The world of filmmaking is one difficult nut to crack for many, so the independent route becomes the way to go for them. One filmmaker making some waves on the underground movie scene is Ron Elliot. The son of a Jamaican immigrant and sharecropper from North Carolina, the East New York native has dropped his latest film, Dope Fiend. We were able to grab a word with Mr. Elliot about the project and his background in the film industry.
Don Diva: How did you get into filmmaking?
Ron Elliot: My introduction into filmmaking began when I was a child attending an after-school program, where I was identified as having a talent for the art of storytelling. Unfortunately, my mom tried to discourage me from pursuing film and convinced me to try a more solid career, which led to me choose to engineer. However, while in high school, I had the opportunity to observe the legendary Spike Lee filming Do the Right Thing on the very streets of Brooklyn. Once I saw that little guy walking around the set, ordering everyone around, my eyes lit up and I then recognized the possibilities the world of filmmaking had to offer. Years later, after returning from the Gulf War, I revisited my childhood dream and got my start working as an intern on the film Belly, directed by Hype Williams. The rest of my career in entertainment has had its ups and downs but, it gave me the opportunity to work with many of New York’s premier filmmakers, from inception to film-release.
DD: Do you have any other work out?
RE: I’ve been able to work on many projects, including The Last American Guido, a romantic comedy, (producer and cinematographer), The Lost Book of Rap, a film I wrote and directed (which was also displayed at the Cannes Film Festival), The Heart of the Shore, a documentary about Hurricane Sandy (director and producer), Respect The Jux, a feature film (co-director and cinematographer), and a host of commercials, television shows and music videos. Currently, I’m working on a documentary about Buju Banton and a few other projects I’m prepping, including the next installment of Dope Fiend.
DD: What is the inspiration for Dope Fiend?
RE: I was introduced to the executive producer, Sean “Turtle” Lindsey, through a mutual friend, Ephraim “Fetti” Benton, whom I’ve worked with on other projects. Turtle wanted me to tell his story and once we began conversing, I realized that there was a bigger message that needed to be told. I was able to infuse his life accounts with the issues of gentrification, which is a topic that affects communities of color everywhere. I tied the stories together with a modernization of the Ancient Egyptian tale of Isis and Osiris. The title “Dope Fiend” doesn’t just represent the people on drugs, but speaks to a much broader group of folks who are numb to the ills of society, whether unconsciously or by choice. It could be sex, drugs, money, or power – most of us are high on something.
DD: What can viewers expect when they see it?
RE: First and foremost, this is a film with great production quality featuring many high caliber actors, and despite not being equipped with a Hollywood budget, the film can stand-up to any other motion picture you’d see in a movie theater. It’s definitely a film that a lot of people in the urban community will be able to identify with. From the grandmother to the militant Albino, there are lots of jewels being dropped, and of course, there’s plenty of action with twists and turns. Ultimately, you will walk away feeling entertained and educated.
DD: How much goes into making a film like this?
RE: We had a lot of challenges. Because we filmed in the dead of winter, we had to work around several major snowstorms, which also had an impact on the logistics of flying people in from other states and countries. We faced challenges with casting and really sought to bring in actors who were authentic for the different roles. We had to work with the New York City to obtain permits for filming, to add even more authenticity to our set. At the end of it all, we had cast and crew of willing hands and hearts, which resulted in the film being completed in record time.
DD: What makes a movie a dope movie to you?
RE: First, we have to start with a good story. The difficulty in telling a good story is avoiding the cliches of other stories and having your own perspective regarding the message you want the audience to walk away with. Next are the actors. A good actor will lock you into that story-world and not allow you to escape until the story is told.
DD: Where can folks go to see Dope Fiend?
RE: It will be available wherever you can purchase video on demand content, including cable TV, iTunes and Amazon, to name a few platforms.
DD: What do you have planned for the future?
RE: I’d like to be able to continue writing and directing so that the voice of the voiceless can be heard.
DD: What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?
RE: Learn the art of storytelling. It takes a lot of time to hone the craft. There are many careers within the film industry. My suggestion is to focus on one area and master it. Whatever you do, never give up!