Recap: Pop-Up Event with “Devious Maids” Director Mary Lou Belli

On Saturday, February 20, “Devious Maids” director Mary Lou Belli shared her expertise with WIFTA members and guests from the industry. Mary Lou surprised the attendees with a request – to move the chairs from a standard lecture set-up to a more comfortable and intimate circle.

Mary Lou explained her career path and then dove into an acting exercise, advising the participants to say simple lines such as “Go Away” to the person sitting next to her using various intents, tones and inflections. Mary Lou first provided some directing advice to the participants and then allowed others to suggest direction.

Following the acting and direction section of the event, Mary Lou fielded questions from the guests. The event was a great opportunity for people from all backgrounds to gain more insight into the process for directors on set, as well as how to incorporate instructions from a director as an actor.

Member Comments:
“Mary Lou Belli’s directing workshop was as insightful as it was inspiring. I learned REAL techniques to use behind and in front of the camera as well as how to better fit into my local filmmaking community.” -Velissa Robinson

“Mary Lou provides a truly interactive experience tailored for every group. Whether you’re a director, producer, writer, or actor, you’ll benefit from her insights and have a blast.”Read more about the event on the WIFTA Reel Focus Blog here.

Visit her website at:

Mary Lou Belli Teaches Us How to Master Make-Believe

Mary Lou Workshop with WIFTA Atlanta, Georgia



mary lou belli


Mary Lou's Book


Mary Lou Belli began her career as a stand-in and has risen steadily to the top to become one of the most powerful female directors in television. Her most prominent work includes “The Game,” and “Reed Between the Lines;” but, she has also directed episodes of “Sister, Sister,” “Eve,” “The Hughleys,” “Major Dad,” and “Charles in Charge,” to name a few.  At present, she is the director for a show now filming in Georgia called “Devious Maids.”


On Saturday, February 20, a small group of actors, writers, directors, and producers gathered in downtown Atlanta at Georgia Public Broadcasting’s conference room to listen to Mary Lou share advice on how to master the world of make-believe. The morning began with small-talk and a light breakfast followed by a ’round table’ discussion led by Mary Lou.  She began the discussion with a synopsis of her film career which spans 20 years.  She then ‘cut’ right to an actor activity in which everyone who was gathered in the circle ‘passed lines’ to one another the first line being ‘Go Away.’ Not one person could hide or feign shyness because Mary Lou’s ’round table’ session was highly interactive.  In this activity one person would say the phrase ‘Go Away’ – acted according to the subtext given by Mary Lou or one of the directors present – and the person to their left would say the same line to the next person to their left.

Devious MaidsThroughout this exercise, Mary Lou would have us take it up or down a notch to perform to the level that was necessary to fulfill the subtext goal.  There was a lot of passion and a whole lot of laughter that ensued as we all took turns saying our lines.  Who would have ever thought that the the phrase ‘Go Away’ could change meaning by simply changing the subtext or the action surrounding the phrase?  This exercise allowed all of us – actors, writers, producers and directors – to get a feel for what she experiences regularly trying to get actors perform their roles to perfection.  As simple as this activity may seem, it had its challenges and if you ever thought that acting was easy, this exercise made you realize rather quickly that it isn’t easy at all.

After about 45 minutes of acting and building layers, there was a Q&A session.  Mary Lou answered a range of questions from “How to get actors to do what you want them to do even when they can’t seem to get it right,’ to ‘How to accept things as they are and when to fight for what you believe is the right way for a script to be acted out on screen.”  The topics in the Q&A were intriguing but two that really sparked a lot of interest from the audience was the discussion about Georgia film and TV production and women and minorities in film.  The discussion briefly veered off into the direction of how to keep Atlanta from becoming a mere fly by night extension of California or New York’s film production.  Mary Lou responded by saying that Atlanta is a viable market and stated that the experiences that actors and producers will have here on set will impact the desire to return and film even more because some of the production studios that have been built here are ‘bar none.’  In response to the discussion about women and minorities in film, Mary Lou has a positive outlook about the future and believes that there will be and explosive amount of growth within the next 5 to 10 years for women and minorities in film.



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Screenwriter Anna Waterhouse on Race – The Film

Screenwriter Anna Waterhouse
Photo Credit – Tom Shrapnel


Jesse Owens – an African American Olympian popular during the 1930s – was a man who became a symbol that meant different things to different people.  For African Americans, he represented a great black hope at a time when racism and race relations in the United States was at its worst.  For the American people at large, he represented a great athlete who would dominate the Olympic games in track and field, inspiring nationalism at a time when the entire world was at war.  For Hitler and Nazi Germany, he represented a huge upset in the white supremacist dogma that was spreading throughout western Europe and destroying the lives of many non-Aryan people.  For those of us looking back to those times, he represents a moment in time when the world stood still, stunned by the fact that this African American man could win such a prized possession at a time when so much pain and suffering due to racial tension was taking place in the United States and Europe.

Capturing this moment in time and all of the pain and emotion of this era is very difficult to do on film; however, screenwriter Anna Waterhouse has certainly tried to capture this moment in history in her new film Race which will debut in theaters this Friday, February 19.  Here this week, she shares with Reel Focus what it was like making the film and a little about her career as a screenwriter.

Thank you, Anna for joining us this week to discuss this film about a very controversial period in history.  First, tell us about yourself and how you became involved in film.

I have always loved film.  Some of the most memorable moments of my life are wound up with movies.  I vividly remember being sick and home from school and my parents letting me watch Gone With The Wind.  I don’t think I moved a muscle for 4 hours.  And the day before my first son was born, my husband and I watched Once Upon A Time in America.  Now, every time I hear the soundtrack I cry.  Great movies have an emotional power, like great music — they become associated with these transitional moments, in this case the night before I became a mother.

So I knew I wanted to be involved in film from a very young age.  As a child, I wanted to be an actress.  Then, at University, where I read English, I started producing plays.  This led (somewhat surprisingly) to a successful early career as a West End theatre producer.  But I still had my heart set on film and wrote screenplays feverishly on the side.

Then in 2005 I met my husband, Joe Shrapnel, who was also a writer.  We began collaborating, so that’s when this phase of my life really began.


The thing that strikes me most about this film is the title, which seems to have a dual meaning.  Race on one hand is what Jesse Owens is preparing to run and race on the other hand is the controversial issue plaguing this character as it relates to his skin color and socio-economic status.  Was there much effort put into the title of this film?

Race is the perfect title for this film.  It’s so fitting it seems inevitable now.  Jesse Owens grew up in a segregated America.  When he qualified for the ’36 Berlin Games he was under pressure from many people, including the African American community, to boycott.  It was felt that under the Hitler regime it would send the wrong message for America to compete.  But Jesse was in prime physical condition and if he’d waited four years (or as it turned out, due to the war, longer than that) it would probably have been the end of his Olympic dream.  In the end, his success in Berlin sent a more powerful message than his absence.  He blasted Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy by winning four gold medals and became the icon of the games.  The title seemed to encapsulate in a single simple word all the rich and complex themes of a story about racial prejudice afflicting a track and field athlete.

With all of the controversy brewing in Hollywood about diversity, where do you think a film like this fits into this ongoing dialogue?

It fits right in the centre of the dialogue.  Jesse is first and foremost an American hero – it’s amazing to me that it took 80 years for someone to make a major feature film about him.  So I think the film industry needs to look at redressing the balance.  Time and time again audiences flock to movies with African American and female protagonists.  We should be making more of them.

Someone started a twitter campaign called ‘writers so white’.  Joe and I were included for being white writers who wrote about an African American icon.  It angered me because it implied that white people should only write about white people and black people should only write about black people.  Should women only write about women, and men about men?  Of course not!

If it takes a public outcry like the one surrounding the awards season to effect change, then it’s for the better.  But I look forward to a time when the only issue surrounding a film is whether it’s any good, without consideration of the ethnicity or gender of the filmmakers.

Without going into too much detail, tell us what types of films you want to do in the future  as you grow and expand in the industry; and who would you like to work with (actors, directors, production companies, etc.)?

We are writing an action film for director Chris McQuarrie at the moment which is a wonderful experience.  Chris is a brilliant collaborator and such a champion of other writers.  He makes the job fun!  We have loved working with Ridley Scott on a couple of projects.  We’re very impressed by the films Ben Affleck has made, particularly ARGO.  And Kathryn Bigalow is someone we admire.  I worked with Matt Damon when I was a theatre producer and he’s an actor I would love to work with again.  And Idris Elba.  Joe and I have known him for years and are always trying to find something to do together.


Photo courtesy of Anna Waterhouse.

Video courtesy of Youtube.



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Dressing Hollywood – Interview with Costume Designer Alison Freer

Hollywood Costume Designer Alison Freer


I think that as little girls, almost all of us make-believe that we are fashion icons.  Whether we are slipping into our mom’s high heels, sneaking on makeup and jewelry, or just plain and simply preparing Barbie and Ken for a night out on the town, fashion is something that we use to make a statement in our world of make-believe.  It should come as no surprise that the make-believe world of Hollywood is filled with fashion statements.  However, unlike our fantasy world that we create as children in which our creativity is limitless;  Hollywood employs those whose creativity is limited to budgets and time constraints.  These people are known as costume designers.

Alison Freer is one such costume designer who knows all to well about the good, the bad, and the ugly of costuming cast members for Hollywood.  It is not always the glamour that it appears to be to viewing audiences; it is hard work for all involved especially those responsible for managing image on screen.  In spite of the difficulties Alison faces, she loves what she does and she is here this week to share with Reel Focus readers the trials and the joys of being a Hollywood costume designer.

Thank you for participating in our blog showcase this week.  Alison, tell our readers about your career as a fashion designer and how you eventually became a costume designer in Hollywood.  Was this a life long dream or did you end up in fashion happenstance?


I actually lied my way into becoming a costume designer. My neighbor was a commercial director who came over to look at how I’d re-finished the floors in my 1912 Craftsman home, saw the former child’s bedroom that was functioning as my closet, and asked: “Are you a costume designer?!” I thought he was cute so I said that yeah, I totally was. He hired me to style a BMW a commercial the very next day.


Looking back, I realized that I’d actually been prepping for this career my whole life — I worked retail for almost 16 years and learned how to sell anything to anybody. A big part of being a costume designer is being able to sell your ideas to the powers that be. So really, the moral of the story is this: sometimes you have to fake it ’till you make it. If YOU believe you are what you say you are, who’s to say any different?How to Get Dressed by Alison Freer



Do you only shop for clothing for cast or are you sometimes responsible for creating costumes from scratch.  If the latter is true, provide us with television or film samples in which you creating costumes by hand?


I am a somewhat skilled seamstress — but on a union film or television show, sewing items from scratch is covered by a union seamstress. We shop for everything we can, as time is never on our side, but sometimes you have to go custom-made. I was the costume designer for Nickelodeon’sTrue Jackson V.P. starring Keke Palmer as a 15 year-old fashion designer. Every original ‘design’ that True came up with was really my handiwork. We even designed a dress that she wore in a Bryant Park runway show!



I’ve also dressed a man as a bush (using real twigs, leaves, and mesh fabric) and wrapped an actor up tight in dyed gauze mummy ‘bandages’ without considering that he’d need to use the bathroom throughout the day. Whoops!



Paint a picture for our readers:  Once you receive a script, do you have a knack for knowing precisely what cast should wear; or is there a lot of back and forth during the process of shooting a film?


I always have an initial idea, but there is a ton of back and forth between myself, the director, the network or studio, and the actor playing the part. Sometimes my ideas win out, but sometimes you just get forced into a corner. If you’ve ever watched a movie and wondered “What in the hell was that costume designer thinking?!”, chances are some fool somewhere overrode their ideas. It happens to the best of us!


I like to start the design process by asking myself where a character lives, how much money she makes, what books she reads, what kind of music she listens to, and where she shops. I am a lifelong ‘studier’ of people, so I can usually conjure up an idea of what a certain type of person would wear quite quickly. But really, I’m forever basing character’s looks on people I know in real life: my family, crew members, the baristas at my local coffee shop, girls I follow on Tumblr and Instagram. Style (or lack thereof!) is literally everywhere. I never stop clocking what people are wearing.


What advice do you have for aspiring costume designers for being successful in film specifically and in fashion in general?


Fashion is not even close to being my bag — I think it’s way harder to make it there than in the costume design world! The fashion world is based on whims and trends, while costume design forces you to constantly answer only one question: does the costume service the character? Is it what he or she would wear in real life? If so, you’re golden — trends be damned.


As far as being successful in either world, I have two pieces of advice:


One, read everything you can about your chosen career and never ever feel like you’ve learned enough. I am a completely self-taught designer — I’ve taken exactly zero costume design courses. My home library is bursting at the seams with books on every wardrobe subject possible, from Edwardian clothing to the psychology of fashion. If you’re looking to break into a career as a costume designer, you can’t go wrong with reading Holly Cole and Kristin Burke’s Costuming for Film: The Art and the Craft from cover to cover. It really is the costume design bible — full of useful info as to what costume designers do, how they do it, and why they do it.

Second, always be authentic. Very early in my career, I was trying to be someone I wasn’t: always holding my tongue, never saying what I really thought, just riding the horse in the direction it was going. I never did good work because I was always afraid of being found out.


Then one of my mentors (Oscar Award winner Milena Canonero) pointed out that I should just be myself and say what I really thought, because certain people were going to love it — and who cares about the people who hate it?! The world is starved for people who aren’t afraid to be weird, to say what everyone else is thinking, and to possibly not be liked. To this day I have my detractors in Hollywood — but the directors and producers who are into my schtick are die hards. They are into me for life.  And it’s all because I’m exactly who I say I am, always and forever.







All images provided by Alison Freer



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ChooseATL Movement

ChooseATL Logo




Georgia is winning big in the film industry and as a result local businesses, organizations and entrepreneurs across the state are feverishly racing to take advantage of the opportunities that have resulted, especially in metro Atlanta.  One such organization that is poising itself to meet the growing demands of this industry is ChooseATL.

Kate Atwood is the Vice President of this local organization which is taking advantage of the film growth in the metro Atlanta area.  Not only is ChooseATL concerned with film growth but it also aims to encourage growth in a variety of local business sectors in order to encourage job growth, economic growth, entrepreneurship, technology advancement — essentially, a total way of life in metro Atlanta.  Kate Atwood is an entrepreneur and a community leader who has built her career on heading up social impact initiatives in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors.  Two successful organizations that she has led are her own not-for-profit, Kate’s Club and Arby’s Foundation, in which she served as Executive Director.Kate Atwood - ChooseATL

In September, Kate joined the Metro Atlanta Chamber, as Vice President to lead the recently launched ChooseATL campaign. In this newly created role, Kate is responsible for focusing the region’s narrative to showcase all that metro Atlanta has to offer with the purpose to attract and retain top emerging talent. Undoubtedly, her organization will also attract film talent both locally and nationally that will continue to fuel the skyrocketing growth taking place in film and help to sustain the industry.  This week on Reel Focus, Kate will share with us more about this new campaign and how it relates to the film industry.

Kate thank you for your contribution to Reel Focus this week.  I’m sure our readers are dying to know what ChooseATL is so, tell us its purpose and how it relates to film?

ChooseATL is focused on telling a comprehensive story about Atlanta to attract and retain top talent and intentionally grow the region’s prosperity in the global economy. ChooseATL highlights the abundant opportunity for career growth across the 29-county region, as well as the unique culture and highly ranked livability.

Atlanta’s film industry has continued to flourish thanks to an abundance of talent and generous tax credits, which make Georgia one of the top states for movie and television production, behind California and New York. ChooseATL will continue to highlight the top productions filmed in Georgia, like ‘The Walking Dead,’ and all the reasons why our region is ideal for the entertainment sector.

Simply put, we want to tell folks in the film and TV industry why they should choose Atlanta. I’m proud to say we’re already making great strides. In fact, recently MovieMaker Magazine designated Atlanta as #1 on the list of Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2016.

What are some major benchmarks or how will you know that your campaign is successful?

First, I want to clarify that ChooseATL isn’t simply a campaign with a finite time period. This brand is a movement – one you’ll be seeing for months and years to come.

Startup investors, corporate executives and public sector institutions alike are realizing that the new age of economic development is attracting talent. As Millennials begin to flood the workplace (FACT: they will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025), attracting and retaining talent is the next big thing for any city. ChooseATL is ensuring Atlanta is poised to win this rush for talent. At a high level, the health of our region and the vibrancy of our diverse and beautiful communities will demonstrate ChooseATL’s success.

Tell us about the next film related event or events that you have planned?

Many of your readers probably attended our January SXSW 2016 pre-party at Spitfire Studios. Our next and final event before ChooseATL takes over SXSW is a music reception at Sweet Water Brewery on Feb 17. The event will highlight Atlanta’s vibrant music industry but we encourage anyone interested in learning more about the ChooseATL initiative to attend.

In March, ChooseATL will head to Austin to showcase our region’s vibrant creative culture wrapped around our evolving tech and entertainment industries. The initiatives and programs we will activate in the ChooseATL House at SXSW will reflect the city and culture we love, and show people why they too should ChooseATL.

In a few words, tell our readers, particularly our readers who may be considering moving her for film, why they should ‘Choose ATL?’

The film and television industry in Georgia generated more than $6 billion in fiscal year 2015, directly employing 22,400 workers in Georgia and 77,900 people indirectly, (Georgia Department of Economic Development).

Atlanta’s diverse economy, global access, workforce, low costs of business and living, and vibrant quality of life are reasons to choose Atlanta. I’d also encourage them to check out to learn more about the people culture and opportunities Atlanta has to offer.


Photos courtesy of ChooseATL



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Fans Celebrate End of Downton Abbey with Live Chats and Galas

MASTERPIECE Downton Abbey The Final Season Premieres January 3, 2016 at 9 PM ET The top PBS drama of all time approaches its climactic chapter as Downton Abbey embarks on its final season. The year is 1925, and momentous change threatens the great house, its owners, and servants. Past scandals are also looming. The beloved ensemble is back for their farewell performance, closing the book on a television legend. Shown: MICHELLE DOCKERY as Lady Mary Crawley © Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE This image may be used only in the direct promotion of MASTERPIECE. No other rights are granted. All rights are reserved. Editorial use only.


Written by Guest Blogger, Rosemary Jean-Louis, Desperate for Downton

The last season of “Downton Abbey” is finally airing in the U.S. and its storylines have already elicited big smiles. (*Spoiler alert: plots to be revealed in this article so if you haven’t watched the season so far, you may want to skip ahead!)

Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes tied the knot in episode 3. Mr. Branson’s unexpected and welcome return during the reception induced tears of joy. The Bates are cleared of any connection to Mr. Green’s murder and have a baby on the way.

All is really well at the Abbey, but unfortunately fans will get to enjoy this bliss for only a few more weeks as the last episode airs March 6.

No worries! Just as tours of movie locations have extended the fan experience of the beloved films, several events are extending the viewer experience offscreen to celebrate “Downton’s” ending. Here are some of them. 

Downton Abbey Live Chat Sundays: Every Sunday for the past five years, I have been hosting an online live chat during the broadcast of “Downton Abbey” on the Desperate for Downton Georgia Public Broadcasting blog. My group of chatters convene there loyally. Some participants have come from Texas, California and New York and join in because they enjoy the camaraderie. Others have joined in because they were too sick to attend a friend’s real life “Downton” watch party. They appreciated finding one online.

It’s not too late to watch the last season with people who love the show very much too. Join us at 9 p.m. on Sundays. We’re welcome you.

Downton Abbey Galas in Macon and Savannah: Bid goodbye to the Crawleys in style by attending a “Downton” themed soiree. Georgia Public Broadcasting held one in Atlanta this past December where Jessica Fellowes, the niece to “Downton” creator Julian Fellowes, and the author of the companion”Downton Abbey” books was the headliner. Plus attendees got to see the first episode before others did.

GPB Macon is hosting a similar function, dubbed “A Farewell to Downton” on Saturday, January 23 at 7 p.m. at the Library Ballroom in Macon, Ga.  There will be dinner, dancing and a preview of episode 4. Get tickets here.

If you can’t attend that one, you can head further south to Savannah. That’s where GPB Savannah is hosting their “Diamonds & Dinner At Downton Abbey” on February 23 at 6 p.m.  at the Jepson Center at the Telfair Museum. Guests will get to see the final episode before everyone else and get an insider’s perspective from the show’s official jewelry designer, Andrew Prince.  Get tickets here. 

Downton Abbey Weekend at Sea Island: For its final “Downton Abbey” themed weekend the Sea Island resort has pulled out all the stops, flying in cast, crew and companion book author to give fans multiple insiders’ perspectives on how the last season came together. Four stars of the show will be there: Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes)  and Michael Fox (Andy) are appearing for the first time. Raquel Cassidy (Baxter) and Kevin Doyle (Moseley) are returning as is Jessica Fellowes. Executive Producer Liz Trubridge, costume designer Anna Robbins and historical advisor Alastair Bruce are also coming in.

I’ll be there covering and live tweeting the event. I hope to see you there. Find out more here.


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Edutainment – Key Wardrobe

Fashion designer working in progress in tailor studio.
Image courtesy of Stockphotos.

Edutainment – learning about film and television one word at a time.

When watching a film, unless it is a film with obvious costuming such as ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel,’ it can seem to an average audience like actors and actresses just show up in their own attire.  However, everything about film is controlled – even what people wear.  The person or people in charge of costuming the cast are called key wardrobe. This month’s term comes from’s Film and TV Careers site.

Key Wardrobe

The Key Wardrobe is the person in charge of the wardrobe on a set. . .The duties of someone in wardrobe vary from project to project, but essentially the job consists of reading the script and based upon the scenes and character descriptions, the Key Wardrobe person will determine what style and types of clothing a given character will wear.

Notable Film Costume Designers

Eiko Ishioka

Sandy Powell

Milena Canonero

Colleen Atwood

Alexandra Byrne

Janet Patterson

Jany Temime


“Words are power.  Use your words and your power wisely.”




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Interview with Sara Blecher – A New Filmmaker for Array

Photo Credit - Array Now


There is a lot of controversy brewing in Hollywood around the topic of inclusion of women and people of color in film.  In the midst of all this controversy, one woman is doing more than just talk about the problem.  Ava Duvernay is doing something about it by using her talent and wherewithal to help women and people of color tell their story on the big screen.

Sara Blecher is a filmmaker under Ava’s distribution collective, ARRAY.   Sara is here to share with Reel Focus readers more about her film Ayanda.

Sara, thank you for your contribution to our Reel Focus readers this week.  Tell us more about how you became a filmmaker.

Actually I was living in Paris and I seriously had no money. I was working as a waitress and a babysitter. Pretty much doing everything I could to feed myself. Anyway I met this guy and he invited me to a party. It was by far the coolest party with the hippest people I’d been to in all my time in Paris.

So eventually someone came up to me and started talking to me. He introduced himself as a photographer and asked me what I did.  It was at this was the moment I decided to be a filmmaker.

I decided right there and then that I would never again be at a party like this and have to say I was a waitress. Or even worse a babysitter. That simply wasn’t the plan for my life.

So I went back to New York and enrolled in film school.

Not a sexy story but a true one.

What types of challenges have you faced being ‘woman in film’ and share with our readers how you overcame these challenges and how they too can overcome such challenges?

For me, like many other female directors, the greatest challenge is to find work. Up until recently I never directed anything that I didn’t create and produce so that I could direct – which is precisely how I overcame that challenge. If no one would hire me to direct then I’d simply create projects so I could be the one to decide who would direct.

Being an artist it’s always tempting to measure success through other people eyes, be they critics or journalists, or audiences.   But as I have gotten older I have come to realize what a terribly dangerous thing this can be.  Art is incredibly subjective.  What is great art to one person isn’t necessarily to another. So now these days I measure the success of my work by the way I feel about a film before anyone else has seen it. I think I can now trust myself to know when the work is good and deep and interesting and when it isn’t. 

Meryl Streep recently said “I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me.”  If there is any advice I could give readers it would be to try and learn this sooner rather than later.

Why should people watch your latest film Ayanda?

Five years ago I went to see Juno with my then 15-year-old daughter. I watched her transform while she watched that film. For the first time in her life she was given an alternate role model. Someone to emulate who was beyond any of the possibilities she had previously considered for herself.  I wanted to make a film that would do the same thing for young African women. And I believe this film does.

But perhaps more importantly people should go and see Ayanda, because it’s a different way of looking at Africa; one that doesn’t gaze at violence, and poverty and disease – but instead turns to look at what it means to be human in this continent.

What more should we expect from you in the near future in terms of your film making career?

I just completed a film called Dis Ek Anna ( It’s me Anna) about a young girl who was abused by her stepfather. It has just released in South Africa and is due to be screened around the world early next year. Also, for those who want to see Ayanda, you can check it out at the Bronze Lens Festival in Atlanta, November 14, 2015 at 6:00 p.m. at Georgia Pacific Auditorium




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Edutainment – Blacklisted

Photo credit - CBS News Archive/Getty Images
Photo credit – CBS News Archive/Getty Images

Edutainment – learning about film and television one word at a time.

This term is thrown around loosely nowadays.  In general, it usually refers to anyone who has been kept out of something or deprived of something for their beliefs or political stance that is unacceptable by a majority.  However, this word is deeply rooted in the Joseph McCarthy era in which communist ‘witch hunts’ ran rampant.  There was a general fear back in the 1940s that communists were infiltrating Hollywood and as a result, certain film professionals were added to a list called a blacklist and prevented from obtaining work.  This months term comes from BFI Screen Online.


“[c. 1940s]. . .hundreds of writers, actors, directors and producers were identified as communists and/or pressurized to reveal the names of communist sympathizers. Those who chose not to co-operate with HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) found themselves on a ‘blacklist’ preventing their working with any Hollywood studio.”


“Words are power.  Use your words and your power wisely.”




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The Afterthought – Blood and Oil Television Review

Photo Credit - ABC
Photo Credit – ABC

The Afterthought – Reel Focus blogger’s initial reaction to a new television show, new film release or television show season premiere.


I’ll admit that this television show is not something that I would typically watch but I was intrigued by the previews.  Initial reviews on the show claimed that this show is like the 80s television show Dynasty; however this is not what drew me in.  I think what sparked my interest was seeing Don Johnson on screen doing a show in a small town.  This is quite a drastic change from his role in his younger years on Miami Vice.  So, I tuned into it and this is what I got from it.

My Synopsis of the Episode

Cody and Billy are a young married couple who set out to start a family business in Patchwork, North Dakota.  The episode seems to gain traction when Cody and Billy are on the way to North Dakota and flip their pickup truck carrying their product. Luckily, they don’t sustain major injuries from the accident but it does cause a setback for them in terms of their entrepreneurial dreams.  They arrive in town, desperately looking for a place to stay and jobs.  Cody finds a job at a local pharmacy and asks for an advance on her paycheck to purchase a place for them to live.  Billy finds a job as a day laborer moving mud for oil tycoon Hap Briggs.  Unfortunately, he is fired the same day due to a mishap with Hap’s son, Wick.  This news is disappointing for his wife because she finds out the same day that she is pregnant.  Billy assures her that they will make something happen despite seemingly endless streak of bad news.

Fearful of what the future will hold for her and their unborn baby, Cody is ready to give up until she overhears a customer at the pharmacy talking about the “McCutchen Land.”  This is land that Hap Briggs plans to buy in order to dig for oil.  She figures that if Billy could buy the land and intercept the deal, they could make a small fortune for themselves and get back on track to living their entrepreneurial dreams.  Of course acquiring the easement isn’t easy considering Billy and Cody don’t have any major collateral.  However, Billy’s quick thinking  and Cody’s gold and diamond necklace allow them to raise the money necessary to close the deal before the Briggs company representatives could.

Billy and Cody successfully intercept the deal and make 1 million dollars and also talk Hap Briggs into giving up 5 percent on any oil that they discover on the land.  This brings the two families closer together as business partners leaving Hap’s son permanently out of the picture.  Wick despises his father and his new wife, Darla, and after having been disowned by his father, he wants nothing more than to get back at them by stealing their oil to start his own business.  The episode ends with Wick’s plan to steal oil foiling.  Caught red-handed, Wick points a gun at his father but Billy knocks him down and tries to wrestle the gun from Wick.   The gun is accidentally discharged and  a spark from the gun sets the oil on fire leaving the audience on edge from this major cliff hanger – will the two of them burn up in the fire?

The Afterthought – My Take on the Season Premiere

As I said before, this show is not something that I would normally watch but I’m glad I did.  The first thing that struck me is how beautiful the backdrop for this TV show is.  The North Dakota landscape is simply breathtaking.  Another thing that I liked was the small-town feel that came across the screen.  City life is pretty much all I am accustomed to, so it was interesting to get a glimpse of small town life through this interesting tale.

Aside from the beautiful cinematography, I think that the first episode panned out like any other new show.  It really wasn’t intense but it was just enough to make you want more.  So far, we know that Hap Briggs’s son, Wick,  is a disgruntled troublemaker that keeps making his millionaire father look bad.  Hap disowns him after the accident on the land that ends up costing him over a million dollars.  From that point on, Wick is determined to carve out a niche for himself in order to compete effectively with his father.  While tension is building in the Briggs family between father and son, Cody and Billy too are desperately trying to carve out a niche for themselves using the Briggs name.  Their motives, though underhanded, aren’t as malicious as Wick Briggs’ motives are.  Although Billy is new to this entrepreneurship thing, I think he does a good job at purchasing the McCutchen land from Mr. Lundgren and selling it to the Briggs family, making a huge profit for himself in the process.  His wife Cody’s smart thinking allowed for this deal to be possible.  Hap is impressed with this young man’s bold business move and he welcomes Billy in as the son he wish he had.

At the end of the episode, we see Wick trying to break into Hap’s oil brigg and take steal some oil along with an acquaintance but they are intercepted by Hap and Billy.  Wick discharges a gun and the spark from the electricity lands in the oil that Billy and Wick are wrestling in and sets the pool of oil on fire.  Will they burn up?  Obviously not because then the show would have no purpose but I really want to know how they got out of the oil before it caught on fire.  This is where the first episode ended and that was quite enough to make me tune in next week.  This show left me realizing that small town drama can be more exciting that I initially assumed.

IMDb TV Show Synopsis

A couple looks to cash in on the modern-day oil boom in North Dakota.

TV Show Directors

Jonas Pate, Mikael Salomon

TV Show Writer(s)

Rodes Fishburne, Josh Pate

Main Actors/Actresses

Don Johnson, Chace Crawford, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Amber Valletta, Scott Michael Foster, India de Beaufort, Adan Canto, Miranda Rae Mayo , Delroy Lindo, Paul Rae, Keston John, Yaani King



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