Beyond Englewood, A Conversation with filmmaker William L. Cochran

Pride On Film: The Black Harvest Film Fest Part 5 of 8

Photos Courtesy of Forever Foreign Films

“Englewood (Growing Pains In Chicago)” is a modern day “Boyz N The Hood” -like tale that examines the lives of three young men, united by the desire to survive their senior year, but divided by their ways of life. William L. Cochran, the film’s director, stars as Dennis the main character whose erratic behavior conceals a talented hidden artist. Cochran made “Englewood” to give an insider’s view of the violence, peer pressure, dysfunction and occasional triumphs that one encounters with life in the inner city.

Cochran is a Chicago native who grew up on some of the same mean streets where “Englewood” was filmed. The next generation filmmaker got his start acting in local plays and short films yet yearnings to go further in the entertainment industry lead him to start Forever Foreign Films LLC, an independent studio whose “goal is to produce films that will entertain, educate, surprise and refresh the spirit.” “Englewood,” won the Ave Montague Award at the 2012 San Francisco Black Film Festival; it plays at the 18th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival on Friday August 17 at 8:30 PM and Thursday August 23 at 8:15PM. Cochran talked to about his venture into the entertainment industry, his on screen persona, and life lessons that made him rise beyond Englewood.

PRIDEINDEX (PI): Tell us about your background, when and where did you attend school for acting and filmmaking?

WILLIAM L. COCHRAN (WLC): In high school I took a course in Radio and Television Production then several years later I attended Act One Studios, a school for the performing arts.  I used the acting techniques I learned to direct other actors in my films.

PI: When did you know that you were going to be in the entertainment industry?

WLC: I realized that I would be in the entertainment industry after I had a self-evaluation after losing several jobs. I thought about where I saw myself in the next ten years, what type of person I was and which lead me to think about what part of my life remained consistent, besides losing jobs. All I could think of at the time was that I was good at entertaining friends and family. I was good at telling stories or making them laugh.

PI: Name some of your film making mentors and influences.

WLC: There are actors that influence me, but as far as filmmakers I can’t say I have any influences on an artistic level. But if we’re speaking on filmmakers who relentlessly strive for their goals and never gave up on themselves no matter what obstacles they face, I would have to say Tyler Perry. If you stop believing in yourself for whatever reason, subconsciously you’ve doubted yourself the whole time.

PI: Why did you make “Englewood?“

WLC: I made “Englewood” because I wanted to give a voice to the people of this community and others like it. Some people have no idea what really goes on in the day to day lives of people in Englewood, all they know is the news media’s perception of it, I wanted to enlighten audiences all over giving  them an inside view.

PI: “Englewood” has been described as a modern day “Boyz N The Hood.” How would you address push back from critics who charge that movies like yours do more harm than good because they romanticize poverty and glorify violence?

WLC. For anyone who actually watches my film in its entirety will understand that it does just the opposite. My film does have its gritty moments where it most certainly could fit in the “Boyz N The Hood” genre, but what it does that most films haven’t in the past, is that it focuses more on the home lives of each of the characters and hardly focuses on the poverty and violence aspects of urban areas such as Englewood, at all. This film portrays the psychological affect the home life has on children living in urban areas in today’s society.

PI: What steps did you take to ensure that “Englewood” did not romanticize poverty and glorify violence?

WLC: I made sure as I was writing the script that I stayed focused on each character’s home life. I felt that if I built their home lives thick enough, the audience would feel like that fly on the wall in the midst of these families’ most private moments. It makes no sense to showcase poverty and violence when you have media outlets showcasing it every day, 24hrs a day.

PI: Have any of your old classmates and/or friends seen “Englewood”If so what did they say about it?
WLC: Very few of my friends saw the film but for those that did they were blown away, not only by how the story line was very intriguing and relatable, but also by the production quality of the film as well. I’m not sure about any old class mates’ reactions.

PI: Tell us more about your character in this film; is his experience similar to your own life’s story? If so how? If not, how are your stories different?

WLC: No. The character I play in the film is actually the opposite of who I am. My character looks at the world as if he has no value and he has no hope for his future. In life I know there are endless possibilities as long as I keep applying myself and staying focused on my goals.

PI: What have you learned about yourself as a result of making  this film?

WLC: I learned that hard work, dedication & faith do pay off. I learned that I was more talented than I gave myself credit for and lastly I learned what it is that I’m supposed to do for the rest of my life, entertain people.

PI: You are the director and you have a starring role in this film. How does one direct oneself in the same movie and yet maintainobjectivity?

WLC: While writing the script I envisioned the character I played to be the stereotypical ideal of a young black man. It was easy for me to direct “Englewood” while simultaneously playing my character because my character exudes characteristics of guys I knew growing up.

PI: Briefly tell us one specific life lesson you’ve learned while growing up in Englewood.

WLC: If everyone around you is hungry, how do you eat or learn how to eat? Living on the south side of Chicago I learned how to eat. Having to struggle with poverty and violence where I grew up forced me to search myself and find so much unforeseen talent to change my circumstances.

PI: What’s next for you professionally?

WLC: I’m all about the story that “Englewood (The Growing Pains in Chicago)” tells and I feel there’s more of that story to be told. So I will be creating a 10-12 episode series of “Englewood” based on how the story ended in the film. So for anyone who just tries to catch the series, you have to watch the film to know what’s going on. As of now and the next couple weeks I’m working on promoting the screenings of “Englewood (The Growing Pains in Chicago).” Go to for information on future screenings and for updates on the progression of the film.