Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced, said James Baldwin.
It bears witness to presence, a powerful narrative of diversity and talent, and what the filmmaker Ava DuVernay frames as what should be the “non spectacle” of black and brown people. The sixty odd people who have gathered, have made this life in television their norm. It shouldn’t be a spectacle, but it intimately poses questions.
The TV Leader’s list could have easily been lost, or ignored, as a brief. It took on life as an indie film project with a spent budget of £8K; everyone gave freely of their time and whatever resources we could muster. Here then was its focal point for celebration, showing off achievers who lift the human spirit, and tell their truths with their stories. Those featured in the gallery provide a window of “what ifs” for the next generation seeking careers in film and the media.
Presented as an installation art, a unique collaboration between a London university and leading diversity champion it featured: photo portraits, a 3ft x 9ft group photo line-up, in part inspired by Harlem Jazz photo; documentary art-film, and commemorative coffee table book.
Co-producer Simone Pennant and I had met one afternoon in the cavernous reception of Westminster. We shared similar thoughts in empowering. Simone is a tour de force with her agency the TV Collective. In the 90s I worked with the Creative Collective, which included journalists Henry Bonsu and Paul Macey, on representation.
Some ideas were put on the table, doable from the resources within the University which possessed a state of the art photographic studio and some of the best in-house talent around. Simone had built up a reputation from her network and though she kept cool reminds me she baulked when I said 50 talent, would be good. Principle photographer David Freeman, a veteran photographer of the Rocky Horror Show came on board, then veteran architectural photographer and experimental filmmaker Gerald McClean. Later Gerald would present his cousin, a NY-based award winning graphic designer Wayne MacClean whose eye and patience would yield the extraordinary book.
The kernel of the idea matured and collaboratively over the summer: June, July, August, and working both sides of the clock; we all had day jobs, we hit various marks. David Freeman built a super selfie studio — the talent would take their own photos — and captured profiles. Gerald, captured behind the scenes with a series of film cameras. I worked the interviews with Simone, whilst taking behind the scenes photos. Mallick, Simone’s nephew acted as a runner.
Phase one of this project is physical. The second phase involves online. We’ve had a good meeting at google and I hope to report its future status soon. Meanwhile this is phase one.
- Giant sized selfie group photo
- Images from the film ( see trailer above)
- The 120 page book
- Gallery Room showing cinema documentary portraits
- Letter from Minister of Culture Matt Hancock MP about the event
- Launch night which featured Dancing from Sutton secondary school, Glenthorne and The Voice Finalist Emmanuel Nwamadi
Sixty talent featured in stunning portraits and a group shot giant selfie by photographer David Freeman, who post produced the composition. Gerald McLean captured the documentary photography and film on the day.
Wayne McLean put together an exquisite coffee table book, Malick who was assistant on the shoot.
Co-producer/co-creator Simone Pennant OBE produced the talent, doubling up on the filming.
As co-producer/co-creator I sourced the finances, talent and crew from the University and and alongside co-producing the film, produced the entertainment e.g. X-factor finalist and dancers for the opening night.
Thanks to Dr Paul Dwyer and Sheila Burungi for their multiple support.