So, here’s the deal: I’m creating a sci-fi series called The Abandon. On July 27, 2012 I’m shooting the pilot episode, which will follow the journeys of five black men after a global alien invasion. Yes, I said five black men. I know that’s revolutionary for television, but hey, I am committed to changing the game. I’m particularly interested in changing the game when it comes to black representation and inclusiveness in sci-fi TV and film.
I love stories about U.F.O. sightings and alien visitations. I will watch films like Alien, District 9 and M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs over and over. Needless to say, Stephen Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind rocked my world. If you’ve never seen it, please stream it today. I’m not sure what’s at the heart of this alien fascination, but I do know growing up watching Lost In Space and Twilight Zone in syndication has a bit to do with it. There was something about the final frontier of space and alien life that provided opportunity to re-imagine humanity. You know, point out the beauty and ugly of its politics and so-called natural order, without pointing them out directly. I also think sci-fi confirms there’s a belief (or memory) in our shared subconscious that something else in the Universe exists and thrives and needs.
When I decided to produce the pilot episode of The Abandon, I knew it would be easy. Nearly every black person I spoke to lit up with excitement and then happily confessed their secret love affair with the sci-fi genre. However, when I met with an NBC/Universal executive a month ago, he wasn’t so enthusiastic. He quickly wanted to know if there were any white people in the pilot. I told him no and he rolled his eyes and closed his notebook. He told me statistics show the demographics for sci-fi are white males between the ages of 13 and 50. In fact, he said if I don’t thread an important white character into my pilot episode he could not support the project and it’s likely no one will watch the series. He said it wasn’t personal, it was simply about the numbers. By the way, he was a man of color.
I’ll tell you, if I hadn’t been brought up as a respectful Midwestern boy, I would have set it off at NBC/Universal. Instead, I cleared my throat, leaned forward in my chair and said this: I understand and appreciate your statistics. I’m also sure your white male demographic is reliable and loyal, however, here’s the glitch in your facts. There’s also a silent demographic in this country that will knock over the president in order to watch any episode of any sci-fi series. In fact, I can text at least twenty people right now who will second my motion. He smiled at my audacity, but he didn’t waver.
I’m not delusional. I worked as a TV writer for the comedy series Girlfriends and I know there is a certain expectation (or should I say limitation) to the complexity of black content in the entertainment industry. I’ve heard studio and network executives argue with show runners over the complexion of an actor or the style of their hair. I’ve even heard network execs put a stop on a storyline that challenges how they imagine black characters. I also know a few black screenwriters and TV writers who willingly craft black story that appeases the white pallet in order to get paid. At the end of the day, sci-fi is associated with the smart and/or imaginative. The entertainment industry is appealing to the common denominator and making profit. There is nothing common and profitable about black people and sci-fi. So they think. That’s why I’m self-producing the pilot episode of The Abandon. I know there is a strong demographic. I know there are others who not only share a deep subconscious memory of an existence beyond this planet, but also share a desire to see themselves represented within a genre they love.
On July 27, 2012 I will shoot the pilot episode of The Abandon. I will use every inch of my imagination and storytelling skills to examine the lives and obstacles of five black men who believe, after an alien invasion, they may be the last men on the planet. There’s just a small glitch in their belief: there’s one lone black woman who has also survived. They will all meet in The Abandon.
Keith Josef Adkins, writer/director of the The Abandon is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter. He worked as TV writer for the popular show Girlfriends starring Tracee Ellis Ross. He has pitched ideas to networks and studios and penned a few original pilots. He wrote and directed a few short films which screened in Toronto, Berlin and Atlanta. Visit: http://www.indiegogo.com/TheAbandon?contribution_success=true&a=658618
To help financially support the pilot for the TV Series, The Abandoned. Here’s the trailer.