I discovered filmmaker Dui Jarrod through an email requesting to watch his independent film ‘Lesson Before Love’. Now those that know me know I love a good rom-com/relationship movie and one with African American characters? I was so in!
Being that I get request everyday to watch a movie, music video, sketch etc. I usually give a few minutes of my time and if I’m not interested – - move on (meaning “delete, delete, delete!”). Now initially I was concerned about watching ‘Lesson’ because it had no recognizeable names or faces. WTF! But then I remembered my film icon Spike Lee used new faces in his films…what would I look like not watching something that could be potentially a great work of art because Sanaa Lathan is not in it?
Long story short, I watched it, and ever since the line, “Why are you single?” was uttered, I was hooked. The movie follows ”four unfulfilled singles’ journeys towards love and self-discovery.” According to Dui, the budget for ‘Lesson’ was “around the cost of a mid sized sedan – we made it work!!”
Check out the trailer:
Lesson #1: Your team will find you. I had always thought this was one of those “B.S.” statements people say to keep you encouraged while you struggle – ALONE! But, such is absolutely the case! A by-product of creating space for your dream is creating space for creatives around you to support that dream. The right people will just show up, trust me. When I first started making films, I tried to find and connect with anyone interested in any part of film production. Finding someone interested and finding someone skilled is two completely different finds.
Lesson #2: Some friends, some foes. The biggest example of this would be Facebook (and all the other social mediums). I felt I had my most loyal and engaged audience there, however when it came time for screenings and festivals, those FB “friends” weren’t showing up. FB “friends” are simply people forming various connections for their own personal reasons, that’s it. And while I’ve met some amazing people on there, I’ve met some un-amazing people too. 20% of people will support 80% of your products. 100% of FB lead me to believe otherwise, however now I recognize it to be the communication device it is.
Lesson #3: “FAMOUS” Actors are EVERYTHING! I thought I could win the battle of distribution solely with a great film. But that only really would have worked had my film got into one of the six major festivals (that didn’t happen for me). Not having well known actors in the cast was (and is) the problem. Unfortunately, for many (urban) distributors – cast is all they care about. LESSON LEARNED.
Lesson #4: Find blinders and KEEP THEM ON! Blinders are what horses use in races. They’re used to keep the horses from watching the other ones and to keep them in their own race. What’s for me, is for me. I’m not Ava Duvernay. I’m not Spike Lee. I’m not Terrance Nance. I’m not Matthew Cherry. They are all dope, but I’m Dui Jarrod and that’s whose path I have to be proud of. Know your worth and walk in your own light.
Lesson #5: Most “Ain’t About this Life.” One of the arrogant assumption I made, with reference to the film, was that everybody apart of the it was going to love and support and promote it just like me – WRONG ANSWER! Most people, including myself, had no idea how hard it is to make a movie. NO IDEA! Each day beyond production gets harder and harder and more distressingly harder. Soooooooo many people quit or gave up at the day the film wrapped. Almost all really. Of course, people showed up when there were lights, cameras, a festival or an audience. But when it was work time, pretty much me and Ashton (Producer, DP) was left to forge ahead. #realtalk
Lesson #6: Making the film is 5% of the battle. Picture a life where you make a film, then you sell the film. Erase the previous comma and add – edit the film, color the film, master the film, build the branding, deploy the branding, find more money, submit to festivals, get in to festivals, go to festivals, pretend to be happy for “less-than-stellar” films winning festivals, call distributors, create assets, screen film, call distributors, hear “NO,” etc. etc. etc. Bottom line – after the film is made, you’ve only just begun.
Lesson #7: Focus on your purpose, not people. When I first began “Lesson Before Love,” I created it with the purpose to empower, enlighten and entertain. But during the process, people somehow became my focus. Who’s going to critique the film? Will this festival director say, yes? How many people were at tonight’s screening. THAT’S ALL I COULD FOCUS ON!!! Worrying about or getting disappointed about the thousands of no’s I heard, was taking me away from MY PURPOSE. Thank goodness I found it again. In the words of Elle Varner, “Never again, never again – NEVER.”
Lesson #8: Never underestimate your own strength. There was a time during post production that I was editing at Ashton Dixon’s (Producer/DP) house. I was starving (literally). Checked my account, overdrawn. Checked my gas hand, on empty. I started to think. Ashton was out of town. Cast was kicking it at Essence Music Festival. Producers on vacation. I cried. The very thought of all that I had to do took everything out of my spirit. I didn’t think I had anything left to give. That night, I went to Youtube and just so happen to watch a live performance of Nina Simone’s “Young, Gifted and Black.” I cried myself to sleep. Woke up the next day, remembered where I came from and started editing.
Lesson #9: It’s just another step. I came to understand, while this seemed (and was) the biggest project I’ve ever done, it’s still just another step in the journey. That’s it! That’s all! I now plan to just keep stepping. Whether its a play, or a web series, or another film. I’m just going to step into my journey.
Lesson #10: Love conquers all. I knew LOVE was a universal language, but I never knew the power of speaking it. I marketed my film primarily to the urban audience, because that’s whose story is being told. However, most of the love I’ve received on the film came from people who didn’t look like me. THEY LOVED THE FILM, just as much as the urban audience did. Its a powerful moment when you see your writing cross cultural, gender and racial lines.
‘Lesson Before Love’ was submitted to 11 and got accepted into 9. As of now ‘Lesson Before Love’ is looking for digital distribution and VOD for the film. The team is also planning a few more screening opportunities in L.A. and NYC for promotional purposes!
Dui is currently working on several projects at the present. A play that I plan to stage in April in NYC. I’m also focusing on a book of essays that I’ve been working on for a few months now and as always continuing to write screenplays, two new, AMAZING ones are almost in the can.
Check out Dui’s interview with ABC News below:
To contact Dui, please hit up these LINKS!