Turner Reaches New Heights As He Heads To the 23rd Annual American Black Film Festival
For years Datari Turner has been working in the entertainment industry producing films and television shows with no stop in sight.
The independent producer has upward of 30 films, been nominated for nearly 100 festival awards, founded Datari Turner Productions in 2010, and worked with many TV and films newcomers and legends.
The Oakland native began his career modeling in New York City prior to stepping into screenwriting and production. Turner sites the tragic plane crash of 9/11 and actually seeing the second plane demolish the tower, as a turning point in his life; the beginning of his search for a deeper meaning.
“I had a really great career at the time, but I didn’t see myself. I wasn’t having fun, and it wasn’t my passion,” Turner expressed. He spent a month soul searching, tracing back to his childhood hobbies to determine what was most true to his spirit. Ultimately leading him back to his first passion, film.
“When I was a kid, I would cut class and go to the movie theatre,” speaking on how his interest in film began, stating, “I would just watch movies all day!”
Once he rediscovered his passion for film, his next goal was to gain entrance into the business. As the child of an English teacher and student of his craft, Turner had the skill of writing and understood he would need knowledge and discipline to further himself. To begin, he bought two books that would teach the basics of screenwriting.
Some of the best advice he received, came from one of the books, encouraging all writers to write about something you knew well. Which at that point in Turner’s career, led to the creation of his first screenplay, Video Girl, as he had known many women video stars and acted in multiple videos as the lead male.
In 2003, Turner moved to Los Angeles, continuing his research and really kicking off his career in film. After studying much of Hollywood and its history, he found the most powerful people in the industry were producers, and from there he decided to take on the title.
His first television show, Ultimate Hustler premiered on BET in 2005, marking the beginning of his running career as a producer. Since then Turner has produced upward of 30 films and TV series. Including the hit shows Growing Up Hip-Hop (Hollywood), Growing Up Hip-Hop: Atlanta and Shut Up And Dribble. His films include A Boy. A Girl. A Dream. and LUV and more under his 20-year career journey.
“I just try to run my own race; I know what my mission statement is in life and why I’m doing this. I just try to stay focused on that,” he says of his determination to continue to create. Elaborating on his mission statement and mantra, “give more than [I] receive,” Turner is also driven by the ability to open doors for young screenwriters, producers, and actors to have a shot at Hollywood.
Furthermore, understanding the responsibility as a Black man in the industry, the role, and privilege he owns being able to control much of what he produces and who is involved.
“The imagery that people see on television shapes how people think and shape what they believe in,” Turner says, explaining, “I just want to be behind producing conversation pieces and putting out content that is going to portray people looking like me in a positive light. I want to bring attention to things that need more awareness brought to them.”
After facing much opposition of his own, he values the ability to be able to produce images highlighting positive and truthful viewpoints on some of America’s most trying issues. With goals of changing the narrative and restoring the culture he represents.
En suite of his mission, Turner’s most recent films depict various forms of the Black experience and will show during the 23rd annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) in Miami Beach. Films showing are: If Not Now, When?, focusing on family bonds and forgiveness and Same Difference, which focuses on mental health. Not only will his films debut at the festival, but Turner will also host a master class detailing the role of the producer in film and television.
American Black Film Festival, is known as the nation’s largest gathering of Black film and television enthusiasts. was Founded by Jeff Friday, it was created to empower Black artists and showcase quality content by and about people of African descent in 1997.
“I’m excited about it,” he says of the four-day festival, further explaining, “I think people of color are having a really great time in business right now, especially women and women of color.” Being one of Turner’s favorite festivals, detailing events such as ABFF, Sundance Film Festival and South by Southwest Music Festival (SXSW) gives him an opportunity to scout young talent in efforts to further his mission.
As for the future, Turner is looking forward to giving back, finding young talent to mentor and producing more TV series and films. With an upcoming Netflix film starring Niecy Nash and Courtney B. Vance, Uncorked, which follows the life of a young Black wine sommelier, Turner just looks forward to continuing in his craft.
“I just want to still be doing this and still having fun when I’m in my sixties and seventies.”
To keep up with Datari Turner and his career follow his social media @datariturner.