VOLUME FOUR ISSUE TWO
SUMMER 2016 ISSUE
KiaraC. Jones BE FEARLESS!
Cultivating Award Winning Stories
Tiffany Geigel The Dancing Queen Rayan Lawrence Making Acting His Life
Goings On STEPS Movie Premiere Jorge F. Lopes Is Our Actor Shining Bright COVER PHOTOGRAPHY: RASHID ZAKAT
FROM THE EDITOR
VOLUME FOUR ISSUE TWO
STAR DAVIS CREATIVE
Your thoughts affect your emotions. Your emotions affect your decisions. Your decisions affect your life.
So be sure to think positive thoughts.
If ever you’re in doubt about your talents and abilities, always remember UCAN! do whatever you set your mind to. HAPPY SUMMER! #ByArtistsForEveryone Twitter: @UCANMagazine Website: www.UCANMagazine.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UCANMagazine
COURTNEY LEE CORDERO EDITORS
MORGAN ELIASON MELISSA GOLDSTEIN ARLEY SEAMUS MILES MAKER EDITORIAL
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UCAN! MAGAZINE IS PUBLISHED SIX TIMES ANNUALLY IN ENGLISH. UCAN! IS REGISTERED AS AN INTERNATIONAL TRADEMARK. COPYRIGHT © 2015 BY PINDARA STUDIOS LLC. COPYRIGHT UNDER UIVERSAL COPYRIGHT CONVENTION. FRONT COVER AND ENTIRE MAGAZINE DESIGN COPYRIGHT @ 2015 BY PEARSON DESIGNS, BROOKLYN NY, USA. REPRODUCTION OF ANY PARTS OF THIS PUBLICATION REQUIRES EXPRESS WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE PUBLISHER. UCAN! ACCEPTS NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPTS, PHOTOGRAPHY OR ARTWORK.
Recently the TLC show TWO IN A MILLION featured our friend, Tiffany Geigel, a young woman who we on the UCAN! team already have the pleasure of knowing. Besides being beautiful, Tiffany is smart, funny, and one heck of a dancer! TWO IN A MILLION brings people together who suffer from rare medical conditions. Tiffany was chosen for this show because she too lives this life. Even with a loving family, and her gift of dance, she must forge ahead every day and keep her head up. “It’s a hard life. It’s not easy,” Tiffany tearfully tells one of the show’s producers. “The worst thing is the constant ridicule, being made fun of and laughed at.” Tiffany was born with the rare genetic disorder Jarcho-Levin syndrome. People with JLS have distinctive malformations of the spine and ribs. Their organs are constricted in too small a space which often causes stress on the respiratory system. Other characteristics are long limbs, limited neck mobility and short stature. And then there is the chronic pain. “Sometimes I want to rip my body apart because nothing helps to make it feel better,” Tiffany says very plainly, as if she’s describing something normal like brushing her teeth. Even with the continual pain, and a heart that beats much faster than the average rate, Tiffany has always confronted the odds with which she was born. She attended Rita Hamilton School of Dance in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She then went to Dance Universal in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where she continued to study with Julie Ann Miranda. She then went to Hunter College to study dance. She has since become a ballet teacher at Dance Universal. Tiffany now works full time and also dances with two dance companies, Heidi Latsky Dance and Marked Dance Project. She is also a stage manager, a model, and an aspiring actress. Those of us who know Tiffany personally always knew she could dance. She’d been dancing since she was a little girl. In 2009 the whole world got to see her gift when she appeared on the TV show SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE. Tiffany came across the auditions for the show a week before they came to New York. She decided to audition because they were being held right in her hometown of Brooklyn, NY. She went there with no idea of what the process entailed. There are different rounds and other judges she had to impress long before viewers get to see her on television. Tiffany passed each
round and was finally given the “golden ticket” which meant she advanced to the round for serious contestants. As it turned out, that next round was when they filmed with Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy as well as other judges who are well known and respected in the dance world. “I was then called out by the production crew and told that Cat Deeley wanted interview me on camera. I agreed and was able to have a one-on-one interview with her. After some months I received a phone call from the show that they wanted to feature my story, and they asked for some more photos of me. That’s how I had a feature on SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE.” When we asked Tiffany what makes her happiest as an artist she said she enjoys seeing the finished product in full. “Seeing my students progress and learn dance technique is such an amazing feeling, to know you helped them to become amazing dancers. Seeing your dance vision come to life onstage is wonderful, feels like the puzzle is finally complete. Calling a perfect show when I’m stage managing is the best feeling in the world. To know that the entire show ran successful because of me...there’s just no other feeling like it.” Tiffany has mentioned wanting to start a family of her own. But she’s not sitting around twiddling her thumbs until that happens. “I would like to start a family one day but first my main goals are to become successful in the modeling industry and help to break the barriers of what is defined as ‘beauty.’ I also have plans to move down to Florida,” she tells us. Right now Tiffany is working on a modeling project that should come out either the end of this year or the beginning of 2017. She is looking forward to that and to the big reveal. “I honestly just go after what I want in life and I don’t let anything stop me,” Tiffany concludes. She believes there is always a way to get to where you want to go, that you just have to push through the obstacles to make sure you get to your destination. She repeatedly demonstrates that positive attitude as her life’s motto.
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After leaving Brooklyn for Hollywood with big ambitions and a small life savings, actor Rayan Lawrence is repped and ready. Having recently appeared in BARBERSHOP 3, Lawrence will star as Treach, the lead rapper of the Hip Hop group Naughty by Nature in the new Tupac movie ALL EYEZ ON ME to be released this fall. MAKER What’s happening in your life right now and what’s important to you? RAYAN I kind of feel like I’m almost at that next level in my career. My dating life… you know… [laughs] That’s a little difficult,
but at this time in my life, I’m ready to take that next step forward in a relationship.
MAKER Both ambitions can serve each other in a symbiotic way, being interdependent with each other, or they can be
parasitic—meaning one may benefit and even harm the other.
RAYAN I think they can both go well at the same time. I’m mature for that now. MAKER Being that relationships happen when they do, how much personal control or influence do you feel you have over
your career? Before II had had to to sit sit back back and and wait wait like, like, ‘Man. ‘Man. When When are are these these auditions auditions gonna gonna come?’ come?’ But But now, now, II see see who’s who’s involved, involved, RAYAN Before and instead of just leaving it up to my agent, I use social media to reach out, which is huge now. I try to reach out to the and instead of just leaving it up to my agent, I use social media to reach out, which is huge now. I try to reach out to the direcdirector tor and and reach reach out out to to the the producer. producer. That’s That’s to to make make sure sure they they see see the the tape. tape. Social Social media media helps helps in in my my career career whether whether II want want to to get get an an audition audition or or get get seen seen or or whether whether II book book the the job. job. MAKER And now that you have some momentum? RAYAN Now NowI’m I’min inaabetter betterposition position to to book book the the role role because because II can can get get seen seen easier. easier. And And with with these these credits, credits, II can can say, say, ‘This ‘This is is
when II want want to to come come in. in. I’m I’m available available at at this this time.’ time.’ when
MAKER Yes and I hear you’re on hold for another role on a high profile project. Is there a downside to the actor’s process
of preparing for an audition on short notice, learning to personify the character, performing the audition fully committed to that role—then the ‘hurry up and wait’ afterwards? There’s aa downside downside in in that that ifif II keep keep waiting, waiting, II may may not not enjoy enjoy my my personal personal life. life. I’m I’m Jamaican Jamaican and and Trinidadian, Trinidadian, so so aa couRAYAN There’s couple of weeks ago I was headed on a beach road trip weekend to a Caribbean festival, and before that, I hadn’t had an ple of weeks ago I was headed on a beach road trip weekend to a Caribbean festival, and before that, I hadn’t had an audition audition for for aa week. week. But But that that Friday, Friday, on on my my way way on on this this trip, trip, II get get three three auditions—and auditions—and I’m I’m like, like, ‘You ‘You gotta gotta be be kidding kidding me!’ me!’ [laughs] [laughs] II had had to put one audition on tape by that Sunday and the other two were in-person auditions on Monday, so my whole weekend to put one audition on tape by that Sunday and the other two were in-person auditions on Monday, so my whole weekend was was shot. shot. So So the the downside downside is is you you always always have have to to be be waiting waiting for for that that call. call.
MAKER It’s called ‘hurry up and wait’ because when they need you, you better be there quick—but after you deliver, and
their sense of urgency passes, you’re waiting around for them until you become their priority again.
RAYAN Sometimes Sometimes I’m I’m so so close close to to booking booking aa role, role, and and then then II don’t don’t even even get get aa call call to to say, say, ‘Hey, ‘Hey, you you didn’t didn’t get get it.’ it.’ MAKER So you’re waiting who knows how long for a decision that has already been made—you just haven’t been in-
formed about it. RAYAN There There was was aa TV TV show show II got got penned-in penned-in for, for, and and an an e-mail e-mail had had me me as as the the front-runner front-runner for for the the role. role. It It said, said, ‘Traveling ‘Traveling to to Toronto at the end of the week…’ But then the week passes, so I guess I didn’t get it. [laughs] Toronto at the end of the week…’ But then the week passes, so I guess I didn’t get it. [laughs]
MAKER Is there a certain investment in the character you have to let go of, just so you can focus and move on to the next
thing, even though you’re not sure if you’re going to need to recall it again?
RAYAN This past year I’ve auditioned so much. It was a crazy amount of auditions. When I have more auditions it’s easier to
move on to the next project. You wanna get that callback, but you have other auditions to worry about and prepare for. When it’s the initial audition, it’s fine. But when it’s the final part of the process like the screen test or the producer session I think about those a lot more because I know I’m that close to getting the role. MAKER What are you grateful for? RAYAN I’m grateful to have my family support. I haven’t had any tragedies like losing a close friend or family member. So I’m
grateful to still have everybody there. They help guide me and keep me going. MAKER Is your whole family on the east coast?
RAYAN Everybody’s on the east coast. I’ve been in Los Angeles by myself for eight years. MAKER Have you tapped into the Caribbean community here? RAYAN Oh yes. [smiles] I’m huge when it comes to Dancehall Reggae. I try to do that on Sunday nights. That’s my time to
dance and detox from the week and just leave everything else behind. I’m actually working on a Caribbean script, so I’m doing research and getting my dance on at the same time.
MAKER I’ll have to remember that when my wife complains about me smoking too much—I’ll tell her I’m researching for
a movie about cannibus. [laughter]
Miles Maker is a writer, photographer, independent filmmaker and experiential journalist. His provocative series of humanizing interviews with everyday people of every color and shade and aspect of character is COMING SOON @huepeeple
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C O V E R
F E A T U R E
JONES PROVIN G THE NAYSAYERS WRON G B
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It is a fact that women have to work much harder than their male counterparts to maybe get the same credit. The US presidential race painfully exemplifies that double standard. The woman candidate gets criticized for her voice, her style of dress, her hairstyle, her laugh. She’s been called too emotional and not emotional enough…all of this even with her being a Yale School of Law graduate and a former Secretary of State. However, her opponent from the other party has offended literally every demographic. He speaks with a sixth grade vocabulary, has referenced the size of his genitalia during a televised debate, and is endorsed by hate groups. Yet his party’s voters have chosen him in grand fashion. In show business (of which he is also a part) that double standard is even more blatant. It is also a fact that many obstacles were systematically put in place to financially hinder African Americans. The passing of time has only made those barriers more intricate and stealth, but they still exist. Again the entertainment world acts like a magnifier as its playing field is even more unlevel for blacks than the outside world it portrays. I had the pleasure of meeting up with Kiara C. Jones. She is an African American filmmaker, and she’s determined to change the game. We talked while walking through the vast greenness of the NY Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. To say this woman is a force may be the understatement of the day. She is a graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, the second highest ranked film school in the country. The rigorous schooling, in addition to life’s experiences, has made her brilliant. She is a quintuple threat who can singlehandedly create amazing films from script to screen. She has dedicated herself to the art of storytelling, particularly from the African American perspective. “I genuinely believe we have so many untold stories that deserve to be told, and film is the most powerful way to tell those stories,” Ms. Jones tells me.
TOP LEFT: KIARA C. JONES WITH SPIKE LEE WHO ADVISED HER ON THE FILMING OF CHRISTMAS WEDDING BABY. TOP RIGHT: WITH ACTRESS LISA ARRINDELL. BOTTOM LEFT: ON LOCATION IN FLORIDA GIVING DIRECTION TO ACTORS SAWANDI WILSON AND KIMBERLEY DRUMMOND AS CREW MEMBERS LOOK ON. BOTTOM RIGHT: ON SET WITH ACTORS SAWANDI WILSON AND KIMBERLEY DRUMMOND AND DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY LEONARDO D’ANTONI. OPPOSITE PAGE: CULTIVATED FILMS’ COMPANY LOGO.
Her senior thesis film, CHRISTMAS WEDDING BABY, has hit the indie world like lightening. The film, her first feature length as a Director, tells the story of three sisters who each have their own life challenges. The baby is days away from getting married when her first love re-enters her life as the photographer for her pre-wedding shoot. The middle sister has a fast rising career and two beautiful children with a man who fears marriage and having a regular 9-5 job. The oldest sister is very successful and very pregnant. She faces a future of raising her child alone. Their mother is beautiful with lots of flair but is emotionally self centered, right down to wearing a white lace dress to her baby girl’s wedding. ”I love film because you get so many textures and layers. You get performance. You get words. You get music. You get visuals. You get to add every possible ingredient to the pot to deliver the story to an audience,” Ms. Jones continues with real excitement in her voice. The journey of getting CHRISTMAS WEDDING BABY made had its own share of textures and layers. There was a successful crowd funding campaign that raised $50K. In addition to all the work involved with production, there was also filming on location in Florida and the extra work of organizing travel and lodging for actors, crew members, and equipment. U CAN!
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Ms. Jones wrote, produced, directed, edited, and distributed CHRISTMAS WEDDING BABY herself. It was such a good film that BET picked it up. That was a real victory considering no company would distribute it. “This is the problem when studios don’t buy our films for theatrical release. They tell you things like, ‘Oh you need to have name actors…. It’s risky…. This is your first film….’ They love to say they weren’t connecting with the material,” says Ms. Jones. She immediately knew that double standard was in play when she’d see white films on major networks that didn’t have name actors and/or were made by first time directors. Some distributors even believed it was problematic that Ms. Jones did multiple jobs on her film. Instead of recognizing her dedication and virtuosity, they translated it as Ms. Jones being scattered and difficult to work with. Collaborations with Spike Lee and other professors at NYU were somehow overlooked. Even so, Ms. Jones didn’t let that stop her. She went on and sold her film herself. Besides being shown on BET, CHRISTMAS WEDDING BABY is also available on NETFLIX. Besides the lack of opportunities for wide distribution, there are financial obstacles that black filmmakers and actors have to deal with. Distributors believe that only black owned networks will show these films. However, these networks don’t have the capital that the major networks do. So when you sell a project to them, you’re not getting the competitive licensing fee that pays the actors and the crew members what their work is really worth. “I didn’t get a million dollar licensing fee from BET. If I had, I could have paid the beautiful actresses and the actors who blessed my film with their work. I could have paid Ricky Gordon and Jedi Jones what they were worth. I could have paid myself for the five jobs I did,” Ms. Jones says. Ricky Gordon has worked musically on Spike Lee films, and Jeff Jones aka “The Jedi Master” has worked with everyone from Earth Wind and Fire to Eric Clapton. They were both supportive of Ms. Jones’ film and worked for a lot less than their experience qualifies them to be paid. While they also struggle, this is not something that white filmmakers have to worry about nearly as often. When their films are distributed, they’re paid licensing fees that compensate for the work they do. Actors on these projects get paid. This practice makes it so that even white actors who are mediocre get to keep working and honing their craft. We as audience members can even think of lots of them who were not that good in their earlier films. But they got to work, and they got to work consistently because they could afford to. They were regularly getting paid. “We don’t get to grow our actors in the same way,” Ms. Jones tells me. “We don’t get to grow our Meryl Streeps. We don’t get to grow our Marlon Brandos. It’s not fair. It’s a non sustainable cycle. This is why I don’t sleep at night.” In spite of her many sleepless nights, Kiara Jones’ hard work has reaped domestic and international acclaim. CHRISTMAS WEDDING BABY is the winner of numerous prestigious awards. Some of them are: Directors Guild of America Grand Jury Award for Narrative Storytelling; Best First Feature Grand Jury Award at the Pan African Film Festival-Los Angeles; Best Narrative Feature Audience Award at the BlackStar Film Festival-Philadelphia; and Best Narrative Feature Audience Award at Urban Media Makers-Atlanta. CHRISTMAS WEDDING BABY was also well received by audiences as far away as Hawaii, Canada, and Amsterdam. One aspect unique to African American culture is the lack of documentation about our ancestors’ history. That motivates Ms. Jones to keep going. “We don’t have the privilege of perspective. I say this all the time. This is the difference with us. Like, if we want to talk about the Holocaust we can go through a myriad of books, films, music, stories that have been told about this,” she says. Coincidentally, SCHINDLER’S LIST has recently been having an extended run on one of the premium cable networks. “When we want to talk about what’s in our history, which ranges from Egyptian kings and queens to American slavery, Jim Crow racism, just being cool and black today and being appropriated in every way and not paid for it…. The privilege of perspective is something we deserve to have. So when I tell you my story you begin to understand that the African American experience is not something that can be told from just one direction,” Ms. Jones says, sounding knowledgeable and confident. Her production company, Cultivated Films, is now in preproduction on its second feature length film. BROKER is about an investment banker. It’s a drama, not an ensemble cast, and the lead character is male. BROKER is already off to a positive start. It is one of only three scripts included in the prestigious NYU Purple List for 2016. Already Hollywood producers are telling Ms. Jones that “straying away” from her proven formula of romantic comedy is a drawback. Here we go again….On a brighter note, this is another opportunity for her to prove the naysayers wrong. Success really does have a recipe that’s proven to work-even in the face of opposition and pretense. Kiara Jones has tapped into that formula. She sees a need, which is the need for authentic and accurate storytelling about the African American community. She is gifted at what she does, being able to skillfully complete all facets of making a film from start to finish. Finally with her creative talent and knowledge, she is difficult to replace. U CAN!
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The screening of STEPS was a fabulous event! Having its New York premiere at MIST Harlem, the movie was shown to an overflowing crowd. In fact the screening attracted so many people, the main theater couldn’t even hold them all. The adjoining two theaters, which showed the movie simultaneously, were also filled to capacity. STEPS is a movie that weaves a beautiful story of recovery, redemption, love and forgiveness. Sounds like a mouthful, right? That’s exactly what we thought it would be, long on ambition but maybe a bit short on being able to effectively tell the tale. Eddie Harris wrote the script in just three days! Knowing that made us wonder what the movie was going to be like. “I felt exhausted, but [I] felt like my message was finally flushed out,” he told us. What we got was a narrative so powerful that audience members actually laughed out loud, gasped, and wiped away tears – sometimes all in a matter of minutes. What’s more impressive was that there was not one single curse word or racial epithet. The film’s star, Rob Morgan, is well known and respected throughout the Independent community. His performance as Brian Coleman is full bodied and multi-dimensional. He transforms before our eyes from a hardworking attorney to a homeless alcoholic. The movie gives us a front row seat to watch him triumph over his demons and reclaim his life. The cast, chosen by Penwah Phynjuar, is a talented ensemble of bright stars in the making. Their passion for the work comes through. Tia Dionne Hodge, Walter Fauntleroy, Justin Anthony Kennedy, and Robert McKay are all actors who should be on our radars. Young actors Darius Kaleb, Eden Duncan-Smith and talented brothers Khalil and Qaasim Middleton (the latter who was a finalist on Season 14 of AMERICAN IDOL) all shone in their roles. This movie is a must see. Singles, couples, young and older will all be entertained by this story. “Seeing it on the screen and seeing the audience response let me know I accomplished my goal which was not to create a black and white story. I made a human story,” Eddie Harris says. Indeed he did.
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