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Tamarat Makonnen: L.A. based filmmaker making his mark with "Dreams and Shadows."

Filmwalker Productions was created by director/producer Tamarat Makonnen. His cutting edge style and substance sets him apart from the rest. Tamarat has composed a notable body of work that is cinematic, stylized, and visually striking. His projects have aired on MTV, BET, and Muchmusic (Canada), as well as in several news and music publications. Tamarat has directed music videos and EPKs (electronic press kit) for clients such as: Columbia Records, Warlock Records, Loud Records/Steve Rifkind Company, Delicious Vinyl, Island Records, Serchlite Music, and EMI Records. He is a passionate filmmaker whose hard work and dedication has truly paid off. There are only certain stars that shine bright and Tamarat is definitely one of those artists that stand out.

*Tell me a little about yourself personally and creatively /personally.
Tamarat: Well where do I start...I'm a film director. That's my passion as well as my occupation.

*What first got you interested in film?
Tamarat: My family has always been involved in the arts. My great uncle Johnnie Berry was a vaudeville performer who traveled with Bob Hope and performed regularly at the Apollo Theater. My cousin Stephanie Berry is an dancer and actress who was always performing in various plays and shows. All these things definitely had and impact on my interests in film and the arts as a whole.

*What are some of your favorite American films? Foreign films? Television shows?
Tamarat: Steven Spielberg and George Lucas really sparked my imagination as well as an entire generation with films like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "ET", "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and of course "Star Wars". Spike Lee's rise to prominence was truly mesmerizing to me as well. School Daze, Do The Right Thing and Malcolm X would be some of favorites from Lee. The Godfather, Taxi Driver and Sunset Boulevard, the list goes on and on. Foreign films, well there's so many but off hand there's Federico Fellini "La Dolce Vita", Akira Kurosawa's "The Seven Samurai", and in recent years Fernando Meirelles' "City of God."

*How would you describe your film education?
Tamarat: Trial by fire (laughter). I went to Virginia Union University with a major in English Language Arts. They had a small film/video department and I pretty much had all access to their equipment so I shot a few short films while in school. After I graduated I jumped head first into the film industry working in production on as many projects as I possibly could. It was there that I would ask questions to anyone that I could. That hands on experience was my best education.

*How would you describe the film "scene" where you live?
Tamarat: I live in Los Angeles so this is the film scene (laughter). It's a unique city because everyone is from somewhere else. That includes myself, I'm a native New Yorker. It's a city full of opportunity but you have to been willing to feel the sting of rejection from time to time as well.

*What advice do you have for anyone interested in trying to succeed in your city?
Tamarat: I would say narrow it down. If you come to LA and you want to be a writer, filmmaker, dancer and a comedian then there's a chance that something is going to get compromised. I would suggest focusing on one thing at a time and giving that one thing 110% of your attention. Also don't expect it to happen over night. If it does then that's wonderful but be prepared for the long battle.

*Who or what do you cite as major inspirations (they do not have to directly relate to film) for your work?
My mother is a huge inspiration. She's a very spiritual woman who has always instilled in me the need to live life to the fullest. She's also always supported my career as a filmmaker, no matter how risky a career it may be. I've also been inspired by a slew of film directors: Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, George Lucas, Frederico Fellini and John Woo to name a few.

Do you consider "Dreams and Shadows a "Black film?"
Tamarat: That's an interesting question. The lead actors happen to be white but I'm a black director. I wrote, produced and directed the film so in that way I guess you would call it "Black Film" but most people associate the term with the actors in front of the camera not the actual filmmakers behind the lens. As long as my work is appreciated and inspires other young people to pick up a camera and tell stories then I'm okay with whatever they want to label it.

Dreams and Shadows is now available everywhere on dvd so check your local video store. For more info:

View the Trailer here:


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