Zombie fan and filmmaker Jason Toler talks about his new film Crackhouse of The Dead and more.
Filmmaker, former DJ and Law & Order super fan took time out of her busy schedule to chop it up with Reviews and Dunn.
Reviews & Dunn: Growing up, when did you realize that you wanted to pursue a film career?
Kristi Woodard: When I was in high school. I have always loved watching movies, and my childhood dream was to be a writer, but it was not until I was 14 that I knew I wanted to make films. When I went to see Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” in a packed theater, and was mesmerized for an entire three hours, I knew I wanted to make people feel what I felt leaving that theater. It was another way to tell stories. I ended up in Broadcast Journalism, but film was always in the back of mind.
Reviews & Dunn: What is the inspiration behind the name Mahogani Media?
Kristi Woodard: It will probably sound like a long, weird story, but it goes back to my days as a college radio show host/DJ. I was about to start making co-host appearances on this hip hop show (Underground Sounds) at LSU’s radio station (KLSU), and one of my male co-hosts told me to come up with a name for myself. When my first suggestion didn’t go over well, I made a list of names, but none of them gave me the same feeling as the rejected one. One weekend I was watching some old movies, one of which was “Mahogany”, starring Diana Ross. There’s this scene where Sean (Anthony Perkins) names her and says something to the effect of: “There’s only one name to describe something so beautiful, dark and rare … Mahogany.” …. And that’s how Mahogani became my on-air name. I spell it with an “i” because of how my real name is spelled (lol). In college, I knew I wanted to build a multi-media company of some sort after I graduated, and I had this notebook with all my plans … the name MAHOGANI MEDIA was all over it. It was an idea nearly a decade before it became a reality.
Reviews & Dunn: You had a chance to work with Malcolm D. Lee on Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins. What was the experience like being on a major movie set?
Kristi Woodard: It was amazing. That was my first time working on a film set. The film was shot in and around my hometown (Shreveport, LA), so I was local, but it was amazing to see all the moving parts of a studio film right in my backyard. I actually applied to be a Producer’s Assistant, but didn’t get it. Still, the producer that interviewed me was impressed enough to hire me as an Assets Production Assistant. I basically helped the company (Universal) by photographing and cataloging different items that made it on screen (to help with reshoots and resales back at the studio lot). I had a desk in the production office, but also had to go on set a lot. I got to interact with almost every department, so it was cool to learn what everyone did to contribute to the overall production. Everyone was so cool and I loved watching them work. To be on a set with greats like James Earl Jones and Margaret Avery, plus top comedians and actors, and then Malcolm D. Lee himself — a great writer and director who ran a great set (and let me hang out a bit more than I probably should have lol). It was educational and inspiring. It re-ignited that filmmaker dream I first had at 14 years old.
Reviews & Dunn: How did your newest project #Situationships the Web Series come to fruition?
Kristi Woodard: It started in January 2019, with a flight and a book. I was heading to Philly to help a friend with a web series shoot, and on the plane I read a book written by my friend AJ “SaeLah” Hall called #Situationships (2018). I’d had the book for a while but the flight was the perfect chance to read it without any distractions. The book was filled with his poetry (AJ is a spoken word and hip hop artist) and prose, and told a unique love story from a man’s perspective. As I was reading, I was subconsciously making notes — dog-earing pages I wanted to revisit. By the time I made it to Philly, I already had in the back of mind that this book needed to be adapted. When I returned to Louisiana, I told AJ that his book needed to be a web series. He told me that it was funny I mentioned it because he thought the same a while before, but thought it too daunting a task and shelved it. I scheduled a face-to-face meeting so we could discuss it. At that meeting, I presented my ideas and notes — how I think the story should flow and the episode content. He felt good about the project, trusted my vision, and that was that. I started writing a week or so after that meeting.
Reviews & Dunn: Was your writing process for a web series any different for say a short film?
Kristi Woodard: My writing process was indeed different for the series. Usually when I’m writing a screenplay, I come up with a concept on my own, and then flesh out the idea in 25 pages or less. For this project, I already had a story and just had to develop it into a series of shorts (episodes). So after reading the book, I went back through it and marked chapters I thought would make good content for episodes. Then I did what I would normally do for a script — made an outline (for each episode), developed the storylines and characters, and then started the writing by building around the excerpts I pulled from the book for each episode. This is the most writing I’ve done for one project (up to date), but it’s still a complete story in short form. This was also a different experience because I’m usually the sole writer for my short films, and for “#Situationships: The Web Series” AJ wrote two of the episodes.
Reviews & Dunn: Like myself, you are a huge New Edition fan. What is one song you wish had a LIVE performance in the group’s biopic?
Kristi Woodard: NE4LIFE! And you already KNOW I was hoping for a performance of “Home Again”! When I finally got to see them on their 30 (?) year reunion tour back in 2012, that’s how they ended the show. It’s one of my favorite NE songs of all time. They played it in the credits of the last episode of the mini-series, but I would have loved to see the “Bigs” perform it.
Reviews & Dunn: One of your favorite shows is Law & Order. In your opinion, is there an episode that ever jumped the shark?
Kristi Woodard: Aw man, that is a tough one. Trying to think through all of the franchise. Um, I definitely thought they jumped the shark in the most recent season of SVU, in the episode where Benson and Stabler were reunited. I won’t spoil it, but the death was so random to me at first, but then I realized that it was a set-up for Stabler’s “Organized Crime” series, so I am okay with it. I think sometimes there are storylines I wish they did not pursue (like them trying to push SVU’s Carisi and Rollins together) and there are random exits (several DAs, Stabler, and other detectives) that are not fully explained. Still, there was a “jump the shark” moment in the Dick Wolf Universe that I HATED. In “New York Undercover”, with the death of the main character Eddie Torres. The show was never the same after that.
Reviews & Dunn: You are attending a film festival. Julie Dash, Ava Duverany and Regina King all approach about collaborating on a remake of your project Siren Song. Whom would you work with first?
Kristi Woodard: I love them all, but for that project, I’d probably work with Ava first. Though I haven’t been a fan of hers as long as the others, I would jump at the chance to work with her — especially on something of mine. I love her writing, directing and producing, and I think she’s the closest to my aesthetic, so she’d not only respect but enhance my vision.
Reviews & Dunn: What advice can you offer to aspiring filmmakers and writers?
Kristi Woodard: Learn your craft. Find your voice. Trust your vision. Short and sweet pieces of advice that have carried me through! Learning your craft is important in this industry because no matter how many people you know or how long your resume is, respect is gained by those who actually practice their skills and DELIVER. Finding your voice is important because this industry will test you and you have to be ready to present (and defend) your creative choices. So get to know who YOU are as a creative and it’ll be easier to figure out your place (or places) in this field. And once you find your voice, don’t forget to USE IT. Trust your vision. As a creative, you may second guess yourself a LOT. You’ll see others with far less talent getting much further, or you think you have to do what’s on trend to succeed. However, this is YOUR journey. Lean on YOUR gift and creative instinct. I promise it will never fail you.
Reviews & Dunn: Is there anything you would like to add? In addition, where can fans find you on social media?
Kristi Woodard: I want to add that these were some of the hardest questions I’ve ever had to answer lol. But thank you for giving me a chance to tell a bit of my story!
R&D fans can find me on IG/Twitter @mahoganimedia
Lastly, #Situationships: The Web Series (@situationshipstheseries on IG/ @situationshiptv on Twitter) premieres on YouTube (www.youtube.com/situationshipstheseries) on Friday, June 11th. Please go Subscribe and Tune In!
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