Reel Black List: Kwame Amoaku, Cinematic Samurai

Kwame Amoaku

Kwame Amoaku

Multi-faceted film pro
who has collaborated
with Russel Simmons
and Spike Lee
“would love to talk
and build with
Steve McQueen.”

Kwame Amoaku’s vast experience as a writer / director / camera operator brings a unique vision to the cinematic experience. Combine that with years as a production manager / locations and assistant director and he becomes a double-edged sword of cinematic excellence and fiscal precision.

As a director / camera operator, Kwame first brought notice to his unique vision with a 13-episode series on Fox Sports called Preps (2001).

In this reality-based documentary, he followed high school basketball stars during their last year of school. His subjects included New York Knicks Center Eddie Curry, Golden State Warrior Will Bunum, and Houston Rocket Luther Head.

The series was acclaimed by many sports writers and professional athletes and boasted a huge fan base.

Preps had developed a cult following amongst Hoop Dreamers.”
Sports Illustrated
Preps has been riveting, providing a rare insight
into a culture and attitude that is foreign
to those whose only insight to the inner-city
has been provided by MTV.”

Salt Lake Tribune

After Preps, Kwame was chosen by Digital Ranch’s Emmy Award-winning producer, Rob Kirk, to direct the second unit of the United States Army’s nine-spot commercial and web series, 24/7.
These commercials featured soldiers of diverse backgrounds and specialties in a variety of locations including the deserts of Arizona and the swamps of Florida. Kwame’s unit was charged with capturing soldiers in a variety of training scenarios.
The partnership between Kwame and Rob continued with a joint-production deal between 5 Guns No Cables, Digital Ranch, and Russel Simmons and Stand Lathan’s Simmons Lathan Media Group.
Kwame was tapped to be the inaugural Def Filmmaker with the provocative documentary, F.E.D.S. Based on the street magazine of the same name, F.E.D.S. was a look into the darkest parts of the underground culture that the world only hears of in the lyrics of hardcore hip hop.

“Bloodthirsty Pit Bulls, a basketball player
who trades in his uniform to sell drugs, and
lots of remmorseful O.G.’s.
No, this isn’t an episode of Oz
Kwame Amoaku documents the
underground world of gangsters,
drug dealers, and professional criminals.
The only rule is: There are no rules.
As the narrator says, Kill or be killed.”

Kerry Smith
Salt Lake Tribune


Two more projects immediately followed F.E.D.S.: The Industry, a behind-the-scenes look at the characters that make up the corporate structure of the hip-hop music business featuring hip-hop’s biggest stars including Outkast, Kanye West, and Ludacris; and Hip Hop Justice, a joint production between Simmons / Lathan and Court TV, that examined the collision of the hip hop world and law enforcement, featuring interviews with Tupac and C-Murder by Nelson George and Ice T.

Hip Hop Justice will address
hot-button issues including profiling,
sexual exploitation, and gang violence,
as well as examine how law enforcement
views young, successful hip hop artists
whose ‘thuggish’ artistic style often
appears as integral to their personas
as it is to their music.”

Business Wire

Kwame’s greatest asset to production has been his intuitiveness, respect, and knowledge of the craft combined with his uncanny ability to be effective in various facets of production.
He has been on many lines of the call sheet. As a member of the AD Department on feature film, television, commercial, and music videos, he has worked with directors Hype Williams, Justin Francis, David Cornell, Timur Bekmambetov, and Steve Beck.

As a commercial line producer, Kwame has worked for clients including Leo Burnett, VSA, McCann Erickson, and DDB.

Kellogg’s, Mercedes, Proctor and Gamble, Gatorade, and Nike are some of the products for which he has produced web and broadcast advertising.


What was your first break? Production Assistant on a Music Video in 1994. I can’t even remember the name of the artist.

Worst thing that ever happened to you to remind you that you are Black? I was acting with Mel Gibson in Payback and every day we worked together he would pull me close to him and tell me a racist black joke so that only he and I could hear it. It was disappointing because I really admired him as an actor.

Best thing to ever happen to you to remind you that you are Black? Working with Spike Lee. He really celebrates black crews and creatives. He really pushes for diverse crew.

Work you are most proud of? F.E.D.S., the doc I did with Russell Simmons and Def Jam. We did some great undercover work on illegal Pit Bull fighting rings and Kingston drug posses.

How has the business changed since you broke in? 200 % more people of color. The tax credit here in Illinois has gone a long way in making crews much more diverse than they used to be.

Trapped on an island, what essentials must you have? iPad Pro and a solar charger.

If you had a time machine, what would you say to your past self? Save your money and make your own stuff. Stop trying to get the job and figure out how to be the job.

If you could have a one-on-one with anyone who would it be? And why? I would love to talk and build with Steve McQueen. I am huge fan of his work. I love the way he explores the depths of the black experience.

To see the up-to-date Reel Black List, click here.