Alexander, George 1963–
Alexander, George 1963–
∗ Indicates that a listing has been compiled from secondary sources believed to be reliable, but has not been personally verified for this edition by the author sketched.
PERSONAL: Born 1963, in Mobile, AL. Education: Graduate of Morehouse College; Columbia University, M.B.A.; studied screenwriting at New School and Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center; studied filmmaking at School of Visual Arts and New York University.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Random House, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Writer. Worked as a banker, New York, NY.
Why We Make Movies: Black Filmmakers Talk about the Magic of Cinema, Harlem Moon (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Writer George Alexander had the idea for his first book, Why We Make Movies: Black Filmmakers Talk about the Magic of Cinema, after interviewing Forest Whitaker and Kasi Lemmons for HBO.com. Alexander's career at that point was far different from the path he had taken after graduating from Columbia University with an M.B.A. Alexander worked for many years in the banking industry before he quit entirely and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming a screenwriter. While in New York, he took screenwriting and filmmaking classes and eventually directed several short films. He worked on a feature-length screenplay and saved his money, while also becoming a bank vice president.
Alexander discussed how he came to write the book for Black Ink Online. As he wrote, from the moment he sat in his first screenwriting class at the New School, "and soaked in a lecture on moving images, drama, and conflict, on character and plot, I was hooked. That was it. I knew in an instant that my corporate life was headed to the morgue as quick as Fredo in The Godfather."
In Hollywood, success did not come easily, and Alexander turned to freelance writing as a way to earn a living. As he wrote the articles about Whitaker and Lemmons, he realized the potential for a book about black filmmakers and began interviewing them. "I learned that several of them love the directors Kurosawa, Fellini, and Charles Burnett, that many of them studied at film schools while many did not, that some, like Gina Prince-Blythewood, started writing stories as a child, four hold Ivy League degrees, a couple wanted to become doctors at one point, a few pursued other disciplines like engineering, government, and law."
Alexander said that most of the documentary and commercial filmmakers he has met "view movies as being far more than just entertainment to be enjoyed with a box of popcorn, that they are a courageous group with an intensity about their work to rival that of any brain surgeon, that they are smart, and funny, and polite, and more committed to their craft than to celebrity or fame." Alexander noted that his meetings took place everywhere from lush mansions to Starbucks for coffee and that Melvin Van Peebles served him warm apple pie.
Library Journal contributor Kim Holston wrote that the filmmakers, "obviously infected with their interviewer's unbounded enthusiasm, provide candid, in-depth answers to a host of incisive questions." Ossie Davis talks with Alexander about being tapped by Samuel Goldwyn to direct Chester Himes's Cotton Comes to Harlem, and Spike Lee comments about the lack of blacks in management positions at the studios. Lee Daniels, producer of Monster's Ball, discusses Halle Berry's Oscar triumph and the uproar over her sex scenes in the film.
In an interview with Tim Gordon for Reel Images online, Alexander said that his favorite interview was with Gordon Parks, who at the age of eighty-nine, had worked through the night into early morning on the day they met. Alexander noted that the book lists fifty black filmmakers who were not included. He also said that he was "inspired by the documentary filmmakers like St. Clair Bourne, Orlando Bagwell, and Stanley Nelson. These guys do tremendous work outside the studio system. They just get grants or foundation monies and have produced some of the important films by and about black people. They don't get the attention, and I think that this book will help people understand more about black culture and black moviemaking." Alexander said that many movies that are completed don't find distributors and go "straight to video. I would like to see people trying to tell human stories with authentic African-Americans in them and finding a way to get those movies into the theaters."
Dominga Martin, who also interviewed Alexander for Blackfilm.com, called the book "a classic that all filmmakers and those curious about the industry should have on their coffee table. Indeed, this is a 'moviemaker's' dream—an encyclopedia for others … an empowering reference tool that teaches the ins and outs of the business, the skill it takes and the passion one must have before treading this path."
A Publishers Weekly critic called Why We Make Movies "a worthy addition to the reference shelf of anyone with an interest in film or African-American culture."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Library Journal, April 1, 2003, Kim Holston, review of Why We Make Movies: Black Filmmakers Talk about the Magic of Cinema, p. 100.
Publishers Weekly, February 24, 2003, review of Why We Make Movies, p. 66.
Blackfilm.com, http://www.blackfilm.com/ (May 25, 2006), Dominga Martin, review of Why We Make Movies and interview with Alexander.
Black Ink Online, http://www.randomhouse.com/broadway/blackink/ (January 21, 2004), George Alexander, "The Story behind Why We Make the Movies: Black Filmmakers Talk about the Magic of Cinema."
Reel Images Online, http://www.reelimagesmagazine.com/ (January 21, 2004), Tim Gordon, interview with Alexander.