Pride On Film: A Man Of Vision, An Interview with filmmaker Lamont Pierre

Indie filmmaker Lamont Pierre’s passion for movie making began while attending Florida State University where he majored in English-Creative Writing and Political Science. Recognizing the lack of programming produced for college-aged students he created “My Brother’s Keeper,” a series that follows the relationships of two brothers and a diverse group of friends from multiple cities. Pierre went on to produce “Dreaming In Color” (2008); “Where the Streets Have No Names” (2009); “Plateus” (2010); “Tequila Sunrise”(2010) and “Talking With The Taxman About Poetry” (2011). In the Fall of 2008 he assisted Producer/Director Lee Daniels on the Oscar-nominated film “Precious.” He talked to PrideIndex about his experiences and more.

PRIDEINDEX: You wrote your first feature screenplay “Victim” at the age of 19, did you always know that you were going to be a filmmaker?

LAMONT PIERRE: I didn’t know I would always be a filmmaker. I was always gifted when it came to writing and anything creative, really. I was an avid reader — my Dad really helped nurture that in me. When I was in high school I began flirting with photography and at some point my love of images combined with the written word made me feel that films were the best way for me to express myself. I went to college knowing that I wanted to be a strong storyteller and filmmaker; the journey began from there.

PI: How would you describe your artistic style?
LP: My style is honest. That’s where I work from as a writer and as a director who’s job is to direct actors. There is a great deal of freedom in honesty that — honestly — you can’t relate to unless you have it for or within yourself. Not being afraid of someone’s truth or my truth no matter how it hurts me or other people. My approach with my actors is so organic. We don’t play the characters – we always work hard to be — and it’s a constant but welcome challenge. As a writer, I have to be. And I’m addicted to the notion of freedom and to the idea of showing people that you can still have it, even when you think you really can’t. I think that’s a running theme in my work.

PI: If you were not a filmmaker what would you be?

LP: If I wasn’t a filmmaker, I think my mission would still be the same. It would probably translate into more of an activist role. I’d have a career in politics and/or journalism and probably with the same ideas and passions and an extreme desire to use my voice for something worthwhile.

PI: I understand that you’ve worked alongside director and producer Lee Daniels on the Oscar nominated film “Precious” what was that like?

LP: My experience was life-changing. It confirmed what I wanted my career in film to look like and what I didn’t want it to look like. I am grateful for Mr. Daniels for giving me the opportunity to take a glimpse into his world. My time in NYC was unparalleled. The most important take away from that experience was the affirmation that I was already on the right path independently, at the head of my own ship, so to speak. And that career-wise, I was right where I was supposed to be — because it’s so easy to get swayed, often, about where we’re going or even if we’re going in the right direction. I found that I was right on the map.

PI: If you have the opportunity to work with only one director who would it be and why?

LP: No one in particular, at least not anymore. When I was younger, I swore by Spike Lee and Lee Daniels and a host of others. However, once I met both Mr. Lee and worked for Mr. Daniels, I kind of came down to earth and realized I wasn’t much different from them. I discovered that all of the admiration and respect that I had for all of these creative people didn’t negate the fact that I desperately needed to work on and define my identity as an artist and not seek to be influenced by anyone else — if I actually wanted to be seen as an artist. So, while I welcome collaborations, I am most excited to see the journey that I take myself on — which takes us back to the idea of freedom within identity. It’s exhilarating.

PI: Let’s talk about the series, ”My Brother’s Keeper,” why did you choose to make it in LA, NYC, Atlanta, and Miami?

LP: The honest answer is that my cast of actors spread out to these cities after graduating college and after filming of Season 2 ended. I knew that I wanted to keep working with these people — my creative family — so I needed to come up with a creative way to re-launch the project with the same team in a way that would add to the story and not take away from it. Now that we’ve begun, it’s exciting. I think we are the first web or indie series to shoot in four cities. Not to mention that we are one of the first indie Black drama series ever, having begun production in 2005 before web series was the genre it is now.

PI: What do you want audiences to take away from, ”My Brother’s Keeper?”
LP: Well, MBK has grown from a socially conscious college-centered drama series about the lives of mostly African American characters. Now, our focus is following the same characters try to make a life for themselves within the current social, political and economic climate of today. We’ve always hoped for people to make a connection to the characters and the situations that they experience, but this season, Season 3, we are also showing how young people can improve and ultimately transcend their conditions. We do this through telling honest stories — back to that — and also using our series as a mouthpiece for the various resources, information and support that are out there that young people may not know how to find. Since they know how to find their way to the TV or to YouTube, well, that’s where you’ll find us.

PI: I saw the trailers for “Talking with the Taxman about Poetry,” when and where did you find the inspiration for it?

LP: ‘Taxman’ was inspired by the first time I realized I was in love and how traumatic it was for me. It sounds funny, but that’s really what it was. The emotional weight of the circumstances – the how’s and the whys — took a toll on me that I couldn’t see until I was already too far gone psychologically. I was under a great deal of mental anguish which apparently led me to writing my thoughts — as I went through it — in the form of poetry. I merged the poetry with the struggle of a character that I had in mind — one that we haven’t really seen portrayed in Black cinema (Black, gay, intelligent and angry as hell) — and ‘Talking with the Taxman about Poetry’ was born. It is homage to classic literature, poetry and the tortured artist in general.

PI: When will it come to theaters?

LP: ‘Taxman’ is still in post-production. It will begin a year-long film festival tour at the top of 2012 and hopefully will be in theatres by the end of the year.

PI: What advice would you offer aspiring filmmakers?

LP: STUDY AND PERFECT YOUR CRAFT. Don’t write if you suck at writing. Just don’t. I feel like being a filmmaker is the “cool” profession now. I’m ten years in, and now everybody wants to make a movie. And technology nowadays means that everyone can make a movie. But, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. It’s a craft; there are nuances that you must respect. And I really have low tolerance for people who do not take the time to treat it as the art form that it is or the powerful and influential medium it has come to be.

PI: Why do you believe it’s important for indie filmmakers to continue to make films and tell their own stories even though the movie making business is political and competitive and the odds of gaining fame and fortune are slim?

LP: I have always believed that the streets set the trends. All Hollywood does is capitalize on things. They don’t take risks; they have no calling to be responsible with the images they put their dollars into. Since they lack that responsibility from inside, somebody outside has to “keep hope alive” so to speak. I am so elated and proud to hear about independent films like Pariah, I will Follow and Brother to Brother who give the industry competition and at least attempts to hold them to some sort of artistic and social accountability. Indie filmmakers will be what save this industry from itself so it is mandatory that they continue to tell their stories and push to get them seen — by any means necessary. And we can’t, as indie filmmakers, get so caught up on the fame and fortune aspects of what we do. I always feel like, while at least one of those concepts is important, we have to look at the bigger picture — the one that doesn’t involve just us and our teams — but what about the little boy who’s at home watching your film — what message are you sending him? What affirmations, if any? What if your message is the one that gets through? Artists of the past didn’t do it for the money. James Baldwin died without a lot of money — but look at the gifts he left to the world.

PI: Is there anything more you would like to share with us?

LP: Thank you for noticing my work!