It wasn’t a coincidence that the exact same day Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, filmed in Brooklyn and released on Netflix, I sat at my work desk and read Dui Jarrod’s words so vividly that I could hear him. The connection is both black men and directors in this filmmaking industry are authentically storytelling like no other. Jarrod currently resides in Brooklyn and his recent project pays homage, Brooklyn. Blue. Sky. Everyone already knows, “Brooklyn is culture”. Dui seconds this. I continued on to read his thoughts and expressions in this interview; he has a sense of humor and he tells all in his own way. It’s evident reading this that he’s one hell of a creator, real and an all-around deep brother. He describes his life, growing up, his favorite place to write, and an average day in his world.
You have a new podcast, He Always Write. Talk about that and the concept.
I remember when I was at the beginning of my career, I wanted access to information about the industry and how I could make it as a filmmaker. One of the most significant sources was Tanya Kersey’s Blog Talk Radio Show. I literally would design my entire day around it.
In doing my podcast, I wanted to provide a voice people could connect to and identify with on their screenwriting journey. Straight talk where self-love is the center of your creativity.
What inspired you to want to create and work in film? What inspires you even now?
I’ve always, always, always been a storyteller, I just didn’t understand what format. I started off as a playwright and street photographer. I still love both, but shooting my first film unearthed something in me creatively, emotionally, and spiritually. It was at that moment that I knew I’d never be the same. Film is a marriage of all things that define me: narrative, dialogue, and pictures.
Believe it or not, the story of Adam and Eve is still the primary source of my inspiration. Any man willing to die for the love of his life is the greatest story ever told. It’s the metaphor in all of my work. I just key in on different elements of the story: the snake (Unholy War), Cain and Able (King Ester), the conflict (BET’s Brooklyn. Blue. Sky.) It’s all there; if you look deeper at my work, you’ll see it. To think all of my work comes from the first book of the Bible is crazy.
I read that your “favorite place to write is in a loud bustling café, with the stool and the front window looking out on to the world.” What makes that your ideal place to write?
The world we live in is filled with theater. It’s all there: character, conflict, purpose. It takes certain eyes to see it. I’m ever conscious of the energy around me. My curiosity comes from understanding it. Sometimes I’m at my computer, and I get stuck – I can look out at the world, and people watch for a few minutes, and then things begin to reveal themselves.
When did you know you wanted to be a screenwriter, director, and filmmaker?
Usually, after I leave my therapist’s office. No, I’m kidding.
I was so focused on being a playwright, I’d never seen filmmaking as an option until I went to a film festival in New Orleans. I watched this 10-minute film entitled Grace. I was shook. I had no idea that a narrative could be constructed and executed in that amount of time. It gave me the confidence to do my first short film, and I’ve never looked back.
Brooklyn is culture. Growing up there, do you believe your upbringing has helped to shape your career choice?
I actually grew up in a small town in Arkansas where sports was the end all be all. Not for me. I played in the orchestra and sang in the choir. In high school, I started participating in this Broadway review show called Choir Happening. It was my only introduction to the world of theatre. Senior year, my choir teacher wanted me to play the slave Jim in Big River. I said HELL NO! And to be honest, that’s really what shaped me.
For her to see that show as a way of celebrating my contribution to the department is sad. I knew we needed more modern stories, so that’s how I became a playwright. I’ve been shaping new narratives on the black experience ever since.
But Brooklyn is culture, and it’s refined what Arkansas defined.
3 words to describe Dui the man and Dui the creator.
The man: Actualized. Emotional. Empathic. The creator: Focused. Fearless. Generous.
What’s an average day like in your world?
I usually rise with the sun. Get a workout in and attacked the day from there. I try and read something every day. I create something every day. When I’m writing, I’m writing. I’ll usually wall myself off from the rest of the world and really give my narratives my full attention. But often times, I’m producing my work, building my small but loyal team, and creating digital content for brands. After that, I grab a glass of wine – only the good stuff.
Discuss the opportunity with BET and how you created two other series shortly after that.
BET is a blessing in so many ways. I learned a lot, especially around the business of the business. Networks have different accountabilities than I do. I didn’t know that. I’m character driven; they’re numbers driven – so it gave me insight on how to roll out and manage a show on a broad platform. And what a good marriage to a showrunner looks like. I’m still connected with them, and I’m hopeful I’ll get to create a new project with their team.
After BET’s Brooklyn. Blue. Sky. dropped, I got with a producer and filmmaker named Caralene Robinson, who wanted to further the narratives in episodic content. I had the perfect project. A few months later, we made King Ester in New Orleans, and the series has been the joy of my life. I’m so proud of it. And I’m still moved by what we created.
Then out of nowhere, I got another opportunity with Kuye Youngblood and Keica Coles at BRIC TV to write and direct a digital series called Sauce. It was derived from an original pilot that I’d written. Those women are great people. BRIC TV gave me creative freedom and a dope platform, so I’m excited about the series and people getting to know the very talented Roland Lane and Javanna Mundy. Such dope actors.
It’s hard to believe I have three digital series in 18 months. If I had a chance, I would’ve definitely taken a break between King Ester and Sauce. I would’ve nurtured myself financially. You can’t be your best self creatively when rent is looming over you like Deontay Wilder.
How’d it feel to have your project SAUCE in the Seattle International Film Festival?
Shit. AMAZING! Seattle International Film Festival is one of the top 20 in the world. So many dope projects and to be among them is affirming.
What’s next for you in the world of Dui? Gloria?
TELEVISION. TELEVISION. TELEVISION. I’m affirming this! I’ve recently been spending time in Los Angeles to start directing TV shows. It’s exciting to be out here. I’ve had general meetings with networks and production companies. It’s been GREAT! I’m out here taking full advantage of every moment.
Gloria!!!!! I’m so excited about my new film. I’ve been working on this original script about a 70’s pornstar who’s just received a dementia diagnosis. I haven’t made a feature film in years, and now I feel ready to get back into the arena. I got my ass kicked the first time. I’m no longer afraid, and I think this project is unique.
What advice would you give on pushing the needle forward on creating content?
Geeeez. I could talk about this all day. But, what’s become paramount for me is understanding and getting your value. There’s no reason for us to be broke creatives. I lived in that space for so long, where I’d sacrifice it all for the sake of creative integrity.
I’d once worked for this production company who refused to pay for overages on their project. In honor of the work, I keep putting my own personal money into the project. This should never happen.
To create your best work, you have to be healthy: financially, most importantly. Get your paper. Plan your project. Execute that project in excellence. Rinse. Repeat.
Feature Photo Credit: Dexter Fletcher