Filmmakers and Social activists, G Lloyd and Dawn Morris
Director and Playwright G. Lloyd Morris along with his wife and long time business partner Producer Dawn Morris founded IAM Film Works in 1998. Although IAM Film Works is largely known for their films, IAM also produces dramatic theatre and musicals and founded Entrepursuer.com, a web based network that connects entrepreneurs.
In 2001 G. Lloyd Morris and Dawn Morris decided to relocate their California-based company to Delaware where they now reside with their three children. Committed to keeping their business in Delaware, IAM has established themselves as a reputable, professional feature entertainment company. Over the past decade, IAM has produced short films, PSA's, commercials and theatre, and are currently developing a statewide film festival.
IAM Film Works mission is to: produce films and theatre productions that will entertain, educate and spark discussion.
IAM Film Works is a company that creates films that specializes in telling stories that depict urban life in a complex, germane and realistic way. IAM uses film as the vehicle to discuss serious issues in American communities.
Mission: To entertain, educate and spark discussion through film.
I recently watched the PBS documentary film Freedom Riders. The Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States to test the United States Supreme Court decision Boynton v. Virginia (of 1960). They were met with violent attacks and the possibility of death all along the way. I was confronted as I watched Freedom Riders, by the realization that, as much as I would like to think of myself as someone who would be ready and willing to fight in the struggle for human rights from the front line, if given a real opportunity to do so I am not sure if I might in fact decline. G Lloyd and Dawn Morris are two people who are fighting in the struggle every day and from the front line.
DR: Do you consider yourself more Filmmaker or Social Activist?
GLM: I consider myself more a Social Activist who was given the opportunity to make a film. At the core I see myself as a writer first and foremost and I see myself as having the ability to make public service announcements where I can explain to America at large what is going on in areas that they don’t live in, areas that they don’t necessarily pay attention to and show some of the details in the lives of the people that live in these areas. So I definitely see myself as a social activist.
Our company, I Am Film works, we see it as a company that specializes in urban marketing where we are able to tell these stories and put these messages in the stories. That goes beyond filmmaking.
DR: What is the central message of your film 20 Minutes?
GLM: I wrote the story about how difficult it is for some people to change. The message as a whole? I think the final statement sums it up:
If everything around you stays the same, then you change.
20 Minutes really depicts how difficult it can be for people to walk away from what they are familiar with. I am really big on talking about what that looks like for some people. At the core, the story is about how difficult it is for people to change. I use a 20 minute time frame and the main character getting out of prison, as a way to accelerate the point.
DR: What would you say to those people who might come off judgmental or impatient with someone who “Just can’t get it together”? I am sure that a lot of people are trying to make their way back into society or right a wrong and I would imagine that one of the most difficult obstacles is having to deal with the judgments of others. What about those people?
GLM: A film like 20 Minutes is a start. I am not reinventing the wheel but we were fortunate enough to create a film that has several talking points that address things like this. It’s educational, not only for Commissions and people who work in the field i.e. social services and law, it’s also informative to the families.
Families often give up on the people who are going through recidivism and re-entry and this gives them an opportunity to observe some of the challenges of coming out with no skills, no education and no money and coming back into the same environment that they were arrested in – what are the challenges they face in order to get their life back?
That is one of the things 20 Minutes does. It educates people.
To the people that cast judgment, that is going to be a constant. It is my job to help dispel inaccuracies and do it through narratives.
DR: I was listening to a story on NPR recently about re-entry into society for soldiers trying to come back home. Do you think your message fits other re-entry circumstances, beyond prison?
GLM: Absolutely. One of the things that has become evident with 20 Minutes is the different places we have been able to show it. Originally I wrote and created 20 Minutes was because I wanted to tell the story of what change looks like for certain people. I happened to choose a guy coming out of prison. What I didn’t know then is that the penitentiaries could use it, social services could use it, the department of Mental health...
DR: Can you talk specifically about how penitentiaries are using 20 Minutes?
20 Minutes Trailer
GLM: We originally showed the film in Wilmington. There were several people from these agencies, particularly prisons that came. They had a re-entry symposium where they had the head of the Criminal Justice Council, the Attorney General’s Office and the Wardens from several prisons. We had this forum and they opened the forum with 20 Minutes. When they saw our take of the streets where a lot of these inmates come from, immediately these agencies contacted us and said that they would like to show the film at the Detention Center for Youth, to the 6 to1 Program (men who are serving 6 months or less and getting ready to go home) – they all reached out to us because they saw that the story registered and connected with the population that they governed over. It took on a life of it’s own just with the re-entry piece.
We have done National Recovery Day for drug addicts in Southern Delaware. We have been to several Detention Centers for Youth and been there several times...
DM: And each setting was different because of the focus of the programs. We have had sessions where family members sat and had two hours of visiting time to view the film and discuss it with that person incarcerated and scheduled to be released within 6 weeks.
GLM: These are people who all served long prison terms. I want to add that at least 90% of the audience was White. They saw the human aspect of the story, which has nothing to do with color. You can put any race of people into that story and it will be a Spanish story or a Korean story or a Jamaican story...
I actually grew up in Los Angeles in a very integrated area. We were all the same. The challenges were all the same. That is how I look at this whole movement that we are involved in “the hood” is everywhere...
DM: It doesn’t have to be a person who was incarcerated for dealing drugs. For example, we had people who were in prison because they just struggled with drug addiction and could not stay out of prison.
GLM: We know people that lost thousands of dollars and emotionally were not able to recover from that....People that have lost a loved one and have cement feet and can’t imagine how to go on.
DM: Even a mother who said that the movie helped her to understand her son better because, even to them, “Could you just stop doing what you are doing? Can you just do better?” was how they were behaving.
DR: Which has got to be a painful thing for the person who is going through the struggle to re-enter.
GLM: When you are trying to re-enter you can feel and sense that people are watching and waiting for you to make a mistake. You know when you are being watched and not trusted in your own home. “Don’t touch this. Don’t do that.” That is a lot of pressure and guilt which takes you right back to square one, emotionally. The film has educated people in that way too.
DR: Are there ongoing programs that offer support for re-entry, perhaps similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, which offers long-term support?
GLM: Re-entry is now one of the hot topics nationally. There is a huge concern with whether to intervene or to prevent.
Prevention would happen inside of the prison, which takes more money. Certain states want to do re-entry for free. One of the reasons we have been able to make a lot of headway in that arena is because we were willing to do a lot of what we do for free. We go into these places and show the film simply because we know the impact it will have. Some states don’t want to spend money or more money on trying to prevent and set up a system for these guys to get out and know exactly what to do. These guys don’t come out with case workers...
DM: Or families, sometimes...
DR: Or skills...
DM: Or skills.
GLM: There are a lot of re-entry programs around the country. One that is really effective is in Charlotte, North Carolina. They came to Delaware a few months ago. They start in the prisons, six months before inmates get out.
DM: They are there but they don’t think that they are stepping in early enough. They are talking to them just before they are released and that is not going to change a whole heck of a lot. As opposed to reaching out to them a year in advance and arming them with skills and other things that they need so that they have hope and direction rather than some version of:
“When you get out, call me”.
DR: What are your thoughts about the way that society is set up in general. It doesn’t seem to be set up in favor of successful re-entry. My daughter is on the debate team and one of her recent arguments was about the fact that ex-convicts do not have the right to vote, which seems to work against supporting someone in fully integrating back into society. I mean, to be denied the fundamental right to vote, which is incidentally taxation without representation, just seems to signal, “We don’t really want you back”.
GLM: We have already begun to put together the sequel to 20 Minutes, which will be another short film. We will outline what it is that a person trying to re-enter society has to go through to get their life back. Take something as simple as an ID. If I need medical care I have to have an identification card in order to verify who I am...
DR: Like a State issued ID?
GLM: If you have one. If I am coming out of prison there is a good chance that I do not have one. In some cases the only form of ID that I have is the Intake Form that they filled out for me right before I left...
DR: Which immediately identifies you as a person who served time rather than a person in need of medical attention...
GLM: Then I have to find a way to get over to the office to get the ID card and then once I get the ID card, however long that takes, if I have the $10 to $15 to pay for it, I have to get back to the Medicaid office, I have to go to the Career Placement Office...
DR: Meanwhile you’re dealing with all of this humiliation along the way. People’s judgment...
DM: Transportation. How do you do all of this running around without a car? And in Delaware we don’t have a lot of public transportation...
GLM: And in Delaware it’s illegal to walk around without identification. If you are stopped and you don’t have identification you can be arrested.
DM: And how do you even find your birth certificate?
DR: Is that constitutional?
GLM: I don’t know if it’s a state law or what?
One of the experts on this issue in Delaware who is a friend of ours, Wade Jones, who did five and a half years in prison now has a double Masters Degree, had to petition the college so that he could even go to school because he had served time.
DM: There is a box that you have to check and they can deny you acceptance if you check “Yes” that you have been in prison.
DR: That is not right.
DM: Yes. That you would deny him an education...He needed a skill. He needed to go to school so that he could compete.
GLM: In terms of studying Behavioral Science and Criminal Justice, Wade is probably sharper than a lot of the professors that were teaching him. He knows the language because he has been in the system. He has a great career and is one of the most sought after speakers in our state. He is one of “those guys”.
DM: And there are plenty of them. “Guys” and women.
DR: What do you think is the missing component that could make this process better?
GLM: There definitely is not just one thing. Housing alone is an issue. When a person comes out they have nowhere to go.
We are going to take it even further in the sequel to 20 Minutes. For instance, in order to get into a shelter you also have to have an ID. So, housing is one issue. Employment is another. Access to Medicaid immediately upon release is another. Mental Health Services....
DR: Do you think that it would be useful or productive for there to be a program where certain things are automatically provided for and for a fixed period of time? Like guaranteed job placement, a place to live no questions asked...
GLM: I can think of one program where they have created a partnership with businesses in the area. They build organic relationships that result in mutually beneficial employment relationships. But we don’t know of any program taking place on a national level.
DM: The states that understand the importance of working with people in advance of their release have reduced their recidivism rate drastically because of that.
So many people just don’t know what the next step is and what the possible resources are. There are not a lot resources.
One of the results that I pray for with all of the work that we are doing is NO JUDGMENT. It has been proven that the majority of people will succeed if they are given a chance rather than being judged.
DR: How will you ultimately measure the success of your films?
GLM: One of the things we are talking about right now is grant opportunities and the possibility of getting 20 Minutes into Colleges and Universities.
We have been to several universities including Yale, which, was very eye opening. We were invited by Dr. Elijah Anderson, who is considered a leading Sociologist in the country. He connected with the film immediately and is planning a bigger event at Harvard early next year. We will be there.
Ultimately, it’s definitely not monetary. This is definitely a labor of love. We have produced everything with our own money. Dawn produced the entire thing and made sure that everything ran like clockwork! I was able to turn my back on the world and just focus on the film. But I think the opportunity to show the film in schools and universities and to kids is the goal.
There is nothing commercial about us. We live in the underground but we tend to make the most noise that way. We have a following of people who really believe in what we are talking about.
DM: The question now is what happens after that. In the great scheme of things we would like to be able to do a feature length film so that we can go in depth creatively. G Lloyd has already started working on that. To be able to tell that story and to be able to dive in a little deeper is a goal. How many people would that educate?
GLM: I am not attached to doing a feature film. I see a Trilogy. I think we have found our lane with these short films. We can pack a lot of information into a short piece and speed the process of making people look...
DR: Especially in this day and age of high information and low attention spans.
GLM: I talk about that all the time.
DM: We are talking about making the films accessible via the Internet. And now we are fielding a lot requests to do films on other subjects like anti-bullying...
DR: Tell me, 100 years from now G Lloyd, What do you want to be remembered for?
GLM: 100 Years from now I want to be remembered as a visionary and as someone who cared about his community and used what he could do artistically to educate, entertain and to spark a discussion.
DR: And Dawn, 100 Years from now what do you want to be remembered for?
DM: 100 Years from now I want to be remembered as a visionary and as someone who cared about his community and used what he could do artistically to educate, entertain and to spark a discussion.
Thanks G L and Dawn!
ANTI BULLYING CAMPAIGN
IAM Film works is teaming up with several schools to create a short film addressing bullying. If you or someone you know is an active participant in this campaign, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org . We need your help to create this piece to help spread the word that BULLYING IS WRONG.