Corey McCartney is a voice in Hollywood demanding to be heard and forging his own path. As founder of the nonprofit organization FACEKC, Corey uses art to bridge peace and unity throughout the artistic communities in Kansas City, Missouri as well as foster a community wellness ecosystem.
Believing “Unity is something I’ve chased throughout my life because I’ve never truly experienced it,” the mission and purpose of FACEKC falls perfectly in line with Corey’s goals to build a thriving film company called AGA Productions.
Throughout his years in the entertainment industry Corey has produced the popular short Affection of a Tiger about the miraculous story of a teenage boy and his family, who face being the only African-Americans targeted by the FBI for an alleged connection to 9/11, which has been featured on BET and Amazon Prime Video.
That was just the beginning; with his ability to capture raw emotion, he became the associate producer of the successful Bel-Air trailer, that displayed a darker, more dramatic re-imagining of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air sitcom in the style of Ryan Coogler films. Uploaded on YouTube on March 10, 2019, the video generated over one billion views on streaming platforms. After a bidding war with Netflix, NBC’s Peacock, and HBO Max, on September 8, 2020 the show was picked up by Peacock who gave Bel-Air a 2-season order with Will Smith as an executive producer.
Now Corey is back with his new project that builds upon FACEKC’s goal to service the community. In Phase 2 of its development, Sapiens is a potential live-action feature film showcasing real local KC artists’ and members of the disabled community as superheroes in which their superpowers are manifested from their artistic talent.
The Koalition spoke to Corey to learn more about Sapiens, his passion for producing, the legacy of FACEKC, becoming an actor and more.
“I don’t accept everything, [and what I do accept, I look at what is] going to be the potential landing zone for the project. With Bel-Air, the landing zone was huge. Obviously [with] Fresh Prince of Bel-Air [and] the idea [that it could involve] Will Smith is an enormous landing zone potential. The other [reason] is just my personal involvement. Could I meet other people onset? Can I pull them into my productions that I want to do? If I’m an actor will it be good footage for my reel? Overall that landing zone and the potential for what the project could do is how I really make the decision.”
One of the projects that really affected Corey and checked all his boxes is Sapiens where he teamed with writer/director Khalid Abdulqaadir on the science-fiction short. As the film’s producer, he spent three years developing the story and scouting locations in the Kansas City area.
While his current his plan is to develop Sapiens into a feature film titled Arche Sapiens, for the moment the film is a proof-of-concept in Phase II which includes engagement with donors followed by a full production. Promising not just be a great film, it is also a representation of the central mission behind FaceKC USA Inc: unity.
“Not only are we trying to bring together two opposing sides but just different neighborhoods of the Black community in Kansas City that don’t talk to each other, that would never work with each other. [From] the first meeting I had with my partner Khalid, I knew this is my calling. I’m biracial and I don’t have any memories of my parents being together. I come from a Black female and a White male. I spent the first half of my childhood with my mom and then in middle school I moved with my dad to the White suburbs. Unity is something I’ve never been exposed to. I’ve always seen and experienced personally these deep divides and these deep separations between people and I’m tired of it. So instead of complaining, I’m just creating a world where I can do something about it.”
“The most important part about [Sapiens] specifically is its method in its development. What we’re doing on the non-profit side is engaging in the community and finding artists in some of these communities that would never get their stuff showcased. We’re trying to elevate their status and put them in the movie and showcase them as superheroes. With that being said, it allows for product placement, it allows for business placement.”
“So, the method in its development is an important part for me [it’s also] the story. Everybody loves superhero movies and everybody just loves movies. [This is] something that’s going to transcends boundaries, it’s going to transcend cultures and countries and communities. [Sapiens’] story is going to draw people in from all kinds of ways. [It’ll] draw interests after the film is made, as far as getting sold and draw interest in getting more people’s businesses involved. When [I] walk in and say, ‘Hey you want to put this business in a superhero movie?’ Their eyes light up, their ears perk up. The method in its development is very near and dear to my heart. I [also] got to act in it and I got to produce the film and the potential landing zone for a superhero film is always giant.”
Acting under the name Taron Mac, Corey loves how “acting requires me to access a completely different part of my brain, almost becoming someone else. Just being Taron Mac as an actor onset really helps me dive into roles that I need to. Corey McCartney is the producer, Taron Mac is the actor.”
However, when it comes to looking at scripts he can’t help but to let the producer slide in for a bit. “I can’t help but do it a little bit as I’m reading the script I wonder ‘Where are they going to get this location? I wonder where they’re going to get wardrobe for this?’ I do that naturally but when I’m an actor, I take the role very seriously, I do believe in staying in your own lane while on set. So you’ll never see me trying to take over production or anything like that as an actor, although I am watching everything.”
Even though the concept of superheroes is far from new, Sapiens’ rich mythology and meaning behind their powers excites Corey. Khalid and Corey’s plan is to make a community film to support artists whose voices are often silenced by Hollywood. From the moment Corey believed in the film he knew he had to make the development of Sapiens his life purpose. A film like this could not only inspire future actors and creators but those with disabilities, opening their eyes to see the superhero within themselves.
“What drew me first was superheroes and magic. It was my friend from high school. I just had moved to Kansas City, he threw out on Facebook ‘Hey, I wrote this script and I want to make this into a movie’ and he already had a character breakdown of all the different classes of superheroes. I thought ‘hmm, that is very interesting, let’s have a meeting’ because I’m dabbling in the film industry right now, I kind of want to see what this is.”
“We haven’t seen each other in ten years and he told me all about the superhero movie, its has a 400-page mythology written behind it, its got a children’s book available on Amazon that gives you the base. So I was already bought in just based on the story and the mythology alone, and then he told me about his method to getting it developed, his method to get it produced [and how it] is a community initiative. That was what hammered it home for me, that’s what internalized it for me. I was like, ‘This is what’s going to happen and I’m going to put 100% dedication into this no matter what.’ So the story drew me in and the method and its development is what solidified it for me.”
“Now we’re in-between Phase 2 and Phase 3. We’re using the trailer to campaign, to show a demonstration of our production quality and a demonstration of what our production quality could be if we get funded for Phase 3. Phase 3 would be our feature film.”
As Corey looks back at his career and FACEKC accomplishments, he is even more determined to see the organization grow and take over the world. “At the end of the day, I want to reduce violence with FACEKC. I want to have a hand into reducing the amount of gun violence we see in this country. We have plans to move this from Kansas City to St. Louis to Richmond, Virginia to Chicago to maybe even conflict zones overseas. Everywhere this organization goes, we see a reduce in gun violence; that’s my biggest legacy I want to leave.”