*Editors Note: This is the second in a five-part series profiling several Dartmouth alumni in entertainment and the Dartmouth Alumni in Entertainment and Media Association.**##
Spring term is halfway over, which means that seniors are finishing up theses and juniors are scrambling to find thesis advisors. It is unlikely that seniors are scheduling screenings of their thesis projects at the Sundance Film Festival, or that juniors are working with director Spike Lee for funding. Rashaad Ernesto Green ’00, on the other hand, wrote and directed the 2011 Sundance Film Festival selection “Gun Hill Road” (2011) for his thesis at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts. The film was supported by a scholarship granted to Green by Spike Lee, one of his professors.
“Gun Hill Road” is inspired by Green’s own family and is set in the Bronx, where he grew up. The film focuses on the internal conflicts of an ex-convict who spent three years in prison and returns to his family an estranged wife and a son who is pursuing a sexual transformation.
The father character is similar to one of Green’s family members who dealt with several of the morally ambiguous issues examined in the film, Green said.
Green’s time at Dartmouth helped him develop the creativity and artistic audacity that have guided his experience as an up-and-coming filmmaker.
“[At Dartmouth,] you can’t just focus all of your studies in one area maybe because of that it just opens your mind in a different way,” Green said. “I just felt very, very creative when I was there.”
Sophomore year was a pivotal time in Green’s artistic development, as the first National Black Theater Summit was hosted in Hanover that year. Green auditioned and got a part in the theater department’s production of former Montgomery Fellow August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.” Green had no acting experience prior to coming to Dartmouth, he said. He later became the head of the Black Underground Theater Association, and declared a theater major modified with English.
“Following my dreams, following my heart was what became most important when I was at Dartmouth,” Green said. “It inspired me to follow the life of an artist without fear.”
In his time at the College, Green met many theater professionals who advised him to audition for a masters program and continue his education in the arts. He heeded their advice and continued on to NYU Tisch’s graduate acting and film programs. Green will graduate this month, he said.
“It was just a wonderful experience learning how to play and how to connect with yourself emotionally,” Green said. “I’m from New York, but I had never really been introduced to the theater scene, and I was when I was at NYU. I got to see plays all the time.”
Green’s creative process often involves working on scripts for months and taking into account the feedback of his peers, family and friends, he said.
“My life right now is pretty busy,” he said. “I’m going from city to city on the festival tour meeting a whole bunch of new people and coming up with ideas for the next story. It’s overwhelming at times.”
Because Green is a writer, director and actor, he is involved in many aspects of his films, starting with the script, then casting characters and then participating in rehearsals, shootings and post-production work.
“There is also a very social aspect to it, you know, once the film is made,” Green said.
Green financially supports his longer creative endeavors through his short films, such as “Premature” (2008), which aired on HBO and received several awards.
“It’s just a train that I’m kind of on, and hopefully it doesn’t stop,” Green said, “I’m hoping to just ride that wave and tell the story that I want to tell.”
While the challenge of moving up in the film industry is a daunting one, Green chooses to focus on making films that will touch the lives of others while satisfying his artistic vision.
“Although I love theater, I chose film because there were more people I was able to affect in a more diverse population that attends film as opposed to theater,” Green said. “That I can inspire them, it’s a wonderful feeling.”
Green maintains that aspiring writers and directors at Dartmouth should aim high.
“Before you have responsibilities that prevent you from following your dream, just go after it and have no plan B,” he said.
Green participates in events in New York and at Sundance organized by the Dartmouth Alumni in Entertainment and Media Association. The opportunities for networking that DAEMA provides to undergraduates at Dartmouth should be a significant help to students trying to make it in entertainment, according to Green.
“It would be wonderful to have that network with other Dartmouth alums that are in the industry,” he said.