Interview with Janaya Black

What do you think is the most important takeaway from your film?

– The most important thing we want people to take away from Warrior Pride is to keep pushing. Even though bad things happen when you are trying to do the things God has called you to do, that doesn’t mean that you should give up. Trials are a part of life but with faith and love you will achieve your purpose.

What drew you to the premise of your film?

– The premise of the film is based on the lead actor Rockey’s Black’s (who is also my husband and partner producer on the film) real life experience of 19+ years as a coach and founder of the Michigan Warriors AAU basketball organization. He wanted to make this movie in order to show people what really goes into mentoring young men from all walks of life through basketball.

Most of the films we’ve come across from indie filmmakers are not based on reality. Can you tell us about some of the challenges adapting a true story presents?

-The biggest challenge was adapting the story in way that made it entertaining while not putting ourselves in a position to accused of putting anyone out there in a bad light. While many of the situations presented in the film have happened in our organization, as well as many others across the board, some of it was dramatized for cinematic value.

When adapting a true story, how important is the reality of the situation versus making something that has entertainment value? 

The reality aspect is very important in order to get the desired point across to your audience, but adding the entertainment value is also important because you want to keep them engaged in the story so they will watch it until the end. Whereas with a book, you can stick to the facts and not worry so much about the entertainment value because readers buy books to be entertained but they also read books to be educated. For instance, we had to add comedy elements to break up the heaviness of a scene, or for some of the situations that occurred we may have changed up the outcomes in order to make it more or less dramatic than the actual events. So, I would say that both elements are equally important.

How did you get your start in filmmaking? 

Rockey was in the movie 8 Mile and from that point on he was bitten by the acting bug. At the time I was writing my first novel The Breaking Point, and after he read it he told me that he thought it should be a movie. From that point on, we got out and started networking with other filmmakers and it just kind of took off from there. We’ve been pushing forward ever since.

I imagine working on a studio film like 8 Mile is different from making independent films. Can you offer any insights into how they differ? 

Working on a big budget set like 8 Mile was different from an independent set in that they have a lot more resources.  Where an independent set may require the same person to do 2 or 3 jobs, on a big set like that everyone has one specific job to focus on. With regard to resources they seem to have the best of everything that they need (sound, lighting, camera, etc…), whereas indie filmmakers may have to settle and cut corners to make things work because of cost restrictions. And finally, where big budget films can spend a whole day on shooting and perfecting 1 scene, indie films typically have to fit anywhere from 5-10 scenes into a single day.

Can you tell us a bit about your process for making a film?

 I would say that our process is pretty standard. We typically start pre-production about 10-12 months in advance, table reads 6 months in advance and then leading up to the first day of shooting, we try to map everything pertaining to production out as meticulously as possible. We know all too well that unforeseen issues pop up on every project, so we try to plan as much as possible for every contingency in advance so that when things do pop up we have more flexibility to deal with them. 

Do you have any future projects in mind that you can tell us about? 

We are currently in production for our next movie called Turn of the Check which we are scheduled to start shooting at the end of August. We have a catalog of scripts in our pipeline and our goal is to produce at least one film a year.

How do you raise the necessary funds to produce your films?

 – That is a question we are still trying to find the answer to! We have always funded our projects by scraping together what we can among friends, but now with our new distributor we are hoping to be able to fund future project from revenue generated by the previous one.

How do you go about finding all the people necessary to make a film?

 We have an amazing pool of actors that we have worked with over the years that we pull from to fill many roles, but for the roles that can’t be filled that way we hold auditions or do casting calls.  Then for scenes that require a lot of people, we ask family and friends to help us out.

What do you think is the most rewarding part of making a film? 

For me as a writer, the more rewarding party of making a film is watching my words come to life on screen. That is the absolute best feeling in the world. 

What advice would you give to a filmmaker considering making their first feature?

 My advise would be to just get out there and start doing it. Experience is the best teacher. People tend to let the lack of money be their excuse, but we have learned that you can make a movie with whatever budget you come up with. The key is to make sure that every project you do is better than the last; so that means studying your craft so that you’re not making the same mistakes over and over again. People should definitely be able to see your growth from each project to the next.

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