This interview was conducted by freelance writer Brian Moore. It gives great insight to the early days and present achievements of filmmaker Dui Jarrod. If you’ve ever dreamed, what you think is the impossible dream, after you read this interview, it may just give you the hope that no dream is impossible! Much gratitude to Brian! And congratulations to Dui!
February 15, 2012
Some people will do almost anything for love. Dui Jarrod, a peripatetic filmmaker who’s travelled from his birthplace in Arkansas to his current home in Brooklyn, with stops along the way at Louisiana State University, New Orleans and Atlanta, has made “Love” the singular force in his life since 2008.
But Jarrod, 31, didn’t spend those years in singles bars or on Match.com. He spent them breathing life into his first feature film, “Lesson Before Love,” a spirited drama which tracks four thirty-something singles whose self-doubt stands in the way of a fulfilling relationship.
“Lesson Before Love” is Jarrod’s labor of love. Simply financing the film took him over three years, and he wasn’t asking for a George Lucas budget.
“Most people make more money in a year than what I filmed my film on. Probably the most difficult thing, that first domino, was getting the money. I thought, ‘Wow, we’re done with that. It’s going to be easy.’ But it wasn’t like that at all,” Jarrod says.
“Filming the film was difficult. Post-production has been difficult. Distribution has been difficult, but I’ve been blessed that we’ve had success at every place and every portion of this journey,” he adds.
The sweat that Jarrod poured into his creation is reaping rewards. It took best drama at the San Diego Black Film Festival this year, and has a pole position, 9:30 p.m. slot Feb. 17 – a Friday – at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMCinematek’s New Voices in Black Cinema Festival. (Jarrod and some of the cast will host a Q&A after the screening.)
Jarrod took a break from the lead-up to his BAM screening to discuss the difficulties of getting “Lesson” made, the craft of writing and the plusses and minuses of being a “new voice in black cinema.”
Q: Being a filmmaker is an enormously difficult task. Why be one when there are easier options?
A: I know, especially in this tough economy. You know why? I was meant to do this. It’s such an incredibly difficult undertaking to have and it requires something deeper within you than just wanting to be a filmmaker. From the first moment that I saw “A Soldier’s Story” – when I was a six-year-old kid – I knew I wanted to tell stories in the same manner. It’s just something that’s been in my heart for years.
Q: What’s the genesis of the story for “Lesson Before Love”?
A: Valentine’s Day, 2008. I call it All-Single’s Day, because there’s no other day on the face of the Earth that reminds you more that you’re single than Valentine’s Day. Myself and my friends, we decided to get together and love each other because none of us were in a committed relationship. And we had these amazing conversations about being young and progressive and single. The conversations were so in-depth and they were so in tune to where my heart was at the time that I said, “You know what? This needs to be explored in a film.”
Q: What are you trying to get across with “Lesson”?
A: That you have a purpose. And whatever your purpose is, that’s going to be the thing that helps you to get to who you are or who you really want to be. And if you arrive there, then you can accept love into your life. I know it’s a struggle I had for many years, being single for a long time. I wasn’t happy because I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing.
Q: Each of the four characters is unhappy and insecure. Have you found that common among your peers?
A: Things are different from when everybody was a Baby Boomer. A lot of parents, in order for them to have healthy lives, they had to go to a two-income household. A lot of my family members didn’t have a college education, so it was about establishing a life that would make you sustained as a human being. But we come up at a time when all options have been opened to us. And so our career paths don’t leave a lot of time to find a relationship. We’re all chasing dreams instead of settling down and finding relationships. As you’re in your late twenties, entering into your thirties, it does bring about a serious level of insecurity that makes you question what your journey is going to be for the next 10 or 20 years of your life.
Q: What’s a movie that inspires you to carry on with filmmaking?
A: I had an opportunity to see “Up in the Air” with George Clooney. The dialogue was so rich, and I connected so deeply with that character. Whenever I get to that place – “Man, do I want to continue doing this?” – I’ll put that movie in because I just loved what it stood for. And the other movie that’s been a pinnacle for me has been “Malcolm X.” Just to see his journey but also to experience the journey that Spike Lee had to take in that process. It keeps my heart afloat to believe that this is definitely for me.
Q: You’re a writer and a director. Directors, for good reason, receive a lot of attention, but writers get almost none. Is that a problem with filmmaking?
A: That is especially a problem with black filmmaking. We don’t study the craft and the art of actually making a film. And a lot of people think you have to go to film school in order to understand that and it’s not necessarily true. There are many, many books which explain how to write a screenplay, because there’s a definitive way to write a screenplay, but you have to find your own way of telling your story within the confines of that structure.
People always think in order for you to show growth, you have to go from a crackhead to a princess. And that’s not always the case. The greatest human growth that we have is personal growth. It’s something you experience on your own that gives you that “ah-ha” moment. “I’ve got to change.” And it’s subtle and it’s beautiful and it’s an amazing transition. That’s what I focus on in my writing – that human transition, that arc, when a person realizes, “Hey, I’m insecure about this and it’s going to have to change. But I have to do it. Nobody can do it for me.”
Q: You’re being presented as, quite literally, one of the new voices in black cinema. What are the positives and perils of that billing?
A: The positive to that is the platform that we get to stand on as African-American filmmakers. It’s truly one of the most selective film programs in the entire country, so to be able to stand up and say, “Hey, I’m a part of that program” automatically helps validate you and introduces you to the very tight-knit African-American film community. The downside to that is that you don’t always get identified as just a new voice in film. Although writing an African-American film is what I did, it’s not all that I’m capable of doing. Instead of me standing outside in a picket line saying, “I’m not just a black filmmaker,” I embrace it. I think that when people of any race, of any culture, are able to watch my film, they’ll see the universal message. I feel those opportunities will come. This is just a platform that’s finally given me the introduction.
Q: What’s next?
A: I live in Brooklyn. It’s just a hotbed for a lot of creative people and it has an amazing energy. And I just knew that this was the right place for me to be. And I’ve decided I want to write a film for Viola Davis, believe it or not. I was watching “Dateline NBC,” and she just spoke about the quality of screenplays she’s been receiving hasn’t been worthy of sharing a journey and experience that you want to have as an actress. I feel I have a story that’s specifically meant for her. And I’m producing a play.
Q: What’s the play about?
A: The play is called “The Prototype.” And it’s an interesting story. It’s about seven stereotypical men coming together to create the perfect woman. (Laughs) So it’s really interesting. I play off stereotypes, but I have a really strong message within it both to women and to men.
– Brian Moore