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Filmmaker/Actor Vernon Jordan, III Tells His Story; What's Yours? (Video)

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act August 7, 2014 at 3:15PM

Here's your chance. You might learn something; you might teach someone something.
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Vernon Jordan III
Vernon Jordan III

Recapping the series, if you're just joining us...

This is a feature I first ran in 2012, and it proved to be quite successful, because I received a healthy number of responses, most of which I shared right here on S&A, and all of which were well-received by readers. So I thought I'd reboot the series, and continue it, 2 years later.

In short, I know that a significant chunk of S&A's audience comprises of actors, actresses, directors, DPs, editors, composers, etc, etc, etc. Some are able to earn a paycheck utilizing their artistic and/or technical skills; others - and I'd say the majority - are what we've labeled the proverbial *starving artists*, working diligently, relentlessly, struggling to climb this incredibly steep hill, trying to reach some self-defined pinnacle of success - whether personal or professional. And still others exist somewhere between the former and the latter.

Where do you fall? And, as the title of this post states, what's YOUR story, and would you like to share it with the rest of the world?

I'm looking for your individual stories of struggle and/or success, regardless of what rung on the ladder you are currently on.

It takes a certain amount of courage to be able to be vulnerable and share one's plight, but I suppose that's exactly what I'm asking for; After all, not only is S&A just a source for news, its goal is also to become a community of cinema lovers where we can all share/debate/discuss/learn/teach/commiserate/etc.

Here's your chance. You might learn something; you might teach someone something.

So what's YOUR story? You can email me at obensont@gmail.com, with "What's your story?" in the subject line. You can submit your story in any format - written, or even documented on video. It could be a story about a current situation you find yourself in; or it could cover several days, weeks, months, or years. It could be that you just want to vent your frustrations; aspects of, or people in this business that enrage you; aspects of, or people in the industry that encourage you. It doesn't have to be all negative, nor all positive. We're complex people, and so I assume our stories are as well.

If you're uncertain of how to present your story, check out past submissions here.

In the 4th of many still to come, filmmaker/actor Vernon Jordan, III tells his story:


One of my favorite quotes comes from the legend, and mega-badass, that was Bruce Lee. He said: “To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.”

As my Twitter biography will tell you, I’m a Writer, Actor, Filmmaker, Poet, and Singer- Songwriter; so the quote above resonates with my life as a content creator, a cultural worker, and storyteller – and honestly, I prefer those latter titles. There are two important things about the quote: the first being the quote as a whole, and it’s meaning, and the second being the word “create”.

My life has not been an easy road (if you’re curious about the specifics that is a different conversation) but to keep it short, the Universe has blessed me. When I got to high school I met my longtime friend now, Isa. Isa was a filmmaker and convinced me to audition for a student short film. After that, nothing could stop me from learning about every aspect of filmmaking and as I proceeded to educate myself in film, I was also honing my poetry performance skills, my speech and essay writing skills, and working on a collection of music. So you can see why the title “storyteller” is attractive, right? I remember Isa saying to me: “You can’t wait for opportunities to come to you, you have to make them.” Now, Bruce Lee was about kicking ass, Isa was about kicking ass, but behind the kicks was a message: this is who I am, this is my story, and you’re not going to take that away from me. Soon, I would too be about kicking ass; and by the time I graduated high school I had a documentary and various student collaborative projects (Isa involved in a lot of them) under my belt.

Now that I’m entering my third year at Muhlenberg College, after much thought, many nights watching movies, unsatisfying theatre courses, struggling to come to terms with my flighty creative spirit, and the official declaration of my self-designed major: I’ve realized writing, and writing for film, is my primary avenue for telling stories. I love to tell stories and watch stories unfold, via film. Since I was a child I saw myself in movies. I remember watching Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence, M. Night’s Sixth Sense, and Lee’s own Way of The Dragon (Return of the Dragon), and the more I’ve watched the more I realize that film is one of the most powerful artistic mediums – from shaping an entire national consciousness to illuminating the micro- details of human life and interaction.

Film can be a weapon. Film has aided in creating status quos, or does a whole lot of reifying them, but in the hands of underdogs and marginal bodies film can also refute the “normal”. Looking at Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station”, or Dee Ree’s “Pariah”, I saw that.

And this is all important to my second point about the word “create”: it’s powerful to create something. When I write I reclaim some of my life – because as a Black man I am regulated as less than, my history is overlooked or changed to fit a white body, and the words of Black people are silenced. But writing, shooting, and piecing a film together – the process of creating- is a deliberate act to transform narratives about my people. I saw that in Tanya Hamilton’s “Night Catches Us”, I saw that in Ava DuVernay’s “Middle of Nowhere”, and I saw that in Terence Nance’s “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty”. My recent dedication to film and transformative storytelling has lead me to focus heavily on screenwriting. For a year and some change now, I’ve been in love with my own original TV pilot script – reading, editing, re-reading and editing some more – and I want to write a feature by the beginning of my senior year. These are my plans. This is my mission. This is my mode of creation. Hopefully, I direct another something soon, but I do know the writing is setting me free – and I intend, like Bruce Lee did, to walk in a room with my pen, with my script, with my words, and let them kick.

With Life,

Vernon Jordan, III

Here are two films I've done - the first, my directorial debut, and the second a 24-hour film challenge I directed.


This article is related to: Vernon Jordan, III, What's Your Story?


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