While most teenage boys are chasing after their crush or playing video games, Jordan Coleman is busy writing scripts. In 2008, he debuted his first film, Say It Loud!, a youth film that explored the importance of education in the lives of Black boys. Between working on his next project (Justin in Case, which tackles teen 'sexting'),Coleman managed to fit in a quick chat with EBONY.com to talk success, peer pressure and giving back to the Black community.
EBONY: First and foremost, your activism against teen dating violence and your role as an advocate for teen empowerment is remarkable. What inspired you to begin your swork?
Jordan Coleman: Thank you. When I was 10 years old, I became the voice of ‘Tyrone the Moose’ on Nickelodeon's Backyardigans. When checks started coming with my name on them, my mom said I had to do something to help my community. I saw how a lot of African American boys were not focused on their schoolwork. So my mom and I sat down and emailed all these different agents, pitching my documentary. After I finished the first film, I kind of caught the movie director bug.
EBONY: You were inspired to create Paying the Price, a film tackling the issues of teen dating violence, after the Chris Brown and Rihanna story. Why do you think so few teens speak out the way you chose to?
JC: I feel people don’t know how serious of a topic it is. I did research and found that 1 in 3 teens are victims of teen dating violence. That’s scary to me, and as I did more research, I felt like this was a serious topic. I feel like I’m saving people’s lives with my films because I’m educating them and entertaining at the same time.
EBONY: How do you plan on reaching further into the minds of younger Black men?
JC: Well, since I’m a filmmaker and I want to create films about social issues affecting teens, I feel like my best way is to have them in the film. Being a part of the film, they are going to be excited about the topic and want to know more about it. So I feel like if I have them in the background scenes or even as the main character, it will help bring awareness to these serious issues. Then maybe, they'll become proactive in helping to spread the word.
EBONY: Sometimes when people are just preaching to you, you don’t get it. But when you’re involved, it it’s like, “Okay now I understand; now it speaks to me." Can you tell me about your future projects?
JC: My next project is called Justin In Case. It’s a football movie that focuses on sexting. I’m a football head. I play for my high school and I’ve always wanted to make a football movie. It’s going to have comic relief while spotlighting the problems of sexting.
EBONY: Is sexting a big thing in high school? I’ve been out of high school for a while now, so I don’t know what’s going on.
JC: Yes, it is actually a really big deal.
EBONY: Is the harassment aspect of it, or is it just young people getting involved with "grown up" things?
JC: You know, its a little mixture of both. But mainly young teens getting involved in “grown up issues.” They’re sending sexual pictures or saying inappropriate things to each other. Now in high school you can get into serious trouble; I think you can even end up going to jail for it.
EBONY: I just wonder what kind of peer pressure is going on amongst teens, that they feel like they have to do these things. Can you speak more on this?
JC: I think there is a lot of insecurity going on. But I think it’s really adults not showing them what’s right from wrong. I also think its new technology that our parents haven’t seen before. They don’t really understand the things we can do with cell phones, or iPads, etc.
EBONY: What are African American boys are dealing the most? Anything particular?
JC: I would have to say peer pressure. I feel like in the African American community, boys feel like they have to be the 'head honcho.' They think they have to outdo their friends because they feel that will get them brownie points. So I definitely think peer pressure plays a big role.
EBONY: Is it coming from the media or is it coming from our community?
JC: I think it’s a little of both. I mean, I can’t imagine one kid who isn’t watching TV after school. Plus, you’re going to react to how your surroundings are too.
EBONY: You’re so accomplished for a 16 year old. How do you balance it all and still be a normal teenager?
JC: My mother helps me balance it out a lot. She always told me to keep my priorities in check, and do what I have to do, so I can do what I want to do. I always live by that mindset.
EBONY: How can people get their hands your work?
JC: My website, which is JordanColemanfilms.com, has some trailers up from previous films. I go across the country showing my films; I’ve been to schools, churches, book clubs, programs, everything.
EBONY: How have people been responding to all that you’ve been doing?
JC: They seem to enjoy the films. I really feel like I can connect with the students because I am a student. I know where they are coming from and they know where I’m coming from.