R&B singer Eric Benét will make his lead acting debut this summer in Trinity Goodheart, a feature film based on a screenplay written by Rhonda Baraka. In the film, 12-year-old Trinity (Erica Gluck) is on a quest to reunite her family. Her relentlessness enlightens them on faith, forgiveness and, most importantly, love. Eric Benét plays Trinity’s free-spirited father, Jeremy, and James Hong (Kung Fu Panda) plays Mr. Kwon. The film premieres at the Black American Film Festival in Miami in July and will run on the GMC network on August 20-22, 2011.
Screenwriter Rhonda Baraka glows when she discusses this project and an upcoming film as well as her first film deal, Pastor Brown. The journalist-turned-filmmaker also reveals three secrets to success. –yvette caslin
Give the readers some insight on Rhonda Baraka.
I started my career as a journalist at Tuskegee News and formed, along with my husband [Tony], a magazine called Tafrija. We were in Atlanta when LaFace Records was around, and Atlanta’s music scene was really starting to take root. I made a lot of relationships, a lot of contacts.
When did you decide to expand your career?
I was really interested in exploring, really trying to tap into my own imagination and telling some of the stories that were swirling around in my head. That’s how I started screenwriting. I taught myself about it, read about it on the Internet, read a lot of screenplays, watched a lot of movies and then just kind of jumped in and tried my hand at it. I got a lot of rejection letters.
What irons do you have in the fire?
I have a brand new production company called ToKo Films named after my daughter Toni, 15, and son Koran, 13. My goal is to create family-friendly entertainment. Trinity Goodheart is GMC’s first original feature. I also have a new project in the works through my company ToKo Films. It’s called Looking for Jimmy Lee. It’ll star Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker.
Share with readers your reaction when you received your first film deal.
The day that [Rockmond Dunbar] finally called me and said, “I want to do this,” after the script for Pastor Brown had been sitting around for a while … it was really an unbelievable feeling. It dawned on me that all of this was happening because of an idea that was in my head. Pastor Brown is scheduled to come out on DVD this fall.
What have you learned from rejection?
One of the most important things that you can learn when delving into some new venture is just because someone says ‘no’ to you doesn’t mean that you should not continue to pursue your dream. It doesn’t mean that what you’re doing is totally wrong. It just means that no means no for that particular person at that particular time. I have had people to tell me ‘no’ on Pastor Brown and Trinity Goodheart. It makes it clear to me that this business is about timing, getting to the right person and knowing who to pitch a project to. Just because you have access to someone doesn’t mean that project is right for them. You really have to take your time and do your homework and really understand who is right for what project. You have to know what will fit, where and when.
How do you define success?
Success is when you find what your calling is and you know, for sure, that this is what I am supposed to be doing.