In this month’s installment of The Woke Folk, we hold a stirring conversation with rising indie filmmaker, actor, and director, Romel Rose. Romel, a native of Los Angeles, California, is being recognized for his films' subject matter and insight.
Romel was recently named winner of the 2015 Online Viewer's Choice Best Cultural Film Award at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and his next short is already creating buzz for festival season.
In our interview, Romel discusses his passion for filmmaking, the controversial themes his films confront, the #BlackLivesMatter movement and his ambitions to change the face of Hollywood. Check it out below:
So Romel, how did you get into filmmaking?
Initially, I started off as an actor. I became frustrated with the projects that I was doing, so I decided that if I'm going to do independent projects, I might as well create my own so that I would have full creative control.
That's very entrepreneurial of you! With that, what are your films about and what inspires them the most?
My films are about things I care about most. Things that I feel aren't addressed enough and things that I want to change in the world. The inspiration usually comes from something that bothers me. Something that I want to see change in. I try to create relatable stories out of my life experiences.
What films & filmmakers inspired you to become a filmmaker?
For me, I loved The Great Debaters by Denzel Washington. I'm also a really big fan of Fruitvale Station by Ryan Coogler. Actually, that film changed my life. For me, Fruitvale was the first time I ever deeply identified with a character I saw on screen. It was also the film that inspired me to to tell stories about characters that look like me.
After watching your content, I've noticed that they are much more than films -- they’re almost like conversational pieces. Is that an intentional choice as a director?
It's very intentional. I want to make films that make people think. I knew that my last film would start conversations about certain issues and that's what I wanted. I feel like dialogue is the first step to progress, but it cannot stop there.
I think the issues I address, people aren't use to talking about them. A lot of times we just sweep them under the rug in our every day life. So when you see a film like High Yellow, it's kind of in your face and doesn't hold back any punches. I'm talking about topics that effect our everyday lives.
How have your friends and family responded to your films?
I've gotten a lot of positive feedback. At first I thought it was just because they love me. Lol, but a lot of the feedback seems genuine and I couldn't ask for anything better. Whenever someone tells me "I loved your message," that feels very rewarding.
All of your films focus on Black life and public perceptions of it. What importance does that hold to you and the craft of filmmaking?
I feel like it's my job as a young Black man to show Black Life in a positive light. We see the stereotypes that are often portrayed of us in television and film and a lot of times we get upset about it, as I often do. But I had to decide -- am I going to continue just getting upset about it, or am I going to do something about it? I decided to tell my own stories instead of waiting on "Hollywood" to tell them for me.
How important is that type of Black filmmaking in light of the Black Lives Matter Movement in Ferguson & across the country?
Black filmmaking is important because we have to control the narrative. We cannot rely on anyone else to tell our stories. We have to tell our stories and make sure it's done with integrity.
For me, Black Lives Matter means not waiting on society to give us opportunities or open up doors for us. Instead, we create our own opportunities and burst through those doors. Not only going through the doors, but holding the doors open for those following behind us. That's what Black Lives Matter means to me.
Do you consider your filmmaking to be a form of activism?
I view my filmmaking as a platform to express myself. I try to have a message in my films that get people to think about themselves and the society that we live in. If that's a form of activism, I'll take it. However, I do think people are tired of the same ole stories and same ole portrayals of black life. In my humblest opinion, I think I shake it up a bit because I'm fighting against those stereotypes rather than playing into them, which is completely backwards in regards to how they say you're suppose to "make it" in Hollywood.
Where do you imagine yourself in 15 years? What type of impact do you want your films to have?
Hopefully, I'm in a position where I can do this for a living. I think true success is when you're able to do what you love for a living. Hopefully, I will be able to reach a national audience and have people from all over the world connect with my films the way that Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole do with their music.
What words do you have for other Black millennials who are living inside this historic moment beside you?
Let's come together and make things happen. We always say "let's come together," but what does that really mean? It means exactly what's happening now. You giving me this platform is an example. Let's continue to build and move forward. Millennials are the most powerful because we have a voice and a platform, social media, to connect and touch people all over the world. Let's make things happen and not wait around.
Ase! We salute you and wish you nothing but the best!
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#TheWokeFolk series is TyreeBP.com’s monthly highlight of Black millennials who creatively use their talents to upset the status quo. They do so byways of political activism, advocacy in media, and performance arts to bring about social change across the country!