Q&A wit’ ‘Good Kidd’ director Jamari Perry

Jamari Perry

by Minister of Information JR Valrey

“Good Kidd,” directed by Oakland native Jamari Perry, is one of the most promising short films selected to screen in the San Francisco Black Film Festival this year. The film deals with themes of adolescence, bullying, peer pressure, gun violence and masculinity. It’s a coming of age story that most young Black men from impoverished, drug ridden environments call their lives. It just happened to miraculously make it to the screen.

Most Black men have had to weigh at least once in their lives whether the price of respect in the neighborhood is worth what it could cost – jail time or death. We often hear about and celebrate the guys who have gambled; we rarely hear the unglorified stories of men who think before they act and refuse to deal with their lives like a game of cee-lo.

It’s a coming of age story that most young Black men from impoverished, drug ridden environments call their lives.
Most Black men have had to weigh at least once in their lives whether the price of respect in the neighborhood is worth what it could cost – jail time or death.

“Good Kidd” is the story of a child at the crossroads of his life and identity. One wrong move in a fraction of a second can change the trajectory of his life forever. Director Jamari Perry is an up and coming talent who told this story with the precision of someone who has been close to this reality. From the feel of “Good Kidd,” she must not have just heard or read about it. Check her out in her own words as she discusses her most recent film, “Good Kidd.”

M.O.I. JR: What made you want to direct a film like “Good Kidd”? Why is this a story that you wanted to be a part of telling?

Jamari Perry: I wanted to direct “Good Kidd” to highlight a young Black boy struggling with ideologies around masculinity. “Good Kidd” is a story that distills the myths around gun violence in the Black community and showcases the problems with toxic masculinity. This was extremely important for me because I have three brothers who include a twin brother.

M.O.I. JR: How did you assemble such a team to get the look and sound that you wanted?

Jamari Perry: I assembled my team by first bringing in my producing partner, Katrelle Kindred, whom I’ve worked with on many projects. She and I interviewed many people for various positions but most importantly we wanted to bring in local talent and crew since we were coming from LA and shooting in Oakland. Therefore, we combined our network in Los Angeles with a number of cast and team members in the Bay Area to fill out the team.

M.O.I. JR: How long did it take you, after initially reviewing the script, to finish shooting and wrap-up post production? What was the most difficult part about directing such a film as this?

Jamari Perry: It took us close to two years between shooting the film and post production since myself and my producers went into production on another short film soon after production on “Good Kidd,” which was a very time sensitive project. So “Good Kidd” had to share the attention with that project. The most difficult part about directing “Good Kidd” was making sure that our child actors were able to feel comfortable on set with the stunts, dialogue and strict schedule.

M.O.I. JR: Who are some of the directors who have inspired you?

Jamari Perry: Directors who have inspired me are Charles Burnett, Dee Rees and Ryan Coogler.

M.O.I. JR: Why did you end the film on a note where the audience doesn’t know what really happened? Why did you leave us in suspense?

Jamari Perry: I wanted the audience to come to their own conclusion at the end of the film. Much like our own lives, we have to make our own decisions and live with those consequences, so leaving the audience with Justin making a clear decision which will affect him for the rest of his life felt most fitting for the end.

I wanted the audience to come to their own conclusion at the end of the film. Much like our own lives, we have to make our own decisions and live with those consequences, so leaving the audience with Justin making a clear decision which will affect him for the rest of his life felt most fitting for the end.

As for the other characters, I chose to allow the audience to interpret what was left for them, which was nothing more than the cyclical nature of violence. Ultimately, I like to allow my audience to be collaborators in my storytelling. It also leaves room for great discussion.

M.O.I. JR: What do you want young people to get out of this film?

Jamari Perry: I want young people to understand their own strength and that their power can come from a place of consciousness. I also would like for young people to reconsider bullying and embrace their differences.

M.O.I. JR: Did you go to school for filmmaking?

Jamari Perry: I went to the University of Southern California for television and film production. I had a great experience and learned so much about the technical aspects of filmmaking. However, the best part of film school was building my network and growing relationships that would benefit me for the rest of my life.

M.O.I. JR: Why did you set this story in Oakland?

Jamari Perry: I set this story in Oakland because I was born and raised there and wanted to highlight the beauty of the city while telling an important and youthful story.

M.O.I. JR: What are you working on currently in the cinema world?

Jamari Perry: Currently, I am producing feature films, short films and web series that range from drama to comedy and documentary. I am also producing and directing a national media campaign that covers violence prevention and voters’ rights.

M.O.I. JR: How can people stay up with your work? How could people see “Good Kidd” in the future?

Jamari Perry: I can be found on all social platforms under jperryfilms or by Google searching Jamari Perry. “Good Kidd” is still awaiting film festival acceptance in various cities but we are looking forward to distribution on television and digital platforms this year. Also, people can visit the website for my production company, Red Locust Entertainment, LLC, at
https://www.redlocustent.com/.

 The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey, journalist, author and filmmaker, can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com or on Facebook. And tune in to BlockReportTV on YouTube.