Michael Dennis, aka Mike D., Filmmaker/Promoter
Deserves props for: Heading up the Repertory Film fixture Reelblack Presents, which both produces its own work and helps show and promote other "good movies about black folks." His short film credits include the MC Breeze doc Philly Boy, A Taste of Lady Alma and 1989's Who Is Chris Rock?
Tell me about your new DUTV show Reelblack TV.
"It's a half-hour interview show comprised mostly of interviews we had in the can or that we're getting as original material. The idea is to keep it low-tech, so people look at it and think, 'I can do that too.' If you're an artist, we try to frame it so you feel empowered."
What are some of the film projects you're working on?
"There was a documentary I've been shooting of Philly musicians performing and interviews with them for the last three years. The first piece was on Jazzyfatnastees. That led to a lot of relationships where we have exclusive footage that nobody else has. We're trying to find a way to make a feature-length film that's sort of like a Philadelphia Buena Vista Social Club thing--sort of like breathing fresh life into the Philly soul scene."
"There's a drama that's set in the Philly nightlife. And there's Tupac Is Alive, a music industry spoof where Tupac is reincarnated as a goldfish. I'm taking my time, though. I know that if I make a feature, it's going to take at least three years out of my life. I want to make sure I have the right piece of material."
How do you find the recently made films you screen?
"We tend to pick festival winners. I'm not traveling as much, but The Pact [screening Dec. 7 at I-House] won at Roxbury, and Premium [shown last month] won everywhere. Next year we're showing How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It), a documentary about Melvin Van Peebles. People always leave with the same two notes: 'I wish more people knew about these films' and 'It's better than I thought it was going to be.'"
Was there a rarity you were particularly proud of exposing to audiences?
"The best was Train Ride, which was Rel Dowdell's movie. He's from Philly. It sold out two shows at International House. That was a very special screening because Rel believed in that movie so deeply, and it took seven years for it to come out. They ran out of money as they were producing it--the investor died. There was a lot of love in that room."