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Action!
Rubin Whitmore II focuses his creative lens on Milwaukee

By MARTIN HINTZ

September 27, 2008

Rubin Whitmore II wears many artistic hats, from directing to producing to teaching.


Rubin Whitmore II claims heís not good at multitasking.

But donít believe him.

He changes creative hats almost by the minute, from academia to filmdom and much more sandwiched in between.

"Some days Iím good at it, other times not," he laughs, while reviewing what heís been up to recently. These tasks include chasing a masterís degree in media studies from the prestigious New School in New York, while still teaching media literacy courses at The Hope School in Milwaukee.

Whitmore was also a key mentor for the "My Milwaukee" film project, which debuted this spring at Pier Wisconsin. The program featured five edgy short films produced by young adults involved in the Running Rebels community group. Whitmore was brought aboard by Maxine Wishner, another Milwaukee native who returned to her hometown after several decades of film and television production in New York. The project was sponsored by the Milwaukee International Film Festival.

"I look at teaching as my patriotic tour of duty, not unlike a military tour. I owe it to my community," he explains of his work with youngsters on various levels.

Itís hard to pin down this guy who is always on the go, lecturing about music, filmmaking and society from Clark Atlanta University to the Savannah College of Art & Design. In February, he was a panelist at the Hip Hop Congress Midwest Summit at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, discussing how hip hop films can link cultures and identities. From there, he facilitated a spirited overview on how the media portrays African-Americans, for a UW-Milwaukee forum.

"Music is a form of activism," offers the 37-year-old, who has been involved in creating more than 100 music videos over the past decade. He labored in the high-powered vineyards of Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles with some of the stellar characters in the hip hop firmament. Among them were Ludacris, Lil Jon, Gangstarr and Goodie Mob, giving him a national platform.

"You need to do that to further your career," Whitmore emphasizes.

Whitmore has earned some 15 gold, platinum and multiplatinum plaques for producing and directing music videos and was recently nominated for the Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation-funded 2008 Media Arts Fellowship program through the Renew Media organization.

Throughout it all, Whitmore retained his Milwaukee roots, moving back in 2003 to raise his daughter, Nile, now 10. However, because of his current traveling and job commitments, she now lives in Los Angeles with her mom, where Whitmore visits her regularly.

His interest in film came early. At age 13, he was already using a borrowed video camera to shoot his own mysteries and Westerns while still a pupil at Milwaukeeís Burroughs Middle School. Whitmore subsequently earned a degree in radio/TV/film from UW-Oshkosh, creating its first music video television show.

Now he has his eyes fixed on additional documentary and feature film productions.

"I have the chance to interview Mike Tyson," Whitmore says, eying a new documentary about the often-in-trouble former boxing champ. "The story is more about him being the personification of urban youth, with parallels to the hip hop world, rather than about his boxing," he explains.

Whitmore has also been attached as director to the feature film "Playiní for Money," an urban sports comedy expected to be filmed this summer in Milwaukee.

According to Whitmore, at some point in your life, you need to determine who you are, whether a writer, musician, filmmaker or whatever profession.

"You then need to create a body of work to reflect that," he emphasizes.

Rubin Whitmore II is doing just that.

Rubin Whitmore II lent his time and talents to "My Milwaukee," a youth film project. If you want to be a mentor, check out Running Rebels, a community organization that provides young people with positive alternatives to gangs and substance abuse. (414) 264-8222 or www.runningrebels.org

This story ran in the July 2008 issue of: