New Waves in Black Storytelling – ‘Wet Seal Cigarettes’

By Brandon Bush

If there was ever a statement that described the film industry as it currently exists, it would be “Black is King”. As time progresses and genres evolve, new trends and movements in storytelling emerge. Black filmmakers, writers, actors and others are leading the way in finding new, innovative and engaging ways to present the lived experiences of marginalized communities and critique society.

The champion of this movement is Pyramidal Productions, a black-owned independent film production company co-founded by Nicholas G. Sims, Pércival Bernard, Earl Weaver Jr. and Blake H. Greene. Founded on the vision of producing projects that alter storytelling as we know it, pushing the boundaries of cinema and unapologetically sharing the unique perspectives of people with marginalized identities, Pyramidal Productions is rolling out its first film project: Wet Joint Cigarettes, written and directed by Pércival Bernard.

(Courtesy of Pyramidal Productions)

Starring Nicholas G. Sims, Chloe Lexia Worthington and Cedric D. Cannon, the psychological fantasy short – inspired by the French New Wave movement – ​​finds a young man struggling “to stay sane in a New York surreal as he resists a new world”. ordering and tempting the coveted ‘Wet Seal Cigarette’” according to its synopsis. I was able to sit down with Sims, Bernard, Weaver and Greene to discuss their project, its importance to black storytelling and the importance of talented young black entrepreneurs trying to make waves in the film industry .

“It touches on different dimensions of creating a whole new form of storytelling based on those that [Black people] were denied access,” Bernard said. “With that in mind, Wet Seal Cigarettes kind of addresses this idea of ​​individualism versus consumerism and kind of calls to mind aspects of the French New Wave where it inspires the individual to be more than what they consume.”

While addressing other themes such as identity, commercialism and capitalism, Wet joint cigarettes aims to send a message in an elegant, metaphysical and grounded way – that message being that conformity is death.

From left to right: Earl Waver Jr., Pércival Bernard and Nicholas G. Sims. (Courtesy of Pyramidal Productions)

“We don’t have enough stories like these where the underrepresented are shown in this light,” Sims told us. “It was very personal and important for me to do this movie, not just as a producer but also as an actor because I feel like as a young black actor starting out, people are trying to put you in so many boxes.”

The Sims talked about resisting a trend in Hollywood where black actors are cast in specific roles, such as gang member, mom, or vixen. It was imperative for him to play in a role that allowed him to be part of an abstract and meaningful story and to have the autonomy to act in a non-traditional role. In a world where black actors and storytellers seek more freedom in the paths that are pre-determined for them, projects like these are relevant and present paths to follow.

With such a unique project coming from a black-owned independent film production company, it also provides another example of young black entrepreneurs breaking the usual barriers to entry into the entertainment industry. However, it is not without challenges.

“In the face of adversity, I couldn’t be more proud to be part of this team,” Sims revealed. “Because we were literally faced with not making this movie, but it was always in the mind, ‘we’re going to do this.’ And there’s something magical about being a black filmmaker because it’s like you have to find a way because no one else will tell your story for you.

(Courtesy of Pyramidal Productions)

Weaver went on to describe some of the specific challenges involved in pre-production of this film, such as securing an investor, booking flights, purchasing film equipment and obtaining permits.

“When you’re working on such a special and necessary project in a world where there’s so much demand for this kind of art, there’s no better motivation than to give it your all. As filmmakers, it’s to our responsibility to provide the best possible product,” recalls Weaver.

Greene added, “We strive for a perspective of creativity that isn’t shown in today’s world. As a young, black-owned production company, we value unity and diversity that touches each of our audiences within our films, whether through the cast, our production team, or the projects we develop. .

Nevertheless, once the short film was finished, Bernard reminded us of the cultural relevance of this project. “It’s a cultural reset if I want to be transparent about it,” Bernard remarked. “And it’s not just about talking about my work. It’s just about doing things and writing stories, and especially writing black characters in a way that we’re not used to.

As the media we consume continues to include diverse voices and perspectives, we need to seek out, encourage and support films like these. They contribute to the ever-evolving, multi-dimensional narrative of Blackness and open people up to things they haven’t experienced before. With that in mind, we also need to keep an eye out for artists and entities like Pyramidal Productions who challenge the norm and push the boundaries of what is acceptable in mainstream media.

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