Radha Blank
Born (1976-09-01) September 1, 1976 (age 44)
New York City, U.S.
NationalityAmerican
OccupationFilmmaker, writer, actress
Notable work
The 40-Year-Old Version

Radha Blank (born September 1, 1976) is an American filmmaker, writer, and actress.[1] Born and raised in New York City, Blank is known for writing, directing, producing, and starring in The 40-Year-Old Version (2020),[2] for which she won the U.S. Dramatic Competition Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival.[3]

Career

Early work

Blank got her start in the TV and film industry as an actress playing the role of Loquesha in the 1998 film Mixing Nia.

Blank began her career as a playwright, writing several plays that never made it to the stage; in an interview with The Guardian, Blank claimed to have "about 12 plays that haven’t seen the light of day."[4] Her plays include HappyFlowerNail, Casket Sharp, nannyland and the critically acclaimed Seed. She's a Helen Merrill Playwriting Award recipient, an NEA New Play Development Award recipient and a NYFA Fellow. These scripts helped her secure writing jobs in television.[4] Seed[5] did make it to Off Broadway and received critical acclaim.[6] Seed opened in Harlem in 2011 and followed a jaded social worker who lost her mother and struggled to make sense of her career ambition. Seed was a 2010 recipient of the National Endowment of the Arts New Play Development Award.[7] The Huffington Post called Seed "fresh, lively...and poetic."[8] Early in her career, while working as a playwright, Blank wrote for the children's show The Backyardigans as well as the children's short "Maya the Indian Princess" for Nickelodeon.

Radha Blank directed and wrote the script for the TV movie titled Sam Bowe: Speech Writer in 2015.

During this time, Blank performed as a comedian and rapper under the name RadhaMUSprime/[9] She invented the persona after she was fired from a screenwriting job several years ago. In an interview with Indiewire, she states that “I’ve been rhyming since I was about 10 years old.” She also states that “I do feel like hip-hop as an art form, you kind of have permission to brag, to live in a place of bravado and just kind of speak the truth in ways that we wouldn’t ordinarily do.” She has also found work in the writer's rooms of the television series Empire and Spike Lee's series She's Gotta Have It.[10]

In an article by The Guardian, Blank stated that Spike Lee's 1986 film She's Gotta Have It is one of the most influential movies on her own work.

Breakthrough with The 40-Year-Old Version

Main article: The 40-Year-Old Version

Before producing The 40-Year-Old Version, Blank landed representation from the agency WME.

Blank achieved widespread acclaim for writing, directing, producing, and starring in The 40-Year-Old Version (2020).[2][11] For her work on the film, Blank won the U.S. Dramatic Competition Directing Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.[3] Following its premiere at Sundance, the film was acquired by Netflix for distribution.[12] The film is loosely based on Blank's experiences as a struggling playwright in New York.[13] The title is intended to have complex implications about popular storytelling, specifically the assimilation of Black stories. Blank shot the film on 35-millimeter black-and-white film stock. The film's autobiographical nature is highlighted by the filming in Blank's own apartment and the inclusion of her brother Ravi in the film.[14] The film was released on Netflix on October 9, 2020,[15] and received positive reviews from film critics.[16]

Later that year, Blank received the 2020 Vanguard Award from the Sundance Institute, which "honors the artistic achievement of her feature film directorial debut."[17] For her work on The 40-Year-Old Version, Blank received nominations from the Gotham Independent Film Awards, for the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award and for Best Screenplay, winning the latter.[18] Variety named her one of "10 Directors to Watch in 2020".[19] When talking about this film to Indiewire, she states “There was a time when storytellers took more risks, so I’m hoping that this film sets the tone for the kind of career I want to have, where people are not expecting me to be safe.”

Personal life

Her father Roger Blank is a jazz drummer.[20] Her mother, Carol Blank, who died in 2013, was an artist, teacher, and curator,[21] and is referenced in The 40-Year-Old Version.[22][23] Blank's brother Ravi is featured in The 40-Year-Old Version as himself.[24]

References

  1. ^ McNary, Dave (2020-02-01). "Netflix in Talks to Buy Radha Blank's 'The 40-Year-Old Version'". Variety. Retrieved 2020-02-22.
  2. ^ a b Lattanzio, Ryan (2020-01-25). "Radha Blank: Joke About Writing Harriet Tubman Musical in '40-Year-Old Version' Is All Too Real". IndieWire. Retrieved 2020-02-22.
  3. ^ a b "The biggest breakout stars of Sundance 2020". Los Angeles Times. 2020-01-31. Retrieved 2020-02-22.
  4. ^ a b "Radha Blank: 'Failure is a great tool in comedy'". The Guardian. 2020-10-04. Retrieved 2020-12-01.
  5. ^ Seed By Radha Blank, retrieved 2020-11-30
  6. ^ Gates, Anita (2011-09-29). "Kindness, Again by Strangers (Published 2011)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  7. ^ Gioia, Michael. "Radha Blank's Seed Opens Off-Broadway at Harlem's National Black Theater Sept. 16". Playbill. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  8. ^ Weinreich, Regina (2011-09-18). "Radha Blank's SEED Premieres in Harlem". HuffPost. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  9. ^ "Hollywood Writer Radha Blank: From A Bronx Kid To Empire And Beyond". February 27, 2016.
  10. ^ "Radha Blank of 'The Forty-Year-Old Version' isn't late - CityNews Toronto". toronto.citynews.ca. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  11. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (2020-01-28). "Radha Blank's 'The 40-Year-Old Version' "Confronts Frustrations" About Gatekeepers Of Storytelling – Sundance Studio". Deadline. Retrieved 2020-02-22.
  12. ^ Lindahl, Chris (2020-02-04). "Netflix Doesn't Buy Movies at Sundance — It Buys Voices That Can Become Brands". IndieWire. Retrieved 2020-02-22.
  13. ^ Spencer, Ashley (2020-02-12). "How Hollywood Relentlessly Fails Women Directors". Vice. Retrieved 2020-02-22.
  14. ^ Soloski, Alexis (2020-10-08). "A Writer-Director-Star Breaks Through. It Only Took a Lifetime". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-14.
  15. ^ Sharf, Zack (August 26, 2020). "'The Forty-Year-Old Version' Trailer: Radha Blank's Sundance Winner Is a Must-See on Netflix". IndieWire. Retrieved August 26, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. ^ The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020) on Rotten Tomatoes, retrieved 2020-12-01
  17. ^ McNary, Dave (2020-11-19). "'Forty-Year-Old Version' Filmmaker Radha Blank to Be Honored by Sundance Institute". Variety. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  18. ^ Sharf, Zack (2020-11-12). "Gotham Award Nominations 2020: 'First Cow,' 'Nomadland,' and All Best Picture Noms by Women". IndieWire. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  19. ^ "10 Directors to Watch in 2020". Variety. 2020-01-03. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  20. ^ "'The Forty-Year-Old Version' Creator Radha Blank on Seeing Herself and Missing Her Mother". Essence. 9 October 2020.
  21. ^ "CAROL BLANK Obituary (2013) - New York Times". www.legacy.com. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  22. ^ "'The Forty-Year-Old Version' Creator Radha Blank on Seeing Herself and Missing Her Mother". Essence. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  23. ^ Kennedy, Quil Lemons (2020-10-12). "Radha Blank's Lockdown Breakout Film Doubles as Her Own Origin Tale". Harper's BAZAAR. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  24. ^ Cohen, Anne. "Radha Blank's The Forty-Year-Old-Version Isn't Autobiographical — Or Is It?". www.refinery29.com. Retrieved 2020-11-30.