I meet many people every day in Hollywood. Some people teach me something new, some people teach me nothing.
Well, what I remember the most about Director/Writer K.Townes is her love for director Christopher Nolan. I do not know a lot about Mr. Nolan; however, it was refreshing to see this black woman speak passionately about his filmmaking.
It was during this interview that I realized the importance of black film festivals and how they directly elevate filmmakers at all levels to higher career grounds.
Townes, a 2012 UCLA MFA film graduate of the University of California of Los Angeles school of Theater, Film, and TV, explained firsthand how her career has soared since her short film, “ZERO” became a finalist in the 2012 American Black Film Festival (ABFF). The film has since debuted on HBO (February 16, 2013), and it will have an encore screening in March. In addition, the ABFF opportunity paved way for her current position with HBO’s “True Blood.”
Shadow and Act sat down with Kim Townes to talk about her film, “ZERO”, ABFF’s impact on her career, and her current projects.
Shadow and Act: Can you tell us about your experience as a finalist for the 20120 HBO/ ABFF short film contest?
The Miami Heat had just won the NBA Championship and the energy in the streets was electrifying. Prior to becoming a finalist, I was reading that Jeff Friday's focus for the ABFF is on innovation, education, and collaboration. I definitely felt that when I was there.
When I entered the competition I had just graduated and was working odd jobs. The day they called me to let me know that I was a finalist; they also informed me that the check for my entry fee had bounced. Let's just say I found $50 real quick.
I owe a ton of thanks to the American Black Film Festival and HBO. I'm still feeling its affect. Film school is already a long shot. But making it to cable broadcast is pretty rare. I'm now getting meetings, pitching ideas and getting job offers. I still have a long road ahead of me, but the tunnel isn't as dark anymore --ABFF definitely pointed me in the right direction.
Shadow and Act: What inspired you to write ‘Zero”?
I remember listening to Erykah Badu's “Master Teacher” on repeat when I came up with this story. The song reminded me of my father. He was a Superintendent of education who had come from a sharecropping background, so education and community was of crazy importance in my household. On road trips he would have my brother and I reciting poems like “Invictus” and “Don't Quit”. I now realize that was his way of memorizing them because he was pledging a graduate chapter of A-PHI-A at the time. I’m sure saying such powerful words repeatedly with your child takes on a whole new energy; memorization becomes internalization. My dad passed the year I entered the UCLA MFA program. I wanted to write a story that honored the man he was and reflected the effect of that kind of father/ daughter relationship on women.
As far as the bullying plot goes – Yes, when you are talking about captaining your soul in the 3rd grade you will get picked on. Now add hand-me-down clothes, puberty and jerry curl--I caught it big time! ZERO was as much a love letter to my father as it is to my younger self.
Shadow and Act: Was this your first film?
No, In 2010 I shot a short documentary, “Planting Hope”, for the UCLA/Bill and Melinda Gates Inspiring Action Initiative aimed at highlighting non-traditional education. Planting Hope is about topiary artist Pearl Fryar and his scholarship fund dedicated to helping students with low GPAs go on to complete their degrees in higher education. Before that I shot an experimental film about body image called 'How to Become a Pretty Girl', and a short comedy about the world of war craft addiction called “Game Master”.
Shadow and Act: Can you tell us what led you to become a filmmaker?
I’ve always wanted to be a filmmaker. I used to read articles in the old Hip Hop magazines about folks like Spike Lee, Matty Rich, Julie Dash coming out of film school and making these monumental statements on society. I thought that was so cool. Those were my hip hop stars.
Shadow and Act: Can you tell us about your current/upcoming projects?
Currently, I’m on the writing team for the new web series “ALMOST 30” executive produced and directed by Mathew Cherry (The Last Fall). It stars Mike Moss (Last Fall), Sherial McKinney (ABFF Star Project winner), and comedian Ricky Smith as roommates.
I am also producing a web series which you will hear more about in the coming months. My mantra is if I’m not writing, I’m shooting, and if I’m not shooting, I’m writing.
Be sure to watch ZERO 3/8/13on HBO Signature East @ 2:30pm and HBO Signature West @ 5:30pm more info at www.kimtownes.com