I won’t say that my expectations were extremely high when I first discussed the trailers for the new web series “Eden’s Garden” starring Masculine Black Trans Men. However, I expected much more than what we got in the much anticipated first episode.
Before I go on, let me say that, here on Cypher Avenue, I don’t instinctively hate everything that black gay content creators produce. I just don’t care for saying something is well made when it really isn’t.
Regarding our criticism of gay content creators, the director said: “The expectations are set so high that 90% of black gay indie films on here get bad feedback and lack of support but then we gripe at the fact there is not a lot of Black Gay Films in Theaters or Television. The support starts with the community itself.”
This is a valid point. However, as we’ve been saying for years, the best “support” we can give black gay content creators is to be honest in our criticism so that they can improve the work. There seems to be a “race to the bottom” mentality when it comes to black gay film and web series creators.
I’m old enough to remember a program called “Showtime at the Apollo” that featured singers and entertainers performing in front of an honest predominantly black audience. If the performance was mediocre, you got booed and shooed off the stage by the Sandman. If the performance was great, you were applauded and rewarded.
This is what Cypher Avenue does for the LGBT community. If you click through our 4 year history of actually reviewing (not just sharing the links to) Black Gay content, about 70% of the creative work we share we actually enjoy and we enthusiastically encourage others to check it out.
For example: we’ve raved about the web series “No Shade”, the music of Lasto, Fly Young Red and Earthtone, and gushed over the short films “Slow” and “The D.L. Chronicles: Episode Thomas.” All of the above examples were produced with very little money, yet the work was creative and professionally made.
On the flip side, not only have we been honest when we didn’t like the work produced, we’ve stated specifically why we felt it was lacking including ways it could be fixed.
This is no different than what you see on mainstream media websites that cover the work of heterosexuals. But for some reason, gays only want the pats on the head, not the revealing of flaws.
This (finally) brings me back to Eden’s Garden.
The 15-minute long episode features 5 boring scenes of characters just sitting around talking. If you’re making a dialogue heavy film, you have to at least make the dialogue interesting.
There is a basic rule in film: Each scene should serve one of 2 purposes…It either reveals something about your characters or it moves the narrative/story forward. I would argue that if you’re making a dialogue heavy film, each line must do one of those two things.
Otherwise, its boring and repetitive and pointless.
Okay, since we’re talking about pilot episodes…let’s look at a simple dialogue heavy scene from the pilot episode of “EMPIRE.” Observe how each line of dialogue either reveals something about the characters or it moves the story/narrative forward:
Black Gay content creators would likely throw up excuses and say, “We’re still learning,” “We don’t have the experience that the Empire writers have,” or “We’re just trying to tell a LGBT story, not win an Emmy.”
I never start anything that takes that much time and effort to produce without trying to do it in the best way possible. For example, even this review of “Eden’s Garden” could have been one paragraph of me saying, “It’s wack.” But I chose to instead use it as a teaching moment.
Speaking of teaching, if you’re going to create a dialogue heavy film, make use of blocking your actors and moving your camera.
Here’s another scene from the pilot of Empire. Notice in this scene that the characters MOVE around the room, sometimes for no reason at all. It doesn’t need to make sense why they’re walking around, it just looks good and keeps the scene interesting by offering the audience new angles and points of view.
Did you catch the other thing too? Notice that Rule #1 applied here as well: Each line of dialogue either revealed something about the characters or moved the narrative/story forward.
These are essential elements to FILMMAKING.
If you want people (especially non-LGBT people) to take your work seriously, show that you’re at least applying the basics.
Otherwise, you’ll continue to get booed off the stage by the Sandman.
So props to the cast and crew for stepping out to make “Eden’s Garden,” but now let’s put in the effort to make it GOOD.