Thursday Spotlight: Donaldo Prescod on his Films, Brooklyn, and Making an “Entertaining Social Thriller”

Donaldo Prescod, right, at the Bushwick Film Festival
Filmmaker Donaldo Prescod represents the heart of a Brooklyn artists’ work ethic: scrappy with refined taste, industrious with a collaborative attitude. His Bushwick Film Festival-celebrated thriller Black People Are Dangerous brought him greater notoriety in our borough and has propelled him to create more works. Greenpointers talked with Donaldo about his career, aspirations, and — of courses — the best spots to eat in Brooklyn.
Greenpointers: How long have you lived in Brooklyn?
Donaldo Prescod: 11 years.
Do you have a favorite neighborhood bar, park, or restaurant?
That’s tough, I love Fort Greene and I love Bushwick equally for various reasons. You see a lot of seasoned black folks in Fort Greene and you can tell Brooklyn lives in their bones. Bushwick has a grit and grime DIY vibe to it that makes for a better artist. Restaurant: Lil Mo, some of the best Vietnamese food BK has to offer.
Tell us how you got involved with Bushwick Film Festival.
I submitted my film and thanks to the film gods one of the people assigned to watch shorts loved it immensely. As it got passed along to everyone else in the festival they too took a liking to it, no questions asked.

What was it like being honored last year with Black People Are Dangerous? Can you describe the film and perhaps how it continues to resonate today?
BFF was the official premiere for my film and to win an award right off the bat was deeply inspiring, especially since it happened in my own backyard. I’ve spent my life living in different parts of the world but when something like that goes down it feels like one of the moments where the place in which you dwell officially takes you in.
When I first set out to make this movie the goal was to make an entertaining social thriller. I also love horror films and I know what it’s like to be racially profiled, which is also horrifying so in a way telling this story came with ease. As for relevance: Lately in the news there’s been a ton of incidents where white people, in most cases white women, have been calling the cops on black people for ridiculous reasons. Each time one of those stories pops up I first have a smack my head moment followed by that endless reminder that people walk this earth terrified by black people they 1. don’t know or 2. take the time to know. But hopefully, even while being entertained, people can watch my film, check or have a moment to reflect on their own unconscious biases and slowly get rid of the notion of always seeing black people as the threat. What I’ve noticed is that the film also serves as a conversation piece or a way to talk about those biases with civility.

You’re working on a number of other film projects at the moment! Can you describe any of them for us?
My buddies and I, and four production companies, are coming together to make a Grindhouse-type horror anthology called Horrorgasm. That kicks off next year. I wrote a female-driven film noir specifically for two of my friends called The Lady From Long Island City. We’ve just completed post and currently submitting it to festivals, but the next big thing I’m excited about is a proof of concept horror short I’m writing and directing, The Lores of Alice. I’ve just finished my first draft and it will star my good friend Claire Siebers. The challenge will be raising money. I don’t want to crowd fund for this one but I feel confident I can make it happen.

Are there any filmmakers who you look up to or would love to collaborate with one day?
Of course David Lynch and the Coen Brothers are high on the list. Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Soderbergh, John Carpenter, Martin Scorsese. Their work, writing, scores, and unique voices in storytelling have definitely shaped the kind of filmmaker I am today.

What does it mean to you to create in the Brooklyn community, one that is ever-evolving?
A lot of the people I meet definitely have a DIY vibe to their work, work with a micro-budget, and have big ideas they still manage to execute. It’s downtown New York in the 80s all over again, and I think that’s always going to be the sweet spot you want to eat and breathe in as an artist.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Wu-Tang Forever.

About Billy McEntee

Billy McEntee has been fortunate to work for arts non-profits in Boston, Denver, Berkeley, and now New York. His writing has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Brooklyn Magazine, Indiewire, HowlRound, Eclectica Magazine, and others. He's usually getting wine at Dandelion or eating cookies at Archestratus.

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