In this interview with chat with the Along Hawes the creator of the web series Blue Collar Hustle.
1) What inspired you to create the series “Blue Collar Hustle”?
I was dissatisfied with the mainstream media representation of the Black American experience. Even answering this question a year later, you can count on one hand the number of shows that portray Black millennials as anything other than ignorant stereotypes. I decided that instead of sitting around waiting for someone to make the show that I’d want to see, that I would do it myself.
2) Music is the heart of the series. What made you to focus on music?
Hip Hop is the life-blood of the series. Quentin Williams (who plays Quan Banneker) is a real life rapper. The story that we tell in the series first episode is about 80% true. Myself, Quentin, Howard Woodburn (Anthony Lee) and Roberto Cruz (Jose Torres) all met while working together at Best Buy. We’d always get together on breaks and talk about rap, so one day Quentin told me that he himself was a rapper and gave me a flash drive with some music on it. I took it home and was blown away by the quality. So when I conceptualized the series I wrote it hand in hand with Quentin’s music.
3) The series addresses serious topics, including racism, and social justice. What made you choose those topics?
They need to be spoken on, and they need to be spoken on in a manner that isn’t tap dancing around the issues. We as Black people experience life through a different lens, so portions of the show are my attempts to have the audience see with that lens. And whether it is a hue that you can relate to or not, it is honest.
4) Ajani decided to invest in Quan’s career. Why did he take such a big leap of faith?
Ajani sees in Quan a kindred spirit, and one who is unburdened by a certain expectation. Ajani represents the young black millennial whose experiences led him to believe that following your dreams was, in itself living as a stereotype. Many young black children are told that there are plenty of rappers, actors, and ball players; but not enough doctors, businessmen, and scholars. Ajani is someone who cast away all of his dreams in favor of chasing an identity that doesn’t represent who he truly is. Investing in Quan’s career, and by virtue his dream, is a step towards Ajani reclaiming his own sense of self.
5) What is the biggest message you want the audience to take from this series?
The biggest message I want audiences to take from the show is that black excellence exists in all manner of creeds and backgrounds. All four major male characters are from different backgrounds, and yet they unite for a bigger purpose. There is a certain way of thinking that suggests that black men from the ‘hood cannot relate to black men from the middle class, that is a falsehood I hope to lay to rest.
6) What was the largest obstacle you faced creating the series and what tips would you provide to other aspiring filmmakers?
The biggest obstacle was financing. When we started on the series, I used $1,500 from my own personal savings to film episode 1. Combined with episodes 2 & 3 was about $3,000 out of my pocket, which wasn’t easy. We were fortunate to have a Crowdfunding campaign which was backed by Go Indie TV that allowed us to finance the remainder of season 1. So I thank the entire Go Indie staff and also everyone who believed in our vision enough to contribute. I also thank my girlfriend Shanaya, who supported me 100% through the entire process.
The biggest tip that I would give to aspiring filmmakers and creatives is simple. Believe in yourself. Believe in your vision. Believe in your story. You have to believe to the point of obsession. You have to go into your endeavor with the clear understanding that nobody is going to be more invested than you yourself will be. There will be nights when you are up alone writing a script. There will be unforeseen costs that threaten to derail the project. There will be people who give up on you. Through it all you have to believe that it is all worth it.
7) What do you think the Black community can do to build Black media and entertainment?
Support that which supports you, even if it’s not monetarily. Word of mouth is gold. If you like a series or artist, re-tweet their pages, link their episodes, and spread the word. The black community has always been our own greatest champions. It’s time we properly wield that power.
8) What can we expect next from you and your team?
Since being featured on ColoredContent has been a goal of mine fore quite some time, I will share two tidbits with you! Blue Collar Hustle Season 1 will be coming very soon to KweliTV! KweliTV is a fantastic platform that brings all of the top black content together in one awesome streaming service! It is the brain-child of Deshuna Spencer and I truly believe that the platform represents the future of black entertainment. She is doing what BET should’ve done at least ten years ago. I am very happy, humbled, and honored to have the show be a part of her movement.
Secondly, the second season of Blue Collar Hustle will debut in 2018. BOOM!