This week, Living the Dream Larger than Life speaks to Dui Jarrod. Dui Jarrod is a film producer and director, known for Lesson Before Love (2011), My Angel (2008) and Nothing More, Nothing Less (2008).
"When I said 'Action!' I knew for sure that filmmaking was my purpose.
The word 'action' was the beginning."
What inspired you to make Brooklyn your new home?
DJ: I've been in Fort Greene for eight months, arriving October 2012. There are thousands of places in Brooklyn and I never thought I would be living in Fort Greene. I met a person who asked me "Why do you live in Jersey?" And boom! From that conversation an apartment in Fort Greene showed up. The prices in Fort Greene were so expensive: $3,000, $2,000. I got an apartment for exactly what I could afford. I look up and the apartment that I accepted was right here in Fort Greene.
It took two weeks to figure out I was in Fort Greene. I cannot believe I live in Fort Greene. It was like a dream come true. Dreams do come true. The moment I walked into the building I knew it was my apartment
What is it that had you become a filmmaker and where did the dream come from?
I originally started to try to become an actor and it came from an audition as an actor where I was reading a script to play a character. I have always written as a kid growing up but I never knew or thought of seeing myself or thought of being a screenwriter. It was nowhere near my consciousness. When I was reading lines I kept thinking to myself that I could write something better than this that is indicative of who we are as African Americans. Let me try my hand at it.
Literally I went home and I looked on line for the structure how to write a screenplay. I figured out the structure and wrote a play in that structure and that was the beginning of me deciding I want to write a screenplay. At first it was not my purpose to write and make a living. It was just my desire to establish another view of African American culture. I felt like the work that I was reading as an actor was not indicative of who we were.
I could write something better and different. I did not know this was my purpose until I wrote my first short film. I did not know I was going to direct it. I thought I was playing the role of an actor and on my first day my Executive Producer said "are you ready to direct?" He said direct, and I said yes. I did not know that was what I was doing all along. However, when I said "Action!" I knew for sure that was my purpose and I have not deviated ever since. Action meant everything. It was the beginning; I don't know the end. That day of action was absolutely the beginning.
How long have you been making films?
DJ: I've been making films for eight years. It is unbelievable how far I have come. Sometimes, I look at how far I have gotten and it is amazing. Some days, I cannot believe it. I know there is so much further to go. For me to be here in this moment, it's exciting and unbelievable. My parents are now excited — it took them a while to get there.
They wanted to protect me from how the world was going to attack me. So it was a hard journey for my parents in the beginning. They now accept that this is my purpose and they are extremely supportive and good people.
Would you say that you're Living the Dream Larger Than Life?
DJ: Yes, I am absolutely living my dream. I would say that I am living my dream larger than life because I am doing my purpose. I know what I am doing and it is bigger than me. It is bigger than me and greater than me.
I'm definitely not drinking Champagne every day and not flying first class. I am not doing all of that. The way that I am living my life is I am constantly writing, constantly creating new ideas, yes I am living larger than life, bigger than myself. I am not focused on the big life. If those things come I have never participated in the Champagne and Caviar lifestyle.
Even when I had a regular career job and was making good money, my purpose was to give myself wholly. I am constantly working on my purpose which is much bigger than myself. No matter what I did or going to do, I always give myself wholly. I am living my dream larger than life. I don't need to be famous; I want my work to be remembered and be famous and live on in perpetuity.
I am not looking to hang out with stars. A lot of people want things. What I want is for my work to be relevant. I don't just want to hang out with stars. It may happen and I want to continue and grow. Lifestyle is a byproduct. I am building a legacy.
Are you happy doing what you're doing?
DJ: I am. I am very happy and I can honestly say it is not very much of a struggle. To tell you the truth it is still not a struggle. The part that I have not been able to reconcile is creating my vision within my resources at the level that I would like. For certain work I do not have the resources in order to do those things. I have music in my head that I am ready to do.
I have bigger movies in my head that I would love to produce. I don't have the resources in order to do those things. I just do the projects at the highest level I am able to do them on. However, none of them have been able to meet my resources yet. I push and push hard to get the highest quality out of where I am with the resources I have.
What else makes you happy?
DJ: Traveling makes me extremely happy. I have been doing a lot over the past year and I am grateful for that. Food: I am a foodie. I love food; it makes me sublimely happy. Being around other people that inspire me makes me unbelievably happy; the beauty of being in Fort Greene, that inspires me.
There are so many creative people around; the energy and being able to collaborate and lick my wounds with people and to share, give and receive the energy from others. Even when I have a party, I invite people with incredible energy.
What are you passionate about?
DJ: Art excites me; food; exploration and new understandings of different ideas and cultures. Music; meeting new and exciting people; new ideas and love excites me [as he giggles]. I am passionate about politics, the next generation. Telling stories: people see things unfold in a way they have never seen before. I'm passionate about my friendships and my family. I am passionate about love.
Who do you admire?
DJ: Ava Duvernay, I admire and respect her mind. The way she created her own success. She has defined success for herself and in the way she did it. She empowered so many other filmmakers. A lot of filmmakers are looking for distribution. Ava created her own distribution network and she focused on creating really great product.
No matter whether she sells millions, she created a loyal legion of supporters who will always watch her stuff because anything she is involved in, everyone knows it will be good. I think that is very powerful. So that is what I want for myself, to be able to create and be a part of and support other projects that are at a certain level or quality that I really appreciate.
I want to continue to work the ground and go back to people and say I have something else for you. That is what she did and I think it is incredible. It is so special. She defined it for herself and created two amazing films. I've learned from her. My goal is to create the work on a level that I can reach people and get people to see my work; also to put more resources in and get those people to develop audiences. I am still learning from her; I watch her every move.
I would also love to work with Mara Brock-Akil. She is another visionary who has a pulse on really good writers; she gets it. I think Nelson George is incredible and I'd love to work with him in whatever capacity I can. I think he is brilliant. I would also like to write a play for Jeffrey Wright He is the most brilliant actor there is.
I would like to write a play that would challenge his brilliance and where he would find it intriguing and different, that he would love to meet the work where it is. It would be great for the both of us.
If you could do anything else what would you do?
DJ: If I did something else, I'd be a teacher. I would have been an educator if I was not a filmmaker. I'd teach at a low-income, failing school. Any opportunity I can create to share with such kids, to inspire them and show them how beautiful, talented and capable they are. I feel that we have a lost generation. I would be the best teacher ever.
Not just a teacher, I'd be the best. Anything I know that is my purpose, I give it wholly. That was a struggle for me when I was younger, trying to figure out what my purpose was. There were a lot of things that I was involved in that I did not give myself too wholly. Jobs that I dreaded going to that I could not wait to leave.
When I found my purpose, I knew what to do. My light went on. When the light switch of my life goes on I know my purpose, and I know what to do and every day I put forth another amount of energy to get it done.
Do you get to express your voice?
DJ: My work is my voice. I can speak louder through my work than I could in my personal Life. In my work, when I get ready to write something or produce something, I can create a bigger audience on a grander scale to say what I want to say about the world, about humanity, and black culture. I receive different ways of expressing it to a bigger audience. So, yes absolutely, I get to express my voice.
If you were to write a letter to the future what would it say?
DJ: I would write the letter to my grandchildren and the future children of the world. What my letter would tell them is something that I wished someone would have told me as a kid.
You have a light in you that absolutely deserves to shine. No matter what goes on in your world, no matter what people say to you, you have to find a way to shine
My parents had a lot of us, there were six of us, and I felt marginalized because they put us in one category and they treated each of us children the same and I did not like it. I now understand why my parents did this because they wanted us to be as successful in the easiest and safest way possible.
Now I see it as a blessing.