NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2015 Volume 15.2 - Page 148

He needed scripts and was overjoyed the workshop was there to fulfill his needs. Eventually John made a movie with a cast from the workshop. The movie, entitled Speeding Up Time, was about the poetic justice meted out to a cold-hearted business man, who was played by Harry Dolan, the workshop’s overweight director. John seemed to really enjoy hanging out with the vociferous young bards. 146 At the time, in the early seventies, none of us had ever heard of the Rastafarians of Jamaica and their “exotic” religion which holds marijuana as a sacred blessing. It was John who introduced me to Rastafarianism and the fact that there is more to the copious dreadlocks on the head. When John made Speeding Up Time, he casted me in the role of a far out scientist/witch doctor, whose home was the California Museum of Science and Industry. I read a lengthy section of my poem “Legacy of the Word.” Later, when John made a second film he created a character named Ojenke — a black revolutionary poet who master-minds a big heist to finance the black revolution. When nbc sent a television crew to shoot the jarring, Emmy award winning documentary on the workshop, I was motivated to organize an unexpected walk out; this left nbc’s television crew and expensive equipment just stranded between a rock and a hard place. I objected to the minuscule amount of money the writers were being paid for their works. The documentary produced by Budd Shulberg’s brother, Stuart, was supposed to be just as easy and inexpensive as taking a stroll through the park. This country’s exploitation and grossly unjust treatment of Black people is obvious. I thought the documentary was just another form of plantation work where the slaves just got paid peanuts for their arduous work. In the end, nbc gave the writers much larger paychecks. Yaphet Kotto was one of the Black luminaries from Hollywood conducting acting classes at the workshop’s theater for young actors hoping to break into Hollywood. The well known entertainer kept people on the edges of their seats with his anecdotes about the thespian profession. Yaphet turned shocked everybody when he stepped out in public with his occulted family. The actor’s complexion was dark chocolate. His German wife was white as snow. His private life, then, was a well-kept secret. He kept his family out of the spotlight and free of publicity. Few of the workshop members were privy to Yaphet’s interracial marriage. He projected a persona of black militancy, which distracted people from his true situation. Seeing the angry black actor projected on silver screen, you would never think in a million years that his spouse was a white woman. Yaphet worked in numerous productions that spotlighted his extraordinary artistry. There was another Thespian who played a pertinent role in the affairs of the workshop. His named was Paris Earl. His pad was on the same street as the workshop. His name is not as renown as Yaphet Kotto’s, but to the citizens of Watts in the 1960’s, Paris was a legendary figure. He was cast as the protagonist in the first movie to come out of Watts, Johnny Gigs Out, which features Paris Earl in an incredible performance. His impersonation of a struggling black trumpeter was surreal and riveting; the silver screen came alive with a robust character that lingers in a person’s mind for years after seeing the movie. Paris had a close relationship with some of the poets around the workshop; he routinely said, “the poet is the actors best friend.” Paris showed the poets how to project their voices to audiences clearly, even while whispering lines and refrains. When I attended a government funded cinema photography school, I cast Paris in the lead role. Just as in Johnny Gigs Out, Paris plays the part of a revolutionary musician who literally rearranges the world with his passionate and riveting sax solos. Everybody learned an important lesson during the production of this cinematic project; the experience left a indelible impression on the souls of all its participants. I organized a jumbo sized operation — cast, crew and tons of equipment on deck. Everything had to be transported to the remote location I had chosen with great care. Everything and everyone had to be jam packed into two rinky dinky cars; there was hardly enough room to move without jamming your elbow into somebody’s ribs. On our junket to the shooting location, Nawana Davis, a wonderful young actor, asked if she could stop somewhere and I pulled into the parking lot of a drug store. Nawana jumped out and darted into the store. Meanwhile the camera man parked his Mustang next to mine. Nawana was in the store a very long time; the company waiting for her in the parking lot was getting impatient, so Paris and I went into the store to see what was taking Nawana so long. As we entered the store, we noticed two black boys playing on one of those hobby horses that you put a quarter in for it to bob up and down for a couple of minutes.