Sisters Supporting Sisters/Brothers is dedicated to men and women of color living out their entrepreneurial dreams. Sisters Supporting Sisters/Brothers was started due to a lack of outlets to feature the immense talent and creativity of men and women of color. It is important for people of color to be more supportive of one another in business and life in general. A strong network of relationships amongst minority men and women would definitely help make the climb to the top a little bit easier—especially if they just happen to be going after the same dreams. Honestly, there is enough money for everyone to do their thing and still be supportive at the same time.
The Brother to Support: Dui Jarrod
Name of Business, Website, or Service: www.cloudninegroup.com
Q: Why did you decide to start Cloud Nine Productions?
I started Cloud Nine because I was working in the industry as an actor and I consistently found myself reading for African-American male roles that were very one dimensional. We were either being portrayed as thugs or as the funny sidekick. Although I recognize both exist within society, I felt it was so limiting to who we really are. So I decided to create a production company that would introduce our culture in the manner in which I know it to be: intelligent black people dealing with fears, decisions, and self doubt.
Q: Tell us more about the man behind this empowering film company?
I was born and raised in White Hall, Arkansas. I was the middle child of six who had a passion for movies and acting. I knew that I wanted to move to Los Angles right after high school, but my parents convinced me to go to Louisiana State University where I majored in speech communications. My interest in film and writing continued even though I spent most of my time on school and working. But I often felt that I was living someone else’s dream when my dream was to work in the entertainment industry. I ended up with a great career as a family advocate and really dedicated my efforts to serving families. After a couple of years, I lost my advocate job and was really hurt by how I was being treated by people I had worked so hard for. I had no idea what to do because I had been so accustomed to working for someone else. I spoke with my best friend Dr. Kinley and he said everything I needed was already in me. I decided to take a chance and focus on my dream, and in turn the entertainment industry welcomed my talents with open arms. I’m definitely not where I want to be but, I’m extremely satisfied with my progress.
Q: What is the story behind the name “Cloud Nine” Productions?
There is a song on Donnie’s (a neo-soul artist based in Atlanta) album entitled “The Colored Section” that talks about blacks living a natural, pure, strong existence. It is metaphorical about not falling into the paths of what others do and just innately being YOU! That is what my film company is all about: giving the intelligent black audience something they can relate to and be inspired by.
Q: How long have you been writing, producing and directing films?
Forever! When I was a kid, I would have to bribe my siblings to be in my films and plays. I would write a movie or play, break out the camcorder, and film it. Those films were horrible, no editing or nothing, but my mom acted as if I was about to win an Oscar. I have been writing diligently for the past five years, and actively filming, producing, and directing for the past three years.
Q: What was your first project?
It was actually a play called “Noah’s Ark,” when I was 13. I did it in my Bible class and didn’t know how it would turn out. I made the set, wrote, directed and acted in the play. I was putting everything together in my garage when my dad noticed what I was doing and was shocked by what I created. He told me that I was capable of doing whatever I wanted to do. He started to help me with the props and set, and told me people respect the quality of a product not the intention. His advice inspired me to rewrite
some of the play and take it more seriously. People came all the way from Little Rock to see it! I loved the feeling of entertaining and from that moment got hooked. I carry my dad’s advice with every project that I do now. I work hard for people to say, “That was great,” not, “Oh, I see what he was trying to do.” Thanks Dad! Quality is everything.
Q: Tell us about your two latest projects “My Angel and “Nothing More Nothing Less”?
“Nothing More, Nothing Less” started out as a play, but I went to a film festival in New Orleans and got completely inspired. I decided to film it as a short and promote it at film festivals and small screenings to introduce myself to the local film community. Independent film costs are expensive, so I saved and ate beans for a year to have the money to do it. I made the sacrifice because I know if I completed this film it would create a buzz in the community. I pulled together an awesome, small crew and did the film on what would be considered pennies in the film industry. “Nothing More, Nothing Less” took every dime I saved. But it was worth it, the film came out amazing and is generating more buzz than I ever expected. Recently I expanded the script and it will be the content for my first feature film. I’m so excited!!!
This industry is so funny because “My Angel” happened so differently. I had been thinking about the concept for about two years and never wrote anything on it. All of a sudden, it hit me while on the set of “Mama I Want to Sing.” I wrote “My Angel” in a corner during breaks and five months later I had 25 people on the crew filming it. I filmed it in such a different style than “Nothing More, Nothing Less” and the film exceeded everyone’s expectations including my own. A couple of people were telling me that black audiences weren’t intelligent enough to get it, but I had several small showings and the audience wanted to watch it three and four times!
Q: Your tag-line is “enlighten, empower and entertain.” Why did you choose those three words to represent your work?
That is what films like “Mo’ Better Blues,” “The Color Purple,” and “The Last Dragon” did for me. I want to empower generations to continue to be progressive and show them that positive images can sell! I also want each person that watches my films and plays to walk out of the theater enlightened and entertained. I want everything I do to be an EXPERIENCE!
Q: Why do you think you were called or pulled to the entertainment industry? Did you always want to direct and produce films?
It was in me from birth and that is the truth. Entertaining people is all I ever truly understood. I have also been blessed with the ability to understand the language of film, what sells, what makes audiences smile and what makes a great script! Producing came so naturally to me because I always found myself in leadership positions. I love directing my scripts the most because it’s my vision and characters that I created. Beyond writing, I was an actor first so I understand the art form and how to get the best out of my actors on set.
Q: How do you feel about the entertainment industry, particularly films that are targeted to African Americans? Do you think there has been an improvement in the way we are portrayed and the way we choose to portray ourselves in the media?
This is such a poignant question for me because so many people want to blame the “powers that be” for the images in the movies that are made. But no film begins without a script. The studios read something that they think is funny or could carry an audience, so they green light the project. But many African-Americans are disappointed by most of the films they see and don’t think it represents us as an entire race. I believe society judges you by the images that are seen. So I want to present entertaining and provocative images that show real African-Americans, in real situations, living real lives. I think improvements are being made every day, but unfortunately we are our own worst enemies. Because for every great writer like Preston A. Whitmore II, Pete Chatmon, Travis Phipps, and Michael Elliot, there are other writers, most of which aren’t black, who write distasteful, ineffective scripts that display us in a poor light. That’s why I work so hard to create projects that are entertaining, marketable, and affecting. I’m on the progressive end of black cinema.
Q: What directors, producers and/or writers do you look up to?
Oh I love this question! I really like what Pete Chatmon is doing, I think he is incredible. I like Quincy Newell’s vision and perspective. Stan Lathan is a genius! Spike Lee is the truth. Tyler Perry is history in the making. Forest Whitaker can do it all. I would love to one day work with Jill Marie Jones, Queen Latifah and Wendell Pierce. I think they all have only just begun! But I am truly a fan of all forms of art. I am inspired by the work of Jill Scott, Mos Def, S. Epatha Merkerson, Irvin Mayfield, Will.I.Am, Common, Tondrae Kemp, Kanye West, Elysian Fieldz and Slangston Hughes. My mother, an incredible visual artist, is also an inspiration to me.
Q: What advice would you give to someone interested in going into your field?
Do your homework! Understand what makes a good film and the perspective you want to tell the story from. There are a million love stories, why is yours different? And I repeat, do your homework!!!! I can’t tell you how many movies are done without any type of planning and it’s evident. Find or write a great script, make a great film, and find your audience. Respect the critics, but do you! Some people told me, “Dui, blacks aren’t going to support that.” Some of those same people are blowing my phone
up about my next project.
Q: Do you have any projects showing right now?
Yes, I’m returning to my roots with a play I wrote entitled, “Between You and Me.” It makes a New Orleans debut in May 2008. The play is an incredible story about two young black couples on different sides of our culture and how their seemingly different lives come together. It is my best play so far. I’m starring in it, so I’m extremely excited about returning to the stage in such a powerful production. I’m also having gatherings around the country called “Short Night Conversations,” where people watch my short films and discuss the films, entertainment industry, whatever. You’ve got to listen to your audience, not the critics.
Q: What’s in the future for you and the Cloud Nine Productions?
Work, work, work! I’m working on securing financial support for my first feature film and also searching within our community for distribution opportunities as well. The script is so special and we are in negotiations with some recognizable, incredible actors who have really connected with the script. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed! I plan to continue to write and develop entertainment film experiences for our audience, explore more forms of media and producing television shows. I have a progressive mind. I’m a man defined by his art and creator, so it looks like I’ll continue to be happy for a very long time! See you on Cloud Nine!