Harlem

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.

 

Christmas Prank on New Yorker Gone Wrong

Watch this prank video where a New Yorker gets Timbs for Christmas.

But it goes terribly wrong.

He even mentions how he should have spent Christmas with his main chick. Clearly he hasn’t read the Fuckboy Handbook(TM)L


  • Wifey knowest the desires of thee wellest. Thou shall not spendeth any Holiday — including birthdays — with any mistress, no matter how good the thrussy may beeth.


What New Yorker gets Timbs as a gift and is happy about it? If you’re dating a New Yorker, they probably already own a pair.

Or five.

Jinzo Hits Every Beat

Watch how Jinzo kills this remix to this famous Hip Hop Tutorial Video that became a meme.

Jinzo kills it–per usual. But he makes sure to take it back to his popping roots to show you he never misses a beat.

A Real Life Water Bender (Blaze Yentruoc – Told You Dance Video)

Watch the Blaze Yentruoc Dance Video from Jojo– the star of Almonte’s “The Initiate.”

Almonte recently teamed up with the multi-faceted star of his short film, The Initiate to shoot a freestyle dance video to MELLDU’s “Told You.” The song paints a picture of a modern cowboy walking in a cold food-desert of Harlem to confront all that ever doubted him. The climactic face-off is with his biggest competitor. Himself.

The nature of how this video was shot embodies the vibe of this song. In every take of the Blaze Yentruoc Dance Video, he attempted to best himself after watching the footage over and over. And Over. In the freezing cold. His movements more dynamic with every fleeting minute. Physically fighting to abstain the heat from leaving his body. Blaze’s freeform movements are like something out of a Mortal Kombat Kata sequence. Even finger tuts that looked like waterbending.

Blaze takes the song where his heart wants to take it. The raw passion accentuates every beat of the song’s pulse. As if the beat was dancing to Blaze’s body, as opposed to the converse.

Follow him at @sain0ne

 

 

Just Swipe It Forward Bruh (Comedy Film)

Swipe it Forward. Or it will haunt you.

In this case, literally. We don’t suggest anyone harass anyone to swipe it forward when you leave your metrocard at home the way this guy did… because for every asshole that ignores you, there’s one that will gladly use their unlimited metro to swipe you on.

Timothy “Hann” Rivera (@TimHannRivera) teams up with Almonte for another hilarious satire on the relationship between the homeless and the working class in Harlem. Almonte’s melancholic cinematography adds a dark twist to Tim’s goofy comedy style. “Almonte’s cinematography in the film gives it suspense… a sense of realism,” Tim describes. And we can’t forget Spagety’s (@SpickAndSpan_) incredible improv skills. “Edwin’s acting is scary yet hilarious.”

That Nuyorican  Rican accent though…

Tim explains his inspirations, reminiscing that he “always loved the old school Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger movies & wanted to create something similar.” He continues. “I always use my environment to create stories and thought — wouldn’t it be crazy if there was a scary film based on a Homeless guy that chases a guy for a metrocard swipe?– It’s scary but yet funny because in the film I’m really getting chased for a metrocard swipe… something you don’t see in films.” The ghetto life in Harlem is something you definitely rarely see in films. The satirical part of it all is what a big deal people make about being asked for swipe. In reality, no one is really going to chase anyone for train fare. Especially if they’re already on the train???
Well… unless it’s a cop chasing you for hopping the turnstile. That should be the next one 😉 

How far would you go for a swipe?

Watch the full video here. 

Rise — Boy to King — A Short Story

A King’s conquest for power is interrupted by a boy who looks oddly familiar in this hood creepypasta.

Almonte’s short narrative comes to life with this online audio book. A prequel to “Wack Nikkkas.”

Here’s the transcript:

Hood Creepypasta 1

1      Aight bussit… Per usual, I casually wait for some wealthy settler to pull up off the Metro lackin. A concert at Ward’s Island finished days ago. The hood is a pitstop these ravers gotta take to get to their little events there. So unless there’s some type of event goin on, aint no 12 around here to give them white hipsters and bourgeois niggas somethin to hide behind when them crackheads askin for change… so traffic is type slow. This the perfect time for a come-up since the block aint hot. Any new nigga pull up? It’s gon be just me and him. Lit. So why I see this lil nigga in a fuckin onesie by himself across the platform? First of all, obviously ya pops aint in ya life. My pops never had me wearin some faggot ass onesie. This lil nigga was not no 3 years old. This was a big ass kid. I aint even know they make onesie’s that size. I gotta get rid of this nigga cause he fuckin up my flow and I’m trynna get this comeup. I aint trynna have no extra eyes on my work.
~

2      An hour passes with no trains passin by and this pink panther lookin ass nigga aint gettin on none of these shits. You don’t wanna make a nigga uncomfortable. Promise you. As I cross over, what I thought was a teddy bear in his hand is actually some ugly ass gremlin lookin shit up close. That shit look type softer than a teddy bear though, not even gonna hold you.

“Yerr…” He don’t turn around. Smart lil nigga must be from around here.

~

3      I pull up where he can see me.

“What’s good, bro? Lemme holla at you real quick.” His eyes gaze up without pullin away. Ha. Nigga sad. His eyes tell a story. Not them fearful puppy eyes. It was them eyes from the same dog four years later after his owners hit the lotto and abandoned him in the hood. Sad– yeah — but no fear where there’s nothin to lose.

“You good?”

“Yeah I’m good. You good?” he gettin smart.

“You aint gotta be defensive, I aint trynna press you or nothin. I just see you out here by yaself lookin frantic and shit. ”

“I’m waitin for the train.”
“Don’t you think if ya train was comin it woulda been here by now? You been out here for an hour and a half. ”

“How you know I been out here for an hour and a half?”

“Cause I’m waitin for a train too. I got business to do.”

“We just might be waitin for the same train sir. It’s comin”

“My train comin. But I heard trains on this side aint runnin today.”
“I gotta get home.”
“You sound like you from here.”
“I am, but this aint my home.”

“Haha. Once you from Harlem, this don’t stop bein ya home. Don’t get Hollywood lil nigga. You might as well cop a Telly or some shit. Aint no trains on this side, B. I’m tellin you. You familiar wit the area anyway. You should be aware that lurkin out a lil too late for a lil nigga like you could be lethal. For all you know I coulda been some goon trynna snatch ya pockets and you out here all comfortable and shit.”

~

4      “Aint nothin to get snatched. And you don’t look like a goon to me. I aint scared.”

“That’s what make niggas like me dangerous. Tourists come out here and love an eccentric lightskin nigga like me. They don’t see shit comin. All these darkskin niggas dyin and gettin locked up cause they worried about lookin hard. You lucky I aint one of them goons or I woulda popped on ya pussy ass. I know you aint got shit in ya pockets. You from here. You a popped nigga just like me. You either make this shit ya home–no– make yourself King, or you make yourself the doormat. Aint no in between Heaven and Hell. And you And what’s Hell to Satan if he got his throne? See you? You the product of your environment. You just a bitch ass fallen angel that’s scared to call himself a demon.
~


5      “This the Hood, nigga. So you a hood nigga. And that’s that. I could say all this smart shit, keep it classy, stayin calm and collected with you. But at the end of the day, I’m a hood nigga. And that’s all you ever be even if you do just so happen to be able to catch a train out of here. Leave all you want. The Hood aint ever leavin you. Now, scram nigga. Aint no trains on this side. I’ma keep it one hunnit wit you. I’m waitin for a come up.”

He won’t budge.

~

6     “Nah I’m good. I’ma keep on waitin for this train. I’ma be tight if I leave right now and 5 minutes later I’m down the block hearin the train passin by. Good things come to those who wait. You do you, and I’ma do me. I aint no snitch. But you gon have to kill me before you take me off this strip.”  Niggas go hard for the most unrewardin shit. Some little niggas just never learn. Fuck it.

~

7      Lo and behold just 10 minutes later I feel a gust of wind crescendo across my face. The bats finally shriek for the first time in decades. Their voices drown in the blinding roars of the headlights. He still got them eyes. A dog lost in a cave finally seein his way out.

“Looks like ya ride out the cave is here fam.”

This hour and a half felt like my whole life waitin to eat. Cause it was.

The train stops. The few-second delay between the train stoppin and the doors slidin open seem like forever. Cause it is.

~


8      “The train is out of service.” He holds back tears. The doors never open

“Sorry kid. This train aint meant for you.”

Watchin the sun set against the train’s reflective canvas was like watchin a drop of blood fade on a cube of ice.

“You such a goon. Let’s hijack this train,” he challengin me.

“Haha a King knows how to pick his battles. Like I said. This train aint for you. And even if it was, you get off that train the same nigga you was when you got on.”

~


9      “Be safe, young blood. Welcome Home. You a bold nigga. Don’t lose sight of the light… But you gotta survive before you revolutionize.”

 

Photography by @Call_Me_CJ (Craig Steely Jr.)

This NYC Bum Is Savage AF

There’s a key difference between a New York beggar and these New York Bums.

Harassment.

On 125th– infamous for extreme poverty and addiction— the hustle is strong. Sell metro cards. Sell phones. Sell ass. Panhandle. Do what you have to do to survive that doesn’t violate the autonomy of another. Intimidating people into handing over their money is intolerable. And you can’t simply ignore superbums. Oftentimes they will follow or continue harassing you if you don’t turn around and engage them assertively. And even that doesn’t work sometimes.

It isn’t just a problem for snobby gentrifiers. I’ve witnessed countless locals being cursed out or damn near followed for half a block. Borderline coercive robbery. The aggressive catcalling and intimidation of women should not be dismissed as ‘hood culture.’ 

That shit is CORNY.

Watch the Pen Clique Break Down Almonte’s ‘Harlem Round Midnight’

These three cats nail the symbolism and juxtaposed sensory manipulation. Loud stench. Sour sight. Also — how the hell did Alpharaoh know the parka jacket was from Uniqlo? Anyway. There’s no question about their comprehension in their Harlem Round Midnight review. Let’s talk about the dynamic of their biases in relation to each other while formulating their final opinions.

The Pen Clique’s Harlem Round Midnight review is how all reaction videos should look. Set up with three different perspectives:

The Visionary — The Realist — The Empath/Dualist

All equally paramount. The Visionary — Kuya– says, “Wow I could definitely see where you’re trying to take this.” The Realist — Daniel — says, “This could have hit much harder and needs more.” The Empath/Dualist — Alpharoah — as an audience member says, “This isn’t very satisfying after such a setup.” But also says as a writer, “this makes sense and is done purposely by the writer.” He resonates with both. And he pretty much nails why the ending is so anticlimactic.  Alpharaoh notes how the beginning feels very personal and then becomes impersonal. He’s right.

Harlem Round Midnight’s style is inspired by the naturalistic style of short story To Build a Fire by Jack London. Spoiler Alert. He dies. The world keeps on spinning. The second to last line citing, ” the stars that leaped and danced and shone brightly in the cold sky. ” There is no punch line. No twist. The world lives on as is despite the suffering of man. In Harlem Round Midnight, “Some dreams never end” nods toward there being no resolution to the dreams and desires for those in poverty. Their dreams more often remaining just that. Dreams. “The night sweats faces– sodden in evaporated moonlight.” The faces of those afflicted by poverty remain soaked in the sweat created by this seemingly never-ending night. Admittedly, it was quite a fluffy way to put it. Word-swag as Daniel put it.

Something’s missing, though.

At 11:17, The Realist says something a bit convoluted. “I want some concise, contextual something. I want something that’s going to tie this into…um… something…” Some would just dismiss a criticism like this as just ‘hating.’ But it’s not. It’s very valid and relateable point. You can tell when something is missing. Oftentimes we don’t know what that something is. We just know we are left hanging; dissatisfied.  The Visionary explains that it’s probably exactly what the artist intended. While saying, ‘Well its like that on purpose’ is an easy cop out to defend something you like, Kuya isn’t wrong. Contemporary narratives have made us used to resolution and uniformity in works of art to the point that something always has to have a concise ending. But Harlem Round Midnight is meant to be more immersive than it is entertaining. The melancholic, open-ended nature of the piece is purposely meant to put the audience in the same, dissatisfied mood as the characters in Harlem Round Midnight. The Empath reminds them of how relateable this feeling is to the reality of people’s feelings everyday in cities like LA and NYC. This isn’t just a movie. It’s reality.

The Realist seems undecided as to whether he likes it or not. Mediocre. Yet Lit? It’s Okay. But it’s DOPE too. No shade. This was literally me after watching movies with rage-inducing endings like Gone Girl. Spoiler alert, he stays with her crazy ass.

That’s It.

 The three all seemed to enjoy Harlem Round Midnight from the start. But then unanimously had “That’s it?” written on their foreheads. Yeah. That’s it, man. It sucks, but that really is it. This poem shouldn’t make you feel cool or entertained afterward. I want you to feel how I felt when I wrote this, living surrounded by this reality every day. Empty, dissatisfied. Or maybe it really is just a shitty ending. You mostly remember the ending of a piece. It makes sense that The Realist is simultaneously intrigued yet disappointed in it.

Rate from 1-10?

Not a huge fan of putting numbers on art.

There are plenty of films I’ve watched with 44% on Rotten Tomatoes that were amazing. Plenty of pieces I’ve watched with 80% that were an absolute snooze-fest. There’s no truly honest way to rate something as subjective as poetry. Especially if you’re in a room full of a bunch of people that might influence your rating.

A critic admitting to enjoying something everyone else hates ruins their ‘credibility.’ Especially in the gaming industry where many companies are paid to review games. But what if they just genuinely enjoyed something no one else did?

I could never be offended by someone giving me a 2 and another critic giving me a 9. A piece of art resonates differently with every person. I would hope that poetry wouldn’t mirror the film industry’s elitist attitude of “You scored low. You’re just a hater. Can’t trust your judgement” VS “You scored too high. You’re too easily impressed. Can’t trust your judgement.” Sometimes people just don’t like things because they’re not feeling it. We can be as ‘objectively’ good by using all the literary devices and punchlines we want. But for some, it may not resonate with them. It is natural for them to not enjoy it.

Maybe the ending turned off the Realist and he simply doesn’t like it, but he feels the need to give it a decent score because he doesn’t want to seem like an asshole. Maybe the Visionary wanted to rank it higher but didn’t want to seem like a dickrider. Too many variables influence people’s number ratings for it to be a measure of something being enjoyable or not. I enjoyed Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles more than Dunkirk.

Sue me.

I probably won’t watch Dunkirk ever again. But I could definitely get smacc’d and watch TMNT with my boys.

But I get it. It seems each have a background in Slam poetry, which is a genre with a heavy expectation of punchlines and flamboyant delivery. The Visionary also points out that this is a poem written for visuals. Not Slam. If you try to separate the visuals from the text, neither will be satisfying. Because both are poetry. Harlem Round Midnight could never rank in a Slam Poetry contest (it’s too short anyway). And it doesn’t work for radio/podcast as Alpharaoh mentioned as well. You can’t take the lettuce and tomatoes off a Big Mac and rate it as a stand-alone burger.

The Visionary’s judgement is based on influence.

When people say Kendrick is the best MC, we know that we can find someone down the block in our hood that can beat him in a rap battle. The subjective influence of setting standards is also part of that praise.  We know 2001: A Space Odyssey isn’t the best of it’s kind. But it’s iconic because it created the new wave of mixing philosophy & symbolism into Sci-Fi. Like Kendrick made “Woke” rap mainstream again. You can be very talented and even skilled at something. But what really leaves your footprint after you die is your influence and if you change the game. Kuya sees this potential beyond the piece itself. What it can become for social media and giving poetry a wider reach.  The sky and beyond. Daniel wants to stay down to earth and be realistic about what practically makes something a good poem. The Empath says anything after this has to be FIRE.

When we watch things alone, we are all three of these people. These perspectives mirror the stages artists circle through when they experience another artist’s body of work.

 

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.

Ghetto Jeffro Unboxes Ghost White Timbs

The Ghost White Timbs are an icon of Hood Rich Culture.

This the first time I dropped two bucks on some sh*t some hating ass peasant will probably step on anyway. Why did I get the Ghost White Timbs? Look good; feel good, am I right?

Kinda. Not really.

I know I coulda got White boots from any other brand like H&M for 50 cash. But I don’t f*cks with fugazi sh*t. I’ma keep it a shtack. I haven’t worn Timbs since I was in middle school. Honestly, they blister my ankles and they played out. Everybody and their moms was rockin constructs. Issa lazy way to complete a navy blue color coordination. But Ghost White Timbs that make my eggshell-painted section 8 apartment look yellower than my teeth after eating two chopped cheeses back to back? I had to cop. Come on now.

Keep it 100. You hatin on me for one of three reasons:

  1. I gets more money than you.
  2. They limited edition and you was waitin til next Friday for your check. D*ckhead.
  3. You from the Bronx.

 

 

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