Dear Culture

The Rise of Black Filmmakers & the Power of Tubi

Episode 73
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Following several viral moments, Baltimore filmmaker Alvin Gray joins Dear Culture to talk about the ups and downs of creating independent films. His projects “The Rapper Who Got Shot in the Heel” and “The Nurse That Saw the Baby on the Highway” have garnered much attention, but not always the good kind. Gray and Panama Jackson also debate the power of Tubi and discuss the drama that ensued when one of Gray’s projects got banned from the streaming platform before it was even released. 

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[00:00:00] Panama Jackson: You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified.

[00:00:05] Toure: Being part of the change, we are happy to announce theGrio Heroes Awards are returning in 2024. Nominate your heroes so we can celebrate people who are making a real impact. Nominations open on January 8th. Visit thegrio.com/heroes today.

[00:00:26] Alvin Gray: And it went viral. Um, and it’s so viral that it went to the top of Tubi. And then they called my distributors and was like, we don’t want nothing to do with this film. We’re not associated with this. Yes. We’re not. So then they went out and put a tweet. They put the or X, I don’t know what you call it, but

[00:00:43] Panama Jackson: I don’t know what to call it.

[00:00:45] Alvin Gray: They’re like That, yeah, that movie will be out no, November, never bimber, never uary, Nevuary 18.

[00:00:51] Panama Jackson: Tubi did this?

[00:00:52] Alvin Gray: Yes. And then they put another one under that saying we would never put nothing out like that. Never will, never have. So my distributor calls me and says, Hey Alvin, whatever you’re posting right now, you need to take it down.

[00:01:03] It’s got me in trouble, by the way, it wasn’t even my fault.

[00:01:09] Panama Jackson: What’s going on, everybody? Welcome to Dear Culture, the podcast for, by, and about the Culture here on theGrio Black Podcast Network. I’m your host, Panama Jackson, and today we’re talking Black movies, Black cinema, independent Black films, and we even going to talk a little bit about Tubi. And we are joined today by a writer, director, actor, producer, I’m not sure what you don’t do. I’m sure you can share that if we get to that point, but a, a, an artist who has gone viral for some of his films, the promo for some of the films at that Mr. Alvin Gray, what’s going on, bro? How you doing today?

[00:01:44] Alvin Gray: Pretty good. Thank you for having me. I’m doing well. How about yourself, man?

[00:01:47] Panama Jackson: I’m doing fine. Um, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a beautiful day here in the nation’s capital. I am. And you’re in Baltimore, correct?

[00:01:55] Alvin Gray: Yep.

[00:01:55] Panama Jackson: You are a person who I came across because. I watch a lot of Black movies, like I’m that person who watches Black movies without a budget and Black movies with the big budgets, right?

[00:02:05] Like, I’ll see the color purple and then I’ll watch a movie where they shooting people with air guns. Um, and I get just as much entertainment out of both because I’m literally the person rooting for everybody Black. Yeah. I came across a film on, I saw it on Tubi when I go, I scroll through Tubi. And it said, “The Nurse Who saw The Baby on the Highway,” right?

[00:02:29] News Clip: Detectives say the 25 year old also stopped at a Target where she bought snacks that weren’t found in her car when officers arrived.

[00:02:39] Panama Jackson: I saw this and I was like, ain’t no way. Ain’t no way somebody made a movie about the Carlee Russell story. And especially because that just happened in like July or whatever.

[00:02:48] That wasn’t July of 2023. It wasn’t that long ago. True story, I was in Birmingham, Alabama on I-59 a couple hours before that story broke. I was driving to my parents house in Huntsville when that story actually broke. So I feel a personal connection. But I gotta ask. I just, I just, I got, I got to start here.

[00:03:09] Uh, what in the hell made you decide to make a movie about the Carlee Russell story? Why did you make this film?

[00:03:18] Alvin Gray: Okay. So originally when I heard about this whole story on online, I, um, felt really bad about the whole situation, you know, pulled from my heartstrings a lot. I remember that night showing my wife the story saying, Hey, look at this girl. Um, she was kidnapped. Um, something’s wrong. I feel heavy for her because as a director, um, whenever I hear stories, I immediately place myself in the room and into the character of that person to feel the emotions. So the whole time I was running through my head, this woman is getting suffocated, you know, she’s screaming, she’s hollering, you know, clawing at the trunk.

[00:03:51] I, I was going through all these different emotions. And the next night I woke up, um, in the middle of the night and all through TikTok it’s saying, the person was found. So I’m like, people just don’t get found like that, but okay. I feel relieved. Um, and then after a couple of days, more and more things started unfolding.

[00:04:08] And again, the director in me, I see things visually. And I’m like, this looks like a horror film, but at the same time, it looks like a parody. Um, you know, cause like the guy with the orange hair. So I’m like, this has to be told, you know, it’s like it’s a parody is a thriller is just some quirky and I had the tools to be able to complete this film.

[00:04:28] So I say, you know what? I think I want to make a parody about this because this is something that’s just golden in the community that we all knew about. So let me just use my tools to tell this story.

[00:04:39] Panama Jackson: Yeah, I gotta admit, man, when I, so when I saw it, the title of it, you know, it’s one of those things where it seems so obvious. It’s like, wow, like this makes so much sense. The title, “”The Nurse Who Saw the Baby By the Highway”,” nailed it, right? I watched the movie. It’s short. It’s like, you know, it’s like 48 minutes. It’s not, it’s not long. It’s, it’s a thriller. Like, I noticed like you tend to live in a thriller, the thriller realm. That’s, is that like your preferred genre of, of like filmmaking?

[00:05:05] Alvin Gray: That’s just happens to be, I just made a Christmas movie. It ended up being a dark tone movie.

[00:05:10] Panama Jackson: I watched it. It was, it was dark, bro. Like it’s at the end when you were dancing in new balance, orange, new balance. But it was, I did watch it. I watched it.

[00:05:19] Alvin Gray: So that says no matter how much I try to stray away, it was supposed to be a comedy, but it ended up being dark. Um, so yeah, that’s not my thing, but it’s becoming my thing. Not intentionally.

[00:05:30] Panama Jackson: When I started to watch it, I assumed it was going to be a comedy, right? That’s how I, I, that’s how I thought it was going to be. And I’m going into it, and I’m like, you know, everybody’s playing this real straight. Now I’m not saying people are playing this like they’re trying to make a serious thriller kind of thing, but everybody, like the, the comedy aspect is kind of.. funny, like, wow, this is wild. Not funny. Like, like, like laughing out of like laughing out loud. So how long did it take to make this movie from, like, once you decided to you were going to do this, how long did it how long did it take to go from start to release?

[00:06:00] Alvin Gray: Yeah, I would say it took us maybe four days to shoot it. Um, and that’s because we were shooting it as the story was unfolding. So we would wake up and just watch the news and see what happens, going to TikTok and Instagram and just pull from stuff and made it our own. So, um, once we understood what the assignment was that day, or sometimes while we’re on the set, we were learning stuff and we’ll just say, okay, let’s shoot it and, um, go home and edit.

[00:06:22] And I would say like four or five days we were done and I gave it to my distributor, which is funny because. Uh, they had to film for about a month before releasing it. So everyone was so sick, you know, like, Oh, it came out so fast. I’m like, really, this movie was done in four or five days. Um, it was just, it sat in QC for about a good 25, 30 days or so before it was actually released.

[00:06:43] Panama Jackson: So wait, you were filming this while it was at, while the story was still unfolding.

[00:06:47] Alvin Gray: Yes. I treated it like the news stations, you know, like just go out, let’s shoot it. Let’s edit it in the truck and let’s put it out. So that’s how I treated this whole thing. Just like. A news report, a big news report.

[00:06:57] Panama Jackson: So this has happened often, like you’ll see like some news story that you’re like, you know what, this is a movie waiting to be made? I mean, we’re going to get to obviously the next one coming up, but just in general, like.

[00:07:07] Alvin Gray: Yeah, I mean, I have another one that I’m shooting next week, that same situation. Um, I don’t know how much I can talk about it or not, but the same thing. I found a niche in this and I’m liking it. It’s, it’s, it’s fun, you know, so.

[00:07:21] That’s that’s the new approach. I’m gonna do a couple more and I might just, you know, slowly get out of it. But yeah, that’s what we’ve been doing.

[00:07:28] Panama Jackson: All right. Well, I mean, and by the way, feel free to drop whatever, whatever news you want to drop on the world. And this is going to go out. I’m going to, listen, if you want to share, feel free, you know, we’ll be happy to take whatever news you got on that front.

[00:07:41] Alvin Gray: So, I mean, I’ll say the, and I can’t really say what it is, but the next movie you’ll be seeing is the actor that got chased around the city and then we’re going to leave it as

[00:07:50] that for now.

[00:07:52] Panama Jackson: All right, shouts out to, uh, let’s see what name, what name can we make up for him in a moment?

[00:07:59] Alvin Gray: I can’t say nothing, but you can say whatever you like.

[00:08:01] Panama Jackson: Bonathan Players? Let’s see, something along, know, I don’t know. It’ll be fun to see what name you come up with with everybody in there. All right, so. That’s funny. I saw “”The Nurse Who Saw the Baby By the Highway”.” I saw this. Um, I didn’t. I watched the movie. I kept it moving, right? Just keep it moving. It was like, oh, interesting. Whoever made this, it’s interesting to do that. Then I’m on, I’m on the internet. I’m on Instagram. And then, boom. Actually, somebody sent it to me. Somebody was like, yo, this can’t be real. And I’m like, what is this? Can I see the title? The rap? Let me just make sure I get this right. “The Rapper That Got Shot in the Heel”, right?

[00:08:44] I busted out laughing. I couldn’t help it. Like I laughed so hard and I was like, yo, I wonder if there’s this new cottage industry or people just making movies like this because this title sounds just like “The Nurse Who Saw the Baby By the Highway”, right? So I was like, man, let me go. I start looking. And I’m like, so for one, the first thing I did, I went to look for the movie.

[00:09:04] Turns out it’s not even done yet. It’s not out yet, right? It’s not right. OK, so I want to go look for it. But then I’m like, oh, the same dude. I noticed the little that your your logo for for your Alvin Gray logo. Right. And I was like, you know, the same dude made this. That made that now it’s funny because it was being billed, it was being billed as a Tubi film, right?

[00:09:26] So it was being billed as a Tubi film, which we’re going to get to in a second because you had, you had to make a cut. You had to go on Instagram a couple of times, do a couple of statements about, you know, like one that ain’t even out like y’all. I appreciate that. Um, right. So I see this and I’m like, I watched the trailer and I’m like, this is insane.

[00:09:46] Like, one, I can’t wait to see this one, but I couldn’t tell. I was like, is this so I, I know I watched the first one, like, okay, it’s a little bit of a thriller, but so many people have had fun with the Meg Thee Stallion situation, which is what this is based on. Loosely based on obviously in the Tory Lanez one, but then I watched you do like a video where you’re talking about how It’s not meant to be a joke. Like, you know, you’re hoping that people take something away from this So two questions one who comes up with the

[00:10:16] titles?

[00:10:18] Alvin Gray: Oh, that’s myself. Yeah. The reason why I’ve titled these things like that is because I don’t know if I can say who it is, but I can say what it is, you know, so when I say things like “the first thing I saw on the side of the highway,” we know who that is.

[00:10:32] The “Rapper That Got Shot In the Heel.” We know what that is. The “Actor Who Got Chased Around the City.” We know who this, what this is, but it’s not like I’m, I’m McDowell’s and not McDonald’s, you know, I’m, I’m playing it safe.

[00:10:47] Panama Jackson: That is funny. I never McDowell’s where I was like, it’s ..

[00:10:50] Clip from Coming to America: They got the golden arches, mine is the golden arcs.

[00:10:56] Panama Jackson: They have the sesame seed bun! Right. We have no, we have no seeds.

[00:11:00] Alvin Gray: No seeds.

[00:11:01] Panama Jackson: Right. It’s nice. No seeds, right. Okay. Alright, so You, how, so when, how long had you been marinating on making that particular movie, which let me point out, she got shot in the foot, your, your version got shot in the heel, right? So we’re making sure, but like how, so when, when, how long was it, how long did it take you to decide I got to make this movie?

[00:11:26] Alvin Gray: Like, I think once I saw the energy that came behind the nurse, I was thinking, and what is the next, uh, most told story in our culture at the time? And it was that story. So I took that and was like, Hey, let’s just do it. Maybe it took me two weeks to get it all together. As far as like the pre production part of it.

[00:11:44] And within those couple of weeks, we shot it. It took me another. I took four days to shoot that because we had to do a pickup day, took four days to shoot it. I put it together, gave it to my distributor, and they’re sitting on it again.

[00:11:57] Panama Jackson: So, are your friends and homies just waiting for the phone call? Like, do you just have like a bat signal you send out to this certain group of actors and people?

[00:12:04] I know your wife is, I think your wife is part of the, she’s part of the, is she part of the crew of people as well?

[00:12:10] Alvin Gray: Unofficially, unofficially, yes. She jumps in when I need her to jump in. But yeah, in Baltimore, we have a pretty strong team here of actors and crew members are just anxious and hungry to work.

[00:12:21] So when we’re available, when they’re available, hey, come on the set. It’s like an open clubhouse and we just pass the camera around. We shoot, we light it and we just get it done.

[00:12:30] Panama Jackson: Now, are you writing scripts for this? Are they loose scripts or like..

[00:12:33] Alvin Gray: Yeah, very, um, so in order to get these done in the pace, we’re getting them done, we do a lot of improv. You know? So I’ll go on a set and say, “Hey, these are the moments we need to capture. These are the cue lines that are important. These are the moments that are important. Let’s take this mood and run with it.” And that’s how. Um, “The Rapper That Got Shot in the Heel”, that’s how that film became so heavy.

[00:12:54] Originally, it was supposed to be a parody. Not, let’s say, jokingly, but it was supposed to be lighter. But when I let the actors run with it, and I was also in it as well, and when I ran with it, we realized, like, this is a really heavy, emotional story. Um, and we really got lost in those nights. Um, where it just came out a lot heavier than expected, but it was real, you know, so, um, the tour, the story took a whole different turn that we didn’t expect.

[00:13:19] Panama Jackson: Do you make all your films at the same pace? Like so quickly? Like, are you able to knock these things out that quickly once you have like the idea is you’re like ready to go?

[00:13:28] Alvin Gray: Yeah. Like I just did a film, um, in May called “Check Please.” That’s not out yet Either. That’s a whole different story, but the film is that..

[00:13:37] Panama Jackson: I’m going to ask you about that, by the way, but go ahead and finish this. I’m going to ask you about “Check Please.”

[00:13:41] Alvin Gray: Yeah. So “Check Please” was done and we shot that in seven days and I chopped it up and had it, you know, professionally put together. And, uh, that took me total about 30 days, you know, editing scoring and everything else put together. But that was a bigger budget, bigger production film.

[00:13:57] But I would say usually I can get a film done in roughly two to four weeks. Um, of the way that I’m doing it right now.

[00:14:05] Panama Jackson: I was going to ask about “Check Please,” because there was like a, I saw on like on your page, it was like a link to go watch the film. Like you could watch it through, or the, now I don’t know if that ever came out there and I missed it. But I was like, I was going to say this looks more like big budget produced. Yeah, it looked like it had more money put behind it or more resources put behind it. Like this was. Like your bit, your theatrical release type of joint like it was that kind of thing was that that was that what you were going for with that?

[00:14:32] Alvin Gray: Yeah, so I like to explain to people these little films of the this trilogy that I’m doing the nurse, the rapper, the actor, these are like my mixtapes in a sense, you know, I’m not really doing much with these besides just you know I’ll create it put it out there and take it for what it is And then you’ll go see my albums, movies like “Sweet Dreams” that I have out, or my show “Risky Business” that’s on Amazon, or” Check Please” that’s out.

[00:14:53] Those are the ones that actually, you can see like, oh, he really can put pen to paper, he really does write, he does real productions, you know, not just these jokes a lot, you know, I really make real movies. Um, it’s just unfortunate that those are the ones that people don’t know about because they’re not as popular topics.

[00:15:09] But, um, check please is available. Um, I’ll put it on my website because my distributor, uh, they, they can’t keep up with me. You know, and I, I get impatient. I’m going to the next I’m like why is this still sittting? You know what? I’ll put it on my website where no one goes to buy it. So it’s still not out because no one knows it’s there.

[00:15:27] But, um, yeah, those films are bigger productions. You know, I have a bigger crew, uh, better equipment. I have more time. Um, and I actually put more money behind those. These other ones, I just, it’s a hobby project in a sense, but it’s actually the ones that taken that take off more. It’s weird. My mixtapes take off more than my actual albums.

[00:15:46] Panama Jackson: Well, but I mean, just like in the music, that’s what happened all the time. People got loose on their mixtapes and have fun, right? And then everybody picks those things up. And then when people do their real art, it’s like, oh, this. This ain’t as fun as the mixtape or it’s like, Oh, now they being serious over here, blah, blah, blah.

[00:16:01] Alvin Gray: I’m not the kind of director that takes himself too serious. You know, I just want to entertain and have fun with my stuff. So wherever it’s a mixtape album, it’s all going to be, you’ll see my tone and you’ll get a chip. You’ll understand like, Hey, this is just an Alvin Gray film. I had a good time watching it.

[00:16:16] That’s all don’t ever take it too serious. Except for this, except for this next one, “The Rapper Who Got Shot in the Heel.” That one was pretty heavy. Every time I watch it. I’m like, damn, that’s, that’s pretty heavy. Every time I watch that.

[00:16:30] Panama Jackson: Like, what do you want people to get out of it? You’re saying is as deep as more heavily. What do you want people to get when they finally get an opportunity to see it?

[00:16:38] Alvin Gray: Yeah. I just want people to really just think before reacting or acting. Um, and I realized in a pattern with all these movies that I’m doing in this series, That’s where we all fall short. No one’s thinking before they’re acting.

[00:16:54] It is reacting based off of whatever the case may be. So I really want people just to see how quick things can change if you don’t think before moving. You know, go… what happens if you go right instead of left? Just don’t move freely thinking that everything is gonna be the same either way. Cause it’s not, um, and just bringing awareness to, you know, alcoholism and just mental illness and things like that.

[00:17:15] Things that I didn’t even know that I was doing until it was done. And I’m like, Oh man, this is pretty heavy. Um, and again, it wasn’t intentional, but that’s what it became. Um, and I’m okay with that, you know, because I was still true to the art. I feel like I still feel like I didn’t lose my touch, but you probably see a more sentimental to heavier side to me on this one this next one

[00:17:36] Panama Jackson: All right the uh, I gotta say the trailer looks great. Like with I mean the y’all you nailed it like you from what I saw from the on the trailer like

[00:17:44] Clip from “The Rapper Who Got Shot in the Heel”: Let’s go. Turn around. Hands behind your head

[00:17:54] Panama Jackson: The the one the part that I think most people saw immediately was the.. the recreated Instagram live where I, nailed that joint. I was like, I’m watching this. And that’s why when I first saw it, I laughed and I was like, I think this is real. And I had to hit up those. Like, I think this is when that’s how I discovered you were the person that made it. I was like, Oh, this is the guy.

[00:18:13] Alvin Gray: Yeah. And that’s why I think people think that it’s funny. Because it’s so close, you know, it’s like, we didn’t say let’s use red hair, let’s use blue hair, let’s use the hoodie. Like, I kept it so close to where people are like, this is so serious that it gotta be a joke.

[00:18:28] And it’s like, no, this is, this is real, you know, we really approached this with authenticity of channeling the, the, the real people.

[00:18:39] Panama Jackson: All right. Well, we’re going to take a real quick break here on Dear Culture. And we come back, we have more with Alvin Gray. We’re going to talk more films and Tubi in the culture of Tubi. So stay tuned here on Dear culture.

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[00:19:52] Panama Jackson: All right, we’re back here at Dear Culture talking indie filmmaking, Black movies, uh, with writer, producer, director Alvin Gray, who made the viral sensations, uh, “The Nurse Who Saw the Baby By the Highway” and the upcoming “The Rapper Who Got Shot in the Heel” that exploded all over social media. The poster got shared everywhere. The trailer I’ve seen, um, how does that feel to go viral for things that you’re creating? Especially when you’re saying these, like the mixtapes, like how does this, how does it feel to go viral for that stuff?

[00:20:23] Alvin Gray: Um, it’s a weird feeling, you know, because I don’t know, it’s just, it’s a really weird feeling because I never thought that these type of projects will be the projects that actually be the ones that I get notoriety for, but you know, I, I’m taking what comes and just riding the wave, I guess, in a sense. So it’s cool, though, I guess. So my money is the same. So I’m not like Scrooge McDuck and in coins and everything.

[00:20:49] Panama Jackson: So I think it’s interesting that you’re surprised that these are the ones, because I think they kind of. They like, check the social media boxes, right, for like, Black culture especially, like, this, this stuff is primed for Black Twitter, or Black X, whatever we call it now, right, where it’s like, a story we all were invested in and couldn’t get away from, uh, somebody made a movie about it, quickly. And now we have this entire culture around Tubi that we kind of like we mock like we joke the idea Tubi like, I wonder how many people actually know that Tubi just like a regular movie platform like every major movie is on Tubi right. It’s all the same movies on Amazon and Netflix are on Tubi, but there’s also the the the movies that.

[00:21:34] That show up on Tubi that you are going to get other places. And I remember having a conversation with a woman who, uh, I watched the movie on Tubi of hers. And then we ended up getting into it on, on Twitter or Instagram because I had some not so nice things to say, but then she became the homie because I had her on my podcast to talk about it.

[00:21:51] So we, so she could get her bars off and I can, and now, you know, I check out all her films and everything, but like. Tubi has become this space where we think that all movies that aren’t “serious” are Tubi movies, right? Like, and I hate that perception because it almost makes it seem like these are the “not worth really watching” movies. You just go check out the nonsense that’s out there, like Tubi is a platform for nonsense.

[00:22:17] Alvin Gray: Right, yeah.

[00:22:18] Panama Jackson: But then when people start tagging your movies as Tubi because that did happen, like people kept talking about “The Rapper Who Got Shot in the Heel” as a Tubi film and again, it’s not even out yet. What is your thoughts on the Tubi verse as it exists at this point and being a filmmaker and an indie filmmaker and a Black filmmaker, so people can just kind of assume that the basically that Tubi is the space for that?.

[00:22:39] Alvin Gray: Yeah, it’s so weird because people really think that Tubi are producing all these movies. I, you actually, I follow a couple of Facebook page groups with Tubi and they’re like, “Oh, these are Tubi actors. This is another Tubi movie.” And I’m like, what in the world is a “Tubi actor” on a “Tubi movie?” This is no different than saying, Hey, that’s an Amazon actor on an Amazon movie.

[00:22:57] It’s just a streaming platform that people don’t understand. Um, which got me in trouble, by the way. It wasn’t even my fault. Um, so, everyone started tagging Tubi on this poster, saying, ‘Tubi, y’all know y’all did wrong for this,’ ‘Tubi ain’t asked for this,’ and like, and it went viral. Um, and it went so viral by where they went to the top of Tubi and then they called my distributors and was like, we don’t want nothing to do with this film. We’re not associated with this. So then they went out and put a tweet. They, they, or X, I don’t know what you call it, but I don’t know what to call it. Yeah. They’re like that. Yeah. That will be, will be out. Nope. No. Bim. Never Bimber. Never worry. Nevuary 18th.

[00:23:35] Panama Jackson: A TV did this?

[00:23:36] Alvin Gray: Yes. And then they put another one that said we would never put nothing out like that. Never will. Never have. So my distributor calls me and says, ‘Hey, Alvin, whatever you’re posting right now, you need to take it down, uh, in order to save your relationship with Tubi and save your relationship with us.’ This is what they said to me. So I don’t even want to talk about this, but whatever. I don’t, I don’t really, I don’t care about much, but, um, so they tell me I need to take the stuff down Tubi said they want nothing to do with the film at all. So now my distributors are scrambling because they don’t know what the heck to do with the movie anymore because, um, Tubi was like, we don’t want nothing to do with it. I’m like, well, they never seen the movie. It doesn’t matter because the internet is blaming them for making this movie poking fun of domestic violence.

[00:24:18] I’m like, but I put a post out saying this was not even about that. But Tubi was so scared. Which to me, I’m like, okay, so they’re not scared of showing a child getting shot in the head and, you know..,

[00:24:28] Panama Jackson: I was about to say, I watch Tubi movies, or movies on Tubi, like I do that. And I have seen some things on Tubi that, that, again, I haven’t seen “The Rapper Who Got Shot in the Heel” yet I haven’t seen it. But I have seen tons of movies on Tubi, and there’s some things on there that, Yeah, this, I don’t, again, I don’t know what’s, where it goes or anything, and clearly they don’t either. But I’ve seen some nonsense.

[00:24:53] Alvin Gray: To denounce that, man, I think was crazy, you know, and I don’t want to say it’s nothing too bad because I have other films on Tubi, um, but to denounce that one and to do it how they did it, I feel like that was a little shady.

[00:25:04] But then again, it’s Tubi. So I, I don’t know. I’m kind of honored, but at the same time, I’m kind of insulted that they did that. Um, so that’s, that’s what that happened with, that everyone kept saying it’s a Tubi movie. They got bullied, and they’re like, we don’t want no smoke. Um, so they say we’re going to pull it and I’m like, okay, so y’all just ride the wave of everything else, but when someone starts to say something, y’all want to just be in the known and say we’re going to pull it. I just, I don’t like how they did that.

[00:25:29] Panama Jackson: It is interesting to me to think of Tubi not wanting that smoke. And I say that in the sense that one of the best things that’s happened for Tubi is all of these people tagging these things as Tubi movies, right? Like assuming that if you want to go see shenanigans, Tubi is the place to go because now you’re like you said there, there are Facebook Tubi groups is all this stuff that people kind of put in the Tubi bucket and specifically go there looking for right? So, if you, if you say, Hey, we need a crazy film to watch. So, let me go to Tubi like, that’s the natural way that people treat that. So, it’s almost like it’s free promo for them. Like, it’s been… Tubi had a great year because everybody Tubi became this platform that everybody was like. Go to Tubi for the, for these things. You want to, you want to see people get shot with no guns, go to Tubi. You want to see all that. So that’s interesting that they would not like some of the promo because they, but maybe it’s because people are claiming the domestic violence thing. Like people still haven’t seen the movie and there’s still all these ongoing arguments in the community about Meg versus Tory and you know, we’ve kind of seen the darker side of … for some men, how we view this thing too. Like there’s a lot of people who are very much like. She had that coming. Whatever happened to her. She had that coming. Tori Lane has a lot of supporters or yeah So maybe maybe it’s part of that I guess I’m gonna shoot them a little bail and maybe you know, there’s a little part of that It just seems crazy to me. So I’m with you. It’s surprising.

[00:27:00] Alvin Gray: They’re really just scared You know the whole cancel culture thing is going on and I think that because I mean I’m what we got shared in one day over eight million times, you know that, not even the movie the poster, and they were probably tagged out of eight million times probably tagged four million of the times. They just were scared and just like, you know what, it’s better to be safe than sorry. ‘We don’t want anything to do with that movie.’ That’s I think that’s how they played it. They played it safe. I’m just shocked because nothing about Tubi is safe. Um, so this must be really, really, really, then I start second guess of myself. Like, is the movie really bad even though no one saw it? Because that’s, to, to accomplish that, um, I think that’s more, to me, I’m more impressed by that part than anything else and shocked because I’m like, wow, that’s. It’s.. the movie is pretty, it’s probably one of my better films actually.

[00:27:44] Panama Jackson: Have you had a chance to like sit down with anybody at Tubi about that? Or is that in the works to have a conversation of, have they reached out or you all reached out to like, Hey, can we just talk about this? Because. I don’t want, because you do, I mean, you know, to some degree, whether people like being tagged as a Tubi film or not, Tubi is a platform that has a sizable audience now, right? Like that people, a lot of films go to Tubi and from my understanding Tubi pays more than other platforms. Like it’s one of the, so. It seems like you would want to maintain that relationship, even though you didn’t destroy it yourself, that you would want that to still be a platform that can, you know, premiere your film and all that stuff. Right?

[00:28:29] Alvin Gray: It’s up to my distributor. Um, and I don’t think my distributor understands. I don’t think they understand. You know, um, that’s a whole different thing. Also with, This is the disconnect between the distributors and the streaming platforms and their connection to the community. You know, everyone wants to profit off the community, but no one wants to understand the community.

[00:28:49] So, and I think that’s where the problem lies for this particular situation. Tubi got scared, my distributor got scared, and they just said, F it. It just pulled it off. And, um, that’s where that went. So, um, we’re trying to figure out what’s the next best move with that film. Um, but they’re saying 100% that Tubi is definitely off the table for this particular film, but they still want to keep the nurse on the highway, they’ll do anything else I do in the future, but for this particular film, my distributor is saying that Tubi is like, ‘nah, we don’t, we don’t even want to look at it.’ So, it’s just strange.

[00:29:21] Panama Jackson: I mean, you know, speaking about the community aspect, and I have this conversation with my friends a lot because, again, I’m a movie person, like, I, I, I just love Black movies, especially, um, like, Clifton Powell is like my favorite actor ever. If there’s a movie with Clifton Powell, I’m watching it. And, you know, he’s in like a thousand movies, right? So, I’m always watching anything with Clifton Powell. Like, do you think, like, the Tubi influence or culture that’s created, like, does that help or hurt, like, Black filmmakers and, like, does that help or hurt the industry?

[00:29:50] Alvin Gray: Yeah, I think that it’s actually helping right now. Its unfortunate that more Black owners aren’t involved with that platform, you know, but I think this is the first time where, uh, Black creators are able to express themselves truly and not have to fit a certain mold and still make money from their art, you know, so kudos to Tubi for doing that.

[00:30:13] And again, usually, Tubi don’t even know what they’re playing. They just take it and say, okay, it’s selling, let’s just use it. It’s just in this particular situation, it made too much noise. I flew too close to the sun, I guess. Um, but usually, uh, people.. I’ve seen more filmmakers, more colleagues of mine make more money with this platform than anything else I’ve ever seen in my decade and a half of filmmaking.

[00:30:35] So, um, in one hand, they’re doing the community service, but in the other hand, I feel like they’re just, uh, capitalizing off of something they don’t even understand all the way.

[00:30:46] Panama Jackson: I mean, that’s kind of the American way, right? Like, when it comes to Black community and Black art especially, uh, everybody else seems to make more money off of our art and our creativity than we do all right, that’s just that’s just unfortunately the way that works. Time for a quick break stay with us.

[00:31:05] And we’re back. Let me ask you you mentioned so you’ve been you’ve been making films for you said the decade and a half

[00:31:11] Alvin Gray: Yeah, for last stop. It’s like a five year break. But yeah,

[00:31:14] Panama Jackson: I noticed that I look at your IMDb and there’s like a window of time where it was like from like 2010 11 12 is like and then it just stops at like 2012 and then it comes back Um, you know, one, what were you doing during that break? But what got you started in filmmaking? Like, what was your “aha moment, I want to make movies. I want to make films?”

[00:31:33] Alvin Gray: It was my reality as a child coming up. I mean, that was simple. I just didn’t like my reality when I was a child coming up. So I used to always play with action figures and create my own stories. And as I got older, I just never let go of that habit. I just turned to action figures into real people. and started telling stories to real people in high school, making little skits and jokes. This is before cell phones. I’m talking like the big cameras and everything. Um, and I just would get it on like public access television and get it played that way.

[00:32:00] Um, I just kept at it. Um, then I went to “The Wire,” you know, step up when he shot the hand Baltimore probably 15 years ago. And, um, I just watched how everyone was moving around. And say, you know what? I think I can pull this off with me and some friends. So I just learned everything I could learn and, uh, just bought a camera and start making indie films with my little camera. That’s pretty much how I did that. And why I did it.

[00:32:25] Panama Jackson: You mentioned “The Wire.” I was going to, I was going to go here. I was going to go to Baltimore in general, but you, so you went to like the set, like you were on set, like watching what was going on or participating in any way, any capacity.

[00:32:36] Alvin Gray: So, I mean, you’ll see me as an extra, like, I was one of Mayor Carcetti’s workers, like, holding a sign and cheering him on when he won the election, and then I’m, like, in the background a couple times when McNulty is talking at the bar, so you’ll see me in the background a lot, but I didn’t really go there, well, originally, I did go there for the acting, but then I said, why am I fighting to be in the background, the front of the background because everyone to say everyone wanted to be the one that was walking by and like, why are we fighting for this? I want a real role. So let me just see how they do it and just make my own stuff. That’s pretty much how that became what it became. So you will start to see me on set more, but I wasn’t there really to act anymore. I was there to learn so I can see how to be, um, the front man. I didn’t want to be an extra anymore, which is nothing wrong with being an extra. That’s just not what I wanted to be at that time of my career. If I even had a career at that time. .

[00:33:22] Panama Jackson: So what wa what was the break? Why the break?

[00:33:26] Alvin Gray: Um, life. Life came, technology started changing. Everyone started shooting on the DSLRs, the little cameras and everything. It became oversaturated. Um, I noticed a change in people, you know. Um, so people changed a lot from 2004 to even now. Uh. Hear me out.. So just the entitlement that people started to have the easy access and the lack of appreciation of art and what went into it because technology made things easier.

[00:33:53] So with that, I say, you know, I don’t want to be associated with this type of environment and change and the people and stuff. So I just backed away. Um, and decided to do some other stuff and it wasn’t until I got married, uh, my wife saw some of my old films and she was like, ‘I had no idea you even shot movies. Why did you stop?’ And no, I just told her the same thing in a sense that she said, you need to really look back into it. So I wound up taking my old movies from 10 years ago and reshooting them again, recycling and redoing them. And from there, um, it got more notoriety because social media changed and I just took that wave and I took my old knowledge with this new technology and made what I have today.

[00:34:34] That’s how I’m able to create at the pace that I have because the hustle from. 15 years ago, it’s still there with this new technology.

[00:34:41] Panama Jackson: How do you feel about the state of like Black film and Black filmmaking now? I mean, it seems like there’s more more Black movies than ever. Right. Whenever I love when people always say this thing, like we don’t have enough movies. I’m like, y’all just ain’t looking because I there are a billion Black movies out there like I don’t ever have to watch a movie with a white person again if I don’t want to. Like, I genuinely feel that way. Um, now that’s going to vary in quality from some odd to great, but that’s how movies are in general, right? Like we, we all assume that quote unquote, mainstream movies are all like big budget and they’re not right? Movies, if you couldn’t make a movie, you could do it with $10 and some people do it with, you know, a hundred billion, right? It’s just, it’s just where you go find them. But I see, you know, like I, I’m one of them people that I don’t even mind the Tyler Perry end of things. Like I watch all those movies because it’s Black storytelling. Now, some of those movies could use some work, but lots of movies can use some work, right? So, You know, where are you as a person who’s in this industry as a, as a filmmaker, who’s actively working and creating, like, where do you stay? How do you feel about the industry and where it’s at right now?

[00:35:43] Alvin Gray: I think that, and I, and I say, and I don’t mean no offense when I say this, but I remember, so I remember when, uh, DC comics, they did, uh, what’s that show, uh, with the Titans. And this is when, and this is when I first started noticing a change. They turned the girl star, the, the witch girl, it was a white girl in the, in the comics, but they made her into a dark skin girl on the, in the actual show. And I was a little confused by that, but you know, when I watched it and I said, you know what, wow, she really brought a lot more element to the character. Just the way that she carried herself. I wouldn’t, I could not see anyone in any other race to, to, to do that role that way. And that’s when I first noticed it.

[00:36:23] And then I started noticing just the whole culture shift of a lot of Black actors taking over certain roles in all these different movies. And as I watch these movies, I’m thinking to myself. Wow. We, as a people, bring a lot more spice to the camera that grabs your attention than I’ve ever seen before on any other movie.

[00:36:44] Like, to the point where I’m like, I don’t even know if I’m.. Let me say this. I don’t know if I want to go back to the way things used to be as far as entertainment, entertainment on a cinematic platform. I’m trying to say things carefully because I don’t want to say the wrong thing, but I do find that people in our culture actually bring a lot more spice to these characters that you just can’t do with other cultures. And I don’t say that in a mean way. I don’t say it in a way to try to be like, I’m not going to do anything. I’m just speaking truth as a storyteller. Um, I’m happy to see the growth. And the opportunity that we have gotten and we’re giving we’re getting and we’re creating and we’re pushing through, um, to show people what we really have.

[00:37:28] And I don’t see us going back. And if we do go back, um, I think it will be a hard slope downwards for the, uh, cinematic community. Because we’re taking over and we’re doing it really well as far as, um, the performances that we’re giving on screen, you know, so, and even as a director, these storytellers are out there, the stories we’re able to tell, um, I think that we’re onto something and that it will be a, I don’t see us going down, going backwards. We, we, we, we had our foot in the door and we were able to excel and push all the way through at this point. So, you know, Um, I had nothing bad to say about it. I was originally, I was like, I don’t know about this. You know, we’re going to turn Kevin McCallister Black? I don’t know. But now I’m like, okay, I can actually see, not saying that really happened, but I can see my five year old son being more of a terrorizer than the kid on the other side of the park. Well, you don’t know what I’m talking about, but from the mansions.

[00:38:21] You know what I mean?

[00:38:22] Panama Jackson: First off, my best friend lives in West Baltimore, like Ash Burton. I know, I know. I’ve been looking for a little Park Hill strut in your, in your, in your movies. I’ve been looking for it. I believe I’m very familiar with Baltimore. I’m one of the people in DC that actually really loves Baltimore as a city.

[00:38:35] Alvin Gray: Nice. I appreciate that.

[00:38:36] But yeah, I think that he would bring a lot more terror to some criminals trying to break in his house than, you know, Kevin from a mansion. So I just find, I find that we are able to tell stories a little bit more exciting. And I know, and again, I don’t mean that in any other way, besides just the truth. Um, but yeah, that’s how I feel about that.

[00:38:54] Panama Jackson: All right. Well, we’re going to take one more break here on Dear Culture. We’re here with Alvin Gray talking Black films, his Black films, his films. And, uh, when we come back, we’re going to do my favorite segments, which are Blackfessions and Blackamendations here on Dear Culture.

[00:39:11] All right, we’re back here on Dear Culture with Alvin Gray, talking Black films, talking Tubi, just talking about being an independent filmmaker, and we’re here with the last segments of Dear Culture, which are my favorite, where we talk about Blackfessions and Blackamendations. So Blackfessions are confession about your Blackness, something people will be surprised to know about you because you’re Black.

[00:39:31] All right. Do you have a Black fashion for us?

[00:39:33] Alvin Gray: Um, I’m not a, I don’t know anything about football and I don’t know how to play spades. Is that?

[00:39:40] Panama Jackson: Okay. So two for that’s a twofer. All right. So now when you say you don’t know anything about football, are you not a Ravens fan?

[00:39:47] Alvin Gray: So, no. So, I mean, I don’t know if this is appropriate to bring up, but I was in the room being another person, another guy, and he’s like, you know who that is? That’s Ray Rice. I’m like, who’s that? And it had to explain to me who that was. Um, I, the only person I know is Ray Lewis. And I don’t even know, I don’t think he plays anymore. But other than that..

[00:40:04] Panama Jackson: He does not. He’s been retired for a very long time. He was in the Super Bowl in like, in like 2001.

[00:40:12] Alvin Gray: Okay. See, so that’s the last, anyone else I wouldn’t know. I think I might know Flacco, maybe by face.

[00:40:17] Panama Jackson: You don’t know Lamar Jackson?

[00:40:19] Alvin Gray: No. I don’t watch football.

[00:40:20] Panama Jackson: The most, like, wow. Okay. That’s interesting in a city where the Ravens, I would imagine are one of the most dominating forces because they’re good and you have so many marquee players. That’s interesting. Okay.

[00:40:32] Alvin Gray: For real, I’m in the grocery store and it was like, I’m like trying to buy like some wings or something on Sunday and it never fails. Oh, so you’re getting a roll. How about that game a day? And I have to like go through this whole acting mode of me acting like I know what the hell he’s talking about.

[00:40:46] The whole time I don’t know what people are talking about. So I try not to go out on Sundays because people are trying to talk to me about the game. And I don’t want to be like, yeah, you know, go Eagles. And I’m like, I always have to make up stuff.

[00:40:56] Panama Jackson: Are you like an Orioles fan? Are you into sports at all?

[00:40:59] Alvin Gray: I am in no way a sports fan at all. I’m strictly artist.

[00:41:04] Panama Jackson: Fair enough. . Yeah. Explain the spades thing though, ’cause I mean, you know, you, you, a Black man from one of the Blackest cities in the country. Um, I would imagine Spades is a popular game in, in Baltimore.

[00:41:16] Alvin Gray: I don’t know, I don’t know how to play Spades. The only game I know how to play is Uno and maybe Old Maid.

[00:41:21] What, from like, back in the day. But again, I was a artist. I was more into like weird, like dolls and stuff, you know, because again, I played with the stuff to, uh, create stories. Um, so I just was not really, I went, I did a show, um, “Spades Tables” like a month ago and literally we had to play spades while they’re doing an interview and I knew nothing.

[00:41:42] I had to like talk the whole way through.

[00:41:46] Clip from “Spades Tables”: “The club or space.”

[00:41:47] So what if I told you, I don’t know what a spade is just hypothetically, you don’t know what a spade looks like. Well, someone told me I had a spade nose. So like,

[00:41:54] okay, hold on, let me see.”

[00:41:57] Alvin Gray: Um, so yeah, people..

[00:41:59] Panama Jackson: Did you have a partner?

[00:42:01] Alvin Gray: Yeah, but my partner, it was a rule. I think I couldn’t talk to my partner or something. I don’t know.

[00:42:05] Panama Jackson: Yeah you can’t, you can’t talk across the board. So your, your partner probably hated you while you playing stuff on spades, and they’re like, what is this fool doing? Yeah.

[00:42:13] Alvin Gray: You got to watch it. It’d be bad. Like there was like, Oh, you’re really counting out each card. Like I was trying to like stall as long as I could. I don’t know how to flip cards. I don’t know how to do any of that stuff. So it was an interesting interview.

[00:42:23] Panama Jackson: Oh, I’m gonna have to go find out one. Cause that’s, that’s gonna be the, that’s, that’s something else right there. Okay. All right. So you’re not a sports fan, uh, and you live in Baltimore, one of the craziest football towns in America because you’re such a great team. With one of the Blackest football players of all time in Lamar Jackson. Um, okay, and you can’t, and you don’t do spades. I think that counts as Blackfessions. All right. Um, for a person who makes some of the Blackest movies in, uh, okay. I like it. You need to throw a Spades scene in one of your movies.

[00:42:55] Alvin Gray: Right.

[00:42:55] Panama Jackson: All right. Well, to usually to counter the Blackfession, we have a Blackadmendation, which is a recommendation about Black culture, something for, by, and about Blackness that you think other Black people should be up on. Do you have a Blackamendation for us.

[00:43:10] Alvin Gray: Um, can it can it be locally? Or is that to be like,

[00:43:13] Panama Jackson: Yeah, oh, absolutely. Wherever.

[00:43:15] Alvin Gray: Locally, I think its a stigma for Black people to think that things like Botox and fillers and IV hydrations and just things in the aesthetics world is something that only people that Caucasians should. And I think that we should break the stigma of not being afraid to look into Botox as needed, you know, and things like that.

[00:43:33] So, I would like to just take the moment out to say, check out Gray Aesthetics, which is a company that provides those services. She’s a Black provider. And she loves to treat people in our culture and try to break the stigma to say that, hey, Black does sometimes crack and it’s okay to say that and it’s okay to get those things touched up.

[00:43:52] So when I smile now, I don’t have any lies or anything. I look, I look fresh like Hollywood.

[00:43:56] Panama Jackson: So my man doesn’t play Spades and said Black does sometimes crack within two minutes of each other. I understand because Gray Aesthetics. I’m assuming this is this your wife’s business family business, but you’re okay.

[00:44:10] Alvin Gray: Yeah.

[00:44:11] Panama Jackson: But you did say Black does indeed crack and I’ve just I think that’s as much of a Blackfession too. Um, I’m not even sure where to go from here. Um, I, I’ve never heard anybody actually say Black does crack.

[00:44:23] Alvin Gray: It sometimes do, you know,..

[00:44:27] Panama Jackson: Fair enough. Fair enough. That’s funny, actually, but it’s funny because that’s like, that’s like the perfect promo for a company on aesthetics, right?

[00:44:37] Like an, like an esthetician, right? It’s like, listen, sometimes Black crack and we got to get it back together. We got to put that. I can just respect and appreciate that. Uh, so what, what’s the name of the company again?

[00:44:48] Alvin Gray: Gray Aesthetics.

[00:44:50] Panama Jackson: Okay. In Baltimore.

[00:44:51] Alvin Gray: In Baltimore. Yup. In Baltimore. And we do it all lip fillers, you know, Botox, cheek fillers, under eye stuff. Um, you know, we frown a lot because of whatever the sun, cause we angry. Let’s get them frowns upside down. Let’s look fresh.

[00:45:06] Panama Jackson: All right. All right. Listen, and I’m with you. I listen, I’m with you. I get it. 100%. I just think it’s funny saying like Black don’t crack. This is the one time it works in context of making it works in context.

[00:45:20] All right. So listen, where can people find out what you’ve got going on? You have a production company? Is it nine tenths?

[00:45:27] Alvin Gray: 9-10 It’s the day that me and my wife met. Um, was that September 10th? So, 910Productions.

[00:45:35] Panama Jackson: All right. So where can people keep up with what you got going on? A production company, the new films, like where can people keep up with what you’ve got going on if they’re interested in? You said that the distributors are sitting on a couple of films of yours. Do we have any idea when the world might actually see “The Rapper Who Got Shot in the Heel”?

[00:45:56] Alvin Gray: Um, I would say go to my website, which is 910productionfilms.com And if they don’t do something soon, I’m going to wind up just dropping it on my website regardless.

[00:46:07] I’m thinking probably like the top of the month of February. Um, but even if not there, you can go to my website and you’ll be able to find all of my projects, including my clothing line and everything else on that site. Um, and if you’re not a website person like myself, I’m not really a website person, even though I have one, um, social media. You know, I’m, I’m up on social media actively like every five hours updating something. So, um, and that’s TheeAlvinGray . That’s T H E E A L V I N G R A Y. You can go there and you’ll be able to, you know, get up to date things as it’s happening. My website, I usually update it every three or four weeks.

[00:46:42] So that’s pretty much where you can go.

[00:46:46] Panama Jackson: All right. Well, thank you for being here on Dear Culture. Um, I look forward to checking out “The Rapper Who Got Shot in the Heel”. Um, I watched the other movies. Like I said, I watched the Christmas movie. Like I love Black cinema. Um, I love cinema that centers Blackness.

[00:47:02] Like I love anything that does Black storytelling. Even if it’s, even if it’s bad, I get a kick out of it. Right? Like I, I, I like entertainment. I watch movies for entertainment value. So when I can be entertained, I’m always happy by that. So. I will be checking out whatever you got going on. I’ll be looking for those movies.

[00:47:21] Um, you know, thank you for being here. Thank you for creating. Thank you for making art that goes viral, right?

[00:47:28] Alvin Gray: Thank you. And whenever you’re ready, um, you know, for the next film, we can talk about that when it comes time.

[00:47:35] Panama Jackson: Listen. I will be looking for it. Listen, we, we, we, we just might have to do that because it might the film itself seems like it’s a conversation piece in and of itself and that there’s nothing like having a movie that generates actual convo and all that.

[00:47:49] So we’ll be, I’ll be looking forward to that. So yeah, appreciate you being here. Thank you. And thank you to everybody for listening to Dear Culture, which is an original podcast of theGrio Black Podcast Network. It is produced by Sasha Armstrong, edited by Geoff Trudeau. And Regina Griffin is our Director of Podcasts.

[00:48:08] Again, my name is Panama Jackson. Thank you for listening. Have a Black one.

[00:48:25] Writing Black Promo: We started this podcast to talk about not just what Black writers write about, but how Well, personally, it’s on my bucket list to have one of my books banned. . I know that’s probably bad, but Ooh, I think, ooh, spicy. They were yelling N word. Go home. And I was looking around for the n word because I knew it couldn’t be me because I was a queen.

[00:48:44] But I’m telling people to quit this mentality of identifying ourselves by our work. To start to live our lives. And to redefine the whole concept of how we work and where we work and why we work in the first place.

[00:49:00] My, my biggest strength throughout, throughout my career has been having incredible mentors and specifically Black women. I’ve been writing poetry since I was like eight. You know, I’ve been reading Langston hughes and James Baldwin and Maya Angelou and so forth and so on since I was like a little kid.

[00:49:15] Like the banjo was Blackly Black, right? For many, many, many years. Everybody knew because sometimes I’m just doing some Sam that because I just want to do it. I honor to be here. Thank you for doing the work that you’re doing. Keep shining bright.

[00:49:32] And we, and like you said, we all keep Writing Black. As always, you can find us on theGrio app or wherever you find your podcasts.

[00:49:46] ​