“I’m Afro-Brazilian and American, you know. There are thousands of George Floyd’s in Brazil. In Brazil, the cops would just shoot you dead and then call you a thief and that’s it”. David Bianchi
“David Bianchi is a multi-hyphenate quintessential artist”. Celebrated as an international actor, filmmaker, and spoken word poet, blending his passions seamlessly in his very own art genre he calls Spinema™ (spinning cinema through spoken word). These poetic-cinematic experiences are currently taking the NFT art space by storm, leading to thousands of dollars being donated to charity and a recent feature in Forbes. Originally from Rochester, NY now based in Hollywood, CA he holds a BFA in Theatre and Film from Arizona State and graduated top of his class Magna Cum Laude. David has over 100 professional film/TV credits, including 22 IMDB producer credits, 12 writers’ credits and is the founder of Exertion Films. He is an active voting member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He was awarded the prestigious “Producers Mark” (p.g.a.) for his work by the Producers Guild of America. ALT caught up with David in his LA home ahead of the Windrush Caribbean Film Festival 2021 (WCFF2021)which takes place 23 July -Aug 29. Book tickets here
DAVID: I was classically trained, I have a BFA in Theatre and Film and then spoken word, poetry as an art form, sort of came to me in my collegiate years in my early twenties, I sort of discovered it because I was a battle rapper and a battle MC in upstate New York at the time. And so, the idea like rhythmic words and pre stop and freestyle rapping was always part of my DNA per se but I started producing poetry slams, in my early twenties and then when I landed in LA in 2004, I produced my first professional short film called Soldier, which was an experimental film told entirely in spoken word poetry. It was a socially conscious activist piece that was basically standing up against the American occupation of Iraq and the American soldiers that were dying in the Middle East.
And so that was my first foray into producing films that were told to poetry and so now 16 years later here we are, I’ve done a lot, over a hundred professional film and television credits and, I’ve directed a lot, I’ve produced a lot, I’ve screen written a lot. And the art form of spinema, spinning cinema through spoken word, is an art form that I’ve coined and, you know, I’ve scoured the internet. There are a lot of people, you know, making poetic videos, but no one is producing spoken word cinema to the degree that I am.
ALT: Let’s talk about the two two short films you have in the Windrush Film Festival , Wade in the Water and Let’s Grow. Tell us about the premise of each one and how you are involved in those films?
David: So, Wade in the Water, I directed and I was one of the writers, produced, and I edited the film. You know, there is not a frame on that film that doesn’t have my fingerprints on it and that’s a film that’s inspired by the old Negro spiritual Wade in the Water. And I remember when I was at a poetry slam 16 years ago, I once heard a poet sing that Negro hymn in a spoken word piece and since that day, I’ve wanted to evoke that song in a film, it just never happened. And so, working closely with Joivan Wade, who is my producing partner and also one of my dearest friends and poetic collaborators, we were working together during the pandemic, and we had produced a piece called Hear Me, which is a pandemic piece.
And I was just like, Yo! Bro, we gotta do this. I’m like, the time is now, if we don’t do this now, then when? We have access to cameras and crews and location, and nobody’s doing a thing. Let’s seize this moment and let’s make some important art. And so, that was basically the embryo of Wade in the Water and I’m incredibly proud of it. It’s my most ambitious piece of spinema to date. It just won Best Short Film award by Film Threat Magazine for 2021 . I’m grateful to have my films at your festival (Windrush Festival is part programmed by ALT AFRICA). Regarding Let’s Grow, I’m also a producer, one of the writers; key writers and one of the poets in that one, with globally recognized transformational leader, Lisa Nichols. Lisa Nichols is widely known for being one of the original faces of the movie The Secret that Changed the World. She has worked closely with people like Steve Harvey and is highly influential and ambitious. It’s a 16 minute, anti-racism piece that is basically an argument between a Caucasian man and myself, a person of colour, and coming from two separate perspectives, one coming from all lives matter perspective, one coming from a black lives matter perspective and then Lisa plays a sort of mother earth figure to ground the argument and so these are two ground-breaking films and I think that more and more, the art form of spoken word is widely accepted, especially the stuff that Amanda Gorman has done, you know, with the Super Bowl and the White House and all that. It’s like from a branding perspective, people are starting to understand what the art form actually is.
You know, it’s no longer underground and my charge as an artist is to create socially conscious films but taking the art form of poetry out of the stage. I’ve been televised on several shows, performing, spoken word, et cetera but when I watch a poet and a mic on a TV screen, it’s an archaic format to me. It doesn’t allow for the immersion that spinema allows for, right? See, I’m using all languages of cinema, light, picture, sound, music performance, and I’m creating an amalgamation of performance, art written poetry and cinematic experiences, which is creating a sonic and emotional experiences that audiences have never been in touch with before.
ALT: You shout out LOUD about BLM, do you think it’s a turning point in America because of the verdict on Floyd?
David: Well, I think it is a turn. It absolutely is. It’s not just a turning point in America. I think it’s a turning point in global awareness for the proper treatment of people of colour by the hands of authority figures because this isn’t just an American thing. I mean, none of us should be that ignorant, right? It’s a UK thing, it’s a South Africa thing, it’s a Dominican Republic thing, it’s a Cuba thing, it’s a Puerto Rico thing, it’s an India thing, anywhere where there is a colonistic historical timeline and there are people of colour that do not genetically align to white elite Eurocentric culture. There is this oppression! right? So, I know I pivoted a little bit but to answer your question, it is a big step in the right direction but there is an incredible amount of work left to do.
I was just talking to one of my colleagues and I’m Afro-Brazilian and American, you know. There are thousands of George Floyd’s in Brazil. In Brazil, the cops would just shoot you dead and then call you a thief and that’s it. People literally vanish in Brazil by the hands of military police, you know, so I’m grateful that we’re in a first world country with social media where this stuff is really being paid attention to and hopefully being a beacon of light for the rest of the world. I’ll close with this thought, as it relates to that question, it is a big step in the right direction, but there is a big, big problem associated with the why, because look, how many unique circumstances it took to get to a verdict, right?
A man being killed in broad daylight, bystanders videotaping on their phones and social media creates this global storm, in a pandemic where everybody was home, watching their televisions and being appalled by the public lynching of Mr. Floyd. In fair time, with good weather conditions in the Northern hemisphere, in a world where mobilization outside and marches was possible from a weather perspective above and beyond that, Americans and the global population were already dying from oppression and claustrophobia. So, everybody was dying for a real reason to get out of their house, to create global mobilization. At one point, every city in America was on fire. That then lit up the rest of the world that got Korea, Tokyo, Indonesia, Australia, everybody was mobilizing for George Floyd to finally get these men arrested the first man – four days, the next two – so nine days to actually get to now, then to actually get the Mayor to file a special motion so that they would open up a new prosecution on Derek Chauvin. And so, it took all of those special circumstances and then on top of that, for there to be a compelling enough prosecution that would actually convict an officer, which is highly unusual. And so, if you look at all those unique circumstances, it shouldn’t take that much alchemy, it just shouldn’t! Now for whatever an individual has done in their life and in their past, and you name it, it’s just wrong! You know? so, we’re, growing, but we have a long way to go.
ALT: I know you are an acclaimed actor and you’ve got a massive number of screen credits but what’s it like working behind the camera and telling your own stories and putting stories out there that you want to?
David: Sure. Well, it’s an important question. I’m an artist first, you know, even if you look right behind me, you see that white painting with the B on it. That’s my original work, I’m an artist first, no matter what. I have built an avenue for myself as an actor and you know, the more stuff that I do in front of the camera, the more star power I have, the easier it is to get movies made but I enjoy painting canvases, whether they be motion picture canvases, fine art, canvases, written word canvases, I even resent the term “spoken word” because every word is spoken so, what makes the next person different from the other? I like to call it performance poetry because, just because you’re a good written poet doesn’t mean you’re a good performer, just because you’re a good performer doesn’t mean that you’re a good performance poet.
So even as actors and as physical artists, we create moving canvases with our physical form. We evoke the written word into a moving palpable experience that the audience can evoke a catharsis from. So, when you ask me about what it’s like to be behind the camera? I’m just using a different paint brush. You know, the amount of meticulousness that goes into every single frame of a motion picture for a director, is paramount, right? Nothing is accidental when you look at a frame, you know, it goes back to the French new wave, they call it the “mise-en-scène”, you know, which actually, is inspired by the proscenium stage, right? So, directors paint the frames and so for me, it’s just another way to express my artistry, I am an interdisciplinary artist. I am now working in the NFT space and working heavily in the blockchain space. I am grabbing onto every part of this Renaissance to change the world and evoke thinking and create compelling narratives.
ALT: Tell me two things that take you from being good to being great?
David: Two things! I I’ll give you a very simple answer to a complicated question, two things, perception, and activity.
Those are two things that will separate you from being good and great, because the good is the enemy of the great, now, it’s nothing wrong with being good, because you can have great credit, you can pay your rent and have your bills paid, and your needs are met and have a great family and be good, right? Nothing wrong with that. A lot of people are good, some people like to work nine to five and go hang out at the pub all weekend and go back nine to five and hang out at the pub and they are on being good. But that’s your perception, right? So, you have a perception that I’m good, I’m good with that. My perception says I’m great, It starts out with your perception.
I use this metaphor often. If you’re a checkout clerk at the local supermarket, but you have visions of being a general manager, you better check out that food the same way a general manager would. So, you’re already a general manager before everybody else sees you as a general manager. You a general manager before you got the promotion before you got the upgrade in the pay check, because you behaved yourself accordingly. Why? Because you had the perception that you want to be great. You didn’t want too just be good, right? Because as soon as you allow yourself to settle to be good, you have slammed the door on being great because being great, isn’t always convenient, being great isn’t always cool. You know what I’m saying? It isn’t always trendy and sometimes it’s downright lonely, right? Because as artists, a lot of what we do is solitary work. The only time we’re with a bunch of peoples is when we’re showcasing the work, but when you’re growing the embryo of your work, you’re doing it for the most part by yourself, right? So, there’s that.
And then the other piece of that is activity, right? Because we make thousands of decisions throughout the course of the day, but we only step into so many. How many times, and I don’t know who I’m talking to out there, but how many times do you decide you’re going to make a short film? How many times do you decide you’re going to write that script? How many times do you decide you’re going to break up with him or her, how many times you decide you’re going to save money, but you end up at the pub, but you end up back in his arms or her arms .and that thing, ends up being a sticky note, collecting dust for weeks. You make all the decisions in the world, bro, but you’re not moving. So, activity, right? Coupled with perception are for me, two of the most important foundations to rising to greatness, but it all starts here. It’s an inside job. You have to believe with every fibre of your being down to your molecular level gifts that you have, what it takes to be great, because if you don’t just get out of the way and let somebody else be great, because all you’re doing is taking up space, you know? I speak bluntly and forcefully about it because that’s what it takes.
ALT: What was it like during lockdown for you professionally, what have you learned about yourself?
David: Professionally, it was great, you know, but I got sick. I had COVID for two weeks even before anyone even knew that loss of taste or smell was a symptom. I was sick, it was incredible for me. So, if you take the illness out of it, some people are going to come out of this pandemic, sharp as knives. Some people are going to come out of this pandemic, looking around, trying to find a trend to follow. During the pandemic, I produced two short films, I helped propel the final financing to get my fifth feature film as a producer through production. I shot 14 guest starring episodes with Tyler Perry during camp quarantine in Atlanta.
So, these are just a few things; just off the top of my head, I finished writing my book, got a literary agent so the book is being pitched to publishers right now. These are the things that I was doing during the pandemic. I don’t know what y’all was doing, you know? What did I discover about myself? I discovered that my own company is vital to my success. I discovered that most of the things that occupy our minds are things that we can’t control, and I discovered that there are more than the usual ways to shut off the noise. We also all discovered that as a human, humanity is our biggest gift, right? I mean, I’ve got a collection of luxury watches I didn’t put on one for a whole year. it’s like we amass all this stuff and after a while, it’s just stuff. The pandemic really reminded us that we have to lean into the positivity of the human experience it is n not just about self-preservation, but what are the things that allow us to be healthy spiritually and emotionally in order to survive in a complicated world? I journal a lot. I read a lot. I prayed a lot. That’s one of my practices every day when I wake up in the morning, I get on my knees and I pray, I talk to God before I even turn my phone on. No matter where I am, that is what I do. I need to do that. That’s just for me, I don’t know for anybody else what y’all do, but that’s what I need to do. I learned to love a little bit more, but I learned to love myself a little bit more, there was a great quote, it was from a movie called Perks of Being a Wallflower, it’s always stuck with me and, the guy said, “we accept, love that we think we deserve.”
Okay. I learned to love myself more and not to accept things that aren’t loving of me.
It was a powerful experience and now, I’m sort of reaping the benefits of tending the soil. As artists, we always are looking for the harvest. That’s the problem with artistry nowadays, and commercialism and exploitation of art and the idea of, you know, you got that movie coming. I got the show coming, everybody is so concerned about that coming out part, everybody wants to be in harvest, but nobody wants to be in germination. Nobody wants to tend the soil, no one wants to nurture things and plant seeds, because that takes patience and pause and meticulousness, you know? And now gratefully I’m at harvest, but I’m still germinating while I’m in a harvest because I have to be thinking about the cycles.
ALT: You mentioned your book. Can you quickly tell us a bit about the book and what you’re working on next?
David: Sure. The name of the book is called Pursue Reach Attain Retain Repeat, and it’s a spin cycle to success that is spoken somewhat autobiographically about the story of my life. But most importantly is an interdisciplinary approach on how to be successful in your chosen field. If you think about pursue, reach, attain, retain, repeat, these are all different sections of the cycle to success and every single section has a different sort of psychology. If we think about the idea to pursue, let’s just say, for example, you’re in a bar and you see someone attractive at the end of the bar and you want to talk to that person. Okay, cool. So, you have to step into the idea to pursue, right? The notion of pursuing something is a whole modality, just to build up enough courage to walk across the room to pursue.
So, what did you build up inside of yourself, where you got yourself to the point that you revved up enough to go across the bar, to talk to that lovely lady and wow! you decided to pursue, then you have to reach, right? That’s a whole different thing cause all of these different circumstances are happening in front of you between each step, this man’s crossing you, that man is crossing, this bar man is calling you, this other attractive girl is here. All of these things are happening. You haven’t even reached yet. You just decided to pursue, so just because you’re pursued, doesn’t mean you’re going to reach. And just because you’re reached doesn’t mean you’re going to attain. And just because you attained doesn’t mean you’re going to retain because success is bliss, but also fragile.
How many people have gotten the job and lost the job, right? How many people have earned relationships but lost relationships? So, once you retain, then you have to attain, just because I retain it doesn’t mean I attained the purpose of that retention and then you have to repeat it. And when you repeat it, you come from a much more elevated mental and psychological and spiritual place because you learned so much in the entire beginning of the first process, so, that’s essentially the crux of the book.
What am I doing now? I recently just minted the world’s first ever award-winning spoken word film at the NFT, that’s probably the most important thing that I’ve done recently. It’s a piece called I Can’t Breathe that I wrote in the shadow of the death of Mr. George Floyd in the world’s largest civil rights movement. The film successfully auctioned for five Ethereum and I’m donating 100% of those proceeds to the George Floyd Memorial Foundation.
We are establishing working together and building a cryptocurrency wallet to be able to send the Ethereum and now educating black communities at street level about the values of cryptocurrency and the values of the blockchain. I have established myself as a powerful artist in the NFT space and I will continue to mint spinema up in the NFT space. I just had a big interview in Forbes about my work that you could probably check out. So, that’s the most important thing that I’m thinking about right now? But my fifth feature catalyst is wrapping up posts. We just recorded a beautiful 40-piece string section in Bulgaria for The Score.
And I’m currently recurring on a show called Seal Team on CBS, also I just shot a show with Kevin Hart and Wesley Snipes for #Netflix, which is going to be coming out soon. So, I am auditioning in-between, staying motivated and hitting the gym it’s just really an exciting time, lots is happening and I’m grateful and I invite everyone to take heed to this lesson that I’m about to give you “Don’t F____ it up”. It’s pretty simple, you know, but so simple, but so hard, right? Because I say this, that success is bliss, but also fragile, I mean, I’m riding the wave right now, and this is a metaphor that I use in my book. I use the metaphor of the surfer.
So, this is the thing we have to always be concerned about the practicum of our movements and always be thinking about the next wave. So, if you use a surfer, for example, you’re always in pursuit of the perfect wave. Eventually you find that perfect wave. You catch that perfect wave, you plant your feet, you adjust your core, you focus your buoyancy right now at that point, you know, there is something to be said about public performance in public art, because there’s a certain amount of applause that comes with that. There’s a certain amount of exaltation that comes with showcasing your work, so the question is, are you focused on the work or are you focused on the egoic nature of the applause and the exaltation of it? Because if you get too focused in the egoic nature of it, you are destined for failure.
Now follow me on this one, back to the surfer, you’re on that perfect wave buoyancy. Everybody on the sand is watching you. They’re waiting for you to rip the wave. They’re waiting for you to land into the barrel because there’s a showmanship that’s associated with that art form. Just like being an actor or a filmmaker. But, if you spend too much time looking at the pretty girls on the sand, you suddenly lose your footing, and rather than landing on a beautiful dismount and transitioning into the next wave, you are wiped out because you got too focused on the people on the sand, watching you be you, as opposed to focusing on the craft of the art form, which is why they’re watching you to begin with. Because once you wipe out everybody on the sand, they’re going to keep moving to watch the next surfer while you’re under water, trying to catch your footing.
So that metaphor is important because although we catch these beautiful waves, we have to focus on the work, and we have to focus on the craft, and we have to focus on our behaviour and how we comport ourselves and how we treat people. All these things are so important because that’s the stuff that is the maintenance of success, because success is fickle, it’s fickle as f_ _ _ you’re here one day, gone tomorrow. You will wonder where it went. And so, I go back to what I said, just don’t f–k it up. When something, good shows up in your life, just don’t f__k it up.
ALT: Can I just ask you quickly to end with a line from Wade in the Water, which resonates most with you?
David: “Systematically facts, systematically that the last 400 years have only been 60 years, that it hasn’t been legal or politically correct to beat or destroy a person who was brown or black. And the civil rights act that ended segregation was the 19th … (I’m trying to remember the words) but that isn’t nothing but 13 years older than me Jack”. That particular line. let me go back “for the last 400 years, there’ve only been about 60 years, that it hasn’t been legal or politically correct to beat or destroy a person who was brown or black”. Now notice I said brown or black because I was in America. Minorities in America tend to get pigeonholed into this BLM thing. No, it’s a brown lives matter thing. “Hey, no one’s black since I checked.” We all darker shades of brown.
But what is jarring about that is that 60 years was the civil rights movement and the civil rights act that gave African Americans the right to vote in this country, African Americans could not use the same restaurants as Caucasian people. That is, ladies and gentlemen, let’s look at the historical timeline that is less than a lifetime away because now today the average expectancy of the modern American is about 74 years old. So, let’s not lose sight of how recent social racism is, infrastructural racism is, establishment racism is, it’s very important that we remember that, because we have made a lot of progress, but we have a long way to go. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that my ancestors, had to experience, Selma and Bloody Sunday and Black Wall Street and Tulsa, and so many other historical events that I’m not aware of that happened in the UK.
You know, these things are recent enough that we have generational trauma. And so, I invite everyone listening to this to hopefully be inspired, to be moved, to find something inside of yourself, to just lift yourself up, pull yourself up and be strong today, be available to make some sort of change, be available to, a higher level of consciousness. And don’t just be inspired by champagne bottles, models, molly pills, and everything else they talk about in the rap game. Now I love me some rap music, but there’s more to life than that. Be inspired to write something, to stand up for your community, to prove to the world that you can work in film and television, if you choose to, and you don’t have to be Caucasian to do it. And I’ll close with this thought, this is something that my boy Apex, said to me and I subscribed to.
If you’re listening to this, just say it for a moment. “I am a good ancestor.”
So, my call to action for anyone listening to this is to be a good ancestor so that when you leave your fingerprint on this planet, the people ahead of you will look back at your body of work or whatever it is that you left on this planet. And they will say for you, “he or she was a good ancestor”, because our ancestors were able to carve paths for us. We have no excuse, right? Cause we have resources and tools and social freedoms that they never had. So, I hope that that is a nugget of thinking for anyone that’s hearing this. And I hope that you take that. And I hope that everybody enjoys Wade in the Water, that I directed alongside Jovian Wade, and I hope that everyone enjoys Let’s Grow, that which I produced alongside Lisa Nichols. These are powerful pieces that are making real statements and I’m super grateful for this conversation. And I’m grateful that the Windrush film festival chose our work to be featured.
ALT: Thank you so much.
Catch David Bianchi on 25 July LIVE – WCFF2021 BEHIND THE LENS Colin Thomas & David Bianchi “Stories of Emancipation” David Bianchi also produced WADE IN THE WATER and Wade In The Water (David Bianchi) UK/USA, 2020);10m screens 13 August.
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