The Black Miami: Black Influence in South Florida from the 1800s to the '80s Riots
|Drs. Marvin Dunn and Paul George working on location|
That's why the new documentary The Black Miami has piqued our interest. Based on Dr. Marvin Dunn's book, Black Miami in the 20th Century, the film describes the history and significance of blacks in South Florida. Regardless of your background, you're sure to be captivated by the stories of The Black Miami, many of which you've likely never heard.
Carlton Smith, who, along with Michael Williams, is helming the project, answered some of our questions about The Black Miami, how it came into being, and why people in South Florida need to see it.
Cultist: How did this documentary come into being?
Carlton Smith: I met another producer, Michael Williams, through work, and we had talked about doing side projects together -- particularly, we wanted to do a documentary. He had been reading this book, Black Miami in the 20th Century, and he said it would make a really great documentary. I read the book myself, at which point we decided to take it on as a documentary project. We called the author of the book, Dr. Dunn, who lives in Florida and is a retired professor from FIU. We said that if he was on board, we would definitely do it. He joined us as an interviewee and an associate producer, which was a win-win.
How does the film compare to the Dr. Dunn's book?
The book goes into so much more detail. After reading the book and sitting with Dr. Dunn, we made a timeline of which key points in his book we wanted in the documentary. With his permission, we kind of said, "What do you think are the most important assets from your book? What are some of the things people don't know about black history in Miami?" The book has more detail, while the documentary is more like an overview, a condensed version of things that are in the book.
How long have you been involved in this project?
We began working on this in November of 2011. Because Michael and I have full-time jobs, we were shootings weekends and evenings. We just got done with post-production.
Wow. We're no filmmakers, but that doesn't seem like long at all. How were you able to finish so quickly?
It was really fast. We were on a tight schedule. Actually, we wanted to submit it to the American Black Film Festival in Miami, but we missed the March deadline. We slowed down a little bit after that, but basically we filmed every single weekend for about three months, and we were doing two or three interviews a day. Michael, being a superb editor, was able to do the post-production in about a month.
How does The Black Miami compare to other projects you've worked on, it terms of content and scale?
I currently work for a national television show, and before that I did music videos, news, and other film projects. This is really the first documentary I've tackled, and it's very special. We didn't have any money when we just went out and did this. We're still looking for sponsors, for businesses in Miami who want to tie their names to this, before it comes out. Everything was done pro bono, everything was on spec, and we owe people money, but [it was worth it]. Living in South Florida, being a black person, I want to know the history of my race. I want to know the history and the significance that blacks played in South Florida, where I'm living.