Blackness on the Precipice: Bridging Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Blackness on the Precipice: Bridging Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

February 25, 2021 An African American Steering Committee Black History Month virtual event

In honor of Black History Month, on February 25, the African American Steering Committee (AASC) hosted the online panel discussion, Blackness on the Precipice: Bridging Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. In a conversation moderated by AASC Co-Chair Jeff Byrd, Directors Channing Godfrey Peoples (Miss Juneteenth), Eugene Ashe (Sylvie's Love) and Kevin Willmott (The 24th) discussed their work and Black Representation, both in front of and behind the camera.

In their invitation to the event, the AASC made the following statement: “In the current state of the world today, it is clear that we are on a brink, an edge, a turning point. These three films and their respective filmmakers speak to and for our current state of Blackness by invoking images from the past, in order to educate the present. Channing Godfrey Peoples, Kevin Willmott, and Eugene Ashe are all emerging voices that are impossible to ignore. This panel will inform and educate as well as entertain and inspire.”

During the conversation the panelists expressed their desire to tell stories centered on Black Life and discussed how their three films viewed that subject through a historical lens that spanned a more than century. They also spoke about the inspirations for these films – old photos and the amazing stories of people in their communities who thrived in adversity – and the pain of not seeing those narratives represented on the screen. The panel also revealed some of the challenges of making these films, from the difficulties in securing financing and pitching stories in an industry where it is hard to find comparable references; the urgency they felt to bring these films to fruition; and how dealing with limited resources sparked their creativity and focus.

 About the Panelists:
Eugene AsheEugene Ashe
In addition to his second feature, Sylvie’s Love, which marries his love of music and film, Ashe made his feature film directorial debut with, Homecoming, which is based on his off-Broadway play. He is also a former Sony Music recording artist from Harlem, New York and has appeared on numerous film soundtracks. 
Channing Godfrey PeoplesChanning Godfrey Peoples
An MFA graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Godfrey Peoples was named one of Filmmaker Magazine's “25 New Faces of Independent Film” in 2018. In addition to Miss Juneteenth, her directorial credits include an episode of the upcoming series, Generation, the short film Doretha's Blues and the 2011 DGA Student Film Awards Jury Award-winning short film, Red. She is currently developing a television adaptation of Miss Juneteenth. Godfrey Peoples joined the DGA in 2020. 
Kevin WillmottKevin Willmott
In addition writing and directing his latest feature, The 24th, about the Houston riot of 1917, Willmott is an Academy Award and BAFTA Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker whose feature films include: Ninth StreetCSA – Confederate States of AmericaThe Only Good IndianThe Battle for Bunker HillDestination Planet Negro! and Jayhawkers. Most recently, he co-wrote the Oscar-winning, BlacKkKlansman and the award winning Da 5 Bloods with Spike Lee. Willmott is also a Professor in the Film and Media Studies Department at The University of Kansas. He joined the DGA in 2019. 
Jeff ByrdJeffrey W. Byrd (moderator)
Byrd made his debut with the short film Breakdown in 1997. He would go on to direct the features King’s Ransom and A Beautiful Soul; the movies for television Seventeen Again and Jasper, Texas; and episodes of the series DynastyThe FlashCharmedBlack LightningSoul Food and Single Ladies. A DGA member since 1999, he has served on the Western Directors Council and previously served two terms as the AASC as Co-Chair from 2014 to 2018 and as the AASC Director category rep from 2018-2020. 

About the Committee:

The African American Steering Committee (AASC) was born of a desire to address the specific needs of the African-American members of the Directors Guild. One of the primary goals of the Committee is to establish a productive line of communication between African-American members and the creative community. The Committee meets monthly to plan events throughout the year celebrating the achievements of African-Americans, as well as forums with industry executives to proactively address what can be done to hire more African-Americans.

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