Filmmaker David Fortune is not a father himself, but he knows the importance of fatherhood. Thanks to the AT&T Untold Stories Pitch Competition at the Tribeca Festival, he recently went home with the top prize of $1 million for his heartfelt film, Color Book.   

Set in his hometown of Atlanta—Decatur to be exact—the film captures the day-in-the-life of a devoted, single father raising his son with down syndrome after his wife’s passing. It chronicles their journey to attend their first baseball game together.   

“It’s my story of a Black father and son, capturing the intimacies of those relationships, because I want more stories that capture our humanity. I felt that this father’s story of raising a son with down syndrome reflects that intimacy I was always searching for,” explains Fortune, also a Morehouse alum. 

David Fortune was chosen by a panel of judges that included New Jack City and Dynasty star Michael Michele, actor/director Mo McRae from Sons of Anarchy, Den of Thieves, and A Lot of Nothing fame, and Derek Luke, most recently of Crossover, among others.  

Judging the competition was a real honor for Michele, “because it celebrates true artists.” For her, the art of filmmaking is sometimes lost in the industry part of it all. So “to be a part of helping make that decision about who gets the money to fulfill their artistic thought and ideal for filmmaking” is an experience she cherishes.  

Fatherhood was the aspect of Fortune’s pitch for Color Book that really grabbed Luke the most, he shares. “I’m a father,” he says. “I’m homeschooling my kids. Parenting has been rewarding and difficult during COVID and after COVID. And even though I’m in a different zip code with more diverse people, I hear the same cries from white people that I hear from Black.” 

"As a director, I was looking for specificity and clarity and vision," shares McCrae. "I was looking for passion, and a real strong sense of artistry. David Fortune, who ended up becoming the winner, exhibited all the things I was looking for in terms of who could take this $1 million dollars, and go off and not just make a movie, but make a film that will be memorable and could resonate with people."

Echoing Michele who also spoke of film being art not subjected to commercial interests, Luke wants to see independent film, where he and so many others got their start, continue to thrive.  “The ecosystem of cinema needs to be balanced, where it's not just sci-fi, but it's the balance of true storytelling, or grounded storytelling,” he says. 

For him, this is essential to the lifeblood of filmmaking, “because many times when our cinema has gone through a down lull, it was grounded, raw stories that brought it back up.” 

And Fortune’s Color Book definitely fits that bill. His film is one that comes from being observant of others, not just himself. Back in grade school, he says he noticed, “those with disabilities were often separated from the rest of the student body. And for me, it was like more of a curiosity of how can I highlight their perspective and their lives and include them into our community? Because they are a part of it.” 

The Morehouse grad says his desire to uplift comes from being uplifted. “I’m not a father myself, but I’ve been fathered,” he says. “After losing my dad, there were so many Black men who stepped in and sheltered me and guided me in the right path. They helped me get to Morehouse College and continued to help me get through grad school at Loyola Marymount University. I owe all that to Black men, and so this film is a love letter to them.”