For the past twenty years Nia Long has distinguished herself in Hollywood with her breathtaking beauty and scene-stealing presence on the screen. But more than her outward appeal, the Brooklyn native exhibits an undeniable heart. Still basking in the glow of the recent birth of her second son, Kez Sunday Udoka, Long is still making moves behind the scenes.
This weekend she joins longtime friend and American Black Film Festival founder Jeff Friday to host a special fundraiser, “ABFF Strikes”, to benefit cinema and arts students at the John H. Johnson School of Communications at Howard University and the Film Life Foundation.
“There is a scholarship fund for these up-and-coming filmmakers and Jeff Friday and I have been friends for a really long time,” Nia Long told TheUrbanDaily.com. “He’s been a great supporter and his foundation has been around for about 18 years. So when I got the call to do it it was sort of no-brainer for me.”
A veritable who’s who of Hollywood, including Chris Tucker, Elise Neal, Rockmond Dunbar, Roland Martin, Tatyana ALi, Rutina Wesley and more will be joining Long and Friday to raise funds and fun. Twelve corporate sponsored teams, headed by celebrity captains will bowl two games each and invited guests will be encouraged to make pledges and matching gifts based on team scores. A good time will be had by all with the goal of creating opportunities for young filmmakers.
“I think what’s great right now is that we have so many alternatives,” says“Back when we made Boyz N The Hood it was a very cookie-cutter system. You write a script and the studio picks it up. There was independent financing but that was like “wow, independent financing.” Now you can get branding opportunities and that generates corporate dollars obviously. Between the internet, social media and the ability to have a great idea, you can start it as a webisode and that can become a series. It’s about having a strong business mind a great creative idea and marrying the two in a way where you don’t have to depend on a studio to green light your project.”
But that doesn’t mean that aspiring artists don’t need help from those that came before them. Events like ABFF Strikes are designed to enhance the opportunities for this generation’s filmmakers who enjoy more creative outlets like the internet and digital editing, but still lack resources.
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“The work that actors put out there inspires other filmmakers,” she adds. “It’s nice to be be a part of something that I know is a solid organization that is really gonna put the funding back into the community. I’m from the community so anything to give back to the next African-American woman is in alignment with my personal endeavors.”
“I am the happiest that I’ve been probably in my life,” she says, her smile evident even through the phone. “It’s funny because I haven’t done a film since Mooz-Lum, so I’m very ready to get back to work. My baby Kez Sunday has given me a bit of a rebirth and it’s really nice because I’m able to look at life through his eyes. You have to pay attention to the smallest thing, from the birds chirping to the dog barking across the street. These are the things that make the world go around today. When you look at life in its simplest form, stress and worry isn’t the cornerstone of your life. Experiencing life through that lens is refreshing. “
However, you can’t keep a talent like Long’s dormant for long. She made her directorial debut in 2004 overseeing music videos for Ashanti and Yolanda Adams, and is now ready to take the next logical step.
“I have a passion project that I’m working on right now,” she reveals. “I’m working with the amazing Ann Wolfe. She was a female boxer. She has an amazing story and I have her life rights. I’m actually going to pick her up right now. I have some meetings today.”
Ann Wolfe was one of the hardest punchers in women’s boxing and once held world titles in four different weight classes simultaneously. She retired in 2006 with an impressive record of 24 wins (16 by knockout) and one loss. Wolfe is also a mother of three who’s own mother passed away from Ovarian Cancer. At 18 she was without both parents and was living on the street, but managed to turn her life around.
“She’s such a dynamic woman,” Long continues. “She’s a southern girl with southern principals, ideals and manners. We went to dinner last night and she said to the waitress “Yes ma’am, thank you ma’am” and in California you don’t hear that. I’m just happy that she trusted me with her life and her story.”
While fans will be happy to see Nia Long slide int the director’s chair, many are eagerly waiting for her return to the screen, banging the drum for her to appear in a sequel to the film that made her career, Love Jones. But is she interested?
“Love Jones is my baby,” says Long. “It’s what introduced me to the world, though I had done other films before it. It was my first leading role and the story is so beautifully written and shot. My co-star Larenz Tate is a dear friend and an amazing actor. If the pieces come together and everybody is happy and we know that we can be as great as we were back then, if not better, then yes we would all do it. When we left off with Darius and Nina you wanted to know more. The story lends itself to a sequel. Not every film should be a sequel but I’m really honored that the audience is asking about it, tweeting about it and the truth is I have no control over whether the film gets made. But I do have the passion and the desire to explore the opportunity.”
Rest assured, fans will not have to wait too long before they see Nia again, but she is taking her time and waiting for the right part to present itself. In the meantime she is helping others fulfill their dreams and making sure two youngsters in particular get everything they need from her.
“The truth of the matter is I’m not going anywhere,” she says. “I’m just trying to balance my personal life with my career. Both are equally important and the one thing I don’t want to have is regrets in not having these moments with my babies. My eleven-year old is like ‘Mom, when are you making another movieMy little guy is just looking at the trees amazed by his fingers, his tongue…the smiling. I wanna give him…I’m still a nursing mommy. I have to do this for him. I am a true believer that good work finds you and I hope that I’ve established enough of a career of myself that when they want Nia Long they’ll find Nia Long.”
If you are in the L.A area and really want to see Nia Long now, make sure to check out ABFF Strikes on Saturday April 21st at Lucky Strike Lanes and Lounge in Hollywood, CA. Go to www.abffstrikes.com for more info and follow @TheUrbanDaily.com on Twitter for ways to win tickets to attend!