June 14, 2011
— Florida A&M University (FAMU) alumnus James Bland was recently recognized as the winner for Round 1 of the inaugural Shadow and Act Black Filmmaker Showcase. Bland’s short film entry, “Cocoa Love,” garnered 46.7 percent of the 14,220 votes.
“It felt incredible to win Round 1 of the Shadow and Act Digital Filmmaker's Showcase,” he said. “It's one of the most respected entertainment and film blogs amongst the industry and it's really a privilege to have my work featured on the site. I discovered my passion for film while a student at FAMU. My film roots are deeply connected to FAMU and the university helped me to realize my potential.”
Bland earned his degree from FAMU’s School of Business and Industry in 2008. While a student, the multi-talented filmmaker wrote and directed his first feature film, “Dreaming in Color.”
“I’ve grown tremendously as a filmmaker since ‘Dreaming in Color,’” he said. “I often say that I'm cut from a different cloth than my peers, and I realize that it was the FAMU experience that sharpened me. Being a student at FAMU showed me what excellence looked like and taught me that mediocrity as a standard was unacceptable.”
Bland, a Titusville, Fla. native, said he feels the best way to learn anything is by simply doing it.
“One of the first pieces of advice I received when I was just an aspiring filmmaker was from (director and FAMU alumnus) Rob Hardy,” he said. “I told him I wanted to make films and he told me to pick up a camera and shoot something.”
Following graduation, Bland moved to Los Angeles, Calif. and received his first big studio opportunity working as an intern for producer and FAMU alumnus Will Packer on the movie, “Takers.” Finding a home at Sony Screen Gems, Bland continued to work on the production side of films, such as “Death at a Funeral,” Priest” and “Burlesque.”
“Cocoa Love” has competed in many film festivals around the country, winning Best-Comedy at the Urban Media Makers Film Festival, and airing on the season two finale of Black Entertainment Television’s “Lens on Talent” show.
Currently, Bland serves as co-president of Hometeam Entertainment. The first project to be released under the Hometeam banner is the web series, “FAIL,” where Bland acts and serves as one of the executive producers. He is also directing a documentary titled, “Mission Swaziland,” which is a look at American volunteers on a mission to help the Kingdom of Swaziland, but culture, tradition and politics get in the way.
“I took a hiatus from Hollywood last year and went on a mission trip to the Kingdom of Swaziland, which is one of Africa's poorest countries and the last absolute monarchy,” he said. “My documentary will focus on American volunteers who are committed to helping the Swazi people help themselves as they face challenges from the country’s culture, tradition and politics.”
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