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Name: Adam Bernard
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The Definition of the Brown Paper Bag
Friday, June 01, 2007

By the end of summer Ephraim Benton feels the youth of America will be singing along to DJ Khalid’s “Brown Paper Bags,” a song that is set to be the second single off of Khalid’s upcoming sophomore effort, We The Best. Benton enjoys the song, he just wishes someone involved with it would give him some credit for coming up with the idea. You see, Benton is the writer, director, and star of the award winning short film Brown Paper Bags, which has been making its way around the music industry since early January thanks to his heavy networking. The film recently took home the award for Short Film of the Month at DJ Ralph McDaniels’ onfumes.com (where it can still be viewed in the Shorts section) and will also be shown at the upcoming San Francisco Black Film Festival later this month. Yesterday I sat down with Benton to find out more about the film, the concept behind it, and his want to network, rather than start any static, with DJ Khalid.

Adam Bernard: Talk to me about Brown Paper Bags and what gave you the idea for the film.
Ephraim Benton: Brown Paper Bags is a concept piece about the many resourceful things you can do with a brown paper bag and at the same time how it can be used as a social barrier in the black community. That’s the overall idea that I came up with. One night back in October I went to sleep and had dreams of a brown paper bag and I was just wrestling with my thoughts while I was sleeping and when I woke up I had a whole idea of how to flip the script and I just started writing. By the end of the day I had a whole short film. Then I just asked my girlfriend for what else I could add to this brown paper bag theory as far as how to flip it and she gave me one or two other resourceful ways to use it and she also gave me this book where it dealt with the social perspectives of the brown paper bag within the black community called Our Kind of People and that was the icing on the cake. Next thing you know I called up my friends like yo I have an ill piece I would like to shoot, let’s get together and make it happen.

Adam Bernard: You mentioned the way a brown paper bag can represent a social barrier in the black community. Without giving away the movie can you explain that further?
Ephraim Benton: The whole brown paper bag theory came from slavery, light skinned versus dark skinned people, and even to this day you can see the conflict. During the civil rights movement a lot of the light skinned African-Americans would blend in more so with high society, the upper class. They were upper class black people, and they would look down upon a black person with a darker skin tone just to blend in more with white society and get into white social events. Also, it was used as a way of separating the two and separating themselves from society.

Adam Bernard: Now there’s a song out, the DJ Khalid song, called “Brown Paper Bags.” Did you have any contact with him or any of the artists on the song?
Ephraim Benton: No.

Adam Bernard: What are your feelings on the song? Do you think someone caught a viewing of your movie?
Ephraim Benton: I wouldn’t necessarily say they caught a view of the movie, even though I’m somewhat in the industry and I go around to different parties and I hand celebrities screeners, but I’ve been getting a lot of press as of late, ever since I put it out back in January. I was featured in Rap Fanatic Magazine and that was all the way back in March. Fabolous and Trick Daddy were on the cover, so that’s the whole Miami connection, New York thing. I got a whole page spread and it definitely bigs up the movie so I’m feeling that they kind of got a whiff of that and just ran with in, which in all actuality is a good thing, but the only thing is I just want recognition. I know it’s definitely a great song and I feel that it’s gonna be a major hit, I just want recognition for something that I feel I created. I just want to be acknowledged for it.

Adam Bernard: If they haven’t shot a video yet would you be open to them using parts of your movie in the video?
Ephraim Benton: Of course. I’m definitely open to all possibilities to even promote it more, to co-promote it, I think it would be a fabulous thing and it would be cool if we can somehow be a part of that video, or if the song can be used somehow in a way to promote the movie.

Adam Bernard: What else are you working on right now?
Ephraim Benton: Right now I’m working on two shorts that I’m about to shoot. One is called Three Quarters of Face Value, I just had the casting the other day and it turned out cool. I have a powerful cast to go along with a powerful script. That film deals with a young man who faces three big tragedies in his life and it forces him to grow up as a man and take on responsibilities. The character, his name is Dante, which I play, he was how a lot of youth are, not really knowing what he wanted to do, just taking life as a game and not taking it seriously, and these horrific tragedies just wake him up and it’s either you take the easy way out or you step up and grow up. That’s the message I’m trying to give off in that one. I have another one which is called Fictitious and this is very major, I think it will grab even more attention because it deals with what we’re going through now, what the youth are faced with as far as these wannabe rappers and gangsters. They’re watching this whole façade on television and trying to emulate rappers and others they see on TV, but that’s just a made up character. The youth aren’t trying to be themselves and who they really are, they don’t have a sense of what’s right or what’s wrong. The film deals with that and subliminally calls out the types of people that are portraying that lifestyle.

Adam Bernard: Finally, what is your overall goal for your work?
Ephraim Benton: I’m an actor. I’ve been an aspiring actor for the last 13 years. I’ve been in Baby Boy, Chappelle’s Show, Law and Order, The Sopranos, there are a lot of things I have credits on, but I just decided it’s coming to a point where the industry is so stagnant, and it’s so hard to get in, that you have to do it yourself, so I’m applying the whole independent record label strategy to the film game because all in all entertainment is entertainment. So I’m just trying to make things happen that way and get out there by any means necessary and take on different roles, even behind the camera and wear the producer, director and writer hats because if you’re trying to make a name for yourself in this business you definitely have to do multiple things.

For more on Ephriam Benton and his work check out myspace.com/blackberetfilms and imdb.com. The trailer for Brown Paper Bags can be seen on YouTube.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:51 AM  
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