Independent filmmaker Dui Jarrod has endured a trek through the innards of the Hollywood moviemaking machine and come out on the other side with his first feature-length film, “Lesson Before Love.”
While going independent was a lot of work, it offered Jarrod a few juicy perks.
“It’s a tough industry for independent filmmakers,” Jarrod said. “But the advantage is that you have freedom. You don’t have a studio telling you to change the script.”
Not being forced to eviscerate the script seemed like an attractive option to Jarrod, who not only directed the film, but wrote it as well. It was his sixth screenplay and was inspired by his own life.
“I conceptualized it primarily in 2008. It was Valentine’s Day, and some of my single friends and I decided to get together and talk about where we were in our lives and our love lives. I thought that what we talked about was very interesting and deserved further exploration, so I put it in the context of a film,” he said.
“Lesson Before Love” tells of the romantic trials and tribulations of four single people who are beginning to realize that the reason they’re having no luck in love is because they need to get the rest of their lives in order first. Jarrod describes the film as a “dramedy,” a hybrid genre that combines both dramatic situations and comedic moments.
After writing the script, Jarrod realized that he would also have to take on the role of director. Going independent meant that he had to leave whatever fears he might have had about taking on the dual role behind him.
“I had been making short films, but I never really had the confidence to do a feature … but part of what led to the realization that I would have to direct the film was the industry at large,” Jarrod said.
“I did a lot of pitching to producers and production companies. While some people really loved the screenplay, nobody saw a place to get it made in a reasonable amount of time. It finally got in my head that, ‘Look, nobody’s going to finish your movie. You’re gonna have to learn to finish it yourself,’” he said with a laugh.
Jarrod felt that his film, which focused on characters and dialogue instead of costly special effects or locales, wasn’t particularly hampered by the fact that it was made on a smaller budget.
“I actually was comfortable working from within those constraints, I didn’t try to do too much. Sometimes you’ll see filmmakers that don’t have the means try to do a blood and shoot-em-up theme, and it looks ridiculous, because they don’t have the tools necessary to do it,” he said.
When asked if he can relax and pat himself on the back now that the film is finished, or if getting the film distributed is its own stressful battle, Jarrod said that right now he is just trying to take stock of the film’s success.
“Well, I’ve changed my perception,” Jarrod said. “I’ve always been aware of what it could be, but I never really appreciated where the film had already gone.
“When we started this project I talked to someone in the industry who told me, ‘In order for you to get this film done and out to market you’re going to need three miracles.’ The first was getting the film financed. It happened. The second was getting the film to and through production. It happened. And the third was getting the film on the big screen. It happened. Amazing!”
Jarrod doesn’t sugar coat the difficulties of achieving success in the highly competitive world of filmmaking, but he has learned a lot about what it takes to succeed in that world.
“It’s all about momentum. There were some months on the film where we could not make any headway. Then you’d get a big article or a review and it gets you into another film festival, then another,” he said. “You’ve just got to keep it rolling up the hill. I very much feel that I’m still moving up that hill.”
Handling both the writing and directing duties on a debut feature-length film is a daunting task indeed, but so far the reviews have been good. “Lesson Before Love” won Best Drama at the San Diego Black Film Festival and Best Film at the Arkansas Black Film Festival. News One put it on its list of Ten Black Films to See in 2012. However, one of the most memorable screenings the film has had wasn’t at a prestigious film festival, but at Jarrod’s alma mater. Recently, he was invited to show his film to LSU students and talk about his experiences.
“It was probably the best screening that I’ve ever had -- it truly was a dream come true,” Jarrod said. “It wasn’t until I went to LSU that I had all these people believing in me and an instructor who told me I could do whatever I wanted to do. Nobody ever really told me that before. So for me to bring my film back to LSU, it truly completed my journey.”
Jarrod is currently working on a play in New York. He is also in talks to get the film shown on more theater screens across the country and to get the film distributed digitally.