By Tammy Reese
Ericka Nicole Malone Entertainment presents the “Indie Directors and Creators Spotlight” in celebration of diversity in filmmaking at the Sundance Film Festival 2023. Featuring a day of education, industry networking and panels, its evening activation will transform into a Neo Soul lounge with the sultry sounds of 3x Grammy Award-nominated R&B/Neo Soul Singer Angie Stone as the headliner.
Panelists include Ericka Nicole Malone (award-winning producer, director, and writer of “Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story”), Tabitha Brown (Emmy-nominated actress), Matty Rich (director of “The Cure”), Craig Ross Jr. (screenwriter/director of AllBlk series “Monogamy,” “Bones,” and “NCIS,”Eduardo Ramirez (acclaimed cinematographer of “Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story”), Wendy Raquel Robinson (NAACP Award-winning actress best known for “The Steve Harvey Show,” and “The Game”), and Vanessa Estelle Williams (NAACP Award-winning actress/producer/director best known Soul Food and New Jack City); Live performances by Sha’leah Keith Robinson, and more.
Please tell us about the “Indie Directors and Creators Spotlight” event during the Sundance Film Festival and what you’re most excited about.
This event is to spotlight up-and-coming creators and people who are veteran actors and actresses. Also, those who are now stepping behind the lens and creating their own projects.
It’s booming in Hollywood, especially in Black Hollywood, and Latin America. Diversity is booming. I really wanted to highlight people of different cultures who are breaking through because there is not really a seat at the table. So I am just inspiring people to create one.
Let’s talk about the guests you have lined up. What can we expect from the live performances and the panels?
I love and admire all of the people who will be attending on such a deep level. Angie Stone is an icon in my life. As well as Tabitha Brown, I’m so proud of her. Wendy Raquel Robinson, she’s just phenomenal behind the scenes and in front of the camera. I’m excited for Vanessa Estelle Williams and Keith Robinson who is such a phenomenal performer, along with Sha’leah Nikole. Also, I’m excited for Craig Ross and Matty Rich, and I’ll be there!
Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story is now playing on Hulu. What did you love most about Mahalia Jackson and what sparked you to tell her story?
A producer friend of mine called me up asking what do I think about writing about Mahalia Jackson. I’m from Louisville, Kentucky and she was such a national figure for us.
I researched for months and found out that she was such a pivotal part of the civil rights movement. Mahalia Jackson is one of the reasons I’m sitting here talking to you. She was such an inspiration to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I tell people a lot that she was the Scottie Pippen to Michael Jordan because she helped to inspire Dr. King a lot.
There was such an age difference between the two of them, but she was definitely his big sister. They had a very sweet relationship. There are so many pictures of them just laughing. Dr. King was known for cracking jokes, and they would be eating chicken and laughing all the time. They would also talk about his dream for unity and peace. I just wanted to recreate those conversations and put that as a scene of what might of happened in those moments and make what I saw in their historical pictures come to life.
I think people are going to really love this film. I was able to talk about the abuse she went through by an aunt played by Janet Hubert, her stress and challenges with the music industry, and with her record executive played by Keith David. I was also able to capture her love for that holy ghost music mixed with jazz and how she was influenced by Cab Calloway and Bessie Smith.
I really love this film and was able to modernize something that was a period piece, but everyone can relate to it. I’m so excited for everyone to see it.
As we recently celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, what would you like to say to aspiring filmmakers who aspire to have freedom, and unity while creating their work?
I was able to connect with an amazing director, Denise Dowse, who passed away a few months ago. She was an amazing director and just had that sense of sisterhood and unity. I would say, find a team that will get behind you. Ledisi played Mahalia Jackson and she was just phenomenal. She was able to cascade that part to so many levels that I wasn’t even expecting.
We had such a vast and rich cast with Keith David, Janet Hubert, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Vanessa Estelle Williams, and Corbin Bleu. I am asking for filmmakers to dig deep, and find a community of people like Melvin ‘Maestro’ Lightford, Paul Wright III, or Eduardo Ramirez Gonzalez who will get behind them.
If you’re a filmmaker, bring the people together who can help the film come to life. My business partner Phillip Robinson and I financed this film ourselves. Since we own a company we were able to do so. We shopped it around Hollywood and said, you know what? Let’s just do it ourselves and that’s the key. Sometimes you need closed doors. You can make a movie on your iPhone. Don’t worry if you don’t have the money. As long as you have the idea and the passion. Dr. King said, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Just believe that if you take the stairs, that everything will open up for you.
About Ericka Nicole Malone:
Ericka Nicole Malone is a producer, director, screenwriter, and playwright building her entertainment brand in Hollywood. Ericka’s latest project, Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story, is a feature film starring Grammy Award winner Ledisi as the iconic Mahalia Jackson and an all-star cast including Columbus Short, Janet Hubert, Keith Robinson, and Corbin Bleu. The film has garnered 22 award wins and nominations during its film festival run, including “Best Narrative Feature Audience Award” Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) and Roxbury Film Festival, “Best Feature Film,” Las Vegas Film Festival and Charlotte Black Film Festival, “Best Diaspora Narrative Feature,” African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) and a nomination for HBO’s Best Feature Film at Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, to name a few. In addition, Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story is exclusively streaming on Hulu. Early in her career, she understood the obstacles faced by female filmmakers and women of color, so she chose to bet on herself and founded Ericka Nicole Malone Entertainment with business partner Phillip E. Robinson, which allowed her to tap into her business savvy and combine it with her love for writing, resulting in success on the theatrical stage and film.
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