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  • Writer's pictureHarlem Film House

Culture Spotlight Featuring Kyle Schickner

Kyle Schickner started his film company FenceSitter Films in 1995. His mission was to only make films that tell stories about People of Color, Women, and the LGBTQ Community, He has written and directed seven feature films including the ground breaking black gay thriller "Strage Fruit" and "Steam" starring Ally Sheedy and Chelsea Handler and screen icon Ruby Dee. His latest film, "A White Man Walks Into A Barbershop" a documentary about racism in America, takes aim and white liberals (like himself) and has been stirring up controversy at special screenings across the country. He currently lives in New Jersey where he has focused on being a positive influence to his two stepchildren.

Tell us about your experience at the Hip Hop Film Festival? The Hip Hop Film Festival was THE festival I wanted to get into and we were honored to be a part of it. My film "A White Man Walks Into A Barbershop" deals with racism but is also my love letter to old school Hip Hop so being a part of the festival felt amazing. Holding a film festival in the midst of a pandemic has its challenges, and I have seen festivals struggle with how to do it. I feel the HHFF did an amazing job. They made each filmmaker feel important and although it was impossible to have all the films get a live screening the organizers did their best to make us all feel worthy of being selected. I look forward to attending the festival in the future when things are back to normal and it's in person.

Why are stories from the culture important? Stories from our culture are important because we don't get the opportunity to see our culture represented truthfully and honestly in mainstream media. Artists from our culture are rarely offered a seat at the table, and when we are we are asked to "neuter our work" to "smooth over the rough edges" of our art in order to make it more "accessible" to the mainstream. But what the gatekeepers ignore is that Hip Hop Culture IS mainstream. This culture drives the narrative and we need more outlets like the HHFF to get our art, our stories and our messages out to the world undiluted.

What projects are you working on now? I usually work on a several projects at once, and see which projects takes off (kind of like a creative shotgun method "if you don't like this idea, how about this one?") The first is a follow up to my White Man doc about the role that men play in holding females back that is called "Sexism: The Musical!" I also am shopping around a romantic R-rated comedy called "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do". And I am finishing up the development of a television series about the history of the KKK in Vermont called "Deep North" with a partner.

Why do you think the Harlem Film House and Hip Hop Film Festival are important? It's important that we control our own stories as much as we can. That we control the narrative. I have been making films for over 25 years and I have heard time and again that there is "no audience for black films'' that "we can't sell these films overseas" and what streaming services and HHFF and Harlem Film House prove is that there is a HUGE market for black films! And not just black audiences are wanting to see these stories. Harlem Film House and HHFF are needed to crash the party and change the game for filmmakers and artists that have no interest in writing for NBC.

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