Jamal Hodge Returns to Cannes

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Jamal Hodge
Jamal Hodge
Jamal Hodge

by Sade Falebita | May 9, 2017

PRO-TV Alum Jamal Hodge is heading back to the Cannes Film Festival! Knockout Game and JAKE are two new films that mark a return to Cannes for the Director/Writer/Producer whose gritty thriller film, The Kind Ones, was accepted to the festival in 2016. The week-long event held in France from May 17-28, 2017, is known as the ‘essential rendezvous’ for filmmakers who are ready to take a pivotal step towards the next level of their careers as they showcase their films and make connections with key industry players. Here’s what Jamal had to say about this most recent success in his career journey.

Q. BACK TO BACK: Talk about the moment you discovered Knockout Game and JAKE were accepted to Cannes?

A. I found out about the films acceptances in February and March, but I had my ticket to Cannes in January, that’s how much I believed in my team and our work. I received news about JAKE's acceptance first. I got a call from Director/Writer Mike Tyner, and as a Producer on JAKE, hearing the news felt great. I was really happy for Mike and his bold vision because I love to see people succeed. I was shocked to find out that Knockout Game was accepted because the movie is so grimy. I was at home, working as usual and received the email in the morning. I love Cannes and was planning on going back. It feels good to be successful, and to return associated with two new films.

Q. VERSATILITY: Talk about the importance of versatility and the impact it has had on your filmmaking career?

A. When you don’t have a lot of resources, it forces you to compensate. Struggle is the origin of creativity. Last night I was able to get 10 pages of a script done. I have a super detailed director's book that I use as a guide and it plays a major role in my creative process. I multitask through habit. You have to create patterns of action that are not connected to your feelings, where things are being achieved and accomplished in autopilot. Delegation is also key in my ability to multitask, it’s important to have a great team. As a director, you need to have knowledge about many aspects of production. Your team should be made up of people who are experts in the roles that you are good at. In other words, my team has to be great at the things I am merely good at. This means being knowledgeable about every job so that I can have conversations at a certain level of intimacy. I share my vision with each individual but also establish boundaries that still allow freedom for their own creativity.

Q. REFLECTION: What advice would you give to your younger self?

A. Life is not about strength, it’s about character, consistency and companionship. These are the things that breed wealth. Invest in the type of people who you respect and want to see you win. When you set out as a family in film, you are doing life with people and exchanging time you will not get back from one another. People are strong in groups but as individuals we are weak. Be positive, you have to be ruthless with what you allow into your life and your mind. What you choose to embrace allows you to unlock your true potential.

Q. PROCESS: Talk about your process in creating a story?

A. Stories live in my head for years before I write them, I ponder things for a very long time. Most of the stuff that I’ve been doing now, I’ve been thinking about for at least five to eight years. By the time I start writing about them, they are really developed. I want to create a solid story that will get the audience emotionally involved with the characters. I want to inflict desire, pain and anguish so that when hope returns, you appreciate it. In order to value something, you have to be aware of it. We live in a society in which we only acknowledge things when we lack them. You have to make people care. I want people to leave with a question and an emotion. Everything I do is designed to make the audience feel something. I want to put you in an environment where you are confronted with these feelings but don’t have to leave with them.

Q. INSPIRATION: What key issues do JAKE and Knockout Game explore?

A. With JAKE , I liked the complexity of the script. I liked the brutal message in Knockout Game. JAKE and Knockout Game speak to Black issues from both sides of the fence. JAKE opens a window into police brutality from the perspective of a Black NYC cop as he witnesses his white partner’s brutality against black teens. JAKE asks, “Are you black or blue”? Knockout Game is a cautionary tale that provides a simple yet powerful perspective of the circle of violence. As one deposits violence, one gets a return of violence, and once you go down that path of the predator you have to build two graves.

Q. COMING SOON: What projects are you currently working on?

A. I’m currently working on two feature films (The Kind Ones, A Debt of Grace), two television pilots (A Happy Divorce, Nephilim), and a novel (Child of Change). My goal is to achieve simultaneous success as a prominent director and bestselling author.

Q. CANNES 2017: What are you excited about the most about heading to Cannes this year?

A. The main thing that I am excited about is actually being back at Cannes. It's just a great environment. There is nothing like it. This time, I’m going to meet a lot of different people. It's good to see how everyone celebrates and encourages one another. It changes your perspective as a filmmaker and makes you want to work even harder. My hope and my dream is to have feature films in Cannes in 2018.

Jamal Hodge is an award-winning filmmaker that has been featured in festivals such as Cannes, Sundance, Tribeca, and the Urban World Film Festival among many others. His mission is to create genre films with characters of color in leading roles. Hodge enjoys tackling social taboos in a Hitchcockian manner and considers himself a dreammaker, a person who makes his dreams come true by helping other people achieve theirs. IAMFILM named Jamal one of the world’s best upcoming talents. He was recently selected as a juror on the prestigious 2017 Jury of the Albanian Film Week Festival. Outside of the film festival circuit, Hodge has done local and international commercials. He also worked on HBO and Discovery content as an editor, and on the Emmy award winning Bullets in the Hood as a cinematographer. An avid believer in education and an advocate for paying it forward, Hodge has taught filmmaking to kids from various walks of life at organizations such as Japan's Keio Academy, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, DCTV, TRUCE, The COVE, and Mythic Bridge. Thanks to individual contributions last year, Jamal got to experience life changing opportunities at the 69th Festival de Cannes. To donate to Jamal’s trip to Cannes 2017, visit here!