AMANDA, the latest film from Award Winning Director, Ty Cooper, is a story about love, trauma, relationships, art and community. Cooper was able to capture the essence of a relatable story through the capturing of what he has referred to as "the art of life." Pulling from his own family's tragedies as well as a sense of community, he wrote the screenplay as an attempt to connect with audience members with similar experiences. He states, "love doesn't exist without the opposite and often, tragedy brings people together more than love does, but love is what makes it worth it."
The lead character in the film lost her mother to cancer when she was only 9 years old. She remembers the suffering of which her mother experienced and not much else. Living with this trauma, the film opens with a 28 year old Amanda, a painter awaiting to get her collection into an art gallery. As she struggles to complete the final piece, she finally finds a hint of love from a regular in her favorite coffee shop. She's forced to face the trauma which has haunted her since the passing of her mother.
Ty Cooper, an Award-Winning Director, Writer, and Producer, was born and raised in New York City in the heart of Harlem. He was born two years after his parents migrated from North Carolina to New York, when Harlem was considered the capital of Black culture. Growing up in New York, Ty was always attracted to the finance and fashion sectors of the city. He attended high school as a marketing major on 33rd St. and Park Avenue. During his teenage years, he worked at Goldman Sachs and Bloomingdale's to satisfy his curiosity about those industries. Accepted by the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) and various other colleges, he decided to leave the state for new opportunities and attended Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia. Here is where he founded his entertainment marketing company in his third year of matriculating. He promoted nationally recognized events and had up to 6,000 people in attendance.
Experiencing huge success as a promoter, Ty had a burning desire for storytelling. He wrote his first stage play titled "Please Papa Don't," which attracted over 1,000 people on the opening day. Although he had promoted an astounding 1,300+ events, his desire to become a storyteller grew steadily. His skill to film and direct came from the television commercials he produced for his company's advertising efforts and his clients. In 2005 after promoting a celebrity streetball tour for three years, Ty composed footage from various tour visits. He released the first volume of the New Legends of Streetball DVD with a successful international release. He later wrote more stage plays but focused annually on short plays.
Juggling a promotion and brand marketing firm, he had to take wide gaps between projects to manage his company. However, Ty was able to return to film-making and released the award-winning short film, Mingle, with great success at festivals and through his self-promoted public screenings. He has now turned up the heat with multiple screenplays written with a feature film currently in post-production, Amanda, to be released in 2022 and recently wrapping of the documentary, America's Darkest Future: The Cost of an Inaccessible Early Education. At the time of this writing, he is writing the narrative screenplay, Stain, with production to start in 2022.
What makes you fascinated with the cinematic language and what was the first film project you worked on? My fascination with the cinema language comes from my love for storytelling. Even watch a scripted movie or television show, the art behind putting together words, combining them with visuals while encouraging a viewer to participate in the journey is amazing. But what’s most impressive with the art is when the cinematic language can make a viewer forget it is just a movie/show. My first film project was what the urban audience refer to as a video mixtape. My project’s name was titled, New Legends of Streetball DVD, a compilation of highlights of my first National street basketball tour, along with interviews of the famous Streetball players that I put on tour during 2002-2005. The first DVD was released in 2005 and released globally.
Please tell us how Amanda came to life and let us know about the process from pre-production to completion. Initially, Amanda was a character in a feature screenplay I started writing sometime around 2005 or so. After losing the screenplay to a virus ridden computer, I shelved the idea for years. When I decided to revisit rewriting the feature, in 2018 after winning awards for a short film, Mingle, I decided to write scripts about the characters in the feature. The most developed and interesting character was Amanda. I wrote the screenplay to be a short feature, nearly 60 pages. After a table reading with an impressed group of artists and non-artists, I did various rewrites. Casting took place online and I also casted people who I knew, location scouting during COVID was not easy but it all came together. We spent $4k in hotel costs to make sure my actors and crew were in a bubble as an attempt to keep the team safe. The cast and crew was made up of a diverse line up in the realm of ethnicity and geographic locations.
What was the most challenging aspect of working on this genre? I love the genre of narrative films, so I truly enjoyed every aspect of creating Amanda, but the COVID restrictions made things tough. Due to COVID, we used Zoom for rehearsals but chemistry isn't necessarily established via zoom. Also, not rehearsing in person also makes learning blocking much more difficult and impacts time. I paid for a food truck to provide craft services to avoid exposure of food to elements that may cause concern. Budgeting the cost for hotel accommodations was also a challenge because I would have preferred to place that budget into production. What is your next film project and what are you currently working on? I am one of the producers on a period film featuring Ozark's, McKinley Belcher, titled, Runaway. It's about a runaway slave and a 17 year old slave catcher. That project is in post production. I am currently writing a feature screenplay titled, Stain, which is about a family ripped apart by a white police officer killing an unarmed Black teen. The officer is married to a black woman and they have interracial children. What is the most creative part of directing a project for you? The most creative part of directing a project for me is the collaborative process of bringing people together and articulating a common goal and doing what's needed to accomplish that goal. Humans are perfectly flawed and the way we pull things together is perfect.
Does the language of cinema stand out more than other arts to you? And why? Although other art forms have their own process to move a person experiencing it, I would say the language of cinema stands out more than other arts because we are using these moving images with or without audio to articulate a message. For instance, I love music, but music without audio is not music. With music there is only a single way for it to be experienced. With cinema, you can enjoy it without a music score, but it's a way to enhance the mood setting by incorporating music. Remove all audio, return to the days of Chapman and silent films, a story can still be shared and pull tears out of a viewer or make them laugh from their belly. Why do you make films? I make films because I want to connect with people in a way that is intimate, providing the opportunity for me to be a change agent. I often use cinema to show a viewer that life is filled with options. In Amanda, the lead character lived with trauma as a result of the passing of her mother when she was only 9 years old. This unresolved trauma impacted her decision making when she was 28 years. I have put together a screening tour with Amanda screening throughout the country and audience members have shared their stories during my panel discussion of how they related to my character and the story in general. Audience members have shedded tears while talking from their seats. Every good story is relatable and this is the reason I make films, to connect to others.