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POWER TOOLS | SO SoCal

You Oughta Be in Pictures

September 08, 1996|Malaika Brown

We need to be up in the front, where the beanbags are," a young woman tells her partner as they move through the lobby in a shimmer of summer satin. "Most of the giveaways go to the people in front, and you can see better," she says, scanning the knot of people already seated on the main floor of Leimert Park's Regency West, a.k.a. the Comedy Act Theater.

It's the last Wednesday of the month, and Doboy's Dozens, the brainchild of Eugene Williams, is pulling in another plush-with-wannabes crowd. Two years ago, Williams and a producer friend, Marceil "Hollywood" Wright, put together an emergency fund-raiser for a local dance studio that featured a dozen short films. It was so successful that they decided to put on a similar event every month, but one that would focus on helping African Americans break into the movie business. The idea, says Williams, is to "get people together in a way that information can be exchanged and connections made." So he invites producers, agents, distributors and studio executives, asking them to stand up and identify themselves during the evening. The name, Doboy's Dozens, is a play off Williams' nickname ("Doboy") and the old verbal street game ("Playing the Dozens").

Stout, with full cheeks and a toothy grin, Williams greets arrivals like they are old high school buddies. "The one thing that has to be right," he says, "which no one seems to think about when you're bringing people together to get things done, is that everybody has to be relaxed." The key to the comfort zone Williams has created are the beanbag chairs; they seem to erase all social blocks and VIP attitudes. The networking-made-fun atmosphere also includes giveaways (CDs, videos and software); baked goods that are part of the $10 cover charge, and Williams' announcements about projects that are in need of production crews and talent.

Williams and Wright sort through about 30 movies a month to find the 12 short films, music videos and trailers that will fill a night's program. Topics range from AIDS to Zen. Most of the submissions come from African American filmmakers, though Doboy's is open to anyone with a finished project, no matter how austere the budget. Occasionally the screenings feature the early directorial efforts of recognizable actors like Blair Underwood ("L.A. Law") and Kim Fields ("Living Single"). More often, though, the movies are the post-day-job labor of the will-shoot-for-free filmmaker. "Everybody said, 'You won't have enough material to show every month,' " says Williams. "I was like, 'Are you kidding?' "

An actor and budding director, Williams himself has a long list of credits, including "The Cosby Show" and the feature film "Judgment Night," but he has been where the bulk of Doboy's participants are--on the outside knocking. What pleases him the most is that Doboy's Dozens has gotten participants work, hooking up that young director with CBS or that actor with an HBO director--a list, he says, that continues to grow.

"This is where we get to see raw talent," said one blue-jeaned executive, scouting for a crew to work on a cable documentary. "Here is where we can get quality people whose heads haven't gotten so big that independent film budgets just don't make them happy." As he speaks, an aspiring director steps up and interrupts. With earrings and oversized everything hanging from his tall, thin frame, he delivers a flawless pitch and slides a resume from the manila envelope tucked under his arm. He quickly mentions that he just finished interning at Warner Bros. The executive offers his card in return. A perfect Doboy's Dozens moment.

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