Roderick Lawrence is an actor, creator and producer, who debuted in Philadelphia at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music as Simba in Disney’s “The Lion King.” Having performed as Ramses in Stephen Schwartz’s “The Prince of Egypt” and as the first Black lead in the musical “ONCE,” Roderick has been in demand all over the country for theater since graduating from Baldwin Wallace. Yet, he found himself facing a dilemma when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. “I was rehearsing “Fences” in Syracuse at Redhouse under director Ted Lange [“The Love Boat”] when the pandemic forced us to shut down. We initially thought we would come back, but I quickly found myself stranded in Syracuse without a job and without a purpose.”

Roderick went home to Cleveland, Ohio, to spend time with his family, and an idea began to take shape. He wanted to figure out a way to give a voice to Black perspectives, dispositions, and struggles. “I was wrestling with my own anxiety and mental health journey, and I discovered that I had a burning desire to explore the topic of Black men’s mental health in this country, but in a new medium: film. I realized that mental health was going untalked about in our communities, and the only way I can make change, by impacting and starting conversations, is through art.”

In the summer of 2020, he launched Black Man Films with the mission of art + activism alongside producing partner Salma Qarnain Shaw and dove into writing and producing the short film, “Silent Partner.”

“I am a young Black man in America who is working in systemically racist institutions filled with conscious and unconscious biases and micro aggressions. I created this film to express my point of view and the POV of other Black men and women who for generations have been systemically disregarded—sometimes even under the guise of kindness and helpfulness, yet kept under an unyielding yoke that treats us as less than equal.”

Co-written and directed by Aristotle Torres (upcoming feature “Story Ave”), lensed by cinematographer Eric Branco (“Clemency” and “The Forty-Year-Old Version”), and edited by Taylor Levy (“Prisoners of the Ghostland” and “Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon”), the short highlights what it means to sacrifice as an accomplished Black man and the toll it takes on one’s mental health and family. Torres, Branco, and Levy brought world-class visual storytelling to the project. “As masters in use of color, lighting, and composition, they understood how to best show the themes, as well as keep the story focused to ensure clarity.”

Roderick was intentional about building and leading a team of primarily Black and Brown artists and producers. “I am very proud of the fact that we were able to hire over 40 artists from all over the country, including a cast member from Chester County, who were all aligned with what we were trying to accomplish. We now have touch points in many cities and are actively looking to

develop our slate, shooting in film-friendly cities, including Philly – where both my sister and Salma’s sister are based.”

For more information, including festival schedule, for “Silent Partner,” please visit: www.silentpartner-film.com

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