukerji

Tempest Storm and Director Nimisha Mukerji
Image courtesy of https://www.tempeststormfilm.com/

At a time when Marilyn Monroe was the poster child for all things sexy in Hollywood, there emerged another woman – a close friend of Marilyn Monroe – who was to become the Queen of Burlesque.  Annie Blanche Banks, better known as Tempest Storm, left her humble beginnings in Eastman, Georgia to launch a successful career in Hollywood and Las Vegas that has spanned nearly a century.

Tempest Storm was and still is a sight to behold but in spite of her outward beauty which undoubtedly was the envy of most women of her time, she lived a not-so-sensational personal life which she kept very private until now.

Director Nimisha Mukerji goes beyond the sexual stereotypes to explore the obscure personal life of this burlesque superstar. Nimisha’s latest documentary explores the pain and triumphs of Tempest Storm in her own words.

Nimisha, I know that you are a very busy woman but I want to thank you for taking the time to allow Reel Focus readers to learn more about you and your latest film project.  First, tell our readers more about your background and how you became a film director.

Growing up my mom loved watching movies and she was a fan of every genre, from foreign films to westerns. I think her passion for films is one of the reasons I was so drawn to making them. In high school I volunteered at a local cable station as a camera operator and I took a lot of theatre classes, so I really started out directing small, one act plays as a teenager. I did my undergrad at the University of British Columbia but it wasn’t until my second year that I stumbled on the film program and realized I could take production classes as an elective. At the end of the year students were able to apply for a major in film production (which was a two year course where they only accepted 15 students). While I got shortlisted the first time I applied, I didn’t give up and went back the following year and got in. I often joke my first experience with film was rejection, and it taught me early on you can’t take no for an answer if you want to have a career in directing.

What sparked your interest in doing a biography on exotic dancer, Tempest Storm?

I was immediately drawn to the story of Tempest because she is indisputably the last great surviving burlesque performer from her era, and she’s also a very private person, which I found quite surprising. Tempest is a funny, charming woman, who has given countless interviews with the press. But I wanted to get past the usual questions and answers and delve deeper into her experience to get a better sense of what her life is like today. As it turns out, becoming a star involves a lot of sacrifice and loneliness, and Tempest was very honest about this side of the industry. She was willing to show us both the glamour and the grit involved in becoming an independent, working woman, who started out in the 50s and remains an icon to this day.

How well has your biography been received thus far?

We’ve had a fantastic reception at festivals, especially from female audiences, and thankfully Tempest has been able to attend many of our screenings. At our world premiere at Hot Docs in Toronto we were voted in the top 20 of the festival by audiences, we were also selected as the international spotlight film at Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival in Arkansas, and in Georgia we recently won Best Documentary Feature at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival and Best Director at Atlanta Docufest. These last two screenings and awards meant a lot to us since Georgia is Tempest’s home state and we filmed parts of the film in Eastman and Waycross.

What’s in the works for you in the near future?

I’ve been directing for television this past year and had the opportunity to work with DisneyXD and Amazon which has been really fun. It’s great to collaborate with actors and work with visual effects! It’s also been a nice change to have a script! I’ve spent the past ten years making feature documentaries where the story is constantly evolving.  I’m looking forward to developing a feature script based on a novel as well as a half hour comedy series that I’m been thinking about for a long time. While I love working as a director I think the best way to move the needle forward for women is to keep creating content that features our own stories and voices. I’m excited to keep directing and writing for both narrative films and documentaries.

 

 

 


 

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Remembering 9/11

 

 

 

Reel Focus blog commemorates the many women and men who died on September 11, 2001, including those who died in the line of duty fighting to protect national freedom. 

 

NEVER FORGET 

 

Photo credits 

Image of American Flag courtesy of Stocksnap.io.

Image of 9/11 memorial in New York courtesy of 9/11 memorial digital assets

Image of 9/11 memorial in Woodstock, Georgia.

 


 

 

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Georgia Film Academy – Educating Georgia’s Aspiring Film Professionals

Student in the Georgia Film Academy
Image courtesy of Georgia Film Academy

Georgia is home to the third largest film industry and has most recently been named number one for feature films, even surpassing Hollywood in feature filmmaking — the long-standing leader in the industry.  This is exciting news for Georgia and as a result of this boom, Georgia’s film industry is growing much faster than many expected.  It is growing so fast that jobs outpace the local qualified people who can fill them.  In order to fill this gap, Georgia Film Academy (GFA) was created to train locals in film so that Georgia can utilize its own homegrown talent to fill some of these positions.  

Image of Jeff Stepakoff, Director of Georgia Film AcademyThis great initiative is led by, Executive Director, Jeff Stepakoff.  He is a writer-producer with over 28 years of experience in the industry.  His most notable work includes The Wonder Years, Sisters, Major Dad, Beauty & the Beast, Simon & Simon, and Dawson’s Creek.   He and his team are committed to getting “jobs for Georgians” in the film industry.  Jeff and his team have developed a comprehensive program that trains students for work on one of Georgia’s many film sets.  This training includes in lighting and electric, grip and rigging, and set construction and painting.  Education and training then culminates in an internship with a film production company filming in Georgia.

The Georgia Film Academy works in conjunction with the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia.  Partner schools that offer GFA classes are as follows:

 

  • Atlanta Metropolitan State College
  • Clayton State University (offering continuing education courses)
  • Columbus State University
  • Dalton State College
  • Georgia College
  • Georgia Piedmont Technical College
  • Georgia State University
  • Gwinnett Technical College
  • Kennesaw State University
  • Savannah Technical College
  • Southern Crescent Technical College
  • University of West Georgia

These schools work to get students workforce ready for areas of high need in as little time as possible so that graduates can take advantage of working on the set of many of Georgia’s film projects.  

The Georgia Film Academy launched in 2016 and since it launched has supplied student interns to several Georgia productions such as “The Walking Dead,” “Spiderman,” “MacGuyver,”  “Finding Steve McQueen,” “Stranger Things,” and “Day Time Divas.”

As Georgia’s film industry continues to grow, Georgia Film Academy will inevitably grow with it.  To find out more about how you can train to become part of Georgia’s growing film industry, visit www.georgiafilmacademy.org to learn more about the program.  

 

Image of a student in the Georgia Film Academy

 

 


 

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In Memoriam – Remembering Stunt Actress Joi Harris

Remembering stunt woman Joi Harris killed on the set of Deadpool
Image courtesy of Legacy.com

On August 14, 2017, on the set of one of Hollywood’s most anticipated sequels, Deadpool 2, stunt driver Joi Harris was killed in a low-speed freak accident while performing a motorcycle stunt.  Joi had been a motorcyclist for many years but this would have been her debut in film as a stunt driver.  She was a rookie in film but she was no rookie to performing stunts with her bike.  One of her favorites sayings was “I get back out there and go just as hard as before like nothing ever happened (referring to recovering from motorcycle crashes).”  

Unfortunately, this woman with such a promising new career in film died after sustaining injuries from her sixth take on a stunt on the set of Deadpool 2.  Her motorcycle tire hit the curb and propelled her off of the bike into a glass window of a building.  Joi was not wearing a helmet.  British Columbia law enforcement will be conducting an investigation into her death to find out more about what went wrong. 

 

Joi leaves behind a great legacy.  This Brooklyn, New York native was coined as “the first licensed African American Female Road Racer.”  Reel Focus salutes this pioneer and leave you with her very special words about never giving up:

“There is always something to learn when on track and pushing limits…Everything takes time. Face your fears, you never know what you can be missing out on.”

 

In Loving Memory of Joi Harris

 


 

 

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