Sometimes two are better than one.
Germantown-native and filmmaker Rel Dowdell is well aware of this.
When he had the script ready for Changing the Game – inspired by his Northwest Philadelphia experiences, he knew that he needed major funding.
So, he approached commercial loan broker Karen Isaac to produce his project and the partnership has yielded a close collaboration for the film that will be released Friday, May 11 nationwide.
To celebrate this milestone Dowdell and Isaac were on hand for the private gala screening of Changing the Game held at the Philadelphia Art Museum’s Van Pelt Auditorium on Friday, May 4. Cast members like Irma P. Hall and Tony Todd were on hand to step on the red carpet. The feature film also stars actors Sean Riggs and Dennis L. A. White.
“I was in town for the Legacy of Love Awards when Rel Dowdell approached me with this inspiring and motivating script,” said Isaac, who lives in Bethesda, Md. “I knew right away that this thought provoking film had to be on the screen. I am so excited about producing my first feature film. It not only gives a talented filmmaker this opportunity, but this is a new venture for me as well.”
Dowdell is quick to point out that his Northwest city roots permeate the entire film. First, Changing the Game was actually shot here in parts of his “old stomping ground” in Germantown and in North Philadelphia. Secondly, the protagonist is a coagulation of many of the people he grew up with and/or went to college with before they started their careers.
The filmmaker is proud of the fact that it tells a side of the African American story that is not usually told.
“This is about Darrell Barnes who grew up in the notorious are of Eighth and Butler,” he said. “I chose that location because when I was growing up in Germantown it had a reputation as one of the toughest neighborhoods. Yet despite his address he was able to have a successful life.”
Yet Barnes must face other villains as he rises in income, status and power. This is where the film takes a sharp departure from many stereotypical movies with African American leading characters, according to Dowdell.
“So, this is not a typical urban African American genre film,” added John McDonald, who coordinated the publicity for the film’s opening. “Dowdell incorporates several plot twists to ensure this is not the case.”
Dowdell hopes local audiences will see parts of themselves in the film. “The characters could live in Mount Airy, Germantown or North Philadelphia. It has action, comedy and a story that someone can relate to. I hope people will go to see the film and not buy it on bootleg. When you make a multi-million dollar film those bootleg copies don’t hurt as much since the circulation is broader.
“What people have to understand is that in order for these types of African American films to succeed you need to see it,” Dowdell said. “That’s why I want all to come out relax and see this. You will have a great time and help positive films to thrive.”
Sustainability has grown from its origins as the buzzword of ultra-environmentalists to an all-encompassing call for social and economic reforms; and now, the Germantown United Community Development Corporation will host the upcoming “It Is Easy Being Green” workshop and symposium, with an eye toward enriching Germantown, and by extension, the entire city.
The symposium will take place on Wednesday, May 8 at the Flying Horse Center, 312 W. Chelten Ave., with a start time of 6 p.m.
“This is the second annual community forum we have done, and our mission is to promote and facilitate the revitalization of the Germantown Business District through a sustainable approach,” explained Germantown United CDC President Andrew Trackman. “Sustainability is a big part of our mission, and we’re trying to start a conversation with the community. We explain to them what sustainability is, and inform them of what they can do as individuals and businesses.”
Trackman explained sustainability as a method that “really brings about a healthier environment for residents and businesses as well,” but that it also has a purely economic angle as well.
“Part of this is economic sustainability,” Trackman said. “We will educate [businesses] on saving money by being green, but we will also discuss the potential for sustainable jobs and sustainable business practices which will help them become more profitable and potentially hire more people.”
The event will feature a wide array of speakers, all well-versed in sustainability. Aine and Emaleigh Doley, co-organizers of the W. Rockland Street Project – a community and citizen-driven cause through small-scale project in the west section of Germantown – will share their experiences and tips, while The Food Trust Director Dwayne Wharton will discuss the need for (and abundance of) affordable sustainable foods, and Wharton will also relay his findings from The Food Trust’s years of collaborating with grocers, farmers and policymakers. Speakers from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society will join those from the city of New Haven, Connecticut – which has recently implemented a new approach to combining nutritional facts with greater access to whole and sustainable foods.
Experts in the field, such as the LEED-certified Robert Fleming, Philadelphia University’s associate professor of Sustainable Design and co-founder of the MS in Sustainable Design Program at the school will also give critical insights to the growing sector.
The sustainability movement is picking up steam locally. Mayor Michael Nutter often cites his desire to transform Philadelphia into the “country’s greenest city,” and in February, the city announced that businesses can apply for the Sustainable Business Tax Credit; City Council first passed that bill in 2009, and contains language that will extend the credit through 2017.
“The City of Philadelphia is pleased to offer an innovative incentive that promotes the local clean economy and creates an attractive and supportive environment for sustainable business practices,” Nutter said during the announcement of the SBTC. “We value the work of sustainable businesses and hope this credit encourages the expansion of sustainable practices in Philadelphia.”
To that end, Nutter also created in 2009 the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, which is tasked with overseeing and implementing the city’s various greening programs.
Back in Germantown, it appears that Trackman and the city are on identical paths.
“Our organization’s mission is to promote sustainability, both environmental and economic. Last year’s forum on community development got such a great response, we decided to use the same format this year to bring information on sustainability to the community,” Trackman said, noting that the free event will also feature a moderated question-and-answer period. “Germantown does have a need for more jobs, and part of our focus is economic sustainability.
“This is the start of the conversation, not the end,” Trackman added. “We are hoping to engage Germantown going forward with more projects.”
Mount Airy USA, located at 6703 Germantown Ave., plans to join with Joseph Minardi, who is known for looking at the architectural and historical side of buildings in Philadelphia.
The two will host a walking tour of Germantown, giving visitors, both near and far to the town, a chance to learn about the buildings that are currently standing and its history. This event will be held on May 17, starting at 6:30 p.m.
“[This] is the first event that we’ve had for this event,” said Abby Thaker, Special Projects Manager at Mount Airy USA. “I’ve only been at Mount Airy USA for a year but my understanding is that we haven’t done a walking tour of Germantown Avenue like this.”
Thaker mentioned that the organization had Minardi’s book, “Historical Architecture in Northwest Philadelphia: 1690-1930s” and it helped her to realize what type of history and great stories the buildings are holding in the city.
“Along the outstretch of Germantown, we also have a lot of development projects underway and we thought it’d be great to have an event that would help people will recognize the history of the avenue, as well as the future.”
This tour will take, at the most, an hour in a half for visitors to enjoy, with its starting point beginning at Lovett Park, located at 6945 Germantown Ave., and ending at Little Jimmie’s Bakery Cafe, located at 6669 Germantown Ave.
“Little Jimmie’s Cafe, who has a really beautiful patio in the back, will have cocktails and a light dinner [for participants] after the event,” Thaker said.
The event is also a perfect opportunity for local businesses, who are just starting, to highlight their company for the visitors and answer questions regarding improvements and new buildings coming into the neighborhood.
“For people who are interested in the history of the neighborhood or people who like poking around construction sites can definitely benefit from this tour,” Thaker said.
This tour is currently sold out, however, Thaker suggested to those who would like to participate with the next tour, to contact her for dates and prices.
Interested participants can add themselves to the waiting list, a week prior to an event, which will also give the opportunity of having first dibs on future events.
“What we are planning to do is to see how this tour goes and then, most likely, we’re going to plan another one later in the summer,” she said.