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Who is Ralph Scott? - The Journey Behind "Lens On Talent"

Ralph Scott
Ralph Scott
courtesy of Ralph Scott

He is the Executive Producer, Writer and Creator of the popular short film showcase, "Lens On Talent: Presented by Johnson & Johnson A Filmmakers Challenge".   

The BET Network's innovative indie show is doing what no other show on television is – making the Napoleon Complex a good thing in the film world. He is Ralph Scott.

Many agree that short films  can serve as the beginning or experienced filmmaker’s calling card, but for viewers at home, due to the lack of exposure to this genre, they normally fall short of serving a purpose. But with one show, a lot of that has changed.

Black Hollywood sweet-heart, Sanaa Lathan  hosts the first season of show that not only seeks out "well-made short films by African-American filmmakers," but also stands as a contest for $100 K.

In a nutshell, the challenge itself is a grand opportunity for Black filmmakers who yearn "to get their films viewed by a much, much larger audience than that of a film festival," explains Scott, whose roots run deep in the cinematic world.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Ralph grew up in Los Angeles with photography being his first love. "That led me to delve into the moving image," Scott recalls. He has been making pictures move ever since.

Early on, after graduating from West Virginia State College with a degree in communications, he spent some time at Howard University where he worked in their film department with writer/director, Haile Gerima, on the dramatic film "Sankofa."

Once back in Los Angeles, Scott remembers the beginning inspiration for a show like "Lens on Talent." He was meeting so many filmmakers that needed their work seen by others and based on their demand, he supplied. From there, he helped form an organization that provided exposure - Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center.

With sixteen years of promoting independent films, for Ralph, "it only made sense to bring that talent to a national network." From that notion, “Lens on Talent” was born.

The show exists because of a mix of special people behind and in front of the scenes. Sean Johnson, also the Creator and Executive Producer of “Lens” was, in the beginning, looking for films.That is when Scott and his database of over 600 filmmakers came into the picture. Scott says "the rest is history."

Bringing more exposure to the short is making history. With "BETJ's, "The Best Shorts" already under his belt and also somewhat of a blueprint, things were moving forward with "Lens".

Not only does A-List Actress, Sanaa Lathan ("Love & Basketball", "Brown Sugar", and "Something New") serve as host, but industry professionals judge the entries to determine which will receive airplay as well as compete.

Due to who is working with the show, Scott could easily be thrown in the in-crowd pile, but his community-oriented background keeps him grounded and focused on social concerns and creating awareness through entertainment formats.

As for other projects Ralph can't get enough film! "I also have a company called Social Cinema where we use films to help fill a social need," he says. Discussions about "abuse, mental health, teenage pregnancy, sexuality and relationships" follow the film screenings. Since impact can be made through entertainment, Scott also has an HIV/AIDS film showcase called "Visual AIDS."

As for his project "Lens on Talent," Ralph says, "We know that Black filmmakers are under - represented in the mass market.” Not only are the films shown giving the filmmaker a boost, but the projects are also serving another purpose - they are breaking down stereotypes because of the diverse stories displayed.

"Getting audiences used to seeing films that don't have mainstream sensibilities," is what Scott wants for both the viewers and contestants in order to open more doors for more stories to be told.

Ralph remains optimistic about the state of the Urban Filmmaking. "I have a positive attitude as it relates to our bourgeoning audience. We received over 900 films this year for this contest...that is still quite a statement about people everywhere wanting to tell stories."

So the stories are there, but what “Lens” is successfully doing is helping to provide an audience for them to be received.

In a world where features are viewed as important, Ralph's "Lens on Talent" proves that being viewed as short isn't so bad after all.

For more information, on the current season of “Lens on Talent”, visit



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