Florida / Michigan and the Popular Mind

As I contemplate my move to Michigan State University, my approach to scholarship and teaching will remain shaped by the work done at Rollins College.  It struck me that I'm moving from one peninsula to another with this move. I'm moving from a state and city that helped to define the Sunbelt transformation to region that defines the Rustbelt loss and hoped for renewed promise.  It crazy to revisit this conversation from 2012.

Looking for Intersections

I work at the intersection of the real and imagined. For me (and countless others), there is a powerful link between imaginary narrative and the real world. At once guideposts and consequences creative endeavors synthesize broad trends sometime and/or represent tipping points where old and new ideas battle.  I'm always on the lookout for media that capture intersectionality around creativity and culture.  I came across this documentary as I was thinking examples diaspora linked to the black experience.  How many of you knew about the impact of African drumming tradition on 1960s and 1970s rock?  On reflection, yeah of course this make sense. It isn't the focus on this documentary, but nature of causal cultural exchange between Ginger Baker and African rhythm tradition is thought provoking for me. I might use as a jumping off point or not. Regardless, it is a fascinating documentary worth your time. A link is below the image.


Black Vision / Black Fandom: Comics and Agency

In the summer of 2014 a trailer for Storms of Carnage, a viral fan film starring the Black Panther, generated considerable excitement. In August 2015, a new installment appeared online to great excitement. I had a chance to talk with D.A. Jackson, the director and star of Storms of Carnage about his film. While a fan film, Jackson’s effort and the fan reaction to it foreshadowed the Black Panther’s potential in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and highlight how black fandom continues to pursue a space for themselves in popular culture.

Your fan film based on the Black Panther used martial artists and you choreographed the fights. Tell me about your training as a marital artist.

I’ve been practicing the martial arts for most of my life. I started with Judo, and have since trained in Aikido, Isshin-ryu Karate, Capoeria, and Taijitsu. The bulk of my training however, is in the Chinese martial arts where I’ve focused primarily on the Shaolin systems, Choy Li Fut, and Chen style Taiji Chu’an. The awesome thing about kung Fu is its versatility. That comes in handy when choreographing action scenes.

You have a marital arts school; can you describe your teaching philosophy?

My school is called the Whirling Tiger Kung Fu Studio. Our philosophy in a nutshell is to neutralize the threat. The eloquent part of this is that it encompasses everything from verbal deterrents, to disarms, to taking your opponent out. It also places the practitioner in the position of effectively assessing and alleviating different levels of danger. In other words, sometimes the most effective thing to do is walk away, but other times you may need to make a physical statement. Kung Fu teaches both alternatives as equally viable techniques.

This is not your first film. What else have you done? Are all your films inspired by comic book themes? If not, what other kinds of stories have you told?

I began my career in the entertainment industry as a stuntman then later got called to act and direct, but it wasn’t until about 2006 that I made any kind of significant break through. With the film Prodigal I, all of a sudden became an award-winning director in addition to receiving a “Breakout Action Star” award at the Action On Film International Film Festival. From there, I continued to direct commercials, television shows, and music videos. As far as my stories go, due to my comic illustration background, I tend to think very comic-inspired. The comic book medium heavily influences the way I direct and edit film. I really like the idea of transcendent archetypes that overcome the limitations of their situations to reveal their inner strength. Comics do it all the time, and that became a theme in my storytelling as well.

There is a lot of intersection between fans of martial arts and geek culture. As someone at the forefront of that convergence, what do you think entertainment producers need to do keep the momentum going around geek culture in the mainstream?

In order to keep this momentum, I think we just need to stay innovative. Show the world that our stories have depth and a visceral quality that’s hard to find anywhere else. If we embrace this and take it to the hilt, our influence is undeniable. Just look at the Dark Knight trilogy, the Avengers, or the recent success of Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s such rich character development and hundreds of story lines to draw from, yet thematically those films took totally different approaches. It is in these varied approaches that we can shine the brightest.

Any other comic book characters you would like to tackle?

Well, right now I’m really vibing with the Black Panther, so I’m sticking to him for a little while. In the future, we’re thinking of maybe doing a treatment of Storm or possibly the world of the Last Airbender. Both would be pretty fun.