Chopped Cheese

How We Made a Film in 7 Days

Watch how we made a “The Initiate” in 7 days.

Join Almonte, Tim Hann, Jinzo & Blaze in a discussion on making a film with an extremely short deadline.

This was mostly for the sake of an experimental challenge to test our passion for the arts. You should definitely spend more than 7 days on any piece. As with any painting, some films will take years to just write. Some written in 10 minutes. Time spent doesn’t equate to the quality of the work. The passion and how connected you feel to the piece is what determines the impact of the film. Think of this like a speed painting you see a starving artist performing in the streets. That’s right. Performing. There’s two stories happening.

  • The fabricated one that is being shot from a script.
  • The struggle of the creators on the journey to create a film.

The Beginning

I was conflicted on whether I should make a CreepyPasta about how I got robbed in East Harlem or making a hood, gang initiation film. But a third idea emerged in my mind spontaneously on the 24th of October.

What the hell is a Creepypasta?

‘CreepyPasta’ is a style of horror storytelling that usually revolves around urban legends you can find online that people narrate in Youtube mini audio-books. It derives from “Copypasta” which are viral text walls people copy-and-paste everywhere to avoid misfortune. The earliest form of this was chain letters–which precedes the internet. People would get anonymous letters in the mail saying, “Send this to 5 addresses or [insert bad thing] will happen to you.” Here’s an example of an online version:

What if these actually came true for people that did harm to others? Oftentimes we see horror films placed in suburban or rural countrysides. So I stuck to what I know best: the hood. A horror story revolving around inner city kids where the stalking robber– the one who was the initial source of the horror in ACT I and ACT II– was now victimized by a personification of his own guilt.

Jaquan the Hood Lantern.

Spoiler Alert: Jaquan turns Jojo the slasher’s brains into a chopped cheese in the end credits. And the film is punctuated by a voice-over of a Valley-Girl accented Becky saying “Wow only 4 dollars? That’s a steal.” Followed by Chad’s “I know right; I love this neighborhood.” A cute nod to the open-endedness that the horror of gentrification that Almonte has spoken about in his viral chopped cheese video.


Shooting a Film in 7 Days is nerve wrecking.

In fact I wouldn’t recommend anyone do this to their mental health.

I finally wrote an idea that I connected with on a very personal level. But Halloween was in 7 days. Day of the Dead was in 8 days. How the hell was I going to get the cast and crew to pull this off? The same way I pulled off my guerrilla style of shooting My Way. My first attempt at filmmaking with no experience in fight choreography or serious camera work. Except now I’m exponentially more skilled than I was when I was 16. There was no way I was going to let this idea taunt me for another year while I waited for Halloween of 2018 to come back around. By then I would have built even more film ideas and just abandoned the Initiate. I was tired of waiting and planning and not executing all these ideas that kept coming to mind.

There’s only one way to shoot a film in 7 days: Just do it.

Call your folks. Even if they’re not “real” actors. A great director and editor can make anyone look good. I wrote, directed/shot, & edited this. And for the first time, I produced video content that didn’t involve the marketing of my face.

Though I did play the Jaquan the Lantern. Shhh.

I was essentially a one-man crew. The support and patience I got from my cast was imperative. Including emotional support when I wanted to give up on this and try next year.  You are your own worst critic. Finding countless mistakes in audio, continuity errors, and etc. can be disheartening if you don’t have anyone to get you out of your artistic anxiety. Being a perfectionist doesn’t get anything finished.

 

Why I Quit Youtube

To quit Youtube isn’t an easy transition. But it’s a necessary one.

I quit Youtube as a primary video platform after ten dedicated years of grinding. Since before getting paid for vlogs in your room was a thing. My following watched the 11-year-old that made paper guns. The 15-year old-ranting about pet peeves. The 17 year old making amateur webisodes action-packed with martial arts in the hood. The 18 year old satirist comedy sketch director. The 20 year old political ranter. All life transitions loosely documented through videos on my channel.

However, it never really sat right with me whenever I was recognized on the street as “That Youtube guy.” Especially after the Youtube Ad-pocalypse, I thought to myself…

Here I am– basically an ambassador through my content, pushing all this traffic to YouTube for them to reap all the financial gain. I’ve gone viral quite a few times. I’ve even been on Pix11 News for my viral chopped cheese video. All of this monetized traffic was going to Youtube. While I struggle to pay my section 8 rent in the hood. And although Youtube pays a percentage to creators for their content, being branded as “that famous Youtuber” isn’t very empowering when you look at Vine’s demise. A mere reflection of Youtube’s inevitable doom. When Vine died, most Viners died. When Youtube dies, the Youtuber dies. Unless you…

Quit Youtube and seize the means of your own production.

There’s a lot for content creators on Youtube to complain about. False Content ID. Soft censorship. Demonetization. Views magically disappearing because of years of an unfixed bug. But at the end of the day, Youtube is a private company and they can do with their money as they please. It’s their platform. The only thing you can do is threaten to quit Youtube. And unless you’re someone as big as Pewdiepie, that’s not a big enough threat to make Youtube change their ways. There is always the next big star. But there is always the next big platform. Facebook freebooting has had content creators scrambling for solutions after they released their native video player. And the amount of traffic and shares Facebook video gets is ADDICTING. Naturally people started to just freeboot their own videos and post to Facebook. It feels better to see your video get 10,000 shares in a week on Facebook than to slowly watch Youtube’s shitty algorithm forward your video to a mere 5,000 out of 100,000 subscribers(and make $0 because you’re not ‘family friendly’). Wanna know what feels even better?

Having your own website.

It can get pretty expensive having a native video player when you’re an independent video maker like me. Youtube is a free platform that doesn’t charge you for any video space. They just make the money back easily with ads. If they wanted to, they could just pay you jack shit. Facebook does it. It doesn’t halt creators from constantly uploading content on Facebook. There’s an entire culture of Instagram comedians & models that rely on external sponsorships from apps like Brandbassador and hired commission work. The truth is, Youtube’s terms of service is subject to change without notice. It’s their site. We can complain about how they treat the creators that fuel their money all we want. They’re not obligated to make us comfortable on their site. So investing in your own brand and keeping all the glory to yourself is one of the most empowering things you can do. Not easy. But necessary.

And simply more professional. As opposed to sending someone a Youtube link to your director/actor reel, you can send clients to YOUR website. It adds value to your name to have your own platform. “Youtuber” doesn’t have to prefix your name any time someone talks about you. And you won’t be scrambling to find the next best thing when Youtube dies out.

Having your own platform is hard work. But it is at least more rewarding than working for days on a piece of content only for Youtube to block your video in some countries just because you said a dirty word. 

 

The Initiate Film – Your Conscience Will Always Haunt You

Triggered by the trauma he’s inflicted against someone he once called friend, Jojo tries to run away from his own conscience in The Initiate Film.

Why join a Gang?

Belonging. Protection. Power.

Extreme poverty is a dangerous precedent for proximity crime. With plenty looking for a quick way to make ends meet–or keep up with the Jones’ on TV living a lavish Hip Hop lifestyle. Whether it be by selling drugs or robbing their neighbors of what little they have. In the dog-eat-dog world of capitalism, most choose to be a predator than to be a prey. And when the gang that runs the block gives you a stare-down every time you’re just trying to do laundry and live your life… if you can’t beat em, join em. In The Initiate film, Jojo does just that.

But betraying your own conscience comes with a price to pay. He can run, lie, or take whatever drugs he wants to try and forget his sins. But a man can’t escape what he has done.

Watch how we made this film in 7 days by clicking here.

Harlem Gentrifier Silences Mister Softee Ice Cream Truck

Or at least she tries.

First they came for our chopped cheese.

Now they are coming for Mister Softee? You can’t be serious.
This new harlem resident AKA gentrifier complained that Mister Softee’s ice cream truck was too loud. This is an iconic staple of New York City in general. She really tried to call the police on this man doing his job. The weaponization and threat of force is continuously used by these invaders trying to redefine the pace of the hood.

Don’t Read the Worldstar Hate Comments… Trust me.

It’s never healthy to take Worldstar Hate Comments to heart.

Comment sections in general are a trip. The Worldstar hate comments especially add to the ‘bitter-‘ part of the bittersweetness of going viral. When you’re in the spotlight, 15 minutes of fame can also mean 15 minutes of shame if you let the hate get to you. We’re talking outright off-the-wall insults. Not criticism. Especially not constructive criticism. Straight roasting. Like Jesus coming back for a 2nd round of miracles, walking on water, and people making fun of him for wearing fake pumas. Or for leaving his edges in 33 AD.

Worldstar hate comments are ruthless. Don’t read them until you’re ready.

What Song Was That? || TRUST By Deebo Dioso

Everyone loved the song at the end of Almonte’s most DEADASS video of 2017.

Let’s keep it real–Deebo Dioso can sonically enhance any of Almonte’s content.

And so much of Almonte’s audience finds themselves binge-listening to Deebo Dioso after hearing just a snippet of his sound in the end credits(people stick around for those)? Why?

“I think the subject matter of my music match the same as [Almonte’s] videos” Deebo Dioso says. “..sometimes not word for word but the vibe usually fits perfect.”

If you love Almonte’s visuals, you’ll most likely feel the same Deebo Dioso’s music. They’re two different artists that grew up in the same vibrantly dark conditions of East Harlem, just 5 blocks from each other. Naturally, their work compliments one another. They even worked on an urban martial arts web series together .

Gang violence, drug addiction, art, culture, family, spirituality, and activism are what give Harlem its cultural density. The east side contains a lot of urban decadence but also shares all the good that comes with still being Harlem. It is the birthplace of the Harlem Renaissance and a monumental location for Black leaders like Malcolm X to thrive. The pain of growing up in a toxic environment tends to make artists turn to their craft as a coping mechanism. Hip Hop and urban literature are two things misunderstood as being glorifying of violence. But in reality, these pieces are merely victory screams of being able to survive despite it all.

In “When New Yorkers Leave the Hood,” Almonte exposes the mixed emotions resentment can cause for friends in the hood.
In “Trust” Deebo Dioso tells a story we all resonate with, inside and outside of the hood. Broken Friendships.

Oh man, these n*ggas up to no good. You be a young n*gga makin sure the bros good. Next thing you know, Chinx shot in his own hood.” 

Chinx was a popular rapper that was shot dead in his own neighborhood. And we all know what happened when Katt Williams returned to his hometown.

“When you finally escape this social prison [that is the Hood], your childhood friends are bound to feel resentment,” Almonte saysBut in his skit, the character has a bittersweet love for his friends, side eyeing them and knowing they’re probably speaking ill of him out of fear of abandonment… so he reassures them of his friendship how? Returning to buy them chopped cheeses. Not gold chains, not taking them out to the club… but buying them a token of what they all shared culturally that you can only find done right in their hood. Deebo Dioso’s “Trust” embodies how this character feels on the inside, juxtaposing his outward actions to retain his acceptance in the hood. “What the f*ck wrong wit a n*gga, actin like they never get along with a n*gga.”  The combination of Deebo Dioso and Almonte’s theme create a duality to show the Hood far from the monolithic, one-dimensional portrayal we are so used to seeing. The relationships between these people are multilayered and their emotions are complex. They say one thing and feel another. They feel more than one emotion at the same time. They aren’t just rage-filled, hypermasculine caricatures looking for a come up.

Lyrics: 

Only a few n*ggas i’d die for//
Brothers knocking on god door//
F*ck we calling these cops for//
N*gga they the reason we here//
My right hand on this Glock 4
N*gga they the reason we here//
We on em n*ggas like lock jaw, CHECK
On my deebo sh*t//
A n*gga tired of hearing that amigo sh*t//
Repping 3A on my trio sh*t//
And cutting n*ggas short on some chino sh*t// And the G’s know

All i hear is onomatopoeia// Show a little sign of gonorrhea// Sicker than the b*tches really thinking that they fly but not Aaliyah// N*ggas being b*tches like the n*gga Tyler got Madea// Owwww

I ain’t tryna shake yo hand// Hating n*ggas ain’t yo mans// I do what i do what i does and it ain’t no scam// Now they telling n*ggas they yo fam// Oh man
These n*ggas up to no good// You be a young n*gga making sure the bros good// Next thing you know Chinx shot in his own hood// And im another n*gga writing in a notebook// So i dont look//
Dolo (sh*t)// Its bloodsport on some bolo (sh*t)// This for them n*ggas on the low low// And dont know im jumpin n*ggas on some pogo (sh*t)//
A n*gga can’t keep holdin what i can’t maintain// Its when you getting paper n*gga everything change// So every motherf*cker that been hating on a n*gga when i see em imma hit em with the bang bang bang

Hook

It hurts the more i think about it// You p*ssy n*ggas don’t speak about it//
NO NO NO time to make peace about it// Cuz you p*ssy boy! and we be about it we on
Im on one i don’t trust these n*ggas x4

Verse 2

What the f*ck wrong with a n*gga// Acting like they never get along with a n*gga// Sh*tted on my mixtape now they wanna do a song with a n*gga// my n*gga my n*gga // Feelin like denzel in this b*tch yo// They tryna get to yo bread through a window// They treat me like bruh man from the 5th floor//
Coming in like homie// I really like the way you flowing// Ever since high school u been growing// I mean look at all the places u going// But one thing the whole team know is//
I be only riding for my n*ggas// Tryna be surrounded by the realest// Ya be thinkin ’bout the money feeding off the thousand dollar dealers// Till our people dying and we been surrounded by the killers// GOT DAMN
Shouts to my latinum n*ggas// All my latin n*ggas going platinum n*ggas// Love to the black real n*ggas// They say we monkeys with banana clips that’ll peel n*ggas//
God’ll never judge but he finna deal wit us// Represent the warriors and they reveal n*ggas// Rest in peace to tio but a n*gga still wit us// If it wasn’t for the spirit woulda tried to kill n*ggas//
What… yall n*ggas trippin like a westbrook interview// I mean where was the love when i hit rock bottom but i blow and im ‘pose to remember you//
Ya make a n*gga lose hope// Where the f*ck is yall when a n*gga too broke// Where the f*ck is yall when a n*gga lose folks// But wanna hit me up asap ‘cuz a n*gga too dope//
You MotherF*ckers is getting too close dont cross that line// Picture everything i saw at 9// Can’t deny the foreplay// Was 9 in 4th grade// A 9 and 4 gauge //Across that spine//
B*tch yup// If u wearin a vest// Then yo head and yo neck is finna be D.O.A// I told u n*ggas we dont play// Swore to my mother imma be ok//
She said “boy i don’t give a f*ck about these n*ggas// I wanna see you clown these n*ggas// They really thinking they it, I be ready to pound these n*ggas// Swam with the sharks so you finna drown these n*ggas//
‘Cuz u can’t keep holdin what you can’t maintain// Its wen you gettin paper n*gga everything change// So every motherf*cker that been hating on a n*gga when you see em better hit em with the bang bang bang// MY N*GGA

 

 

When a New Yorker Leaves the Hood

Let’s face it. When your friend leaves the hood, it’s a bitter-sweet spectacle.

Many in the hood want to obtain absurd amounts of wealth to buy all the luxury clothing that will juxtapose their habitat. To flaunt the audacity to walk in urban decadence with the new Ghost Whites on their feet and a gold chain pounding no fear on their heart with every step. In the Hood, you look good;  you feel good. The ‘Hood Rich’ mentality is one of consumerism– the idea that you are what you wear. We place value on ourselves based on the things we can afford to buy.
But there’s a catch.
You can’t keep that title if you leave the Hood. Because we simultaneously worship wealth while romanticizing “the struggle.” The struggle of surviving in a dangerous environment… of living paycheck to paycheck… of eating hypertension-inducing instant ramen noodles everyday… of having to sell drugs, sell ass, or both when no one wants to hire you. So when you finally escape this social prison, your childhood friends are bound to feel resentment.

Society has been engineered to keep you poor. So if you’re lucky enough to be granted the right opportunities to leave, chances are your friends are not going with you. Your friends may blame you for not being able to take them with you. Maybe even blame themselves even if they work harder than you. We continue to look at each other and point the finger at everyone. Everyone but the warden and his guards that turn a blind eye to your implosion. The cold truth: the system was designed this way.

How do we cope when the people we love can’t leave the hood?

We celebrate with the hood. Party with the hood. Feed the hood. We treat them like charity cases to cope with the guilt of our success. Because in a way, these are the people that have contributed to who we are and what we’ve become. They deserve more than what you can give them and you know it. But we know damn well everyone can’t fit on the life boat while the titanic sinks. Otherwise, you’ll all drown. And capitalism has taught us that suffering is all worth it as long as one of us makes it. The ones that “make it” become the new-money Gatsby to absolve their guilt. After the entourage, they indulge in their new lavish lifestyle alone while their friends go back to the hood to tell braggadocios stories of their old friend that came back to the Hood to share a taste of his newly found wealth.

And Chopped Cheese.

The Famous Chopped Cheese Video That Sparked Controversy

Almonte sparks controversy, simplifying the conversation surrounding gentrification with his famous Chopped Cheese Video.

The chopped cheese is a New York City staple monumental to the city’s urban culture. When food tourism company Insider Foods gave a tone-deaf review of the sandwich, it hit too close to home to ignore. They’re not the first to be insensitive or bastardize the culture surrounding underground foods and pretending that “no one knows about it.” Taco Tuesdays. Sushi Cones. French-owned Cambodian spider restaurants. These tell-tale signs of gentrification have worried locals for years. Insider Food’s Chopped Cheese video was the last straw for Almonte.

Almonte reacts saying ‘this is how it starts.’ Hipsters and yuppies–middle class transplants from the Midwestern states– run to enjoy the hustle-hard urban aesthetic of the hood. Simple things like cheap food and rent entice them to flood to places they’re overqualified to live in. Financially privileged and oblivious to the existence of the poor, they call the price of a chopped cheese a “steal.” The irony of callingit a ‘steal’ foreshadows the thieving nature of Columbus syndrome, a plague coined by Spike Lee to describe a plague of visitors claiming to discover a cultural element locals have indulged in for years.

Hipsters Invade Harlem after the Chopped Cheese Video

At first glance, Insider’s viral Chopped Cheese video sending an influx of tourists seems to be something that would boost Harlem’s local economy. However, kids who would look forward to buying the chopped cheese po’ boy sandwich now face the reality that the prices may skyrocket now that a bunch of White middle-class yuppies will walk in the store bragging about what a “steal” it is. The commodification of edgy underground perks that ‘no one knows about’ becomes an overpriced tourist attraction that business owner’s can exploit at will, leaving locals out of the loop.

‘It’s not supposed to be revolutionary. It’s a f*ckin sandwich.”

But is it really just a sandwich? The chopped cheese video’s sharp rise in popularity has turned what was “just a sandwich” into a symbol of our fleeting culture. Bourgeois Upper East Side stores will soon make their new-and-improved organic, gluten-free, non-GMO chopped cheese on a panini and replace the Arizona with a Naked juice.  The bodegas filling up with White people that treat the Hood like a sideshow at the carnival is a mere microcosm of gentrification. Something as simple as a chopped up burger on a hero has now allowed people to understand gentrification on a smaller, simpler scale. Even a year and a half later, the chopped cheese video continues to resurface in the complex conversation of gentrification.

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