Roderick Lawrence is an award-winning actor, filmmaker, and the co-founder of Black Man Films, whose short film, Silent Partner, is a strong contender for an Oscar. The project addresses workplace microaggressions, experienced by a black trial attorney (played by Lawrence) who questions the motives behind his promotion to partner after winning a high profile, racially charged case.
While the storyline is fictional, Silent Partner shines a spotlight on real experiences that are pervasive in the lives of many black men and women, as they contend with systemic racism and biases spanning from childhood all the way through their professional careers. In many cases, this has a massive toll on their mental health. In fact, Lawrence too has experienced it first-hand, dating back to his youth in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio.
He recalls being frequently overlooked and disregarded at the predominantly white school he attended despite his talents. On his high school football team, coaches tried to steer him from the quarterback position because they didn’t want him to be the face of the program. Despite their best efforts, he would still become the varsity quarterback. Similarly, as he pursued acting, his theater instructors and guidance counselors did little to nurture his development. Instead, they subtly tried to shrink his confidence.
“I wanted to go to Baldwin Wallace Conservatory, which is a top 5 theater conservatory in the nation,” Lawrence said. “They accept about 12 people out of 800 applicants every year, and my guidance counselor told me there was no way I was going to get in. Guess what? Out of all of the theater kids in my school, I was the only one who got in.”
“To think that I had that kind of confidence in me when everyone was telling me I couldn’t do it was crazy. But that is what black kids deal with every day in these spaces… Microaggressions,” he said.
Up to this point, Lawrence has accomplished a great deal as an actor in theater as well as on-screen. His resume boasts prominent roles as adult Simba in The Lion King’s national tour and Othello in John Leguizamo’s Othello: The Remix.
He has won the award for Best Actor at the 2022 BronzeLens Festival for his Performance in Silent Partner, which was also nominated for Best Film Short (Oscar qualifier). Silent Partner also won four Best Short Film awards at the 2021 Columbus Black International Film Festival, the 2021 North Carolina Black Film Festival, the 2021 Detroit Black Film Festival, and the 2022 Morehouse College Human Rights Festival.
Other Recognitions for Silent Partner include:
· Finalist, HBO MAX® Latino Short Film Competition, Houston Latino Film Festival
· Best Director – Aristotle Torres, Detroit Black Film Festival
· Honorable Mention – Short Film, International Puerto Rican Heritage Film Festival
Although Lawrence enjoys the recognition, he maintains it is only a part of the larger mission – to use his lens as a way to shed light and spark discussions on the black experience in America as it pertains to systemic racism, love, mental health, and various other topics. That is why he launched the production company Black Man Films, along with his partner and co-founder Salma Qarnain, another brilliant actress and producer. She has helped him to stay true to his goal to merge the arts with activism.
“My focus is on black empowerment and motivating and galvanizing our people. Anything other than that in this industry, I don’t have time for,” Lawrence said. “I’ve turned down a lot of roles because I didn’t think they were telling our stories. As an actor, I got a chance to start a new way of doing all black film. I had an all-black creative team, black director, black writers, and I was very intentional about that.”
Moving ahead, Lawrence and Black Man Films have their eyes set on snagging an Oscar for Silent Partner and making it a feature film. Also, they are preparing for the release of another project that just wrapped principal photography and will hit the festival circuit in early 2023. It will address black romance, communication, and mental health.
For more information on Roderick Lawrence, Black Man Films and Silent Partner, visit www.silentpartner-film.com and follow @rodericklaw and @silentpartnerfilm on Instagram.