Category - Spotlight

Comcast Releases a New Film for Thousands to Watch

The Executive Director of Multicultural Consumer Services for Comcast, Keesha Boyd, discusses with ATM about Comcast’s new short film. “The Groundbreakers: Heroes Behind the Mask” is a 12-minute short film by independent filmmaker Andre Wilson that shines light on pioneers in sci-fi and comics in the black community. A short film that started as an idea has moved to the homes of over 22 million. This film features some behind the scenes pioneers such as Black Panther’s costume designer Ruth Carter, Disney’s first black animator Floyd Norman who was behind the Mulan Franchise, and the Luke Cage’s showrunner, Cheo Hodari Choker.
ATM: Explain the vision for this film.

KB: Every year around Black History Month we try to honor and work with the black culture. Last year it was clear when everything started getting announced about Black Panther. One of the things we try to do with our platform is to focus on the content. We tried to figure out those things that have not been told about sci-fi and comics. This led us to telling a story of some amazing and talented African American creatives who were behind the scenes. Also, they were behind the scenes making our heroes super. This is where we started. This led us to the talents of Phillip Boutte Jr., established talent like Ruth Carter and Floyd Norman.

ATM: Describe to the world how this film will encourage the African American community.

KB: The hope is that creating awareness of the pivotal roles these creatives are playing will inspire the next generation of storytellers and creatives.

There was a gentleman that worked with the Boys and Girls Club in Harlem out of just doing a campaign to raise money for his group of young people to go see Black Panther. He was able to get the attention of Ellen DeGeneres, which helped them raised more funds. They are now starting this program called Storytellers, which will set up a whole group of the next generation of storytellers.

ATM: Explain why this film is coming out now and has not come out during previous years while Black History Month was occurring.

KB: That’s a good question. Over the past few years it is starting to be more content in the media starring African Americans in lead roles. I think the appetite for more content is continuing to grow. I think for the perspective of Comcast and what we are trying to do every year is focus on what is relative to the community. Breakout hits like Black-ish, Grown-ish, and Empire are pushing these trends and creating the desire to see more. It really opens the gate for us to think about what other content we can put in front of audiences. We like telling these interesting stories through the lenses of independent filmmakers and collaborating with the independent filmmakers such Andre Wilson.

ATM: When did you decide to launch this short film?

KB: This was a brainstorm of a lot of teams. Also, including my team. The middle of last year is when we really started. Every year we always make sure we have historical information available for our customers. When it comes to pulling forth about history in the making and stories of now, you have to start thinking in advance. There are so many angles you can take.

ATM: How do recent films such as “Blank Panther” help the short film?

KB: In my mind it is a bit of a companion piece. This short film gives your insight about the behind the scenes of the film. You have the mention of Ruth Carter who is the costume designer for all the beautiful costumes you will see in the film. Bouttee Jr. who is in the film talks about working with her as the illustrator. He drew the illustrations of the costumes. You have folks like Floyd Norman, who is the first black animator at Disney. He was the animator behind the fantastic franchises like Mulan. Showrunners like Cheo Hodari Choker who has breathed a whole new life into Luke Cage.

ATM: How did you condense it all into a 12-minute short film?

KB: That’s a great question. We had a lot of footage. It was enough footage to create a longer anthology. Maybe someone else can take the ball and run with it. It was tough because there are more of us than people know that are behind the scenes. This is a great problem to have.

ATM: Since this is the time for women liberation in entertainment. There are people such as Oprah, Ava DuVernay, who are creating more jobs for women behind the scenes. This even goes to women of color. Are there more black women that you did not cover or may have cut the footage for?

KB: Yes, there are more black women behind the scenes.  No, we did not cut any additional footage of black women. You hit on something very important, which is we established black women in entertainment creating more opportunities for black women. It is through their efforts that you start to see the elevation of women to work on projects that they might have not been able to work on before. Our 12-minute film only scratched the surface. We will continue to look at great folks like Ava DuVernay and Oprah to shed or broaden the light in spaces where it has been dark. The awareness of this content is available in over 22 million homes and will create curiosity.

ATM: After the film airs, what will Comcast’s next installment be for the black community? Are you going to continue to convey the same message Groundbreakers: Heroes Behind the Mark sends or will you start another project?

KB: Great question. Groundbreakers is a film we will celebrate throughout the year. We are highlighting Groundbreakers this month to our heroes and historical heroes. Going forward we are looking at heroes from a variety of different lens. This could include music or sports. You will see some fun collections that will come out this year. Our focus this year are telling stories that have not been told or telling it through a different lens. We have a destination on OnDemand called Black Film and TV.

ATM: After watching this film, how did your perspective of the black community in entertainment or in general change? Did it change at all?

KB: I learned through this project. We had a phenomenal producer that worked with us on this project. I knew about Ruth Carter, but I did not know about Phillip Bouttee Jr. I knew about Cheo’s work for Luke Cage, I was just introduced to Alicia Martinez’s great work.

Independent filmmaker Andre Wilson delivers a great film “The Groundbreakers: Heroes Behind the Mask” to share the industry African American creatives behind some of the most popular films. This film explores different angles of how different positions work to produce films such as ‘Blank Panther,’ Netflix show ‘Luke Cage,’ and Disney’s ‘Mulan’ television movie. These African American creatives play a vital role in how the audience enjoys the film. From black animators to black showrunners, this film takes us through an avenue of the importance of people behind the scenes.


ATM Talks With Hollywood Costume Designer Betsy Heimann

Betsy Heimann explains her role as the costume designer on 2018 film “The Commuter.” She served as the costume designer for Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee Liam Neeson. The film is about an insurance salesman, Michael played by Liam Neeson, who takes a daily commute home. A random and suspicious stranger contacts him. Neeson plays an insurance salesman forced to uncover the identity of a hidden passenger that rides the train with him to the last stop. Heimann takes us through the process and preparation of working as Liam Neeson’s costume designer. Aside from Heimann working as the costume designer on this film, she has worked on Oscar Winning and Golden Globe winning movie “Pulp Fiction” and Netflix’s T.V. series “Godless.”

ATM: How did you think to create the costumes on the film “The Commuter” for Liam Neeson?

Betsy Heimann: I have a long-standing relationship with Mr. Neeson. This is our 4th or 5th movie together. With any film, I read the script. I think about who his character is and who was he yesterday. Also, I contemplate what his life is like. I built a closet for him. He has to sleep in things and wake up. You help the actor get on his journey the film takes him on you do that by reading the script.

ATM: Has there ever been a time when you crafted a piece of clothing and went back to make any additions to it?

Betsy Heimann: Oh, you are always doing that. It is not a special thing. Things change all the time in the film business. You must be flexible and be ready for anything at all time.

ATM: As a costume designer for Liam in this film, how long did it take you?

Betsy Heimann: It is different for every movie. In this case, it was about six weeks total to get everything together and get it made. I had to ship it to London. I would go to New York it fit him to get our ideas together, then I’ll come back to Los Angeles to put it into motion.

ATM: What helped you brainstorm for “The Commuter?”

Betsy Heimann: I do a lot of research. I research stuff like who rides the trains in New Jersey and the appearance of the different commuters. I research everything on the internet, books, and libraries. Just the lifestyle of the character am dealing with any story.

ATM: What was the strategic process of preparing as Liam’s costume designer for “The Commuter?”

Betsy Heimann: You take where any character lives and you take his economic status. What can he afford? What kind of a suit would he wear? This is how you brainstorm stuff. You break it down. In a film like “The Commuter” there is not much research. I work with the production designer to figure out what colors and what made I want to create.

ATM: After you were done with this film was there any new knowledge you learned?

Betsy Heimann: I think you learn new things every time. You learn how a cinematographer photographs. You learn about the person that does a whole shot. I learn from every job. While you are watching the film you might learn that you do not like green on an actor (chuckles). For me, I don’t learn until it is over, and I see the result.

ATM: Are you more analytical when you watch the film compared to a normal moviegoer?

Betsy Heimann: I think you cannot help but be. For me I feel you are definitely going to watch your work but when it is a good story. I am an avid movie goer. I love movies and going to the movies. I think that when the story is good you start to forget about the costumes and just get stuck into the story.

Hollywood’s Newest Star Zachary Haven

Zachary Haven is a bright star on the horizon that is already lighting up the big screen with his role of Ethan in the movie FATHER FIGURES.  He co-stars in the film with Owen Wilson, Ed Helms and Glenn Close.

When not working, Haven enjoys gaming and swordplay. He is certified for hand-to-hand combat stunts.  Recently, he lost his grandmother to Alzheimer’s and Haven devotes time to raising money for Alzheimer’s research.


When did you first become interested in acting?

“I first became interested in acting when I was about 5 years old.  I was watching a show on tv with a friend of mine and said, I want to be on the big screen.  Mom enrolled me in an acting class to see if I would really like it and I loved it. There was no turning back after that.”

How was your experience working with Glen Close and Owen Wilson?

 “Glenn Close was amazing. She is such an accomplished actress and made me feel like her equal.  She also had the most adorable dog, Pip.  I would play with her in between scenes.  Owen was also great.  He was extremely focused during the shoot. However, there were times that he joked around and made me laugh!”

What can you tell me about your character in FATHER FIGURES?

“I played Ethan, the son of Peter (Ed Helms).  I was your typical edgy teen who didn’t get along with his dad.  Throughout the story, we found a way to get along. It was difficult having to play a character that didn’t like Ed Helms as he is such a likable person.  He had me in stitches the whole time we worked together.”

How important is family to you?

“Family is very important to me.  They are my life.  They have supported me through everything and I couldn’t ask for a better family.  We have had some really tough times, but we have gotten through them together. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support and guidance!”

How does one become certified in hand to hand combat stunts?

“I took a class at Swordplay LA that offers certification in hand to hand combat as well as swordplay.  Since I am only 13, I felt the hand to hand combat would be the best class to start with.  We learn how to make it look like we are fighting one another with out actually hitting each other.  You learn how to block and accept hits as well as falling the right way.  The choreographing behind the different fight sequences can get quite complicated.  It take a lot of memorization, so you do get hit or hit your partner!”

Who is your favorite actor/actress and why?

“My favorite actor is Eddie Redmayne. His ability to play different characters to such an extent is amazing and I hope one day, I can be just as talented as he is.”

It is said that you have experienced firsthand how Alzheimer’s  affects families.  Please tell me about that experience.

“Sadly my grandmother just passed away from this horrible disease. I experienced it from the beginning of her diagnosis in 2013 to her passing on Dec. 2 this year. My grandmother was amazing.  She was such a vibrant and loving woman.  The Alzheimer’s disease took that away.  It was difficult watching her slip away from us.  I know she hated too.  You could tell she wanted to say so many things, but they just wouldn’t come out.  I will continue to support the Alzheimer’s Organization for the rest of my life.  We must find a cure for this!”

What are your other interests?  What do you like to do when  not acting or doing charitable work?

 “My favorite thing to do other than acting is playing video games. I love to be able to play with all my online friends and de-stress from this challenging business.  I also enjoy streaming on Twitch and YouTube.  I  won an Overwatch tournament at E3 this year and I wold like to be able to do more of that. I also enjoy parkour and also doing swordplay.”

How does your family celebrate the holidays?

“We are not the normal family during the holidays.  We don’t buy gifts for each other.  We spend most of our holiday season volunteering at the LA Mission and other organizations giving back to the community.  We enjoy getting to spend this time together as a family.”

You have worked in television and movies. Do you prefer one over the other and why?

“I think I really like movies better.  I feel like I make a stronger connection with the other actors.  Its also nice because you get to travel to different locations.”

Anything you would like to add?

“Thank you for having me and thank you all my fans for your support.  You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Zachary_Haven and for any gamers out there, you can watch me on Twitch and YouTube @ZLittleDude”