This was my “calling card” to the industry. It proved I could tell a dramatic and comedic story on film. It went on to garner several festival awards and aired on public and cable television. The story of two black students (one a conformist, the other a rebel) and how they negotiate the mores of a predominantly white New York City prep school grew out of my own experiences. It stars, amongst others, a pre-The Wire, Wood Harris. It is available for rent.
The Best Man
The one that started it all! My first feature arose out of my desire to see African- Americans on screen to whom I could relate. Originally titled My Homeboy’s Wedding, The Best Man was not a movie I had planned on making. I set out to write a script so commercial that I could sell it and use that money to make my senior thesis at NYU. My plan was measured and deliberate, yet as I wrote it I discovered there was no reason I couldn’t and shouldn’t direct it myself.
Undercover Brother is the only Internet property to be made into a major motion picture. When I discovered the animated Internet series by John Ridley, I fell in love with its wit and social commentary. Producer Damon Lee told me his company, Urban Entertainment.com, was teaming up with Imagine Entertainment and Universal to make a live-action version of Undercover Brother – I wanted in. I got to work with one of the premier producers in the industry, Brian Grazer, and learned a lot about directing comedy. I was blessed to have the opportunity to work with brilliant comedians Dave Chappelle, Eddie Griffin, Chris Kattan and Neil Patrick Harris. As a comedy director sometimes your job is to cast the right people and give them the freedom to “find the funny”.
Roll Bounce was an opportunity to tell a coming of age story and work with Bob Teitel and George Tillman of State Street Pictures. Norm Vance Jr.’s script was a story I could relate to and a script that had my sensibilities. With the help of the great cinematographer, J. Michael Muro, I feel as if I grew as a visual storyteller.
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins arose out of an idea that I had to make a family reunion movie with comedic actors – an idea that took five years to come to fruition. I wrote the screenplay with most of the cast members in mind and I was fortunate to get them (especially Martin Lawrence and James Earl Jones). Like The Best Man, I wrote and directed the film, but unlike that romantic dramedy, much of the film was improvisation (whereas 90% of The Best Man was written, Roscoe Jenkins was more like 60%) and I welcomed that wholeheartedly: Find the funny.
This film fell into my lap when Bob Weinstein approached me about doing it. I got a chance to work with one of the best comedic minds ever, Bernie Mac, before he passed. Despite the harsh words of some critics, I feel this is some of Bernie’s best work. Nobody says “Motherfucker” better than Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac as evidenced by their first on-screen scene together (like an R-rated Odd Couple). Soul Men has an outstanding soundtrack – next to The Best Man, it is the top soundtrack I have executive produced.