Screenwriter, producer and Norfolk State elder hosting award-winning film screening at Naro
Ty Cooper lived in Ghent for a time when he was a student at Norfolk State University in the 1990s.
He lived a few blocks from the Naro Expanded Cinema and loved watching his movies. He dreamed of one day organizing his own film screening there.
This Sunday, that’s exactly what he’s doing.
The screening of her film “Amanda” begins at 8 p.m. and a panel discussion with Cooper and two of the actresses will follow. The film is also screening in Charlottesville, Richmond and Park City, Utah. In January, the 28-minute film won Best Narrative Short in Winter 2022 Montreal Independent Film Festival. The festival received 700 submissions and judges selected about 30 for the category, Cooper said.
His time in Norfolk meant so much to him that he knew he had to come back for his screening tour.
“For me, it’s just a feeling of ecstasy.”
The film follows the eponymous protagonist, 28-year-old artist Amanda. Her mother died of cancer when she was 9 years old. As she begins a new romance, she must deal with unresolved issues before she can move forward.
The film is about community, trauma, relationships and art, Cooper said. Very often, he said, people make decisions based on unresolved emotional turmoil, grief or loss they experienced in childhood.
He drew from his own story: his mother beat cancer a few years ago, but his father is now battling prostate cancer. He lost other relatives, including aunts and uncles, to the disease.
“It was almost a losing streak situation,” he said.
Cooper, who grew up in New York, always appreciated art and remembers his mother taking him to shows on Broadway. After arriving in Norfolk State, the marketing and business administration specialist started a company, Lifeview Marketing & Visuals.
He promoted events such as concerts, shows and bus trips. He graduated in 1995 and still runs the company, focusing on campaigns for cities, politicians and organizations such as United Way and the YMCA. He is now based in Charlottesville and has a home in Virginia Beach.
But even with the company, Cooper felt a pull to storytelling. He wrote his first play, “Please Papa Don’t”, in 1997. It’s about a father who loses his job and his faith, and how it affects the family.
“It was a dark play with a lot of comedy interwoven,” Cooper said. “Real life.”
He began producing his own films in 2002. His work centers around characters and their journeys and their desire for resolution.
His 2019 short film “Mingle” won the Grand Jury First Short Award at the American Filmatic Arts and Honorable Mention for Best Comedy Short at the Independent Shorts Awards.
Cooper and crew shot “Amanda” in snow, sleet and rain for five days in Richmond in February 2021. He collaborated with keyboardist and songwriter Alex Moody who has previously written for Cooper. Moody put music on a particular stage and Cooper asked him to take it down. He thought the dialogue was enough.
“He said, ‘What do you want? You want people to cry?’” Cooper recalled. “I said yes.’ He looked at it and he ran out of the studio because he had to cry.
Cooper said Sunday’s screening would be a homecoming.
“When you come back to Norfolk to show your work and local businesses step up, or anyone steps up to support it, it makes you feel so good. It’s even better than receiving an award,” he said.
Cooper is excited about other projects, including a sequel to “Amanda” and a screenplay called “Stain.” It’s about a white cop married to a black woman and they have mixed-race children. The police officer kills an unarmed black teenager.
He can’t wait for more people to discover “Amanda” and all of its complexities, he said.
“We all love a good story and we love a relatable story, and that’s what ‘Amanda’ is.”
Saleen Martin, 757-446-2027, [email protected]
If you are going to
When: 8 p.m. Sunday; a round table will follow
Or: Naro Expanded Cinema, 1507 Colley Ave., Norfolk
Tickets: $20; tinyurl.com/NAROAmanda
Details: www.AmandatheFilm.com; 757-625-6276; Masks are mandatory inside