Jamaica-born, Los Angeles–based Cess Silvera was editing his independent gangster pic Shottas when he got a call from his composer, Wyclef Jean. “Wyclef told me that one of the scoring tapes got lost in the studio,” Silvera recalls. “Two weeks later it was on every bootleg stand in Brooklyn and Times Square!” Now, almost three years later, “it’s on every rapper’s tour bus. Anyone who has got a DVD of Scarface has got one of Shottas too.”
Within our “25 New Faces,” Silvera is this year’s “slow-burn” candidate. Since the violent Shottas — which lands somewhere between The Harder They Come, A Better Tomorrow and Scarface —finished production in 2001, its indie cred has gradually grown. While “marketing issues” and the rampant bootlegging quashed a legit distribution deal, the film established Silvera as a potent writing and directing force. “I’ve been writing for ten years,” says Silvera, “but only as a kind of therapy. One day I realized that in my life, I had two choices: death or prison. I didn’t like those choices, so I hustled money and made a movie.” Now, while he negotiates Shottas 2 with a major studio, Silvera is writing scripts and trying to get another film — Mother’s Milk, “about an immigrant mother who comes to America but her son to the judicial system” — off the ground. — S.M.
Contact: Cess Silvera, 269 S. Beverly Dr., Suite 1027, Beverly Hills, CA, 90212, (310) 779-6833
Margaret Harris’s fiction short Exit 8A tells the taut, harrowing story of an unstable skinhead who finally explodes after learning that his immigrant girlfriend is pregnant. While the action takes place over the course of a single day, it actually took Harris over four years to get all the footage she needed. “I ran into all sorts of money problems,” she says. “My husband and I were living on $35,000 a year and not paying rent. By the end, I was shooting while I was eight-and-a-half months pregnant, jumping over fences to steal shots in illegal locations.” After premiering at Sundance, Exit 8A has screened at more than 20 festivals.
Harris first arrived in New York City from Baltimore in the 1980s, working first as a pianist and then as an actress before enrolling in NYU’s Tisch program, where she made her thesis short Amnesia. She’s currently writing two scripts along with prepping another short, The Stand-In, which stars Tom Noonan as a perverted acting coach. “People seem surprised to see a woman making violent films with action in them,” she says. “That’s one of the reasons I’m drawn to this kind of material — I want to be disturbing.” — M.R.
Contact: Maura Teitelbaum at Abrams Artists: (646) 486-4600
Abdi Nazemian said he met his writing partner Micah Schraft when they were both freshmen at Columbia University. “My father had two tickets to the opening night of Showboat but was too involved in a card game to go,” he says. But by the end of that rainy evening, recalls Schraft, the two had bonded, seen the play and “met Elaine Stritch — we opened her umbrella,” says Schraft. “She blessed our friendship,” adds Nazemian.
Nazemian and Schraft have written three original scripts — Dot, Rich Dead White Girl and Admissions. The first, a darkly sardonic, Teorema-like tale of a deaf girl who insinuates herself in the lives of her insecure classmates, was developed at the Sundance Labs and is in preproduction with Jamie Babbit directing and Burnt Orange financing.
When the pair first took meetings in Hollywood, says Nazemian, “we referenced movies like Interiors and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. The studio execs weren’t so into that.” Now they’ve fashioned themselves as writers adept at projects ranging from Generation SLUT at HBO, with Miguel Arteta directing, to a remake of the Doris Day–Rock Hudson flick Lover Come Back. “There are no sluts in romantic comedies,” says Schraft. Adds Nazemian, “Nothing romantic about a slut.” — S.M.
Contact: Michael Garnett at Leverage Management: (310) 526-0330, Keya Khayatian at UTA: (310) 273-6700
15 Larry Blackhorse Lowe
Among the new wave of Native-American filmmakers making their debut at Sundance this year was 26-year-old Larry Blackhorse Lowe. His short Shush, a violent tale of a man who returns to his Navajo reservation to confront his sister’s abusive boyfriend, employs an aggressive expressionistic style and a fragmented structure that underscores the brutality of the subject matter.
Lowe grew up on the Navajo reservation in Nenahnezad, N.M., before moving to Mesa, Ariz., where he has made over 10 shorts in the past three years. He recently wrapped his first feature, 5th World, a road movie/love story which, like the rest of his work, takes place on a reservation. He’s also working on two documentary projects: one about methamphetamine use on reservations and another about the Native American artists who rose to fame in the international art world in the ’50s and ’60s. He’s also started another screenplay, Hollow, a period piece set in the late 1800s. “I don’t want to categorize my style or approach just yet,” says Lowe. “I’m still growing as a filmmaker.” — M.R.