KC Film Spotlight: DeVonté Brown
We are honored to meet so many talented folks through our work at the KC Film Office. DeVonté Brown is not only a talented Director, Cinematographer and Storyteller, but community and change-focused in his artistic endeavors and beyond. With the release of his recent collaboration with the Kansas City Chiefs, we thought we could get to know him better in our March Spotlight. Enjoy!
(black and white photos by Jesse Mack)
Tell us about yourself as a filmmaker – what kinds of projects have you done/been drawn to?
Even though I’ve worked on a number of commercials in my nine years of being a full-time filmmaker, I think my passions will always lie in the narrative world; that will always be my driving force. I want to tell stories from a perspective others may not be able to see or fully agree with. I want the films I helm to create open and constructive conversations, no matter how difficult the subjects may be.
That being said, I enjoy every aspect of the medium. From shooting creative music. videos, to working with clients to get the best visuals for their business or product.
How did your recent project, “Rep My Kingdom | Kansas City Chiefs,” originate?
The Kansas City Chiefs commercial originated from a fellow filmmaker named Sam Findley, who put my name forward as a director for the campaign. From there, the Chiefs saw a short film that myself, Marcus Guider, and La’Ron Cooper created called “Now What?”, which they loved. Based on our work, they felt we had the ability to create a Black History social campaign that spoke to the history and triumph of the Chiefs and the culture.
Tell us about the team you made this project with – how did you all come together? Why did you choose to work with the team you did?
The amazing team I had for the campaign were people I may have PA’d with, or just met through networking or collaborations with other filmmakers or artists.
80% of this industry is making connections with people that you want to work and grow with. I’ve been doing that for all nine years of my career and will continue to do so.
My crews are normally people of color, or just simply underrepresented individuals. When I’m directing, I very much lean on the professionals are me who I trust, because they have honed their craft in the industry throughout the years, like myself. I hire them because they deserve the work and are as qualified as anyone else I know. If I have to advocate for them, I will do that without question.
How is it to work and film in the Greater Kansas City area?
This is somewhat of a two-sided question. On one hand, the community is full of professionals and craftsmen; who I believe are some of the best in the country. The community is tight-knit, helping one another as the jobs come and go. We work together to make sure every job succeeds.
KC crews work hard, work fast, pivot, problem solve, all while having a good time. We grind and we succeed in whatever project comes our way.
On the other hand, as a Black filmmaker in this town, I’d be lying if I pretended everything was grand. We all know that this industry is run by white males; it’s the same in KC.
So, as a Black filmmaker here, looking for a mentor wasn’t an easy task. Not only did I not see myself on these crews, but I had to make sure anyone I wanted to learn from was geunine in wanting to teach. Unfortunately, I found out on of those people I chose to be my mentor was only using me by keeping me under him, not allowing me to elevate – until I made the move myself, pushing past him.
My case isn’t the only one. There are a number of POC that have moved or abandoned the idea of being a filmmaker because of self-preservation and gatekeeping that is happening in this city. At times, we’ve been told “you’re not ready,” or “you’re not good enough,” or just blatantly been ignored by someone we’ve reached out to, wanting to learn.
From 2014-2019, I was the only Black person or person of color on most sets – which I always saw as a problem. As my career grows, I look to make sure inclusion is happening at all times if ever possible. To my KC film family: there are 40+ Black filmmakers in this town looking for a way into the industry, looking for a way to make this a living like I have. No, they don’t have your 20+ years of experience, but you can fill that gap. I don’t want to be the only Black person or POC on these sets. If they don’t know what you know – teach them.
What is next for YOU?
As for what’s next, I’m looking forward to directing more this year and growing the Black film community. I’m currently in the writing phase on a feature film, and in pre-production on a few short films. Other than that, looking forward to everything year brings on and off set.
DeVonté, thank you for sharing with us this month. We are excited to cheer you on and share your journey – which is sure to be bright! Kansas City is so lucky to have you!