Rick Schmidt — Hi there. I am tapping this out in California. My novel ‘Black President’ will be published in Britain later in the year. I am an independent movie producer and when not filming or editing usually write non-fiction between teaching gigs. Sorry to sound like the stereotypical boastful yank that I hope I am not, but I wrote a movie-making book, ‘Feature Filmmaking at Used-Car Prices’, some years ago and it is still selling here and there. It helped Kevin Smith create his ‘Clerks’ and he was nice enough to give me a blurb for the cover (Thanks Kev!). So for awhile I actually got royalties :>). Oh yeah, and my Extreme DV came out in 2004, about making digital video features (the $ way to go — what I use now!)
So, why, a novel?
I was between writing my how-to books and wondered if I could possibly write some fiction. After all, I did make up my own movies! Around 1997 or 1998 I got a concept of following the lives of a black family where one child, secretly an illegitimate son of JFK, grows up in America. I figured there must have been at least one woman JFK seduced who decided to keep her child. At some point in the writing it became obvious that the child should rise to be a candidate for the Presidency. And as I wrote out his childhood experiences I decided to also include the US political climate and timelines, re-write all those poisonous historical moments from the 1960’s on that had clogged my consciousness, the assassinations and secret Ops, presidential plottings, imagining it all from the point of view of the perpetrators. Basically, ‘Black President’ is a distillation of my research of forty years of US history, politics and subterfuge right up to the present. ‘Black President’ concludes in the White House 2012.
There have been so many questionable events in American history over my lifetime, including the assassinations -JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr., and then Bobby Kennedy -which was the last straw for those of us who tried to maintain hope through the 1960’s. I remember walking into my kitchen in Berkeley and hearing the announcement about Bobby’s assassination on the radio. I got a gut ache. That was especially hurtful because he seemed to be representing the needed governmental changes.
As the writing went along I enjoyed creating a new logic that didn’t seem so haywire. How many times do we have to see a diagram of the Kennedy bullet that went sideways, or been told that Oswald fired all those bullets by himself? It felt good to re-write Bobby’s assassination and numerous other dark events, right through to a chapter about the stolen 2000 election and questionable collapse of Building #7. Suddenly I started to sort of own those disturbing moments in history instead of being victimized by them, which is how it had felt.
Around the time I was wrapping up a first draft of what became ‘Black President’, a guy named Barack Obama, who nobody outside of Illinois had ever heard of, was losing a 2000 Democratic run for the U.S. House of Representatives, to four-term incumbent, Bobby Rush, by a two-to-one margin.
He was re-elected to the Illinois Senate again in 2002 and started his historic climb toward the Democratic nomination for the Presidency. So I’m pretty shocked that I somehow imagined all this coming…all pretty mind-boggling from my perspective. Hopefully there will be a new era after Barack gets elected(!). This country has under-performed for so long that we’re all a little dazed, I’m afraid. But we’re now getting hopeful again, that we can come back from the ruin of the last 8 years.