Stories produced by St. Peter's Journalism Students
By: RJ Meliscat 04/11/2016
Show business is a difficult industry to get into especially if you are a African-American. Despite this fact, Kwyn Bader is determined to break those barriers. That determination got its grass-roots from his tight knit family in D.C.
“Family was very important. I grew up in a mixed race family and my parents got married the same week Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King got killed. To me [my parents] were heroes, because they still went ahead and got married with everything happening around them,” said Bader.
The film industry wasn’t the first choice for the Columbia University graduate who originally wanted to work a traditional job.
“I always knew law school wasn’t quite right for me. All my friends were musicians, and I always loved to write, and New York had an independent film scene going on with Spike Lee and Coen brothers making big names for themselves and I saw there might be a way in and so I ran with it,”said Bader.
With this new-found knowledge, he set his sights on the film industry.
“My first job in the industry was working for a documentary film maker who lived on 117th and 7th in Harlem who won an Emmy for ‘Eyes on the Prize’ on Malcolm X. He hired me because I could write and I helped him with the research on the projects he was working on. Later on I was put on the production team.”
Like many filmmakers entering the tight-knit Hollywood scene, Bader was met with a lot of no’s. Bader would fly out to Los Angeles and meet with two or three new producers a day, but had no luck with getting his projects off the ground.
“They would tell me ‘we really like you but we don’t want to do that kind of project right now,’” said Bader.
The rejections did not stop Bader from pursuing his dream. It only pushed him to be and do better.
“I was hungry so I worked anywhere that would hire me. I worked on music videos, I was an assistant director and finally I able to write a documentary on the Tuskegee Airmen which got put on television,” said Bader.
This was Bader’s big break. The Tuskegee Airmen debuted in January 13, 1999 on the American Heroes television network. It was directed and produced by Richard Borenstein and voiced by legendary actor Ossie Davis.
His next break was a feature film called Loving Jezebel that he both wrote and directed. The film had some big name stars like Phylicia Rashad, Nicole Ari Parker, and Hill Harper.
Today Bader is writing a documentary on the controversial movie “Birth of a Nation.”
“The documentary is about a newspaper man named William Monroe Trotter who protested “Birth of a Nation” in Boston,” said Bader.
With Hollywood in the hot seat for its limited amount of minorities in film, a documentary addressing this issue gives it relevance. According to a study done by USC Annenberg between 2011 and 2014, of the top 700 films made only 5.8% were directed by black directors.
“Looking back on everything that’s happening today it was a perfect time to release a documentary on ‘Birth of a Nation’. When doing the research and watching everything going on in the country today, you see racial issues everywhere,” said Bader.
With all the controversy relating to the Donald Trump presidential campaign rallies, the tension amongst people is running high, and people seem to be getting more violent. The black community has felt the blunt force of this rise in racial tension with police shootings of unarmed black men, and violently mistreatment of black protesters. There was also the mass shooting at a Black church in South Carolina.
“Just look at the terrible murder that happens in the church in South Carolina. The place Dylann Roof went to before he killed those people was the same place that the person who wrote the book ‘Birth of a Nation’ was based on was from,” said Bader.
The USC study also revealed films do not reflect the country’s diverse population. According to this study, 14 percent of films have black characters and 17 percent of that 14 percent don’t even have speaking roles.
“I love Rocky but it had a lot of racial undertone that no one talks about . It was kind of mocking Muhammad Ali in away with this white fighter taking back the championship belt from a proud and loud black fighter. That why I like ‘Creed’ so much because it was a new take on the story and made it modern,” said Bader.
Most writers and directors make films to say a message, and when that message is received by multiple people it can be a powerful medium for change or regression.
“The main message I want people to get from this documentary is to pay attention. People can rewrite history if they have enough force or money or even popularity behind them,”said Bader.