SPOTLIGHT: Andre Newell

Andre Newell is a Writer, Director and Producer. He is also the owner and principal agent and Shortlist Artist Management and Executive Director and Co-Founder of North America's largest acting showcase, Monologue Slam Canada.

Andre has written, directed, produced, shot and edited over 60 short film projects. His directorial debut film “War on Love,” was selected for the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) and licensed by Magic Johnson's InspireNetwork.

In 2017 he produced and appeared in a 10 episode Monologue Slam series, which was released on Bell TV.

It is such a pleasure to have you on the jury panel for our festival, Andre. Thank you for being here and for taking part in this interview. Shall we get started? Andre, you are an artist of many ambitions: Agent, Artist Manager, Writer, and overall Filmmaker. Could we start this interview discussing the passion that drives you to fill so many roles within the world of film?

My main role is as a problem solver. Every role I’ve occupied was to address one problem or another. For instance, I started writing because I couldn’t find scripts to work on and became an agent because there were so many great actors I came across that needed help starting their career. Things just tend to evolve when you embrace any challenge.

Artists can't leave any industry event or speak with any industry professional without mentioning the famous Monologue Slam Canada. Let's talk a little about that; with so much on your plate and everything you do in this industry already, what compelled you to co-fund a monologue slam?

We created the event in 2010 as an outlet for a youth drama program we ran at church. We just wanted the actors to have a space to compete and showcase what they were learning. I had no experience with the industry prior to knowing whether it would have a practical application outside a youth program. Once we started it was clear that bringing actors together consistently, with their peers, and industry professionals, could help move the industry forward. Practice makes permanent and just like athletes or musicians, the reputation and pressure really prepares actors for a very competitive industry.

I'm sure our readers are dying to pick your brain, and get the inner scoop of what an agent is looking for in a performer. What kind of advice would you give newer performers seeking representation?

Talent is obvious, but there are so many talented people in this industry you have to move beyond that. Agents are looking for actors that are bookable, which can mean a specific type that fills their roster, knows their craft, and has confidence and professionalism. This means training and having ALL the tools that a professional requires such as headshots and demo material. In addition to having talent and work ethic, show that you understand the industry and make it easy for an agent to promote you.

Apart from representing talent as an agent you also offer talent management services. Would you mind explaining what kind of services you offer when managing your artists? What does a day in the life of a talent manager look like?

Traditionally, agent’s book actors work, while a manager provides career guidance and business management. The roles are more defined in the US, and most Canadian agents wear both hats. Working with a lot of new actors I really focus on management to help accelerate the process. There are so many variables that go into success. Actors have to make decisions about coaches, friends, jobs, finances, living arrangements, and more. I think building a comprehensive plan gives you a clear and realistic perspective of what your path is. Otherwise it can become a bit of wishful thinking, which makes it hard to navigate the highs and lows.

Andre, you are a huge advocate and an activist for black artists within the world of film. Are you comfortable opening a dialogue about the importance of black representation in this business?

For sure. I think film and television have a tremendous influence over the reality we live in. We really are a product of what we consume. It’s critical to have positive black representation to counteract decades of negative stereotypes and depictions that have led to devastating consequences to people of colour. Film and television shapes our culture and who we are as a society, therefore representation in this medium can lead to real equity.

In the last few years, there has been an evident and wonderful shift in our industry; a call to action for diversity and inclusivity in this business. For Caprius Films, it is vitally important to shift old industry patterns and magnify marginalized voices, helping to create a just and equitable community within our corporation - most significantly, we aim to change the narrative within our industry. There is still so much work to be done and privilege to be acknowledged before true equity exists; how has this industry shift affected the black community, thus far? How do your experiences now compare to those a few years ago?

I can definitely see a shift in priorities with regards to the choices that are being made when it comes to creativity. I’m starting to see black artists get a foothold in various areas of the industry and create a broader narrative in their work. We still have a long way to go and it’s important to not let this be a moment. There is room for all stories and all voices.

Your multitude of talents and range of expertise made you an obvious choice for our panel, and we’re thrilled to have you on board! We’d also love to hear why you chose to join our illustrious jury, if you wouldn’t mind sharing with our readers.

I really think we need festivals like this to create more spaces for Canadian artists to showcase their work. You’ve done such an incredible job putting this together and I know from experience the level of work it takes to build something like this. It’s an incredible accomplishment and I look forward to being part of this.

Thank you so much for joining us at the Crystalline Film Festival this season; is there something, in particular, you look out for when judging a film?

The most important thing for me is that I’m affected by what’s on the screen. Great cinematography, sound and editing make a film pleasant to watch but using those elements to connect with the audience is the sign of a great storyteller.

Andre, it's been wonderful to chat with you today. We are grateful for your honesty and for administering us with a critical conversation in the climb to diversity. We hope 2021 continues to uncover even greater opportunities for you, and we look forward to your enticing collaboration with our festival.

Thank you!

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