Photos by Shahid Manning
Shahid Manning, the Executive Director and Founder of Millennia Scope Entertainment Foundation (MSE Foundation),a 501c(3) organization – its mission: “ To Transform Homophobia through Film, Television & Media”. Mr. Manning, the 2007 Clik Magazine’s “Most Wanted Bachelor”, attended Howard University majoring in Finance & minoring in Theater. In 2000, after successfully working on Wall Street for 10 years, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream to combine his love for both business and theatre to advance the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) story through film.
By 2003, he had created a script that would become “Simply Chris” by 2012. In 2005, he founded Blue Horizon Entertainment (BHE), an LLC profit based LGBT production-company. But, at that time, it was difficult for the producers of award-winning LGBT films (e.g. Broke Back Mountain) to get financing. So, in 2009, with the help of the CEO of GBMNews.com, Mr. Manning founded the Non-For-Profit 501(c)(3) “Millennia Scope Entertainment Foundation, Inc.” During that same timeframe, he created and co-produced ‘Interviewing Hollywood”: interviewing entertainers from A-List to those new to the industry from a gay black man’s prospective. With over 30 episodes, Shahid has interviewed personalities from Lisa Raye and Sheryl Lee Ralph to Papa Joe Aviance
PrideIndex was able to catch up with Mr. Manning to discuss his amazing work over the years and aspirations for the future for all of us in the LGBT community and beyond. We thank him for his steadfast creativity on our behalf. That’s why we affectionately call him, “the Man of the Millennia…”
PRIDEINDEX (PI): After earning a degree in Finance & Theater from Howard University why were you reluctant to pursue your dream of working in the entertainment industry?
SHAHID MANNING (SM): There were a couple of reasons: the times and my aspirations. I had always wanted to act, but only, in LGBT film. In 1991, after graduating from college, that path was unheard of. However, starting 1998, an inner voice began nagging at me to move to LA to pursue my dream. Seriously, a voice within was nagging me to move on. Finally in 2000, the voice compelled me to leave my Wall Street job to move to LA to start what would become the best part of my life: going through the process that led me to found MSE Foundation.
PI: Describe the moment of epiphany when you decided to leave your Wall Street job to head for LA to open an entertainment firm specializing in black gay media.
SM: It was a moment that had been years in the making. I learned to listen to my gut feeling. I knew LA is where I really needed to be. I had already had a great job and traveled the world but I was not happy. I’ve learned to trust my gut. That’s what got me out of Minnesota, lead me to Howard University, to New York and which ultimately brought me out here to LA. I have always been interested in theater and wanted to do gay film, that’s why I decided to come here. When I first came to LA, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” had recently been passed by President Clinton, the country was over 50% intolerant to equal rights for homosexuals. However, now DADT is gone, six states and counting have approved same sex marriages. It’s just a matter of time until people will want to see more LGBT stories on the big and television screens. We want the Foundation to be ready for that demand. We are growing at just the right time.
PI: When you step out to do things on faith the timing must be right for you to make that leap. Do you think audiences are ready for more movies that are inclusive of the gay experience and/or the African American Gay experiences?
SM: Yes. I believe it’s the natural progression. Ten years ago we had “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and no state had legalized marriages for LGBT community. Now, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been over turned and more states vote in more equal rights for LGBT couples. In addition, in 2012 over 60% of the country agrees that the LGBT community should have equal rights Juxtaposed to less than 50% in 2000. It’s only a matter of time before the LGBT television and Film becomes main stream. In 5 years, I envision the Foundation being a leading provider and supporter of award winning LGBT television and film.
The increase in quality LGBT film is starting now albeit slowly and not so much in America. On our face book page: www.facebook.com/MSEFoundation we have started to post quality and non-stereotypical LGBT film from around the world. Currently, we have posted an amazing, amazing show called the “LA Complex” produced by Much TV in Canada. The series includes the drama a gay gansta rapper endures in the Hip Hop industry while being GAY. OMG, the story, acting, and filming are EXCELLENT!! It showcases how we can tell our stories in a brilliant way. Yes, it can be done. LGBT film is here to stay; MSE Foundation will be a part of this media revolution.
PI: I agree, I’m familiar with that series, it’s supposed to come to the United States via the CW.
SM: That is correct. Again, the quality blew me away. It shows how we can all work together to make quality LGBT film. This story was not written by a black writer. My concern is that BET hasn’t embraced the Black LGBT community. African American LGBT Gangsta Rapper stories will be told on the CW when BET could make this a huge hit and allow this type of film to explode especially in the African American community.
This story examines the tension/drama between the gay community and society-at-large as it pertains to the hyper-masculinity within the HIP HOP music industry. A perfect subject for BET, but true to history, BET will wait until the train has gone around the world 5 times before they consider getting on LOL…
PI: I’ve heard that you were supporting a project based on Chapter of 7 of Toni Newman’s book “I RISE”? Tell me all about it? How did you become acquainted with Toni Newman?
SM: Our meeting was very serendipitous. I first met Toni Newman 20 years ago when he was Tony Newman with a “Y”. I met him in college when he was a gorgeous muscular male model. Then 20 years later, for GBM news, I interviewed Toni and find out that she had been the he who I lusted after in college!! WOW. From that moment on, we became friends. As soon as Toni got a movie deal, she reached out to me to cover the process and executive produce the movie. We welcomed the opportunity. The script is still being twiked. But, whatever the end product, it will have a truth that meets the Foundation’s mission. It’s going to be spectacular project! I understand that it needs about $1 million dollars to get it done. Excitingly many top-notch actors are considering this project.
PI: And speaking of your online show “Interviewing Hollywood.” Whatever happened to it? And tell us about some of the celebrities and unsung people you have interviewed?
SM: Recently, the focus has been on the Foundation. Interviewing Hollywood (IH) still exists and will continue in the future. Many of the interviewees are unsung, but very talented and reaching for the stars. We have interviewed everyone from Lisa Raye, Hill Harper, and Hal Williams, to Toni Newman, Maurice Jamal, and Papa Joe Aviance, All of the over 35 episodes can be found on YouTube under: “Shahid Manning Interviewing Hollywood”.
PI: Why did you discontinue the shows?
SM For the past year, the Foundation has been the focus. Currently, it has successfully launched a Mentorship program that attracted 15 BA’s and MBA’s who have signed on to create a spectacular celebrity LGBT event in October 2012. All of the participants of the program are consummate professionals which the Foundation is lucky to have helping it to plan the Foundation’s “coming out” event.
PI: What has the foundation recently done?
SM: A LOT!!! LOL… Obtaining the 501(c)(3) was a huge milestone. It’s like obtaining a liquor license!!! It’s huge but once you get it the real work begins “FUNDRAISING”. In addition, we’ve produced several short films that show the values of the foundation, built a website, face book, and twitter pages, and begun the process of raising funds via a Mentor/Internship program that is focused on private and public grants and a huge fundraiser all of which will eventually allow the Foundation to provide GRANTS to producers, writers, and directors of quality, non-stereotypical, positive LGBT Television, Film and Media.
PI: What exactly does the MSE Foundation do? Is it a venture capitalist firm for the LGBT community?
SM: The foundation is not a venture capital firm. Venture capital firms require a return on its investment that includes principal and interest. MSE Foundation is a 501C3 organization that will raise funds from the community and provide donors with tax exempt vouchers and distribute funds to the community via Arts a& Entertainment Grant to fund LGBT TV and Film without the need for principal and interest returns. The Foundation will act like the National Endowment of the Arts, but for LGBT films.
PI: You’re only looking at film projects. How about plays performed in the theater on stage?
SM: For now we are focused on films: TV, short and full length films. If a producer can adapt a piece into film and present that way it will be welcome. The goal of film as a tool is to provide the many with access worldwide: via Internet, DVD, Network distribution, etc. The theater is an amazing forum, but can only be experienced by the immediate audience.
PI: So let me get this right, I am a filmmaker and I am hoping to obtain grants for a film project or getting my project produced I can go to MSE Foundations’ website for assistance?
SM: Soon that producer, writer, and/or director of LGBT television, film, or media will be able to go to the website: www.MSEFoundation.org to apply for a grant. In short, the applicant will apply online, submit the required materials so they can be evaluated for support. The applicant will be notified about the grant its amount and timeframe for receiving our support.
PI: Talk to us about your Millennia Awards.
SM: The awards will be an integral part of the Foundation’s first and annual Fundraiser. As mentioned earlier, we are in the planning stages of the event. The mentorship program’s goal is to produce that “Event”.
The award will be given to individuals and organizations that have done extraordinary things in and for the LGBT community in TV Film and Media: the CW, LOGO, Ellen DeGeneres, young filmmakers, President Obama for abolishing DADT, etc. The actual recipients haven’t been confirmed at this time. In addition, we plan on having a couple of short film competitions before the Event; the winner of those events will be presented with a check during the Fundraiser.
PI: Do you believe we will ever live in world where there will not be the need for the MSE foundation to help LGBT artist? If so when?
SM: Yes to your first question. The second question, we will always need to create quality LGBT film what will change is the reason. One day maybe 10 -15 years the Foundation’s grants will still be needed, but then for financial help and less for getting more LGBT film in distribution. In my opinion, as America becomes more accepting of the LGBT community the more LGBT film everyone will want to see.
PI: What would you to say to John/Joan Q Public who might say “Mr. Manning I do not have a lot of money but everything you’ve said sounds good to me. I want to jump aboard and support you?”
SM: I’d invite them to go to www.msefoundation.org and click on one of many “Donation” buttons and give as little as $10 per month. The beauty of the non-profit is that for your donation you’ll receive a 100% tax deduction. In addition, it allows the community to come together to make the Organization a success. If 10,000 people gave $10/mo to the Foundation we could make a lot of grants and support many quality LGBT film. We’d have a successful organization supported by the community.
MILLENNIA SCOPE ENTERTAINMENT FOUNDATION, INC.
Mission: To Transform Homophobia using Television, Film, and Media
How: The will provide Arts and Entertainment Grants to Producers, Directors, and Writers of quality, positive, and non-stereotypical LGBT Television, Film, Video, and Media.
Join your community and donate at least $10/month to MSE Foundation.
You’ll have the satisfaction of supporting an amazing cause
Receive a 100% tax deduction
Mention in our periodic news letter
Depending on contribution, VIP access to all events
THANK YOU FOR BELIEVING IN THE DREAM!