‘Stomp’ Steps Into the Mainstream
“Stomp the Yard” has ignited controversy, surprised critics and launched
FAMU graduate Gregory Anderson into the Hollywood spotlight.
By Marlon A. Walker
Gregory Anderson left Tallahassee after graduating from Florida A&M University in 1996 with hopes of jumpstarting a career in the film industry.
But a trip back helped put him on the path to becoming a serious force in the field.
He was a student at the university when he wrote the script for “Stomp the Yard,” which debuted at No. 1 its opening weekend. The movie focuses largely on Greek fraternities and stepping on a fictitious Black college campus.
“It’s like a homecoming to kind of have a big introduction into the industry off the movie we dreamed of doing so long ago,” says Anderson, who is president of Tri Destined Films.
The 32-year-old Anderson grew up in the shadows of FAMU. Both his parents taught at the school, took him to the games and entered him in Baby Rattler contests. He was also reared through the college’s developmental research school, which teaches elementary through
When he was younger, Anderson and a group of friends would make personalized comic books, selling them to friends and anyone else who showed an interest. It showed his love for the arts.
“It was a part of that entrepreneurial spirit,”he says.
The arts took a back seat in high school. He ran track and developed an interest in school politics.
“I didn’t think it was cool to be in theater [in high school],” he says.
When Anderson entered FAMU as a freshman in the fall of 1991, he planned to continue on the road he’d started in high school, joining the student government association and dabbling in track. But then he heard about two groups on campus — the Playmaker’s Guild and the Cinema Club. His love for the arts had never died, but he says the two groups helped get it off life support.
The clubs were “an opportunity for the people involved … to create their own dreams,” Anderson says.
The group’s alumni roster now reads more like a guest list for a swanky West Hollywood party. One of the members was Dianne Ashford, a co-founder of Symmetry Entertainment and a producer on the movie “The Gospel.” Also involved were Rob Hardy and Will Packer, co-founders of Rainforest Films and the director and producer, respectively, of the independently released movie “Trois.” Another group member was Anika Noni Rose, a Tony Award-winning actress who plays Lorrell Robinson in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical “Dreamgirls.”
After graduating from FAMU, Anderson went out on his own, trying to break into the industry. He worked on several projects with Rainforest Films, including “Trois,” “Pandora’s Box” and “Motives,” starring Vivica A. Fox and Shemar Moore.
Then he got a call about making a movie about Black colleges.
“I said, ‘Hey, I already got the script,’” Anderson recalls. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would become what it has become. I’m grateful for it.”
Before shooting began, Anderson spent a month at FAMU, reconnecting with the students and the brothers at his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi.
He says the time back on campus allowed him to see not only how times had really changed on campus, but how his views had changed since he left.
“What I saw in myself that I thought I maybe lost was a sense of wonderment — that all things are possible,” he says. “You begin to lose that when you get out into the work force. That’s the fuel that keeps you striving. I was so glad to have written this script. It reaffirms the ability to never forget and enjoy the sense of wonderment.”
In Anderson’s Own Words
On Greek controversy:
“Obviously, it was publicized that [Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity] had a certain issue with the film. That was resolved. The assessment was made before viewing the movie. A lot of that was based on the trailer — just word of mouth. I think there was a concern of how African-American fraternities and sororities would be portrayed. We want to protect what it is. That [opposition] was immediately taken back. We were given their full support, and others joined in. More than anything, the controversy — which wasn’t anything, I say — shows how powerful and respected [Black fraternities and sororities] are. Somebody may think they jumped the gun. To a degree, they were protecting what is very sacred to us.”
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