Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): First, congratulations on your latest film, Black Coffee, which set to hit theaters on Friday, January 10th in Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
Please tell the readers a little more about yourself, your work and why you were drawn to film and entertainment as a profession?
Mark Harris (MH): I’m from Chicago, born and raised in the Englewood community. I’m a divorced Father of 3 sons. Most people don’t know that I had my oldest son at age 14. His mom and I eventually got married years after our second oldest was born. While married, we adopted our youngest son and these three young men are one of main reasons I never gave up in pursuing a film career.
I love the entire art of storytelling and understanding the power of film and music. I started writing poetry in college (University of Wisconsin, River Falls) and in 1997 I decided to write movie scripts and I knew after writing my first script “Shades of Classes”, which was never produced and I have no idea where the script is at this time. However, I knew then that I wanted to do this and make a living doing it. Yet, not only make a living, but use these resources for self, family and community and people.
EM: From the moment I saw the trailer for Black Coffee I was immediately drawn in and excited to learn more to support this project.
Briefly, what Black Coffee about and what inspired this film? The cast lineup is remarkable! What was the process like in choosing actors/actresses to manifest your work and this story-line so brilliantly and authentically?
MH: Well, what inspired the film is the economic condition of the black community. If you look at our community it is economically dead. It’s dead when it comes to black on black love, the entire family structure is dead. So, this was my inspiration which was to produce a film that can speak to these issues and inspire change.
Selecting the cast was very easy. I knew who I wanted for these roles. I had worked with Gabrielle Dennis in the past. Everything about her is just amazing. I had just worked with Christian Keyes of a film I produced Christopher Nolen’s The Good Life, Darrin and Lamman are just amazing brothers. They have such an amazing love for the people. I knew I wanted to work with both of these brothers. Erica Hubbard is a dear friend, a great actress and a Chicagoian. She’s such an amazing and underrated actress. I sent her the script and she was like, “Let’s go”.
EM: It’s quite apparent that there is something different about this film. What elements were a must-have and what elements were you firm on stirring clear from to make Black Coffee stand out?
MH: I wanted to show love and not love from the perspective of sex. I wanted to show a brother who falls in love with a woman based on her mind and she falls in love with him based on his mind. There was never a sex scene in the film. I was never told to add one. The actors all understood what we were trying to say and we made it happen.
EM: One of the messages I picked up on in this film that I don’t see much of is Economic Empowerment. Why was entrepreneurship, especially from the bottom up, an important point to put in the forefront of this film?
MH: As black people we must take back control of our communities. The day must come back where black doctors, lawyers, entertainers, school teachers, garbage truck drivers and artists are living next door to one another.
EM: Anyone who watches this movie will be able to relate to it in more than one way, which is extremely important to me when it comes to film and entertainment. This is a movie with great principles, and of course everyone enjoys a good love story. Is there anything else you would like to add, inform the readers on regarding Black Coffee? Any future projects? How can they learn more about you and 1555 Filmworks?
MH: I just want it to open doors for serious dialogue. Everyone is taking from the black community …even black people, but it’s time for us to look in the mirror at self and change our community.
I thank you for this interview. I pray that everyone reads it with an opened mind. To learn more about us follow us on twitter @1555FILMWORKS.
View the Official Trailer Below!