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Sunday, Dec. 3
The Indiana Daily Student


Peebles offers advice

Famous filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles serves as artist in residence

After a year of persistent pursuit, Director of the Black Film Center Archive Audrey McCluskey finally got her man. The esteemed actor, director and writer Melvin Van Peebles agreed to be the first official Artist-in-Residence for the center.\nIn addition to participating in a student workshop, Van Peebles will give a presentation called "Kickin' Science: An Evening with Melvin Van Peebles," 8 p.m. Friday night in Jordan Hall A100. Van Peebles said the title is simply a "slang term" for "talking about life."\n"Mr. Van Peebles has had experience in various aspects of the arts…he is really kind of a multimedia master," said Tyrone Simpson, coordinator of special projects for the film center. "His success is particularly unique because he was able to break into the industry at a time when it was extremely difficult for African Americans to get a foothold."\nIn 1967, when riots were breaking out in Detroit and Cleveland elected their first black mayor, Van Peebles' first feature film, "Story of a Three Day Pass," came out.\nMcCluskey, a fan of all Van Peebles's work, said this movie stands out from the rest.\n"Because it was done back in the late 60s, it was so innovative," she said. "It cast African Americans in a different light than what we had been used to seeing."\nVan Peebles said he hopes to give students an accurate picture of the industry and the necessary skills for making a successful career. He will also help students deal with every screen writer's most difficult task.\n"I am trying to explain how to deal with your muse…and when faced with a blank page how to overcome the blank page and how to get it done," he said.\nVan Peebles is perhaps most well-known for his film "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song," (1971) which is one of the top grossing independent films of all time. "Sweetback" tells the story of a pimp who leaves town after killing two police officers that beat up another black man.\nDespite its controversial X rating, people still came out in droves to see the film. According to, this film established Van Peebles as a "folk hero."\n"That (film) changed everything, not just for the black filmmakers," he said. "Sweetback is the father of Shaft and also is the father of the Blair Witch Project."\nA lot has changed in the film industry since "Sweetback" graced screens all over America. Black filmmakers, actors, writers and producers face less opposition than Van Peebles had to deal with during the 60s.\nAnd, according to Van Peebles, there has been a change in audience attitude as well. Although Van Peebles once said the American public needed to watch black films with a "little bit of humility," he now said he thinks they have progressed.\n"Now there is such an awareness of difference of culture," he said. "People now have more of a tendency to understand or to accept the diversity of America"

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