Interview with Filmmaker Robert Darwell (BLACK UNIFORM)

BLACK UNIFORM, 90min., USA, History
Directed by Robert Darwell
In the early 1900s, African Americans struggled to have the honor to fight in World War I, but a century later minorities are disproportionately called up to serve, defend, and die for their country.
The United States cherishes the hard-fought glories of soldiers battling for the land they feel entitled to by right, but too often overlooks the hardships of the Black men and women who have put their lives on the line for a country that hasn’t always afforded them their civil rights.

Get to know Robert Darwell:

What motivated you to make this film?


MY FATHER WAS A VETERAN OF THE KOREAN WAR. AFTER HE PASSED AWAY A FEW YEARS AGO, I REALIZED THAT HE NEVER SPOKE MUCH ABOUT HIS TIME IN THE SERVICE AND, UNFORTUNATELY, I DIDN’T ASK MUCH ABOUT IT. SO, FOR MY SECOND FILM, I DECIDED THAT I WOULD INTERVIEW A RANGE OF VETERANS FROM WORLD WAR II UNTIL PRESENT. THE LAST INTERVIEW THAT I CONDUCTED FOR MY FIRST FILM, “THE 90S CLUB”, WAS WITH CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY AND RECENT RECIPIENT OF THE PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM, FRED GRAY. HE SPOKE OF HIS OWN COMPLICATED EXPERIENCE WITH THE DRAFT, WHICH LEAD ME TO DOING SOME INDEPENDENT RESEARCH ON THE HISTORY OF BLACK MEN AND WOMEN WHO SERVED OVER THE YEARS, AND THAT BECAME THE FRAMEWORK FOR “BLACK UNIFORM”.


From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

ONE YEAR.

How would you describe your film in two words!?

I THINK THAT THE FILM’S 2-WORD TITLE “BLACK UNIFORM” DESCRIBES THE FILM PRETTY WELL.

What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?


I FILMED 12 INTERVIEWS FOR THE DOC. THERE WEREN’T TOO MANY OBSTACLES OTHER THAN THE LOGISTICS OF TRAVELING TO VARIOUS CITIES AND IDENTIFYING THE CREW TO WORK WITH ME IN EACH CITY. I WILL SAY THAT REP. CHARLES RANGEL DID MAKE ME DO SOME ADDITIONAL HOMEWORK AND ANSWER SOME QUESTIONS FOR HIM BEFORE HE WOULD AGREE TO SIT WITH AN INTERVIEW WITH ME.


What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?


I WAS VERY MOVED LISTENING TO THE FEEDBACK. I JUST COMPLETED THE FILM IN JANUARY (AND IT REALLY HASN’T EVEN BEEN SCREENED FOR FRIENDS AND FAMILY) SO THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME THAT I WAS HEARING ANY INDEPENDENT REACTION TO “BLACK UNIFORM”. I WAS SO HAPPY THAT IT CONNECTED WITH AN AUDIENCE. I TEARED UP.


When did you realize that you wanted to make films?


I’VE BEEN AN ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER FOR 30 YEARS AND HANDLED THE CONTRACTS AND DEALMAKING FOR HUNDREDS OF FILMS, INCLUDING “ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND”, “SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE”, AND “BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN”. A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, I DECIDED THAT I WANTED TO COUPLE MY LOVE OF ORAL HISTORY WITH THE GOAL OF MAKING MY OWN FILM(S) TO SHARE SOME OF THESE STORIES WITH OTHERS.


What film have you seen the most in your life?


A FILM THAT STANDS OUT AS HAVING MADE A SIGNIFICANT IMPRESSION ON ME WAS “THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE’ – IT WAS ONE OF THE EARLY DISASTER FILMS, BUT IT ALSO TOOK TIME TO DEVELOP THE CHARACTERS SO THAT WE REALLY CARED ABOUT THEM. I REALIZE THAT IT’S NO “HOME ALONE”, BUT THIS IS A MOVIE THAT I USED TO SHOW TO MY KIDS EVERY HOLIDAY SEASON WHEN THEY WERE LITTLE.


What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?


FILM FESTIVALS PLAY A VERY CRITICAL ROLE IN INITIALLY INTRODUCING ONE’S LABOR OF LOVE TO AN AUDIENCE. YOUR FESTIVAL IS PARTICULARLY UNIQUE IN THAT YOU SHARE MEANINGFUL, FILMED FEEDBACK. MY FIRST FILM, “THE 90S CLUB’ SCREENED FOR THE LOS ANGELES DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL AND THE FEEDBACK THERE WAS INCREDIBLY POWERFUL AND MEANINGFUL IN ADVANCING THE FILM THROUGH THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT. I THINK IF THERE’S SOMETHING ADDITIONAL THAT FESTIVALS CAN DO TO SUPPORT ITS SELECTIONS IS TO AID IN PROMOTING THOSE FILMS ONCE THEY BECOME MORE GENERALLY AVAILABLE.


FOR EXAMPLE, “THE 90S CLUB’ IS NOW ON AMAZON PRIME – ANY ADDITIONAL BOOST OF PROMOTION IT CAN RECEIVE TO BRING EYEBALLS TO IT IS VERY VALUABLE AND IMPORTANT.

You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

I CONSIDER FILMFREEWAY TO BE VERY VALUABLE IN LEARNING ABOUT A WIDE VARIETY OF FESTIVALS AND ALLOWING ME TO RESEARCH WHICH ONES MIGHT BE RIGHT FOR MY FILMS.

What is your favorite meal?

SURF AND TURF, FOLLOWED BY KEY LIME PIE.

What is next for you? A new film?

I WORK FULL TIME AS AN ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER (HEAD OF GLOBAL MEDIA AT THE LAW FIRM OF SHEPPARD MULLIN). I WILL SPEND THE NEXT COUPLE OF MONTHS PROMOTING “THE 90S CLUB” AND SUPPORTING “BLACK UNIFORM” AT THE FESTIVALS BEFORE STARTING A THIRD AND FINAL FILM OF THIS INTERVIEW/ORAL HISTORY STYLE.

You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?


I CONSIDER FILMFREEWAY TO BE VERY VALUABLE IN LEARNING ABOUT A WIDE VARIETY OF FESTIVALS AND ALLOWING ME TO RESEARCH WHICH ONES MIGHT BE RIGHT FOR MY FILMS.


What is your favorite meal?


SURF AND TURF, FOLLOWED BY KEY LIME PIE.


What is next for you? A new film?


I WORK FULL TIME AS AN ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER (HEAD OF GLOBAL MEDIA AT THE LAW FIRM OF SHEPPARD MULLIN). I WILL SPEND THE NEXT COUPLE OF MONTHS PROMOTING “THE 90S CLUB” AND SUPPORTING “BLACK UNIFORM” AT THE FESTIVALS BEFORE STARTING A THIRD AND FINAL FILM OF THIS INTERVIEW/ORAL HISTORY STYLE.

Advertisement

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival www.wildsound.ca

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: