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Writer/Director/Producer Michael Blackman Tells His Story; What's Yours?

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act August 5, 2013 at 12:54PM

Recapping... I did this in February of last year (2012), and got a few response, so I figured, a year-and-a-half later, with the site's audience now larger than it was back then, that I'd try it again.
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Michael Blackman

Recapping... I did this in February of last year (2012), and got a few response, so I figured, a year-and-a-half later, with the site's audience now larger than it was back then, that I'd try it again.

I know that a significant chunk of S&A's audience comprises of actors, actresses, directors, DPs, editors, 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 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?

Think of it as an extension of the successful S&A Filmmaker Diary series we launched almost 2 years ago. I'm looking for your individual stories of struggle and/or success, regardless of what rung on the ladder you are currently on, 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.

What's YOUR story? You can email me (obensont@gmail.com). You can submit your story in any format - written, or even documented on video. I'll post as many of them as I can. Substance and presentation are key for consideration. 

And be sure to attach a photo (large size) for me to include, and if you have samples of your work, include them as well.

It could be a story about a current situation you find yourself in; or it could cover several days, weeks, months, or years of your career. It could be that you just want to vent your frustrations; aspects of, or people in this business that piss you off; 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.

In today's post, Writer/Director/Producer Michael Blackman shares his story:

The Web Series “Sistah Did What?”

June 19, 2012 was a day that none of us looked forward to.  It was the last day at work for thousands of teachers who would be laid off as a result of state budget cuts to the Los Angeles Unified School District.  I had been an Adult School Instructor for almost 13 years but now I saw nothing but darkness ahead, no light, and no direction.  Depression hit.  Uncertainty hit.  I thought long and hard about what I should do next.  No answers.  I kept thinking, sweating.

But one thought hit me hard.  Maybe it was time to put that Masters Degree in Education on the shelf and dust off that Bachelors Degree in Film Production and put it into use - full time. Because, basically, all I would have is time.  I had written, produced and directed 3 short films that had gotten some love but I always rested in the security of having my day job.  But could I take that leap of faith not knowing where I would land?  Instead of putting one foot in the bucket could I go in with both?  I got off to a blazing start and managed to acquire the rights to a feature film script, a cute and sexy romantic comedy. Shortly afterwards, I commissioned a screenwriter to pen a script from an “ensemble comedy” film treatment I had written.

I was fortunate enough to get both these projects done “on the cheap,” relatively speaking, but the costs were still enough to put a major dent in any emergency funds I had. The good thing:  I had the rights to two feature film properties.  The bad thing:  I had no current digital demo that I could show people.  And, in the world of You Tube, Vimeo and other digital platforms, you need “stuff” to show.  People need to be able to click a mouse and see some visual samples of your work.  I didn’t have that.

I decided to write a web series.  Why?  Because when you post on the Internet, people get to see your work right away. You have a demo.  You can soar high or fall flat, face down.  It was intimidating but I decided to take that chance.  I wrote and rewrote, nurturing my concept for a female driven series.  I chose a female lead project because I knew an actress who was open to working with me.  I had to use any available resources I had.  And, she had lots of experience. Shelli Boone, who had parts on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “House of Pain,” agreed to be my lead. I got lucky and found Dawn Noel, who had done shows like “NCIS” and “Glee” to play Shelli’s “bestie.” When I found Marian Michaels and Devon Stewart to fill out my core cast, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly my actors gelled. I would like to attribute their on screen chemistry to my directorial vision but I truly have to give them SO much credit.

I chose to do a 4-episode pilot season (about 6 - 8 minutes an episode) and emerged with a cute, and often quirky, comedy called, "Sistah Did What?" Why the title?  Because “Sistah,” finds herself in situations that her friends love to talk about. From navigating the dating scene, to the difficulties of dealing with a film director who’s looking for a ‘nice girl with a nice buttocks,’ “Sistah’s” companions help her deal with the trials that come from her unusual activities. We shot the four episodes over a three-day period in January.

I edited, color corrected and worked with my sound mixer for another couple of months and we finally launched our web series in May.  I remember being nervous after I posted the first episode around 3 a.m. in the morning not knowing what to expect.  (After all, our first episode was our “naughtiest” and I didn’t know how people would respond to some of our “word choices.”)  I went to bed and about six hours later my phone was ringing off the hook.  My friends dug it.  People dug it.  We got some love from our You Tube viewers.  I was so happy with the responses.  We posted our final three episodes over the next couple of months and managed to keep a good amount of our initial viewers interested. Now, I’m writing and also fund raising for a second season of “Sistah Did What?” I’m also ready to start shopping my feature films around town.

So, the cliché:  When one door closes, another door opens, or maybe even two or three.  And when those other doors open, there might still be some darkness behind them.  But, I chose to step in anyway.  I felt that somewhere in that darkness there had to be some light.  I only hoped to find it.  

Michael Blackman

Here's the first Episode of "Sistah Did What?," titled “The Best View is the Rear View”:


This article is related to: What's Your Story?, Michael Blackman


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