Woke

A man and a woman meet by chance on a hot day in a park in the city of Atlanta. Sunny is a Pakistani-American wannabe rapper in search of some inspiration. Rebecca is an African-American activist on the run from a rent-a-cop. He lends her a helping hand, and soon the two are caught in a furious debate about where art and identity intersect.

  • Venk Potula
    Director
  • Leland Frankel
    Writer
  • Leland Frankel
    Producer
  • Venk Potula
    Producer
  • Venk Potula
    Key Cast
  • Kiah Alexandria Clingman
    Key Cast
  • Jock McKissick
    Key Cast
  • Neal Kotval
    Key Cast
  • Jason Cermak
    Director of Photography
  • Venk Potula
    Editor
  • Indra Dattagupta
    Casting Director
  • Jafa Fielder
    First Assistant Director
  • Janna Koffman
    Second Assistant Director
  • Erika Miranda
    Script Supervisor
  • J.L. Bolden
    Sound Mixer
  • Ryland Lu
    Digital Intermediate Technician
  • Tawan Bazemore
    Colorist
  • Carlo Scrignaro
    Sound Designer
  • Gabrielle Moore
    Production Assistant
  • Austin Brooks
    On-Set Photographer
  • Leland Frankel
    Based on the play "Woke" by
  • Stephen Spies
    Original Music
  • Venk Potula
    Original Music
  • Project Type:
    Short, Web / New Media, Other
  • Genres:
    Drama, Comedy, Political, Adaptation
  • Runtime:
    10 minutes 30 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 25, 2017
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    RED
  • Aspect Ratio:
    2048 x 1080
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
  • Urbanworld Film Festival
    New York, New York
    United States
    New York Premiere
    Official Selection
  • CAAM Fest 2018
    San Fancisco, CA
    United States
    May 12, 2018
    San Francisco/Bay Area Premiere
  • Sacramento Asian Pacific Film Festival
    Sacramento, CA
    United States
    April 26, 2018
    Sacramento Area Premiere
    Winner, Best Short Film
  • DisOrient Asian American Film Festival of Oregon
    Eugene, OR
    United States
    April 21, 2018
    PNW Premiere
    Nominated, Best Short Narrative
  • Asians on Film Festival of Shorts
    Los Angeles
    United States
    Honorable Mention, Drama; Best Actor; Best Screenwriter
  • Asians on Film Festival Of Shorts
    Los Angeles
    United States
    January 26, 2018
    Best Screenplay (nominated) Best Actor (nominated) Best Drama (honorable mention)
  • Atlanta Comedy Film Festival
    Atlanta, GA
    United States
    July 23, 2018
    Winner, Best Actor
  • International Film Festival South Asia - Toronto
    Toronto
    Canada
    May 18, 2018
    Official Selection
  • Houston Asian American Pacific Islander Film Festival
    Houston, TX
    United States
    Official Selection
  • Best of India - Short Film Festival
    Santa Monica, CA
    United States
  • Asian South East-Short Film Festival

    Honorable Mention
  • Southern Margins International Short Film Festival
    Clemson, SC
    United States
    March 2, 2018
    Official Selection
  • Los Angeles Diversity Film Festival
    Los Angeles
    United States
  • Music in Film Festival
    Atlanta, GA
    United States
    June 30, 2018
    Official Selection
  • Boston Asian American Film Festival
    Boston, MA
    United States
    Boston Premiere
    Official Selection
  • South Asian Film Festival of America
    Los Angeles
    United States
    October 14, 2018
    Official Selection
  • Hollywood Short+Sweet Film Festival
    Los Angeles
    United States
    Official Selection
Director Biography - Venk Potula

Venk Potula is a first generation Indian American filmmaker based out of Los Angeles, CA. He is a graduate of UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television where he studied Theater and English. While in school, Venk studied filmmaking with professors James Franco, Peter Weller and Charles Haid. After graduating, Venk started a production company where he edits and directs digital branded content for various brands including Bai, Vice Golf, Fnatic, and Warner Sisters. Venk recently shadowed Peter Weller as he directed episodes of TNT's The Last Ship. He is continuing his screenwriting education and practice at UCLA's Writing for Television Professional Program. Venk's acting credits include HBO's VEEP, BET's The Comedy Get Down, and Wild N' Out with Nick Cannon. Venk's editing credits include My America (Official Selection; Los Angeles Film Festival, Hollyshorts Film Festival, New Haven International Film Fest) and Keith Broke His Leg (Winner Best Comedy, Indie Series Award 2016) starring Keith Powell (30 Rock).

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

I’ve always had this fantasy that I could be a rapper. Growing up in Atlanta in the early 2000s, my heroes were Ludacris, Young Joc, and T-Pain long before they became Amir Khan and Spike Lee. Any song that had its own dance move was a particular favorite - I built my middle school reputation on my skill at Crip Walking and snapping my fingers to “Lean wit It, Rock wit It” at friends’ bar mitzvahs.

When Leland Frankel sent me his short play Woke, I naturally leaped at the chance to play MC Sunny Q, a wannabe rapper with more heart than flow. But it wasn’t just Sunny’s swagger and dreams of hip-hop stardom that drew me to the part - I immediately connected with the text’s nuanced exploration of identity and cultural appropriation. Most stories that I see about South Asian-American characters focus on their relationship with the old world. Woke, by contrast, is about the present and the future. How do we shape our lives when we seem destined to fulfill a specific societal niche everywhere we go? And how do we interact with those who claim to be allies, but who still continue to do harm without realizing it?

After performing in the play, I knew that I needed to adapt it as a short film. While the original story took place in Queens, my ambition was to film Woke back in my hometown. That meant making some serious changes to the story. Leland is a New Yorker by birth, and I had to help guide him through the nuances of Southern life for this new version. Rebecca, initially written as Caucasian, became African-American. The core conflict shifted from the failings of white allyship to the frequently tempestuous relationship between races in one of the nation’s largest majority minority cities. Sunny’s struggle began to mirror my own as a dark-skinned, first-generation Indian-American man raised in the South. All of Rebecca’s comments about the nature of rap and graffiti, her frustration at Sunny’s masculine posturing, were further sharpened. The more authentic to the city of Atlanta we strove to be, the more I felt that we could capture the genuine nature of these complex racial dynamics.

This project feels essential because there are so few non-white, non-black narratives about Southern life. What makes a person’s identity unique is an amalgamation of experiences, and nowhere is that felt keener than in Atlanta. As minorities within minorities, we constantly ask ourselves the question: “How do I fit into a country that sees us as different no matter where we are?” I’m not sure I have decided on a personal answer yet, but I believe Woke is an important example of a character who discovers his answer and some semblance of understanding.

My hope is that audiences will find Woke funny, heart-breaking, and eye-opening in equal measure. I know that the experience of creating this short film has certainly been all of those things for me.

Thank you very much for this opportunity.

Sincerely,

Venk Potula
venk.khrisp@gmail.com
(404) 271-5487