MICA is known for the creative license it inspires. Nowhere is that more evident than in the projects of some of the independent artists and designers who have made a name for themselves in video and film.
Shortly after Errol Webber Jr. ’08 (video) graduated from MICA he made history. As one of the cinematographers for Music by Prudence, a documentary short film co-produced by MICA’s Chair of the Film and Video Department and Director of MFA in Filmmaking Patrick Wright, Webber became the youngest cinematographer to shoot an Oscar-winning film. He has since turned the project into a full-length film called iThemba, which was honored at a screening at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.
Another film, American Promise, won at Sundance Film Festival last year, and Webber has recently completed the short documentary Trial by Fire about the power of expressing love and forgiveness through art. After relocating from Baltimore to Hollywood, Webber is transitioning “from doing documentary films to doing fictional narrative feature and short films,” he said.
This year marks 10 years in the business, and he credits MICA with giving him the inspiration to start his production company in his freshman college residential hall back in 2004. Webber joined the MICA Alumni Council in summer 2014. Getting a film noticed by HBO would be a highlight for any filmmaker.
That is what happened to Hilton Carter ’02 (general fine arts) when his short film Moth was featured at the HBO Short Film Festival, and later premiered on HBO in 2011. His love for drama in cinema inspired the film. That love continued with other efforts such as the short film Victor, a story about a struggling comedian suffering from writer’s block.
Film is not the only medium that takes up Carter’s time. He also creates music videos and has continued to hone his illustration skills through sketches and short animations, such as a piece inspired by Aesop’s Fables called Lessons. Carter is also on the MICA Alumni Council. As an acclaimed celebrity and fashion photographer, Derek Blanks ’00 (illustration) is at the top of his game.
His work has appeared in such publications as Essence, People, and Maxim, and he has done photo shoots for iconic brands like Cover Girl and Sony Music Entertainment. The celebrities he has photographed represent a “who’s who” in entertainment, including Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson, Robin Thicke, and Nicki Minaj. He has also photographed print and advertising campaigns for television shows The Game and Braxton Family Values. Moving beyond still pictures to tackle video, Blanks has directed music videos for recording artists, including Chrisette Michele, Jaheim, and Ledisi.
Blanks strives to show through his lens what the world might not readily see. His Alter Ego series shows celebrities in dual images—one for the cameras and the other a more hidden persona. Blanks also teaches intermediate and advanced photographers techniques for commercial, beauty, and fashion photography through The Derek Blanks Photographer’s Workshop.
A recipient of the MICA Alumni Award, Blanks also works as an illustrator, with work appearing in the children’s book Up the Learning Tree. Director and producer Lotfy Nathan ’09 (painting) first got the attention of the film world with his project the 12 O’Clock Boys.
The effort received the Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grant and was supported by the Independent Filmmaker Labs Program. The documentary followed a group of dirt bike riders in Baltimore that created through their riding and notoriety “a sense of purpose for many of Baltimore’s marginalized youth,” Nathan said in an opinion piece published in The New York Times.
The film premiered at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in 2013 and has played at over 100 film festivals worldwide, following a theatrical release and a TV release on the Showtime television network. The film received critical acclaim and earned Nathan the HBO Emerging Artist Award. The film was also acquired for a fictional remake and was ranked seventh in the British Film Institute's top 25 documentaries of 2014. Nathan is currently in production for a science fiction miniseries.