As a special bonus session for the final morning of the New School class I have been teaching this month, we welcomed director Craig Brewer and producer Stephanie Allain (pictured right) to screen and discuss their upcoming film, “Hustle & Flow.” The preview and Q & A at the MGM Screening Room in Midtown was an invaluable opportunity to catch an anticipated new movie, but more importantly talk with the people who worked for years to bring it to the screen.
After making the low-budget “The Poor and Hungry” 5 years ago, Brewer devised a story about some of his experiences in his hometown of Memphis, living among a bureoning Southern rap scene, his wife working at a strip club, and struggling to make a film.
In this case, the determination and the sacrifices paid off, after rejections from throughout the industry and selling her house to get money to make the film, noted producer Allain (who discovered Robert Rodriguez and John Singleton while an exec at Columbia) finally secured the film’s $3 million budget from Singleton and they sold the movie as part of a $16 million deal at Sundance this year just hours after its first screening. The film opens next nationwide.
The day after screening the low-budget “Four Eyed Monsters,” I cant think of a better way to show the range of independent work that exists right now, from small personal films made on video that the filmmakers must get out on their own, to glossy, million dollar movies made outside the system, but then sold to a major studio.
Yesterday afternoon, we finished off the class with screenings of the students own work, created as part of their afternoon sessions as part of either the beginner of intermediate filmmaking class. Hanging out with a few of the students after class, they tried to get me to tell them which film I liked best. Of course, I declined, but told them that they all did a terrific job.
Honestly, I was impressed with their work, marked by creativity and personality, humor and drama. Equally reassuring was hearing their reactions when I asked them which of the 12 films screened in class they liked the most. While the answers certainly differered, it was great to hear how much they liked “Swoon,” “Stranger Than Paradise,” an early film by Todd Haynes, “She’s Gotta Have It” and “Metropolitan.” That reminds me, I owe them a list of must-see American indie films…