|EZRA J. STANLEY: FIRST OUTSTANDING YOUTH WALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Dumurei.com honors and inducts Mr. Ezra J. Stanley into its Outstanding Youth Wall of Fame. Ezra is a 30 year old award
winning film director of Garifuna/Belizean heritage. He was named last year as one of the "hot new directors" by Shoot
Magazine. His credits include award winning Levi's "True Love" and Levi's "Post-Mortem" ads, Black August (a Warner Brothers
film), and a slew of voice-over work for commercials.
Ezra attributes his early successes to his parents and to being of Garifuna/Belizean heritage. We hope this interview with Mr.
Stanley will inspire our youths to be the best that they can be.
SM: Who in your life has influenced you the most and how?
EJZ: Everyone influences me, my closest friends help me fight through the crap of life. My parents have influenced me a lot. The
way they raised me. My mother is very business like and dogmatic with her religious ideas and spirituality and my father is just
filled with love. They have been together for over thirty years and are still madly in love! I've seen it! I feel like a guardian and
warrior for love. They have set me on a course of being obligated to say something about this beautiful world. They created me to
be independent and that independence has brought me success.
SM: How old were you when you decided to become a film director or to work in entertainment?
EJZ: I was about eight years old and I found myself wanting to be an actor, do voice-overs. My sister started at age four. I did not
get into film directing until about age 20 while in college where I changed majors from computer science to film. I also
did video art because it gave me a voice. I put myself through college on a lot of that voice-over dough.
SM: How do you give back to your community, as in, answer the call to philanthropy?
EJZ: It is very difficult because I am a quiet guarded artist. Just last week, I was invited to this high school and spoke to hundreds
of students about being a director and about my life. I spoke in a career panel and they had no idea what it means to be an artist
or director. But it was fun to see their faces light up. Nobody really knew I did that, I guess now that you asked, it will be known. I
also sometimes read to children through the Screen Actors Guild Bookpals. I clean up my community and give to the San
Francisco Homeless Coalition. I do a ton of other big things, but it's not me to tell anybody about it, blare my trumpets until its
really necessary. Let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing. That's one that's stuck with me!
SM: How has being of Belizean/Garifuna heritage influenced your work?
EJZ: Coming from a third world/developing country has allowed me to recognize the privileges that come with living in America. I
am able to stay grounded and to realize that there is more to life than acquiring things. When I shot an American Express ad I
made in India I was very comfortable because of the way I looked; I looked Indian! My looks has afforded me a lot of pleasures
because everywhere I go nobody knows what ethnicity I am and I blend in flawlessly everywhere...except for maybe in the
Netherlands. I just seem to be connected to people who have less; children whose only pleasure is flying a kite in the street.
Being Belizean/Garifuna has made me wanting to speak Garifuna and creole even more. I still want to go to Belize and shoot a
feature. That is a big goal for me.
SM: Working as a director/writer is very busy, all encompassing work. What do you do to live a blanced/anchored life?
EJZ: That is something I am learning; I have not fully acquired those tools yet. To be in this position has left me driven and when I
am not working there is still this engine running in me. I surf a lot and when I can't. I run vigorously. I lift, bike and meditate and do
yoga a lot. I also play the violin and am taking a drawing class. I garden, hang out with my sister and watch the sun go down, I am
always grateful for that. This is why I like directing-because it bring me a sense of quiet; I can handle chaos well. My ultimate
dream is to be directing the next Apocalypse Now, and in all that chaos, there is silence in my mind. So the agitation is really when
I'm not working, worrying about money and the next big gig.
SM: I understand you've written a book, could you tell us about it?
EZJ: It is called 'How to Enjoy Life on Earth by Wise King Solomon.' I wrote it age 19 during the dot come boom when I was very
upset with the world. It is about a guy who accidentally kills someone and tries to justify it, and then the moral fun begins. My next
book is nonfiction. It is abut my dream world. I am researching and investigating it.
S.M. Tell us about a memorable experience you've had in Belize?
In 1985 I went to Belize for the first time. Belize had just gotten its independence the year I was born in 1981. It seemed like not
one street in the country was paved. My sister was about two years old, and I was just turning four and we were on our way to
Tobacco Caye in bad weather. We left Dangriga in this tiny boat-a one engine boat-with seven or eight people. Half-way there we
got caught in the worst storm-the kind you see in the movies with huge waves-imminent death at sea. My sister was screaming
and we were trying our best to get to this island and in my mind I was filming the whole thing, watching the chaos, I was crying too
of course. The adults put my sister and I in the bow, in a small cubby hole and my sister was screaming while the waves crashed
in, and everyone else was bailing out the water with what buckets they had; some of them were using their hands, while the
women prayed and cried. It is one of the most intense experiences I have had and quite early in my life, that is why I now do what
I do. Once at Tobacco Caye that night, my mom stuffed me and my sister in a sleeping bag and zipped it all the way around
because we were surrounded by big rats, this was way back when Americans didn't even know the word 'Belize,' and the tourist
cayes were covered by mangrove.
SM: Do you plan to direct feature films and what kind(s) would you make?
EJZ: I am the only director that I know who doesn't have a script that he is trying to sell. I'm mainly in the world of small visionary
pieces. Yet I want to make several features eventually, a western movie, something about San Francisco and something in
Belize. My cinema leans to more of a poetic structure, but I also hope to get a job directing something big such as Batman. My
ads are cinematic, my company, Above Grey Pictures' goal is to bring fine art back to cinema. I'm also writing a feature that takes
place during the Russian missile crisis, but mine is a different take and is very dreamy and rebellious.
SM: You've done work in Hollywood, describe what a typical workday in Hollywood is like.
EZJ: In Hollywood everything is a big production, it's fun, it's my world. Being a director is very comforting to me. We pre-plan a lot.
Then for two days life becomes this huge, moving canvas. I work well with actors and crew. I ensure that they are really
comfortable and happy. I see myself as a counselor more that a director.
SM: At Dumurei we are almost desperately trying to found and fund a youth leadership and mentorship program. I take it that you
have some experience mentoring you people. What would you do to get our leadership and mentoring program up and running?
EJZ: Young people need structure; they need to set goals. I would recommend starting a Facebook group page or an online
forum and have them post their ideal job or what they would do to make money. I would like to be a part of such a program. The
children of Belize really do need mentors; I never had a mentor though I wish I had one. We could work on building community
centers in each community. That would keep our young people focused on doing positive things. Get the Belize media involved.
They have to be brave, to stop reporting on the endless barrage of gang violence in the news, who killed this person and why,
blah-blah, that's not news to anybody; and it does not help one soul. It's like we turn on the TV to conform that the world is
fearsome, turn to our mate or friend or family and say "be scared." There is no hope. Don't even breathe. You'll be shot. And we
leave the house and walk around only feeling fear. It's a lie! A vacuous cycle of human stupidity. And its devolving us all around
the world. And you know who feels it the most? The kids. The media has to focus their attention on who's building what youth
community centers and where, and what hours are they open. Put love back into this world, and crush that sensationalist
darkness that we love to feed on in the news. Love is the only thing that makes anything happen and will heal Belize, and save
our youth. Love your children, take an interest in what they are saying to you. What are they telling you? Ask them and do not
judge their curiosity. Logically they are the future, and thus will create your world. See that!
SM: What advice would you give to young people trying to break into the film industry?
EJZ: Pick up a camera and just do it, do not wait for someone to do it for you. I recommend going to film school and watching
films as well as shooting your own short films. And don't be afraid to show your film to other people. Be curious about the world,
write a story, take up your camera offer your services to other people.
SM: Who is your favorite director and why?
EZJ: I do not have favourite directors. Think of artists or filmmakers if you have several children. You can not favor one over the
other. But enjoy what gifts they bring. I've learned from several of them: Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life, The New World, The
Thin Red Line, Days of Heaven) he is amazing. P.T. Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood), he is easily a film
god. The Coen Brothers (The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men). I like Orson Welles (Citizen Kane, The Third Man, Touch of
Evil). Sam Peckinpah (Pat Garret and Billy the Kid, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Straw Dogs). I also like a director from the
twenties and thirties, F.W,. Murnau (Nosferatu (1922), The Last Laugh (1924), and Ingmar Bergman (Persona (1966), Scenes
From a Marriage (1973). I'm big into Russian directors: Alexander Sukorov (Russian Ark, The Sun). Then there's Mikhail Kaltozov
(I am Cuba, The Unsent Letter, The Cranes Are Flying).
SM: What does it mean to you to be Garifuna?
EJZ: When I am back in Belize or listening to Garifuna music (Andy P., Aurelio Martinez, Chatuye) it gets into my system. The
American drops, and I'm dancing Jankunu hard and easily and when I dance this tribal dance it makes me realize that my blood
is strong and that our culture and race goes way back into a very interesting and violent struggle for freedom and people mixing
and I know and feel how endangered we are. I believe the Garifuna are on UNESCO's endangered languages and cultures list.
That's nuts! We literally are disappearing! It forces me to think that I indeed need to make a film to tell the world who we are.