Keenan Dailey is making films with a strong social message. On February 26th, Moonlight was given the Academy Award for Best Picture. Many who have seen that film believe it deserved it because of its strong social commentary. Dailey, a University of Illinois student, is looking to make a film with a strong message that makes audiences members think about how African Americans are represented in the media and in society. In order to make this film a reality though, he needs your help.
Dailey's latest project is being funded by Kickstarter and the film is entitled Greene. Greene focuses on a African American gallery owner named Marcus Greene who is in somewhat of a depressive state. Not only is he trying to come to terms with his past, but his gallery also faces foreclosure. Greene finds himself on a journey for his soul as he tries to pick up the pieces of his life. In order to get a better understanding of Dailey’s intentions in regards to this particular story as well as his career as a filmmaker so far, I set about to interview him regarding a wide range of topics.
Smile Politely: Can you talk a little bit about your previous projects and your experiences with them?
Keenan Dailey: Speaking in terms of film projects, I would consider my first short film "Labyrinth" to be the beginning of my study in film. "Labyrinth" was a film which discussed the struggles of African American activist leadership. The piece wanted to argue against the glorification or admiration of figures of authority no matter how just the cause may be, while simultaneously highlighting nuance in the discussion of solutions in terms of African American oppression. Even though it got listed on IMDB and got an official selection in the New Art Film Festival, from a personal stance I always tell people that I don't like this film. That's because as I've learned and grown as a filmmaker I've come to find myself seeing the many missed opportunities in the film. The next significant project for me was a short film called "Dadaism". "Dadaism" was my submission into the 2016 Sundance Ignite Competition and it was one of the 353 films able to get into the competition's first round. The thing about this short was that we were on an extreme time crunch of 3 weeks from getting notified about the competition and to me, from a conceptual standpoint, was incredibly fast since I like to take a lot of time with the idea behind a project, but nevertheless I was still able to make it happen.
SP: What have you learned from your previous projects and how does that experience help you with your newest one?
Dailey: From working on those projects I would say that I was able to gain a feel for how an audience responds to a film. To me the most important part of the film is how it affects the viewer, because if that wasn't the case than the film may as well remain a thought in a person's head. With Labyrinth and with Dadaism I learned how to accept accidents and turn them into a boon. I learned what it meant to fail and use that understanding to succeed. I was able to understand that the limitations of what I know pale in comparison to what I am able to learn. My other project studies in film, photo, and vfx helped mold my art direction and decision making, how I perceive the psychology of culture and subsequently shape it into a new world. All of these things are what I'm bringing going into this new film project.
SP: What is the inspiration behind your newest project, Greene? Can you talk a little about the story?
Dailey: So Greene follows the story of 28-year old black gallery owner Marcus Greene as he struggles to find peace in the fractured state of his life. Due to his depressive state Marcus' gallery has been failing and is now facing foreclosure, despite the efforts of his brother-in-law Kyle. While coming up with the idea or concept for the story I received inspiration from both Collateral Beauty and Seven Pounds, however my primary inspiration during writing the screenplay itself was Moonlight, in part I also received inspiration from Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy.
SP: What are some of the themes? What do you want to say with Greene?
Dailey: Greene is a film that speaks boldly on black love, loss, grief, and depression. The film also partakes in the conversation of how African Americans are perceived in the fine art world. Greene, for me, is one that wants to exist outside of the confines of stereotypical representations of African American life in mainstream media and swing in rhythm with pieces such as Moonlight, Atlanta, and Insecure.
SP: Can you talk a little bit about your future? What are your goals? What kind of projects do you want to work on in the future?
Dailey: I want to explore different perspectives through different lenses and with that, create different worlds for audiences. With that being said as I continue to make films I anticipate that they will all be wildly different. Speaking on my goals, I want to help society get to the point to where creation and artistic pursuits is commonplace and not a rarity. In the future, as I see it now, I want to work on a series of projects that explores afro-futurism and juxtaposes it against surrealism and the afro-punk art culture.
Speaking with Dailey was an absoulte pleasure as well as an inspiration. Clearly, he has high hopes for his film and I am so glad he is wanting to craft a film with a strong, social message at the center of it. We need more films like that. If you agree with me, you can head on over to his Kickstarter page and support his film. You can also visit the film’s Facebook page for more information on the film. Dailey has also provided me with links to his previous works. You can check out "Labyrinth" or "Dadaism" online. Please consider checking out his work and supporting this local artist. His films infused with social commentary are more relevant than ever.
Jordan Kreie is a recent college graduate with a Bachelor's degree in English. When he isn't writing articles for the Arts section of Smile Politely, he is watching movies and writing film criticism. You can follow film on twitter @jordankreie or read more of his work on his blog.
All images courtesy Keenan Dailey.