I live in one of the most talented towns in Florida, a community of skilled lyricists, dancers, hair stylists, chefs and poets. Artists and creators who love to give back to their communities in more ways than one. A group of art-creatures who naturally ooze passion from every pore and follicle.
On February 23, something big happened in Daytona Beach. “Salt Life,” an independently produced full-length film, premiered at the Cobb Theaters. The premiere itself reminded me of the classic days in which the entire community would show up for the latest “Madea” or John Witherspoon movie.
But unlike those Hollywood blockbusters, this film premiere was extremely unique. Equipped with a beautiful red carpet and a photo session made for stars, this small movie premiere became a beacon of hope for creators and visionaries here in my city.
This was a story for our community, by our community. Never have I seen a local theater allow a young Black filmmaker to debut a project of this magnitude without any ‘industrial’ support. A film that would only be played on “BET Late Night” or out of a Redbox kiosk was displayed in all of its glory at one of our city’s hottest movie theaters.
As a lover and collector of classic cinema and Black films, I was curious as to how a Daytona Beach native was able to cohesively transform a story of love, betrayal, and street life into a beautifully written, produced and directed independent masterpiece. John B McCoy, or “Juan Pablo Hernandez” as his followers know him, never thought his passion – starring himself and hip-hop sensation “Tokyo Jetz” – would manifest into such a phenomenon.
McCoy recalls, “The process took exactly a year for me to voice my idea, put it in writing, putting it in motion and then the finished product. Finding the cast was easy; the majority are people I’m very close to sister, brother, etc.”
Pablo’s already developing a sequel to premiere next summer and revealed he wouldn’t mind recreating “Harlem Nights” with a 2019 updated twist. With an independently produced promotional strategy including DVD sales, multiple screenings, and an exclusive director’s cut viewing party being held May 10 at the Lion’s Den Hookah Cafe, “Salt Life” is a reminder that in Daytona Beach, we have emerging and rising talents that are ready to compete with today’s leading stars.
Say goodbye to the days of developing a talent, finding a manager and then signing a record deal. The days of paying for play on radios and clubs are over. With the Internet and streaming now omnipresent, we have a say in the media and content we allow into our homes and headphones.
Streaming companies like Apple Music, Netflix, and Pandora allow consumers to see ourselves the way we want to be portrayed. A new era of promotion and marketing has arrived. If you want to break out of the mold, think outside the box and take your mind places it’s never been.
Art is subjective
It is the unapologetic expression of a creative and brilliant psyche. It’s meant to provoke, to cause conversations, and to properly tell a person’s story. As a creator and an artist, it is your main priority to continue to grow, expand and elevate your artistic output. Constantly perfecting your craft, continuously citing new inspirations and using every ounce of power, you must push the medium forward.
Whether you’re a musician, actor, photographer, choreographer, or a filmmaker like my friend Juan Pablo, you must innovate and think of new avenues to expose your talent to the world.
Said Malcolm X: “There is nothing better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.”
Rell Black is an award-winning activist, blogger and the founder of Community Healing Project Inc.