In the 1980s, Spike Lee popularized and represented the Black independent filmmaker, and now in the 2000s director and writer Jerry LaMothe is making a similar mark in the movie industry. In four films LaMothe has directed the likes of Jeffrey Wright, Zoe Saldana, Melvin Van Peebles, Tatyana Ali, Jennifer Lewis and even R&B bad boy-turned-reality star Bobby Brown in completely funded independent films, which had no backing from major studios.
Now the 40-year-old Brooklyn native has mined a page from his own life as inspiration for his latest film, a short called The Tombs about a wrongly accused man’s three-day journey through the central jail booking system. “Several years ago I was wrongly accused of something and I went through the system for three days,” says LaMothe. “It was an eye-opening experience for me as I learned the politics and the red tape that occurs in the jail system. [This movie] is compelling and has a strong social conscious message to it.”
The Tombs is also launching a joint production venture between he and his Basketball Wives star girlfriend Tami Roman, who serves as the film’s producer. As the movie works its way to the film festival circuit, there is now buzz that it could be reincarnated as a 30-minute TV drama series. As an “OZ meets Law and Order" it could chronicle the lives of various "compelling" people going in and out of the system.
A move like that could mark The Nora’s Hair Salon director’s foray into a more mainstream production scene. He says there are some cons of working in a “lots of cooks in the kitchen” major studio environment, and adds, “you can be left with the traumatic experience [of ending up] with a film you don’t recognize and can’t even acknowledge."
But, while forever embracing the creative freedom of the indie film world, LaMothe admits after being in the trenches for over a decade he'd be open to a mainstream filmmaking experience. “There’s more money, there’s a wider audience, and you’re getting your film on more screens than limited engagements,” he says. “Without a doubt, if an opportunity presents itself today for me to do a studio movie, I would definitely embrace it.”
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