Today we’d like to introduce you to James Rogers III.
James, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born and raised in Compton, California. I always knew I wanted to be a storyteller, but didn’t think that was real for someone like me. I traveled to UC Berkeley and got exposed heavy theories on film, gender, and race. I also went to college with my dad…together. At the same time. Which was awesome. We took a film studies class together, and the rest was history – I knew I wanted to write.
I came back to LA with the film bug and worked my way up on music videos, short films, and low-budget features. Feeling over-ambitious, I went back to school – this time for my MFA in Film/TV Production at USC. Around that time, I also started modeling professionally to supplement the (less than) minimum wage I was making as an assistant in Hollywood.
In 2017, I wrote and directed FELIX, an award-winning short film and official selection at several renowned animation festivals. I continued to collaborate with talented folks in LA and kept writing on my own, which helped me gain some steam, as well as fine-tune my voice artistically.
My work centers around otherness, often exploring the joy/pain that queer folk and BIPOC experience as we move through our world (or ones I make up). I’ve written for shows on CBS, Hulu, Disney, and BET.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It’s been pretty tumultuous. I’ve always felt like an outsider in Hollywood. Constantly reminded that I wasn’t part of the narcissistic nepotism that keeps the halls of this industry flowing. When you’re a Black storyteller, you have to do everything twice. You interview twice, you take the same job twice to prove you’re ‘experienced’ – you need double the proof for half the opportunity. All of which is amplified by a need to provide for my family. I felt guilty for pursuing the thing I loved, knowing there wouldn’t be money in it for quite some time. My parents had given so much up for me – I owed them the world. Sometimes the sea of microaggressions, toxic masculinity, and impossible standard of perfection (especially in the modeling world) really get to you. It helps to have a solid base of people who believe in you no matter what. And practicing self-love. That helps.
My biggest challenge was being put into a box. Once I shed that idea, I learned I could do anything that fulfilled me creatively. Write, create, edit, model – there should be no limit on doing what you love.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am a freelance writer, editor, photographer/videographer, storyteller, and content creator. Professionally, I craft stories for television, short-form media, and animation. I have photographed/cut videos for weddings, graduation parties, reunions, events, and more for the last eight years.
I also create and host digital game experiences. This is fairly new and came as a result of social distancing and my not-so secret love of reality tv shows like Survivor and Big Brother. I’ve been using platforms like zoom and youtube live to bring folks together for fun, well-crafted competition.
What I’m most proud of is my creative ingenuity. I love finding ways to bring joy to people and pushing technology to serve our needs.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My parents. My mother introduced me to film and television. She has the best taste in movies and was crafting my mind to think in terms of storytelling before I even knew it. I think it was all a ploy for her to go to the Oscars…hopefully it worked.
My dad taught me hard work and to never give up. Because of him, I plan. I make one more phone call. I send that extra email and take pride in everything I do. Both of them (and my siblings) are full of authentic charisma, which goes a long way, too.
My friends and loved ones always read my first drafts, watch my cuts, and sit through trial versions of some new game I’m cooking up. But none more than Anthony, who has been a partner, a cheerleader, and a friend.
I was also lucky to cross paths with JJ Abrams and Katie McGrath of Bad Robot Productions, who served as mentors from a distance. They have supported my goals in real, tangible ways while teaching me how to tell better stories and be a good person. Being a decent human being is so underrated.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamesearliii/channel/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamesearl23
Zachary Wong, GQ Spain, Jay Donato, Brandon Malone, LTH JKT, Bruce Chiu