Alum debuts 1st film at festival in Atlanta

Grambling native James Flournoy (center), who directed Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, is pictured with the movie’s co-stars, actress Tangi Miller (left), and singer/actress Angie Stone on the movie set.

Former Grambling State University Tiger James Flournoy is set to debut his very first feature film at the Peachtree Film Festival in Atlanta, Georgia on Oct. 11. After hustling and working for 38 years, the Grambling resident is finally making his big break into Hollywood.

The movie Last Night a DJ Saved My Life is about Tony Sinclair, who is a down on his luck late night DJ at a top radio station in Atlanta.

He is on air when a female caller asks him for advice about her failing relationship. Tony’s advice to her is; “If it’s not working, then leave.” The next caller is Christine; Tony’s longtime girlfriend. Tony is excited Christine has finally taken interest in his work and took time to call into his show. Tony lets the whole city know, this is “his girl” calling in. To his surprise, Christine breaks up with him in the middle of his show, embarrassing him across all of Atlanta.

Tony is not only shocked and heartbroken, but because of this event and social media he becomes well known all over the city. Six months pass and Tony has become one of the hottest DJs in Atlanta. Then he meets Robin, the first girl that called and started everything.

The film includes many stars such as Tangi Miller, Cisco Reyes, Omar Gooding, Angie Stone and Jasmine Burke.

Flournoy’s early life was always about his hometown, Grambling. He attended Alma J. Brown Elementary School during his primary education stage and after completing elementary school, James attended Grambling Middle School. As he ascended to high school, he became classmates with GSU’s very own President Rick Gallot Jr. at Grambling High School.

Flournoy was influenced by his high school English teacher, Angela Davis, who would assign her students to read books and conclude the projects with book reports. Because his instructor and fellow classmates believed he was an entertaining writer, Flournoy had to orally present his assignments in front of them whenever it was time for student presentations.

Before he was ready to go to college, he was already involved in a high school singing group called “Leech and the Gang,” and it was led by Leroy Hawthorne Jr., who later became a well-known music instructor at Grambling State.

His first career choice was to become a recording engineer, but neither Grambling nor Southern University had the programs so he majored in journalism. James began attending Grambling State University in June 1976 and he graduated from Southern University in December 1979. While getting his education at SU, James became a staff writer for the Southern University Digest newspaper. In his senior year of college, he had the luxury of doing an internship at The News-Star newspaper in Monroe, Louisiana.

“Journalism writing was one thing, but I knew that I wanted to do movies because when I was in my senior year in college, I wrote my first screenplay. So I was caught by the movie bug at that time.” Flournoy stated with a chuckle.

After graduating college with a degree in journalism and minor in finance, James moved to Los Angeles, California to purse his career in film, where he would work around some of the most notable black male figures in Hollywood such as Denzel Washington, Spike Lee and George Jackson.

After Flournoy got married, he used his minor in finance for 30 plus years, working in banking for companies like Citibank and American International Group (AIG). His passion for filmmaking never died and he continued to work in the film industry, but his positions were more to the side.

With the money from his inheritance, a pension, and the stock market, James Flournoy finally had the budget to start the process of his very first project. Last Night A DJ Saved My Life was inspired by the actual song, which was performed by Indeep and executive produced by Gene Griffin. Griffin was the uncle of on-air personality George McDonald, who is good friends with Flournoy. McDonald was interested in making a film in honor of the song and he collaborated with James to bring the vision to life. Not only did James write the script, but he became the executive producer of the movie.

“The best thing about being an executive producer is, you are the person who has the final say on how the entire thing pans out, because you’re the guy that’s cutting the check. The bad side of it is that if the film falls short, you’re the person that makes it look bad. The best thing about being a screenwriter as well is that you’re able to see something that you dreamed about come off of the page and end up on the stage or screen. It’s a beautiful thing.” Flournoy said.

He didn’t expect for his film to open at the Peachtree Film Festival and now that all of his hard work has paid off, Flournoy plans to create more projects that will be bigger and better. He currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia and the filmmaker would also like to touch bases at Grambling State and Southern University, hosting seminars and other events that will teach students about the film industry.

James also stated that he would love to have a red-carpet event for students and it will involve the screening of his debut film.