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  





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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. 




Photo credits 

Image of American Flag courtesy of

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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Domestic Violence Awareness Month Showcase – National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence Logo



This article marks the end of Reel Focus’ Domestic Violence Awareness month.  We have seen how domestic violence personally affected one of our members, Tiffany Hill, and how she took this disadvantage and turned it into an inspiring book and film.  We have also seen how filmmaker Rebecca Johnson depicts the true story of a young girl trapped in an abusive cycle misogyny in her new film, HONEY TRAP.  Although this week we will end the domestic violence showcase on our blog, we want to provide you with an opportunity to continue to fight against domestic abuse and acquire help if you are victims of abuse.  We will end our blog segment with Emily Dahl, Senior Development and Communications Specialist at National Network to End Domestic Violence, who will share with us how victims can seek help for of domestic violence and how advocates against abuse can provide support.

Thank you so much Team NNEDV for taking the time to share with our organization how to combat this social problem. First, can you begin with telling us more about your organization and how you help victims of abuse?

Thank you for having us! The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is a social change organization and a leading voice for domestic violence victims and their advocates. NNEDV works closely with the 56 state and territorial domestic violence coalitions to understand the ongoing and emerging needs of domestic violence victims and advocacy programs. We make domestic violence a national priority by ensuring those needs are heard and understood by policymakers at the national level.

Our mission is to create a social, political, and economic environment in which violence against women no longer exists. We strive to create such an environment by establishing cross-sector collaborations, corporate partnerships, and a range of programs and initiatives[1] to address the complex causes and consequences of domestic violence.

Can you share with our readers some of the myths associated with domestic violence?

There are a multitude of misconceptions about domestic violence – including what it is. Abuse is a choice. It’s a pattern of controlling behavior that can include physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, and/or financial abuse. One of the most common beliefs is that domestic violence is a personal, family issue that should be kept private. The reality is that domestic violence affects millions of people regardless of age, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion, education, or economic status. By increasing awareness of domestic violence as a public issue, we can work towards ending the stigma.

For the past ten years, NNEDV has conducted a one-day unduplicated census of the domestic violence services requested by adults and children across the United States. Our Domestic Violence Counts Census[2] has been instrumental in raising awareness about the work domestic violence agencies do every day, and some of the barriers that keep victims from getting the services they need. From our 2015 Census Report, we learned that 71,828 victims were served and 21,332 hotline calls were answered. However, on the same day, there were 12,197 unmet requests for services – services like emergency shelter, housing, transportation, childcare, or legal representation.

Another misconception is that leaving an abusive partner is easy. In addition to limited space at shelters and access to affordable housing, fleeing can be the most dangerous time for victims. The risk of homicide increases greatly when the victim is in the process of leaving or after she or he has left.[3]

Most of the time we believe that domestic abuse is only a women’s issue. In your experience, have you had cases of domestic abuse involving other than women?

Yes. Studies have shown that 85 percent of victims of domestic violence were female with a male abuser. However, fifteen percent of domestic violence occurrences were in LGBTQ relationships and men who were abused by a female partner.[4] While it is important to emphasize the heavily gendered nature of this crime, meaning the majority of victims are women who have experienced abuse at hands of men; NNEDV recognizes that men are also victims of domestic violence. Because domestic violence affects us all, it is imperative that we each do our part to address this epidemic and work to create safer homes for all.

I would like to end with a twofold question. The first and most important question is to tell our readers specifically how they can get help if they are victims of domestic abuse. Then, let our readers know how they can volunteer or support to those in need of help in the fight against domestic abuse.

It is important for survivors to know, first and foremost, that abuse is not their fault and they are not alone. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, there are resources and planning tools for victims that prioritize safety with abusive partners, or when they’re planning to leave.[5] You can learn more about the services in your area from your state or territorial domestic violence coalition at[6] or by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline.[7]

This October, we once again honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) and NNEDV will be addressing misconceptions about domestic violence through our annual #31n31 campaign. (Previous years’ campaigns include 31 Ways to Get Involved & Help End Domestic Violence; [8] 31 Ways VAWA, FVPSA, and VOCA Have Made an Impact;[9] and 31 Survivors’ and Advocates’ Stories. [10]) Through this year’s campaign, we will be challenging perceptions about domestic violence and survivors and igniting change – one conversation at a time.

You can continue to be a voice against violence long after DVAM has ended. There are a number of ways you can support victims of violence including:





  1. NNEDV Projects
  2. 2015 Domestic Violence Counts National Summary
  3. Bachman, R. and Salzman, L., U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.Violence Against Women: Estimates From the Redesigned Survey 1. (January 2000).
  4. Rennison, C.M., U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001.  (2003).
  5. Planning for Safety
  6. NNEDV Coalitions
  7. National Domestic Violence Hotline
  8. #31n31 October 2013
  9. #31n31 October 2014

#31n31 October 2015



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Domestic Violence Awareness Month Showcase – Honey Trap



Reel Focus continues this month by bringing awareness to the issue of domestic violence.  Last week, we gained insight into this topic from Tiffany Hill, executive producer of the film THE LAST TIME, as she shared with readers her own personal struggle with domestic violence and how she broke free from it.  This week we highlight another film that diverges a bit from the topic of domestic abuse and zeros in on the misogyny of women – a distorted belief about women that is often the basis for domestic abuse.   HONEY TRAP, directed by Rebecca Johnson, features a teenage girl whose gender is placed on the trial of public scrutiny for the violence that erupts between two men.

Thank you so much, Rebecca, for participating in this very important blog segment on domestic violence.  Can you begin by telling us what HONEY TRAP is about and what inspired you to create such a film?

HONEYTRAP is the story of 15 year old Layla who gets drawn into gang culture and a love triangle that leads to murder. It comes out of my having worked for more than 10 years making films with young people in Brixton, in the world where the film is set.

One of the first things that struck me as I got to know these young people was how little things had changed in the 20 years since I’d been their age in terms of the sexual double standard.

Girls were caught in the same impossible bind: the expectation of being both sexy – though a not a slag, god forbid – but also tough, adhering to the same macho persona as the boys, in order to be respected by them. The film is based on a real case that took place close to where I live. Media coverage used the youth and prettiness of the girl as a sensational story, titillating almost. The prosecution lawyer in the case described her as ‘knowing exactly what she was doing, manipulating her sexuality with expertise’. She was characterized as a femme fatale, even though she was a minor.

This really brought home for me how the double standard is enforced, not only by peer pressure but by society. As we know, the sexualization of women, even as children, is intrinsic to the way they are judged and found culpable in their own mistreatment.

I knew the story behind the press coverage. I knew how it would have felt to be this girl and I wanted to take audiences on a journey with her from the inside. Not seeing her as an inhuman monster but as a kid who spirals out of control in the grip of emotions she can’t control and without the stabilizing support of a strong family structure.

How did you get your film to be a part of Array’s network?

HONEYTRAP played at Urban World film festival in New York and the lovely Gabrielle Glore who runs UW told Ava about it and put us in touch. It was a lovely case of being recommended by one supportive woman in film to another! It’s a great honor for me to be included in the Array stable and the best possible launch for the film in the US.

Tell our readers where across the U.S. they can view this film.

Photo Credit - Array Now

HONEYTRAP is currently available via Netflix in the U.S. and Canada. Tour dates included New York, Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, Boston, Houston, Nashville, Montgomery and Gary.  More screening dates may be added at


Atlanta Screening Date: Sunday, October 16

Screening Time: 3PM

Location:  Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History

Address:  101 Auburn Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30303

Cost: Free

RSVP Link:




Check out our previous article with Array – Ayanda.


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Domestic Violence Awareness Month Showcase – The Last Time

Tiffany Hill - The Last Time
Photo Credit – Valerie R. Vaughn


This month is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Reel Focus is placing this very serious topic at the forefront of the blog all month long.  Often this is a topic that triggers fear and denial in many women but our aim is to create a comfortable place for women who may be victims or for women who want to provide support to unify and discuss how to combat this growing issue in our society.  To kick off this fight against domestic abuse, Tiffany Hill, a member of Women in Film and Television Atlanta, author of Authentic Me, and executive producer of the amazing film THE LAST TIME, joins us to lead the discussion on this serious issue and share with readers how she is working to make the world a safer place for women.

Tiffany, thank you so much for bringing this topic to our attention.  I was very glad that you reached out to me to share this topic with Reel Focus.  In fact, I was so glad that I decided to devote an entire month to this subject.  This is a critical issue for women and it is great that a women’s organization like Women in Film and Television Atlanta unite with other women’s organizations and filmmakers around this topic. First, can you tell us more about yourself and how you got to this point in your career as a filmmaker.authenic-me

I am originally from Spearsville, Louisiana and mother to three young sons- Tyler, Trent and Tanner.   Presently, I am an employment/labor law attorney licensed in Oklahoma, Louisiana and Ohio. I earned my Juris Doctorate and Bachelor of Civil Law degrees from the Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center and my Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Southern University, both located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. My professional and civic memberships include the Louisiana, Ohio and Oklahoma bar associations, the Society for Human Resource Management, the National Association of Professional Women, Women in Film and Television- Atlanta, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and The Links, Incorporated. My board affiliations include the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs, the American Psychological Association, Board of Educational Affairs and the YWCA, Human Resources Committee.

I utilize my legal expertise as an advocate for increased awareness surrounding the issue of domestic violence. I am author of Authentic Me: A Story of Strength, Perseverance and Faith, wherein I share my personal story as a survivor of an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. I am Executive Producer of “The Last Time,” a film project aimed at educating and empowering domestic abuse survivors. I host a motivational podcast, “Authentic Conversations,” which delivers content on such topics as self-worth, professional development, emotional and spiritual health. I manage a Facebook group entitled ‘Authentic Me’ which is designed to provide a place for domestic abuse survivors to heal and grow authentically with the support of others. Additionally, I collaborate with national organizations to cultivate emerging young leaders through mentorship programs.

Among the mantras by which I live is: “To live authentically is the ultimate form of happiness.”

Is domestic violence something that you have direct experience with?  If so, tell other women a little about your experience and how you were able to break free and gain control of your situation.

My ability to be able to assist other women through their abusive situations began with me finding the strength to share my personal story of abuse. Initially, it was difficult to voice that I had experienced physical and emotional abuse as a professional woman. I felt that this revelation would somehow make me appear weak. However, it was also my desire that my testimony be used to encourage someone else along their journey.

My passion is rooted in a desire to raise awareness of an issue that is often swept under the rug, particularly within the African American community. As an attorney and survivor of domestic abuse, it pained me to experience court systems and officials who did not understand domestic violence or the manipulation tactics used by the abuser. My desire to eradicate domestic abuse begins with people comprehending what abuse entails and ensuring the abused have the support and resources they need. I strongly believe that when people are free to share their stories without judgment and be supported, it will lessen the likelihood that they remain in abusive situations that threaten their health and safety.

Tell us more bout your book Authentic Me and your film THE LAST TIME.

I am author of Authentic Me: A Story of Strength, Perseverance and Faith, which details a tumultuous marriage rippled with abuse, infidelity and psychological manipulation. These painful, private truths are masked by the appearance of a perfect public lifestyle which causes the author to harbor guilt and internalize pain. At her breaking point, she must decide to uncover the mask and rediscover her authentic self. As she begins down the path of purposeful healing, she realizes that the most difficult yet necessary part of her journey would be the ability to forgive.

Authentic Me: A Story of Strength, Perseverance and Faith is available at Barnes & Noble and It is the first in a series of Authentic Me books with a focus on overcoming the trauma of domestic abuse.  Authentic Me: The Forgiveness Journey, is scheduled for publication late 2016.

I am Executive Producer of THE LAST TIME film, which depicts the story of a modern day power couple whose seemingly perfect life contradicts their private encounters with abuse. The film compels discussion regarding the warning signs of abuse, support mechanisms, self-worth and authenticity. There will be people who view The Last Time and reflect upon how the many facets of abuse have shown up in their own lives and/or how domestic violence has affected those close to them. This platform allows for continued dialogue and awareness regarding the issue of domestic abuse and is what makes this film important: it will change lives.

“The Last Time” is written and directed by Justin Poage of Fifteen Studios, a multimedia company in Atlanta, Georgia. The producers include Reece Odum, Wardell Richardson, Charmin Lee and Tommy Ford. The film is intended for initial film festival exhibition beginning in early 2017.

The Last Time features experienced actors with phenomenal talent. Cast members include Lead Actress Reece Odum as “Jasmine Brimly”; Lead Actor Wardell Richardson as “Justin Brimly”; Tommy Ford as “Chief Winston”; Charmin Lee as “Erica Rockwell”; DeEtta West as “Mother”; Angelo Diaz as “Kirk”; LaDarian Raymond as “Kevin Pullen”; Sy Sayonara as “Sheila Pullen”; Gara Coffey as “Sienna”; Michelle Valines as “Woman in Domestic Disturbance Scene”; Don Scully as “Man in Domestic Disturbance Scene”; Dilyara Akhundov as “Jennifer”; Victor Santore as “Paul”; Tina Bliese as “Private Investigator”; and Telesa Hines as “Poet”. Additionally, the support group scene features courageous survivors of domestic abuse.

The production team includes Kenneth Bradley (Director of Photography), Carlos Ramirez (Boom Operator), Shayla Infante (Key Makeup Artist/Special Effects Makeup Artist), Tony Acey (Makeup Artist), Delacia Tolbert (Photographer), Carla M. Johnson (Photographer) and Christian Davis (Production Assistant).

For women suffering in silence right now, share with them how they can gain the strength necessary to break free in the way that you did.

Do not endure incidents of domestic abuse in silence. These situations could easily turn fatal. Seek the counsel of experienced professionals. You can begin by contacting The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or appropriate law enforcement agencies. Ensure your safety and exit immediately.  Though it may seem daunting, you owe it to yourself to take actions that are best for you, your family and your overall health.

Finally, do not let what you have gone through define you. Grow through your experiences and always remain true to your authentic self.




For additional information, visit my webpage at or connect via social media @th_authentic.  For sponsorship opportunities, film screenings, cast interviews or additional inquiries contact Join our online community by following @LastTimeMovie on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The Last Time


Don’t forget to check the premiere of – The Last Time. This is one of Tommy Mikal Ford’s (actor on the hit show “Martin”) last acting roles. 
THE LAST TIME, Film Premiere

It’s happening… and you don’t want to miss it!


Thursday, March 2, 2017
Midtown Art Cinema
931 Monroe Dr
Atlanta, Georgia 30308
Ticket Information:
 Photo of Tommy Ford retrieved from



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Genre Mashup: Screening a Lynching & The People vs. Leo Frank

Photo courtesy of Marietta History Museum


Over a century ago, a tragic case gripped the state of Georgia and still seems to haunt its history. This was the case of Mary Phagan and Frank Leo, both of which were subjected to horrible deaths. Mary was a young lady believed to be raped and murdered by Leo Frank and he was a young man who was believed by some to be wrongly accused but brought to justice by brutal lynch mobs of the south not just for the crime itself but due to Antisemitism. I discovered the facts of this case some time ago while perusing channels on my television. What interested me the most is where the events connected to the case took place – Marietta, Georgia – which is near my home. Curious, I took a trip to the Marietta History Museum and found a little more information about the case. My inquisitiveness then led me even further to two incredible men from two different worlds who have also taken interest in the case and have made it a part of their life’s work.

Ben Loeterman is a director for the film The People vs. Leo Frank and owner ofBen Loeterman Ben Loeterman Productions, Inc. – an independent documentary film production company based in Boston, Massachusetts. His production company’s programs have aired on the PBS’s Frontline and American Experience and both BBC and Discovery Channel. Prominent works include The War That Made America, Golden Gate Bridge, The Long Road to War, and Inside the Terror Network.

Dr. Matthew Bernstein is a distinguished Emory University professor in the Film and Media Studies department who has written a book entitled Screening a Lynching – The Leo Frank case on Film and Television. Dr. Bernstein’s research and teaching is focused on the history of Hollywood. He also serves on the National Film Preservation Board, advising the Librarian of Congress on matters of film preservation and has received numerous awards bernstein_matthewincluding the 2008 IMAGE (Independent Media Artists of Georgia, Etc.) Award; the 2006 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival Award; and the 2013 Emory University Faculty Creativity and the Arts Award . This week’s Reel Focus blog is something that I call a “genre mashup” in which I combine the works of two individuals who have the same interest in this case but have portrayed it in their respective genres.

MC: Ben, I am a Georgia film enthusiast so I have to ask this question. As a director you know all too well that some films are shot on location where the story is set and some are shot elsewhere and made to look like the setting. Aside from the event actually taking place The People vs. Leo Frank Filmin Georgia, what influenced your decision to film on location here in Georgia?

BL: Accents. First and foremost, I wanted the film to sound right, and that meant deciding up front to film in Georgia. It’s a big leap of faith in documentaries to include acting—recreations have become more familiar, but full-frontal naked faces—and then voices coming out of them—are still a rarity. So there’s a responsibility one feels to get the details right: the accents, the heat, the gestures. There is a long list of intangibles, from the obvious to the nuanced that you get from shooting on location. It was the first smart decision we took.

MC: Dr. Bernstein, in your book Screening a Lynching you draw conclusions based on two theatrical films and two television treatments of this case. Let’s pretend that The People vs. Leo Frank had been included in this list. Give a brief critique of how this film maker “researched and understood the case and why the production took the course that it did?”

MB: If there is ever a revised edition, I would insist on a new chapter on Ben’s excellent documentary (Ben, I’d be calling you for extensive interviews and access to your papers, if they are available). All the moving image treatments of the case are shaped not just by the filmmakers’ vision, but by the constraints placed upon them. But what struck me is how well researched each version was.

Ben’s is no different in this regard, but The People v. Leo Frank, in just 75 minutes, provides the most accurate and rounded treatment of the case to date. Aside from Ben’s considerable gifts as a visual storyteller, the film benefits immensely from the input of Steve OScreening a Lynching Bookney, author of And the Dead Shall Rise, a superb, novelistic account of the case that Steve painstakingly researched. One of the key figures Steve brought forward for our attention was the attorney William Smith, who defended black defendant/witness for the prosecution Jim Conley and ultimately became convinced of Leo Frank’s innocence, to the extent that he was still obsessing about it on his deathbed. In addition, Ben’s film is innovative in its use of documentary form—what he calls “dramatized documentary.” He got some excellent performances from the lead actors portraying Leo Frank and Jim Conley in the re-enactment scenes, but he also chose to have the film narrated by the William Smith character. I’m not sure I’ve seen that done before.

MC: This question is for both of you. In both of your mediums – Ben, yours being film and Dr. Bernstein, yours being non-fiction books – tell our readers what you are trying to convey and why books and films on this topic and ones similar to this are so critical to be told to mass audiences.

BL: In film, we’re trying most to convey a visceral, emotional, intimate telling of the story. Books can be better at portraying the power of facts, but nothing conveys emotion to a mass audience like film. And it’s critical to tell these kinds of stories to a mass audience for two reasons: 1) their underpinnings are universal and, 2) stories like this have a way of being bound to the places they happen. I was so stunned as a West Coast, reform Jew that I had never heard of the story of Leo Frank growing up. And that so many people in my present hometown of Boston have never heard the story. That seems criminal to me, and the critical reason to tell them in a big way to big audiences.

MB: As a Long Island, New York reform Jew, I too had never heard of the Leo Frank case until I came to Atlanta in 1989. And I agree with Ben—the moving image still has a power and immediacy that supersedes any other form. Look at the heated attacks that greeted Alma DuVarney’s Selma, over the depiction of LBJ. People are criticizing the film, wrongheadedly in my opinion, because of the medium’s power to communicate the history of the Civil Rights Movement at this juncture. Actually documentarians like Ben and historians like myself have a great deal in common. Ben presents the history of the case; I present the history of the screen versions of the case. Historians and filmmakers like Ben and I both undertake research and construct a narrative interpretation of what happened in the past. Books do have the latitude to provide more historical context, but then, Ben’s film expertly provides a good deal of it through the talking head historians (Dan Carter, Melissa Faye Green, Nell Irvin Painter) who comment on the case.

MC: Fun question for both of you. If the two of you had to work together on a film based on a true story and Ben, you of course being the director and Dr. Bernstein you serving as a consultant on set – helping the director and crew develop the storyline as realistically and creatively as possible – what would that film be?

BL: The film I’m sorriest not to receive funding for is another criminal justice tale about Clarence Darrow, known as the ‘lawyer for the damned.’ The 1910 bombing of the Los Angeles Times (in my home town) put Darrow at the center of a large social drama then gripping the nation: the titanic struggle between labor and management as personified in the struggle between Times publisher Harrison Gray Otis and the labor movement led by Samuel Gompers. With such protean issues at stake, Darrow cracks under pressure and decides that, to achieve the greater good, he is willing to bend the means and attempts to bribe two jurors in the LA Times bombing case.

So much of the story turns not on the facts, but on Darrow’s internal state of mind in reaction to the facts, that it becomes a Rashomon story. And why it would be so critical to have people like Matthew to speculate on the egos, emotions and states of mind that propelled the major players in the case…
MB: The film I’d like to see produced is a biopic or documentary about the subject of my first book, a major Hollywood “independent” producer from the 1930s through the 1960s. He made films at the time of David O. Selznick and Samuel Goldwyn. He’s forgotten now, but he made some major Hollywood classics from the 1920s through the 1960s: Greta Garbo in Queen Christina, John Ford’s Stagecoach, Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent, Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street, the original invasion of the Body Snatchers , and the 1963 Liz Taylor-Dick Burton Cleopatra. He understood the power of film to influence people, was president of the Academy during World War II, but also shot his wife Joan Bennett’s lover in a parking lot in Beverly Hills in the early 1950s and served a jail sentence. Just a fascinating man full of contradictions. I would need Ben’s expertise on how to handle the story, how to frame it, what to leave out and what to leave in, but I do think we begin in that parking lot and then flashback to his privileged childhood . . . . .

The People vs. Leo Frank Film Trailer


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Editors’ Collaboration Blog – Carletta Hurt & Melisha “Mel” Childs

The Academy Awards is a few weeks away and Women in Film and Television Atlanta would like to build momentum for our Oscar Party by providing our readers with fun blog posts leading up to the event. This blog post is called “Editors’ Face Off,” in which Melisha “Mel” Childs and Carletta Hurt, editors and bloggers for Women in Film and Television Atlanta, present our individual choices of who we think will win this year’s Academy Award. We hope that you too will play along and add your own commentary.
***Remember to mark your calendars for February 22 and join us at 6:00 pm dressed and ready to impress at Studio No. 7 for the Oscar watch party.


Best Motion Picture of the Year
CH: Selma
MC: American Sniper

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
CH: Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
MC: Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
CH: Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
MC: JK Simmons, Whiplash

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
CH: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
MC: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
CH: Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
MC: Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
CH: How to Train Your Dragon 2
MC: Song of the Sea

Achievement in Cinematography
CH: The Grand Budapest Hotel
MC: Birdman

Achievement in Costume Design
CH: Maleficent
MC: Maleficent

Achievement in Directing
CH: Birdman
MC: Imitation Game

Best Documentary Feature
CH: CitizenFour
MC: Finding Vivian Maier

Documentary Short Subject
CH: White Earth
MC: Joanna

Achievement Film Editing
CH: American Sniper
MC: American Sniper

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
CH: Ida
MC: Ida

Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
CH: The Grand Budapest Hotel
MC: Guardians of the Galaxy

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)
CH: The Theory of Everything
MC: Mr. Turner

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)
CH: Glory
MC: Glory

Achievement in Production Design
CH: Interstellar
MC: Interstellar

Best Animated Short Film
CH: The Bigger Picture
MC: The Damn Keeper

Best Live Action Short Film
CH: The Phone Call
MC: The Phone Call

Achievement in Sound Editing
CH: Unbroken
MC: The Hobbit: The battle of the Five Armies

Achievement in Sound Mixing
CH: Unbroken
MC: Birdman

Achievement in Visual Effects
CH: X-Men: Days of Future Past
MC: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Adapted Screenplay
CH: American Sniper
MC: American Sniper

Original Screenplay
CH: Birdman
MC: Birdman



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Black History Month – A Current Look at African Americans Images in Film & Television

Dr. Rhines


As you know, February is Black History month and in order to kick off this month’s blogs, I have invited someone to our blog to speak about African Americans portrayed in film. Dr. Jesse Rhines earned a BA in Political Commuications from Antioch College in 1974, an MA in African Ameican Studies from Yale University in 1983, a Political Science MA degree at UCLA in 1986 and a PhD in Ethnic Studies in 1993 at UC Berkeley. He also was Assistant Professor of Political Economy in the African American Studies Department at Rutgers University-Newark when Rutgers University Press published his dissertation, Black Film/White Money, in 1996. Dr. Rhines entered USC’s film production MA Directing program but worsening heart problems took him back to Rutgers after only the first year of the 3-year program. Currently, Dr. Rhines is residing in Los Angeles, California, continuing his writing career and serving regularly on Los Angeles’ Rotary Club working on global projects spanning from South Central, California to Kenya, Africa.

Dr. Rhines has studied the topic of Hollywood’s portrayal of African Americans in the past and his most notable work on the topic – Black Film/White Money – tackles this topic from many angles. He joins Reel Focus blog this month in honor of Black History month, providing his opinion on the current state of African Americans’ portrayal in film and television.


Thank you for joining us Dr. Rhines. Back in an article you wrote in a journal called The Black Scholar in 2003, entitled “Black Film/Black Future,” you explored portrayals of African Americans in the early 20th century in film.  For this blog, let’s start with the late 20th century with 1970s films known as Blaxploitation films.  From that point in film history until now, how far do you think African American films have come?

Let me begin by saying, in my opinion, African American fimmaker, Melvin Van Peebles’ Sweetback, Blaxploitation films [Sweetback was NOT Blaxplotation, although it initiated the genre that whites subsequently dominated] generally demeaned African Americans and provided few jobs or other economic gains for African Americans. In 1986, Spike Lee took advantage of imperfections in the overall film industry and released She’s Gotta Have It, which began a trend toward African American control behind the camera and expansion of economic gains. I won’t go into the details here because my book Black Film/White Money covers a fair deal of this expansion. However, I will say, as late as 1996, the cover of People Magazine revealed that Blacks were still short-changed at the Oscars. As a result, the Motion Picture Academy changed its traditions with the result that Black Oscar nominations increased as did the number of quality Black character roles and memberships is the various film guilds.

Tyler Perry’s more recent films have had almost entirely African American cast and crew and have been attended by multi-racial audiences. Smaller films such as Fruitvale Station  have recently received financing, good distribution and Oscar buzz. Blacks also have more salutary, speaking roles in a larger variety of films by non-Black producers and directors as well and important behind the camera internships and positions. The Oscar win in 2014 for 12 Years a Slave may have been redemption for the Academy; but, I am still looking for something that signals a more even playing field. However, I still do not think it time yet to begin the research on that topic.


There was an emergence of black film and television in the 1980s and 1990s.  What do you think spawned this boom and do you think that there is still a boom at present?

I think there is a boom at present. I don’t know about behind the camera but I see many more Blacks in a broad range of films today. However, I cannot elaborate on your question because, at present, I am no longer studying the industry.


The movie Selma just hit the box office and seems to be doing quite well. What do you think about this film?Black Film, White Money

When Black Film/White Money came out, people used to ask me why rich Blacks did not finance more films. Well my answer to this is no sane person, regardless of wealth, should use his or her own money to produce movies. What most filmmakers do is put together packages of a few investors’ monies so as to spread any possible losses. Oprah, I suspect, followed this model in producing Selma, a cinematically beautiful and very well-directed and well-acted movie. I found it to be a near perfect film. Nominated for Best Picture Oscar— this will be a second year in a row now for African Americans—Selma should bring even more African Americans into the film industry and allow other producers to give greater consideration to their scripts.


How do you feel the portrayal of African American women has developed over the years since Hattie McDaniels in “Gone With the Wind?”

Alfre Woodard plays US President on TV in “State of Affairs,” a serious drama. Oprah produced and acted in Selma but Hustle and Flow has led to TV’s “Empire” which, in my opinion, seems much less laudable for the main Black actors of both. If “Empire” makes money, Alfre may end up on the stroll next. Spielberg had Halle Berry in Extant, a multi-racial future/space TV drama, but it died pretty quickly, it seems. I think Black female actors need to be careful in this period and demand better roles and more control.


Tell us what is your next prediction on African American film within the next twenty years?

My prediction is that unless more Blacks follow Tyler Perry or Oprah’s lead, more Hustle and Flow type films and TV shows will take African Americans back to the Blaxploitation period.



For more information about Dr. Rhines and links to his publications, visit his blog at

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An Enchanting Conversation at Asante



On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the relaxed atmosphere of Atlanta’s Asante Restaurant, a small group of attendees had the opportunity to have a conversation with the production team of the new hit show “The Originals.” Asante’s senior chef, celebrity chef Marvin Woods, studied the African Diaspora and envisioned a restaurant that incorporates foods from places like New Orleans, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, the Caribbean islands, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana all linked together under a common food group which he calls “coastal soul.” This was the perfect setting for “The Originals” event because it brought many of us together – all from different cultures and experiences – with a common thread: our passion for film and television.

The event began with an intimate luncheon in which we all got to mix and mingle with one another as members of Women in Film and Television Atlanta. To my surprise, I got to sit at the table with not only a few fellow colleagues from WIFTA but one of the cinematographers for the show. My colleagues at my table were screenwriters like myself and we had the opportunity to speak with cinematographer, Roger Chingirian, about many things involving putting films and television shows together. Later, we also had the opportunity to speak with Michelle Paradise, one of the writers for “The Originals.”

After mingling and eating upstairs, we all gathered downstairs for “The Conversation.” This was a question and answer segment where the production team members of “The Originals” sat before us and answered various questions about the show and production in general.

group photo

I won’t recall everything about the conversation; instead, I will give you a tidbit of some of the things that I heard about creating a show for television.  (for full footage, see video below)

. . .Schedule is everything. . .there is an 8 day turnaround. . .

. . .schedules can be tense sometimes 6am to 6pm is a normal workday. . .

. . .this is not a glamorous business as most think (it’s a lot of work). . .

. . . production sets can be built but icons can also be imported to create a set. . .

. . .budgets vary based on scripts. . .

. . .character development for the new season usually involves reviewing the previous season’s characters and circumstances. . .

. . .22 episodes in a season. . .

. . .casting agents submit from all over and the best of 10 are chosen for an acting role. . .

. . .some actors self-tape and get gigs – it’s rare to make it without and agent but it can be done. . .

. . .to make it in this business: be a great actor (simply put). . .

. . .train, train, train. . . be more than a line reader. . .

. . .know the business of show business. . .

. . .more women are needed behind the scenes. . .

. . . network, network, network . . .

After the question and answer segment, the members of the board of WIFTA and the production team of “The Originals” gathered to take a group photo.
board and originals
Finally, once the group photo was taken, the event ended with the grand finale and guest appearance by the star of the afternoon.

bread pudding
Trust me when I tell you that this bread pudding made by Asante restaurant was the most amazing bread pudding that I ever tasted in my life. I say it deserves an Academy Award for Best Desert.


Did you miss out on all of the action?  No problem.  View the video of “Conversations with the Originals”  here by clicking the video below.

For more information on becoming a member of WIFTA, visit

For more details about the “The Originals” show, visit

Photos courtesy of Mel.

Video courtesy of Angela Wingers of Wingers Media Group


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The Originals – A New Vampire Tale

What can I say, we Americans love a great vampire tale and no matter how many variations there are, we love them all.  From Bram Stoker’s Dracula – which claims to be the tale of the original vampire: Vlad the Impaler – to Eddie Murphy in Vampire in Brooklyn; to Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire; to Aaliyah in Queen of the Damned; to Robert Pattison in Twilight; to the original Count Dracula played by Bela Lugosi – it is a fascination that has invaded pop culture and taken over and is reinvented every generation.  Just when you thought it was over, here comes another tale of gore and bloodlust, this time involving a small family of vampires from New Orleans in a new television show on the CW called, The Originals.   This television show began as a web series spin off to The Vampire Diaries and now will become a part of an American television collage of vampire horror tales.

To tell us more about this latest vampire epic, Lisina Stoneburner, the acting coach for The Originals will be present at a luncheon this Saturday, January 24, 2015 at 1 pm at Asante Restaurant.  She and other key production members will entertain questions about this hit show.  For more details, click on the flyer.


Lisina Stoneburner

“Hi, my name is Lisina Stoneburner and I am an acting coach with the following credits:  The Red Band Society, The Following, Grown-ups 2, Drop Dead Diva, Vampire Diaries and now The Originals.  Come out and have a conversation with me about what I do.”

Bonnie Weis



“Hello, my name is Bonnie Weis and I am a producer with the following credits:  Austin Powers, Wag the Dog, Living Out Loud, Town and Country, and Breakin’ All the Rules, nip/tuck, Running with Scissors, American Horror Story, and now The Originals.  Come out and have a conversation with me about my role in the industry.”



“Hi, Michelle Paradisemy name is Michelle Paradise and I am an actress and a screenwriter with the following credits:  The Ten Rules, Exes & Ohs, Never Rob a Bank with Someone You Love, The Ten Rules, and of course The Originals.  Come on out and I will share with you my industry insight.”




Bill Eigenbrodt

“Hey, my name is Bill Eigenbrodt and I am a production designer with the following credits:  Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls, Joan of Arcadia, Princess Protection Program, Numb3rs, The Defenders and now The Originals.  Come on out and I will share with you my expertise in the industry.”



“Hello, my name is Kurt Jones and I am a cinematographer with a lot of credits but to name a few:  Kurt JonesThe Wood, Prozac Nation, Fast Lane, Cold Case, Wilfred, Crossroads,  and now The Originals.  Come out and I will share with you what I know about the industry from my point of view.”




photo(1)“Hey, my name is Roger Chingirian and I am a photographer/cinematographer with many credits also but you know me best for the following:  The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons, Spiderman 3, Hard Candy, The Amazing Race and now The Originals.  Come on out and I will share with you my expertise.”




The Originals WIFTA



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