Jamal Hodge | Director’s Highlight
I AM FILM is proud to feature stories by the Next Directing Masters in Film.
My journey as a director began at the tender age of 15 at DCTV (dctv.org) in a two-year extensive training program called Pro-TV that taught every aspect of film to underprivileged kids. But my desire to tell stories started way before that. I was writing stories in kindergarten, wild tales of dragons soaring over the NYC projects and monsters called the yucky-sucky.
My youthful days as a young storyteller consisted of writing novels no one would ever read in notebooks while trying to help my single mom take care of my 4 younger siblings in the crack era of the South Bronx. Times were rough then, we were very poor and very black and American society seemed to have little compassion for both. My mother did the best she could but by the time I was 9 I was living in a shelter seeing things no kid should see. At 11 my family was scattered across the city and me and one of my little brothers was in foster care. The one constant in those dark years were the written page, the worlds of writing the mind can escape to, and the freedom of imagination that would one day lead me to the magic of film.
And wasn’t it a magical thing, this young art form that could give millions of people the same shared experience in 90 minutes! At 15 my family was all reunited in a beautiful beachfront apartment, and I was in the Pro-TV program learning the tools of the trade from great filmmakers like Jon Alpert and Craig Renaud. We predominantly focused on documentary film and I loved the rawness of observing the real while discovering the universal story within another person’s intimate tribulations and beliefs.
I got to travel to Tomsk Siberia to do a documentary that would take me to Sundance, then I got to spend time in south Mexico with the Zapatista Rebels and do a film that would take me to the Hague Appeal For Peace in Amsterdam to receive an award. Working at DCTV allowed me to be a part of Emmy award winning films and content for HBO PBS and Discovery. As I got older I would turn to education to give back to kids in the same situation I had uplifted from. Starting a film program with Tammy Samms Dow for recently incarcerated and at-risk youth where they used documentary as a tool to explore their past, present, and future. Then watching dozens of those same kids get their GEDs and go to college. Over 12 of them got their master’s degrees. I don’t have my master’s degree. That’s the greatest achievement of my life.
Now, branching out as a Narrative director, I’ve worked the last 7 years cultivating my artistic voice. What makes my artistic voice ‘special’ is that I can put an audience through the pain of growth while being entertained. I believe I have a knack for ‘transformative entertainment’. People are emotionally changed by my films; meaning they get to experience something disturbingly true and beautifully false at the same time. Hitchcock used to do this and David Fincher does it masterfully too. What makes me different from them though is that my eye is from the perspective of the underdog. It’s from the eye of an artist of color who spent over a decade traveling the world as a Documentarian studying raw authentic human nature. My background, upbringing, and apprenticeship makes me unique.
I’m an artist who seeks to blend cinematography with emotion and sound with story, to make the audience discover a new aspect of themselves in 90 minutes.
I’m on a mission to prove filmmakers of color can contribute value on the highest levels and provide unique perspectives on a wide range of genres not only ‘urban’ cinema or comedies. Maybe it’s an absurd hope, to think you can make an impact, maybe even a difference in someone’s life through film, but I believe that I can.
My ultimate career goal as a director is to be a catalyst in the industry for profitable change and inclusion. I want to write genre films with men and women of color in central roles. Rather than the constant slave movie, relationship Rom-com, or morose down on my luck flick, I want to create future minded films where women or People of color are shown as leads in riveting thrillers, horror, sci-fi, or political dramas. Films that will entertain, expand the audience’s awareness of life and self, and make everyone around me a hell of a lot of money.