My Family & MTV…How They Crossed Paths

Photo by Lula Fotis

When you know where he’s come from…you’d never think it would be easy for him to succeed in this world.  Born and raised in the Bronx, NY, Jonathan is 1 of 6 siblings and is beginning to find his way.  At a young age, he and his brothers and sisters lost their father (my Uncle) in what is still an unsolved murder.  Some odd years later, they would lose their mother.  Being raised by my grandparents, he has managed to graduate high school and get a full scholarship to Franklin & Marshall, where he won the prestigious award for the best documentary in his class.  It amazes me that he possesses so much resilience, determination and passion after everything that he has endured.  He probably doesn’t even know it, but he is one of my light sources.  To know that my baby cousin (not so baby anymore) is so strong…there’s never an excuse for me to not push hard as well.

Now, onto the exciting news!  Jonathan has managed to WOW the big-wigs and he was the winner of MTV’s Intern Army Mission.  In short, a selected few who made the cut, were able to compete for the number one spot and win a fully paid trip to the VMA’s in LA!  Each intern had to make gorilla style videos promoting the VMA’s and were judged on overall creativity (I’ve posted one of his mission videos below).  YES!  My baby cousin (I gotta stop saying that) came out on top!!!  I know for a fact that many people, young and old, can learn so much from this brilliant soul, so I wanted to pick Jonathan’s brain so that others could get an idea of how he got to where he is now!

Photo by Will Sampson

Briefly explain what you actually do for MTV.

So I interned with TV Land. I did a lot of editing and trimming of a variety of sitcoms such as Everybody Loves Raymond, The Nanny, and many other sitcoms in order to create promos. I resized and placed logos on these promos and sent them to be approved and aired. I pulled and recorded footage onto tapes. I also transferred footage from these tapes onto computers which I cut and put onto TV Land’s server for future use. I also attended audio/video sessions and performed production runs to deliver materials.  I even shadowed current staff Production Assistants and performed any production related duties needed for shoots, edit/audio sessions,or delivery.

What was the challenge that you had to succeed in, in order to win the internship?

Well besides overcoming the stress of the short deadline we were given for each mission, I had to really impose myself into large crowds, and really persuade new yorkers ( and you know how they can be) to listen to me for a second, and hear what I had to say. Although a struggle, I just brought forth my charisma and that took the crowds.

What did the prize include?

The prizes were: The Grand Prize winner (1st place) won a free paid trip to the Video Music Awards out in LA. That included a free flight, hotel, and tickets to the VMA’s, along with one friend.  The contest included 5 missions and we were judged overall on consistent creativity. Each round had a first place winner, and then all five were judged. MTV hires about 500 interns throughout all their networks, and all of these were a possible candidate for this contest.

What does this mean for your future affiliation with MTV? Does it guarantee an internship?

This win only proved to Viacom that I am a strong and hardworking individual. At the end of my internship, I was ecstatic to find out that I had a job offer after graduation. I am still keeping my options open, but this was an amazing offer.

How did you get such an awesome opportunity to work at MTV?

I got the job at TV Land through my scholarship program known as the Posse foundation.  A program that was recognized by president Obama, they recruit young/diverse leaders throughout several major cities, and put them in top liberal art schools. This program has a huge and very powerful network of companies and jobs, whom all love working with Posse students.

What are your long-term goals?

My long-term goals, besides get a job, is to be successful in anything I choose to do. Always be a thinker and find new ways to innovate. I want to direct films, and hopefully make movies. Even direct and write my own TV Series is another option. Whichever happens, I know for sure I want to show my experiences through the scope of film and help others tell their story when their voice is unheard.

How do you think you managed to find so much success, despite your tragedies/hardships in life?

I think I find my successes in just staying focused on the prize. What I went through was tough, and those tough things start to wear you down, but when there’s motivation for something bigger and better, then you refuse to be pulled down. Life doesn’t have to be sad or angry. I try to always focus on the best side of things which I guess makes me optimistic. And also realizing that patience is important keeps me focused. It’s easy to just give up because it doesn’t work out immediately. Success for me is a plant and pay off system.  You “plant” your opportunity and it needs hard work and time to flower.

It’s an amazing feeling to be able to share when things are going great for my family!  I am SO proud and honored to watch him succeed in life and be the happiest that he can be!

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Dysfunctional Friends…A Film You Need to Support!

What if you were rich and larger than life…you died unexpectedly…all of your closest friends came to your funeral…and you left each of them a piece of your estate?  Furthermore, what if the only way your friends could cash in on their piece of the pie was for them to grant you your one last wish?  Want to see how a story like this ends?  You and me both!  This is the plot of Corey Grant’s new independent film, Dysfunctional Friends.

Hailing from Illinois, Corey graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C. receiving his Master’s in Film.  Shortly after graduating he relocated to Hollywood to immerse himself in the hub of the entertainment world.  He has a couple of films under his belt, Hip Hop Task Force and Hip Hop Task Force vol 2, but his new project offers something different.  He explains, “This is the first film where I had an all-star cast, had to worry about overtime and union permits…it was also the first movie I’ve done which was strictly character driven so it was a very unique experience.”  For such a big project, I was more than curious to know how he was able to gather his all-star cast.  He held nothing back in letting me know the magical formula:

The lead producer, Datari, reached out to his friends and they reached out to their friends.  I already knew Tatyana Ali and Wesley Jonathan, Essence Atkins and Christian Keyes from another project I had in development that they were attached to, along with Meagan Good. Plus our Casting Director, Phaedra Harris, reached out and it all came together…

It seems like the perfect story thus far, but his journey to getting this film backed by a major studio was nearly impossible.  Dysfunctional Friends is an independent film, meaning that every ticket sale counts!  The film was released in select theaters in NY and LA, so if you want it to come to your city, you must demand it!  I asked Corey how the DMV can show support to ensure the film gets released right here in D.C.and here’s what he had to say:

Spread the links to the trailer online, blast it on Twitter [and Facebook], demand it and show up the opening weekend. The reason we have self distributed this movie is because all the major studios didn’t want to put the promotional money behind it because they believe our audience is unreliable unless it’s Tyler Perry.  I love and respect what Tyler is doing, but it also hurts us because studios only want to put money behind formulas.  To them, Tyler is the formula.  [Nothing] else has enough value for them to gamble promotional dollars on. That’s our audience’s fault for not supporting other quality films and only we can correct that.  Dysfunctional Friends is a different kind of movie and people are responding to it.  Prove the studios wrong and go see this movie and if you like it, tell a friend.

To come back to D.C. with his new project would add another notch under his belt, being as though his story somewhat began here.  Corey lets me know, “Oh, it’s going to be major coming back to the DMV. My time at Howard was what inspired me to write the script.”  His Director of Photography, Richard Vialet, has the honor of being a Howard alum as well.  He adds, “This is where we both started so you can imagine how excited we are!”

If you’re an aspiring writer or simply want to break into the film industry, Corey offers some advice:

You have to learn the craft.  If you don’t respect the craft you won’t be able to make quality products.  Also if you are trying  to get in it for the money, DON’T.  It takes a while to start making money and it’s a hard business filled with ups and downs. You have to love it to stick it out.  Be persistent and don’t give up.  Also, at some point you have to make that trip to Los Angeles. This is where the industry is and there is no way around it if you want this as a career and not a hobby.  Believe in yourself when no one else does.  I’m proof that it can happen because nobody let me in the game.  I had to make the industry take notice of me and then the doors opened.  Confidence, Persistence, Patience, Integrity, and Talent is what it takes.  If you have that you can’t lose.

As if he hasn’t given great insight to his world already, he ends our interview on an amazing note.  When asked what he thinks his God-given purpose in life is he said, “To touch people and spread love.  I love people and positive energy and I feel that if I exude that in my work and life, I have fulfilled my purpose.”  Despite the doors that may have closed on him, another big one certainly opened up.  Dysfunctional Friends seems like it will not only be the next big independent film to keep your eye on, but it just might give any Tyler Perry film a run for its money. Support, support support!

*Check out the movie trailer here:

*Full Cast: Stacey Dash, Reagan Gomez-Preston, Wesley Jonathan, Persia White, Jason Weaver, Stacy Keibler, Terrell Owens, Datari Turner, Hosea Chanchez, Christian Keyes, Tatyana Ali, Vanessa Simmons, Essence Atkins, Keith Robinson, Meagan Good