Tell us about White Like Me. What inspired the idea for the story?
White Like Me is a film about a Black female struggling artist who is so frustrated with where she is in life and so fascinated with the idea of white privilege that she decides to make herself look like a white man to see if things work out differently for her.
Brandee - During the time that Michael was on 90210, I often secretly asked myself, "would that happen to me if I were white?" Would that agent not want to meet with me or sign me? Would girls aggressively try to sit on his lap while we were at a bar? Would I be overlooked when an invitation was sent out? Would that acting teacher have cast him in her showcase without even considering me, even though I studied with her and he never did? Would that actress he did a movie with have referred to a black man as a "nigger" if Michael's wife were white? What if? What If? What If? The "what if" drove me crazy. And, one day I was sitting in the Actors Studio watching beautiful scene work, and I thought, "what's the role I would love to play if I, an average Black actress in Hollywood, had more opportunity? I'd love to be challenged and explore a character opposite of myself, a white man! That thought, combined with the "what if" drove me to write, White Like Me.
What message would you like to send out with this film? How would you want audiences to perceive it?
Brandee - Michael is all about stepping out of your box and exploring your subconscious. He challenges me with that, and he's great about talking about it. I think his ideas have such a great message for ALL people, step outside of your comfort zone, take a risk, see what happens. Don't get killed, but learn something about yourself and your true feelings so that you can heal.
Michael - In a world where some people are trying to be too moral, I thought it would be fun for Brandee to explore her dark side. Sometimes you have to flirt with your unconscious, explore it, and negotiate with it for you to heal any hurt feelings that may be buried inside of you. Most people ignore or hide their darkest feelings or thoughts. I think it's essential to transmute those dark feelings into art and make something beautiful.
Brandee - Would hope that audiences walk away seeing that black women can be strong, and beautiful and bold and comedic and ridiculous and a leading lady without having it have to be a stereotype or a "black movie."
Tell us about the creative process -
Michael - The creative process has been one big adventure. I think it helps that we're so enthusiastic about this project. We love it, and that has carried us. Because we're so excited, other people get excited.
Brandee - This has been such a scary, vulnerable process! It's bizarre to put yourself out there and ask people for money so that we can produce a film. In the past we self-funded, but this is a feature film, and we're just going to need help. Although this campaign has been so great, I was nauseous for the first few days and so uncomfortable with the idea of the crowdfunding process. But, I have been motivated by my love for this film and how the idea of people enjoying watching this movie as much as I enjoyed writing it and reading it over and over again.
Brandee - When we did the makeup test, it was incredible. The makeup artist was just amazing. I had been working on the character for almost a year, but there was nothing like getting to put the makeup on and become the character you've created. It was unbelievable.
Michael & Brandee - Tips? Surround yourself with dreamers and optimist who are also A-types! You want to work with people who get work done, not with those who talk about getting stuff done. Stay away from negative people; they may be upset that they're too fearful to go after their dreams. If you believe in your project, don't let anyone bring you down. Keep your eye on the ball and keep climbing. Read, The War of Art!
Couple Goals - What's the best thing about working with each other
Michael and Brandee - It helps that we've known each other since we were 12 years old! We know how to switch relationship hats, we go from husband and wife to brother and sister to best friends to business partners pretty quickly. And our communication has just gotten better and better.
Michael - Brandee's honest with me. You don't have to question if she's "just being nice." If she says it, she means it. I like that. I love that if something's not right, it's probably not right and if something's fantastic, it's probably fantastic.
Brandee - In the areas where I'm hesitant or uncomfortable, Michael always seems to be fearless. If I'm like, "let's not send that person another email, they're not responding; they're probably not interested..." Michael will write them three or even five more times until he gets a response and then shrugs casually if it's not the response he wants to hear and move on to the next person I'm hesitant about. He's a real producer!