JOANNE MORRIS, Producer
When Morris first saw the 1959 classic, Oscar-winning Best Foreign Picture, Black Orpheus (Brazil) during a Black History month TV special as teen, she knew she wanted to be involved in filmmaking. Especially for projects that pushed the creative envelope as Black Orpheus did. But she didn't have any family members in the business, therefore she decided to take the route followed by many others - segue from entertainment law to the creative side of the industry. So, after a stint in law, she worked in development for a producer with a deal at Columbia Pictures. Now hands-on with scripts, she soon got the writing bug. But before she could develop her own projects with her producer, his deal ended. Yet through divine intervention, because she'd given development feedback on a TV project that "worked," she was offered a Writers Guild Trainee position for an NBC special. So, her entrée into the WGA wasn't via the mega-dollar feature spec bid that new writers dream of, but she was in... And she joined that extremely small pool of network primetime specials writers. Some of her nationally televised credits include tributes to: Aretha Franklin, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Kathleen Battle, and Will Smith. She's also written segments for presenters including Oscar, Emmy and Grammy-winning performers Ed Asner, Halle Berry, Mariah Carey, Martin Landau, Morgan Freeman, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, and Warren Beatty.
Eventually, Morris had writing and/or producing credits for over fifteen televised primetime programs, in addition to anime scripts for FOX, as well as writing (w/ "story by" credit) for their anticipated, first hip-hop animation series, Slam City. And besides the specials, her primetime projects include Holla, an urban "Politically Incorrect" series on BET she wrote and produced, featuring such guests as: 2004 presidential candidate, Al Sharpton, Jr.; controversial right-wing activist, Armstrong Williams; renowned attorney, Gloria Allred; and the late music impresario, Rick James.
Morris wanted to complement her TV credits, and decided to write stage projects. So, she wrote and produced Conversation Pieces, a special presentation that starred Emmy-winning actress Tyne Daly (Judging Amy), Carl Lumbly (Alias), and Roma Maffia (Nip/Tuck). It was directed by award-winning filmmaker, Charles Burnett (The Annihilation of Fish w/Lynn Redgrave & James Earl Jones; To Sleep With Anger w/Danny Glover & Oprah Winfrey Presents: The Wedding w/Halle Berry). Bolstered by the positive response to Conversation…, Morris went on to write a "theatrical mockumentary," NIGEL IN THE 'HOOD, that was staged as one of only 10 projects selected for an exclusive WGA showcase. It starred acclaimed actor, Glenn Plummer (The Salton Sea w/Val Kilmer & HBO's The Corner). And once again at the helm was Charles Burnett (the only African-American among seven filmmakers that included Martin Scorsese & Clint Eastwood, directing the critically-acclaimed PBS multi-part documentary, The Blues).
After the stage pieces, Morris then decided to return to film - but with "short" steps. She executive produced Stone Mansion, a dramatic short that went on to become one of only 4 films selected from a national competition that aired on Showtime's acclaimed Black Filmmakers Showcase in February 2004, and recently aired on PBS. Starring the legendary Carmen DeLavellade, it was also an official selection in the 2004 Berlin Black Film Festival (Black International Cinema Berlin), and a finalist in the 2004 Pan African Film Festival and the 2003 UrbanWorld Film Festival. She also executive produced Hope, an award-winning American Film Institute (AFI) project and official selection in over 15 film festivals, such as: the 2003 Maui Film Festival, the 2003 Dances With Films, the 2003 Maryland Film Festival and The 2003 Black Film Festival Wales in London. In addition, it aired on NBC in January 2004. Morris also served as creative consultant on award-winning filmmaker, Yvonne Welbon's documentary, Sisters In Cinema featuring female filmmakers/directors, including: Euzhan Palcy (A Dry White Season); Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou); and Dr. Maya Angelou (Down in the Delta). It also premiered and was an official selection in the 2003 Pan African Film Festival. Additional festivals include the 2003 Harlem Black Film Festival, and 2003 San Francisco Black International Film Festival. It continues to air on Starz!
Eventually, Morris received an indie development deal that she wrote two features under, that now have directors attached: a romantic comedy, Be Careful What You Ask For with acclaimed filmmaker, Darin Scott (The Brothers, Menace II Society), and a drama with Charles Burnett (who just finished shooting his latest film, Where Others Wavered starring Danny Glover). Called Rewind, it's the story of a drug dealer, a corrupt cop and a burned-out activist trying to redefine their lives - for better or worse. In fact, Morris' Rewind was a finalist among the national/international projects selected for Robert De Niro's prestigious Tribeca Film Institute's 2005 All Access Connects Program.
Morris has also written and produced live events, including: 2004's An Evening with Dexter Scott King featuring the author of Growing Up King (Warner Books) and recent head of the Martin Luther King Center, discussing his father's legacy and its impact on his life; the TV Academy's inaugural Televisionary Awards in 2005 hosted by Shaun Robinson of Access Hollywood, that honored ABC President, Stephen McPherson; and a 2006 USC gala honoring alumni Grammy winner, Macy Gray and Oscar-nominated filmmaker, John Singleton. She also wrote and directed a stage piece at the renowned Santa Monica-based performance space, Highways. Starring acclaimed actress, April Grace (Magnolia, Lost), the piece was titled Shouldn't Have, and opened the provocative program, The Murder Of Emmett Till: 50 Years Later, commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the teen's alarming death. Highways recently invited her back to stage her acclaimed original project The Content of Their Character for the King Holiday, directed by Charles Burnett.
In addition, to Race, Rap & Redemption, Morris is currently creating/developing several TV and feature projects as a writer and producer, including her new upcoming comedy-drama stage piece at Highways on June 15, 16 & 17, 2007 entitled Juneteenth and Other Ludicrous Lies & Omissions.
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