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Ernest Dickerson

Ernest Dickerson

Director Ernest Dickerson began his career in film as an acclaimed cinematographer, forming an extended creative collaboration with director Spike Lee that began when the pair met at New York University (where both earned graduate degrees in film from the Institute of Film and Television at the Tisch School of Arts), working together on Lee's short film Sarah and the one-hour thesis film, Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads, which won a student Academy Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Dickerson's camera work on the latter project caught the attention of director John Sayles, who hired him to shoot the science-fiction fantasy, The Brother from Another Planet. After shooting the rap comedy Krush Groove, Dickerson re-teamed with Spike Lee as Director of Photography on the films She's Gotta Have It, School Daze, Do the Right Thing (for which Dickerson received the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cinematographer), Mo' Better Blues, Jungle Fever and Malcolm X.

Wanting to make the transition to director, in 1990 Dickerson directed Spike & Company: Do It A Capella, a Great Performances musical performance for PBS co-hosted by Spike Lee and Debbie Allen and featuring a capella groups including Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Mint Juleps.

In 1992, Dickerson made his feature film directorial debut with the acclaimed Paramount Pictures' Juice, a controversial drama he also wrote and which co-starred Omar Epps and Tupac Shakur. Produced for a cost of $3 million, the film went on to gross in excess of $30 million.

Dickerson's other feature directing credits include the action thriller Surviving the Game, starring Ice-T, the horror film Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight, starring Billy Zane and Jada Pinkett Smith, and the action comedy Bulletproof, starring Damon Wayans and Adam Sandler.

For television, Dickerson's directing credits include the HBO film Ambushed, an action film that explored racial problems and starred Courtney B. Vance, Robert Patrick and Virginia Madsen, the Showtime film Blind Faith, a courtroom drama set in Harlem in the 1950's that starred Charles S. Dutton and Courtney B. Vance, and ABC's Future Sport, a futuristic thriller that starred Dean Cain, Wesley Snipes and Vanessa L. Williams. In 1991, Dickerson received critical acclaim and the prestigious Peabody Award for his direction of Showtime's Strange Justice, a re-enactment of the controversial 1991 Clarence Thomas Senate Judiciary Committee hearings that starred Delroy Lindo as Thomas and Regina Taylor as Anita Hill.

Over the past ten years, Dickerson has also directed commercials for General Motors, Pontiac and a series of spots for Reebok with Shaquille O'Neal.

Upcoming projects include the TNT Original Film, Monday Night Mayhem, based on the book by Marc Gunther and Bill Carter about ABC's Monday Night Football and starring John Turturro (as Howard Cosell), Patti Lupone and Eli Wallach. The film is scheduled to premiere on TNT in January 2002. Dickerson is currently in post-production on Showtime's Our America, (for which he also served as cinematographer) a true story set in Chicago from 1994-1998 about two teenage boys who produced a radio documentary investigating a murder in their neighborhood. The film stars Josh Charles, Brandon Hammond and Vanessa Williams and is scheduled to premiere on Showtime in early 2002.

An avid moviegoer since childhood, Dickerson was especially influenced by the work of David Lean, Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock. After majoring in architecture at Howard University (at the same time taking many movie classes), he studied with Haile Gerima, a well-known Ethiopian filmmaker, and Roland Mitchell, an African-American cinematographer who worked on the documentary, When We Were Kings, moving on to work for a few years as an archival and medical photographer in Washington, D.C.

Dickerson was also one of the first recipients of the presitigous Gotham Awards honoring filmmaking excellence in New York.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2002.

Ernest Dickerson Facts


Selected Filmography

Welcome the Stranger
Chapter Four: Fugazi
Unconfirmed Reports
Right Place, Wrong Time
Dippermouth Blues
Do Whatcha Wanna
The Greatest Love
Release the Hounds
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