TAKING CHANCEChance, a young aspiring artist from Brooklyn, wants nothing more but to achieve his dreams of making it big. He looks forward to creating music that speaks to a loving and peaceful world. However, in today’s society, such ambitions can prove difficult especially in a community where the mantra ‘do or die’ still has a strong hold on those around him. With the state of social media and a culture that follows your every move, Chance faces overwhelming pressure from his alpha brother and peers alike, about dealing with a recurring dilemma in school. Will Chance stand his ground or will he succumb to this ever changing world?”

"Taking Chance" is an official selection of the Urbanworld Film Festival 2015. Shadow and Act spoke with the director Jerry Lamothe and executive producer Jamie Hector about this short film, premiering Saturday at the festival.

S&A: While making this film, you were filming Amazon’s BOSCH, BET’s The STARTUP, FX’s THE STRAIN, CBS’s PERSON OF INTEREST and Starz’s POWER.  How did you find the time, and what is next for Jamie Hector?

Jamie HectorHECTOR: I was actually planning to direct this film but because of my shooting schedule I wasn’t able to do it.  So I called my brother Jerry LaMothe and asked him to step in to direct and I stayed on board as Exec producer.  I was glad I was able to be there for the first day of shooting we ran into an issue with police that I was able to take care of before heading to LA to shoot BOSCH.

S&A: What kind of obstacles did you confront as a producer that you normally would not have as an actor.

HECTOR: Day 1 of production; we have 60 plus young actors on set ready to work.  It’s an exterior shoot in a Brooklyn school yard.  Everything is under control and ready to roll – actors in place – Director calls "Action!" and police from inside the school come out to shut it down.  They refused to reason with anyone, did not consider that all of these young actors from all over NYC were quietly waiting to get to work.  As Executive Producer I needed to take care of this quickly so that we did not lose the day.  I called Councilman Jumaane Williams, the Mayor’s Office for film got involved and we were back up rolling within the hour.  As an actor I would have been waiting without knowing that there was any issue going on.

S&A: What drew you to want to executive produce this film and why a short?

HECTOR: I am passionate about a few things, of course acting, films/TV and improving the lives of youth in urban communities.

I want to use film to tell stories that need to be told to spark discussions that will lead to change.  I really want to see a change in the mindset of youth, how they see themselves and how they value life.  Young audiences will be able to see themselves in this film and older audiences will gain an understanding of what their kids are dealing with on a daily basis.  Kids discuss what they see on TV, social media, film so I want to create content that they will discuss and will change the way they think.  Shorts are becoming more popular and I believe they will become even more competitive.  

S&A: Why is this film important and timely?

HECTOR: The film is important because it tells the story of what thousands of kids are going through every day.  We can use this film to proactively discuss the issue of bullying, cyber bullies, violence and effectively bring about change.

S&A: Why did you decide to go the film festival route with this short?

HECTOR: Film festivals are a great vehicle for gaining an audience for your film, for exposure for the talent in the film and for the film makers to leverage opportunities for their films.  I love the energy that film festivals bring.  Just being selected to screen is an accomplishment in itself.  It says that the industry sees your vision and feels that you did a good job in expressing it.  Shout out to #Urbanworld and to #HBO #BET for supporting festivals.

S&A: What can you tell us about the cast?

HECTOR: I think that the actors will get underestimated because they did an amazing job in playing these roles.  The audience will forget that they are actors and believe them to be the characters that they are playing.  They are nothing like the roles they are playing.  There were challenges while doing this film both on and off set and they never missed a beat.  You will see them on other projects soon but remember you saw them at Urbanworld first!

Jerry LamotheS&A: What drew you to this project?

LAMOTHE: I love the story behind that. August of last year, just three weeks before my scheduled date to relocate to Atlanta, I was on the train in the city making my way back to Brooklyn. When I came out, I noticed that I missed a call from Jamie [Hector]. When I played his voice message, I noticed a sense of urgency from him but not of a negative tone. He asked me to hit him up ASAP. I’ve known fam for about 15 years and I’d never receive a message like that from him before, so I was anxious to hear what he had to say.

Once I got home and settled in, I hit him back and asked him what’s up. He tells me about how he and Ally [Roberson]’s youth organization, Moving Mountains has adapted one of their plays into a screenplay and shooting a short film to highlight some of the youth’s talent. Anyhow, he goes on to tell me how he was originally slated to direct but had to push production back due to his heavy shooting schedule and prior commitments. He didn’t want to let the kids down and postpone production, so he wanted to know if I’d be interested in helming the film.  I said yes right away which is a testament to his character. I have a profound level of respect for Hector.

It was a Wednesday and so I ask him "When are you guys going up?" No lie, Jamie responds "Huh, this Saturday?” (Laughs)  “Bro, Can I at least see the script?! Can I meet the cast?" and that was it. A week later, we were on set shooting. I convinced them to push production a week (Laughs). Shot it in 3 days, then a half a day for some pick ups.

S&A: Why is this film important?

LAMOTHE: It’s important for a plethora of reasons. Without delving or exposing too much of the story, the youth today are facing peer pressure and issues I couldn’t even fathom when I was coming up. Technology and social media has changed the game. We truly have to establish a strong presence and support system for our kids. They’re up against a lot. I could spend the whole interview on that question alone.

S&A: You’ve worked with vets like Zoe Saldana, Jeffrey Wright, and Jamie Hector to name a few. How was it

working with a fresh young cast and why did you choose to do so?

LAMOTHE: I enjoy working with fresh new talent and they’re several reasons why. For one, I enjoy the challenge. Secondly, they have not yet been tainted and they’re hungry. You can see it in their eyes.  Oftentimes, once an actor has "made it" and their working consistently-especially in television- things can get lost. I enjoy the creative process. I enjoy rehearsals and going over scenes discussing an individual’s character. They’re humble and eager to learn. I could literally feel them absorbing every suggestion, note, or advice I had to offer. Furthermore, earlier that summer during their fundraising gala, I told Jamie if there was ANYTHING I can do to support Moving Mountains, let me know. He called me on it! (Laughs)

S&A: How is this experience with UrbanWorld different from your past experiences?

LAMOTHE: I have a long special history with Urbanworld. In 1999, I came on as a volunteer. The following year (2000), my directorial debut Amour Infinity had its world premiere there. That was bananas! Hometown sold out screening-three times oversold (laughs). The UW staff and I still laugh about that. One of those moments that you never forget. Since then, I believe all but one of my films have screened at Urbanworld. Each one a little different than the other. In 2007, Blackout was the opening night film. Now that screening was next level! Straight red carpet. I’m talking afterparty with those big Hollywood lights out front (laughs) It served as the launch of what would be a limited theatrical tour sponsored by VIBE magazine and Courvoisier. The Tombs screened there in 2011 and now we’re bringing Taking Chance. Each experience is different. This one isn’t about me, but the next generation coming up. I’m just watching and enjoying their journey unfold. It’s their time to shine. The kids in this film are immensely talented.

S&A: What do you hope audiences get out of this short film?

LAMOTHE: As always, my hope and goal is to evoke and tug at the audience’s emotions and thoughts. Provoke dialogue.  Lastly, you get to see a crop of fresh, young talent on the come up. I’m certain you’ll be seeing them again.  If you aren’t familiar with Moving Mountains, I implore you to look them up. They’re doing wonderful things in the community for our youth in Brooklyn.  

"Taking Chance" is part of SHORTS PROGRAM #5 at UIrbanworld and will screen Saturday, September 26th at 3pm at the AMC Empire Theater located at 234 W 42nd St. near 8th Ave.

Tickets are available for purchase online: http://prod3.agileticketing.net/WebSales/pages/info.aspx?evtinfo=163080~2e55f238-022e-4d32-92ec-76372fdef771&

To find out more about Moving Mountains, visit www.movingmountainsnyc.org.