JAMAL HODGE is a multi-award-winning filmmaker and writer who is a sitting Board Member of Harlem Film House and Axs Lab.
Since May of 2016, Jamal Hodge’s films have been an official selection in over 100 Film Festivals, and have won over 70 awards including The Vanguard Award (Best of The Fest) at the Hip Hop Film Festival (2020), Best Director at The Chelsea Film Festival (2020) and Best Director at GenreBlast (2020), with screenings at Tribeca Film Festival, Sundance, and the Cannes Short Film Corner.
Jamal has directed the first season of Investigation Discovery Channel’s Primal Instinct’ and has come on as a Producer on the Animated feature film ‘Pierre The Pigeon Hawk’ (starring Will.I.Am, Jennifer Hudson, and Whoopi Goldberg). He is currently co-directing/producing a PBS docu-series called Southern Storytellers (2022) with Peabody-winning producer/director Craig Renaud, and is the Show Runner on two comedy series: INGENIUSES (created by Brandon Shaw) and TYPE CAST with Lenny Thomas.
As a writer, Hodge is an active member of The Horror Writer’s Association and The SFPA, being nominated for a 2021 Rhysling Award for his Poem ‘Fermi’s Spaceship’ and a 2022 Rhysling Award for his poem ‘Loving Venus’, While his poem ‘The Silence of God’ placed in the 2021 Horror Writer Association Showcase. His Poetry is Featured in the Anthology CHIRAL MAD 5 alongside such legends as STEPHEN KING, LANGSTON HUGHES, LINDA ADDISON. And recently, Hodge has been tasked to be co-editor of the historical book 45 BLACK MEN IN HORROR with Sumiko Saulson. You can find his work featured in the historical all-black issue of Star*line Magazine (issue 43.4) SPACE AND TIME Magazine, HYBRID: Misfits, Monsters & Other Phenomena, PENUMBRIC Speculative Fiction Magazine, and many others. His screenplay ‘Mourning Meal’ won 5 awards (including best short screenplay at NYC Horror Film Festival in 2018).
Motivated by his accomplishments, Hodge has blossomed to take his talents to the next level. Jamal’s tone of work, or what he calls, “Inspirational Darkness”, can be described as a melding of genres. The Psychological Horror, Thriller, and Inspirational genres are Jamal’s usual forte of filmmaking. His mission is to add value to people’s lives through his unique brand of cinema. He’s excited to continue to grow outstanding partnerships to create memorable and impactful cinematic experiences for audiences across the world.
Interview with Jamal Hodge
It takes courage to go after your dreams. What keeps you motivated to stay in an uncertain industry? Also, how did you find the courage to be vulnerable enough, to be honest in your work?
Jamal: You know they say the only certain thing is death and taxes right? (Laughs) In my deranged opinion all industries are built on different levels of uncertainty, shit, life is a kaleidoscope of uncertainty! Not even the wise can predict the exact complexion of the future. In fact, the beauty of film is in its unpredictability, you can have nothing today and be everything tomorrow. It is a high-risk high-reward game.
I personally enjoy delayed gratification and the slow but steady approach suits me, as I feel it will establish a sturdy life-long foundation. In terms of vulnerability, being vulnerable is about being courageous enough to be unflinchingly honest. Standing soul-naked so the world can see all the hidden horrors and all the singing portraits of beauty that resides in all our lives. The things that are personal are the most universal. So being brave enough to craft your honesty into a tool of vulnerability is probably the master key to success. It has been for me.
What have been some of the most memorable moments in your career so far?
Jamal: I’ve been blessed to have a lot of different successes in this game but some of the ones that stand out the most were getting a citation award from the Hague Appeal For Peace in Amsterdam back when the Rowanda genocides were going on. Another moment was in 2016 I was showing a short film I directed called The Jump, at the AMC theatre in Manhattan, my mother was there, and when the film was done the woman seated next to her said “Whoever made that is a genius, it was beautiful,” and my mom said, “My son made that.” And I heard in her voice that finally, at long last, I wasn’t a waste of sperm and 9 months of labor. (Laughs)
Winning my first narrative award ever at The New York City Horror Film festival is another big one and of course, the first time I went to Cannes! That shit was crazy!! Will never forget it. If you ever get the chance to go please do, it’s one of the best parties in the world, no lie. Actually, not to sound butter-soft but the very best moments happen when your team sees the final product you all suffered for and they tell you it was worth it, that you didn’t waste their time and their talents, no moment is better than that.
What characteristics in directing and filmmaking are most important to you?
Jamal: Character. The internal character of the people you are embarking on this journey with. Cause accolades are fine, talent is great, popularity is awesome, but nobody wants to do14hours a day on set with an irredeemable asshole. Assholes are for butts, not sets… unless you’re the AD, I guess. The next things are punctuality, focus on mission, and that good ole team spirit. Filmmaking is like managing an Army and a Daycare simultaneously, it is a perverse marriage of chaos & order so it requires adaptable, critical thinking, people who put the team and its mission before their own tender feelings. This can be harder than it sounds to do. Especially for directors.
As the Keeper of The Vision, we are given a certain Lee-way to be selfish but it has its limits, and in actuality, the best characteristic of a director is your ability to create an environment with clear standards and rules that you yourself adhere to. You’re a leader to the crew and a guide to the actors. It’s almost like being a religious figure, the pope of your own style. If you abuse your position the people will lose faith… and bullshit will reign.
How have you learned to say yes to pain and no to pleasure to lead as a director? What experience can you share with us about this?
Jamal: The more you do the more you learn that you cannot ask for what you won’t give. The price of every dream is suffering before you wake up to a brighter present. I learned to say no to pain and yes to pleasure by default because that’s what directing is. It’s constantly pushing towards what hurts, towards what’s courageous, so that we can all feel good together in the future. Creation hurts. Getting people to do things they don’t think they’re capable of hurts. Working 12–18 hour days hurts. Telling people you care about ‘no’, hurts. It’s much easier to choose what feels good and lead everyone off a cliff.
I have a plethora of examples of this but since they all include interactions with actors or DOPs I’ll just keep my mouth shut, but let’s just say in my experience dealing with those two entities and the network, you will also learn to choose pain in order to get to pleasure, far, far, far, down the road (laughs) They will make sure of it!
What would you like to see more of in the film industry?
Jamal: A break from traditional forms and formulas. An evolution of ideas that reflects the new possibilities in the technologies we now have available to us. But most of all, POC in central roles across all genres of film. POC Leading the way in space, telling the tales of Hannibal and The Orishas. I want the image of the Black diaspora to go mainstream in all its diversity. We are not a monolith. We are multicolored divinity having a human experience. Let’s have our films reflect that. Stop with all this Save The Cat formulaic shit, please.
What can we be on the lookout for from you?
Jamal: Thanks to the Pandemic, I literally had zero prospects to show just a year ago, now there are four shows I’m a part of and several publications in the realm of writing. More specifically, look out for my short film Under Thy Wings starring Kisha Barr & Jaimie Zevallos on the festival circuit this fall alongside a comedy series I directed called Ingeniuses (created by Brandon J Shaw). Also, if you love cinema and NFTs Necessary Evil: Part One, (based on the novels by Kareem Hayes) will be dropping in NFT form after its world premiere as the opening night film at The Hip Hop Film Festival (2022).
There is also a powerful rom-com dramedy called Type Cast (starring Lenny Thomas & Jessica Carillo) that I’m directing, along with a PBS docu-series with Peabody-winning filmmaker Craig Renaud, called Southern Storytellers. Lastly, please check out www.Writerhodge.com for the latest on my speculative fiction. The anthology collection Chiral Mad 5 with Stephen King, Linda Addison, and Little ole me, will also be dropping this year. Anyway, I’m feeling blessed by the view of the horizon. Our game forces us to confront pain and uncertainty, which ultimately leads to a fulfillment and self-actualization most people will never know. It is truly a calling to be a filmmaker and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Photography by: Gabriel J. Taliaferrow