In Hollywood, they say if you don't see movies or roles out there that properly represent you, write them yourself. That's what filmmaker Cess Silvera did with his latest film, Overtown, which is set to film in Miami this month.
Silvera, whose previous work includes Shottas (2002) and G.E.D. (2009), likes to write, direct, and produce his films, and Overtown is no different. The filmmakers are keeping most details under wraps. But LaShawnna Stanley, who did the casting for the film, can promise two things: It'll be a true-to-life Miami tale, and it'll star Chad Johnson, the artist formerly known as Chad Ochocinco.
Stanley, CEO of Ethnicity Models, Talent and Casting, handled the casting for the film and is now assisting with the filming. She describes the film as "a story about three unlikely friends who come from different racial backgrounds with one thing in common: surviving the streets of Overtown, one of Miami's grittiest neighborhoods." The three main characters are rich with dreams but poor in finances, she explains; "seduced by Miami's nightlife and drug trade, they get mixed up in it all and lose a lot along the way -- mostly their innocence, naiveté, and dreams."
Stanley admits the streets are tough, and people living outside its borders are unaware of what really goes down in Overtown. Silvera's Overtown "will help shed light on this historic town... this preeminent 'colored town' that [once] had the makings of a small Harlem, New York."
Some might compare Overtown to the recent Fruitvale Station, a film that also depicts "the struggles of the streets and how innocent people can get caught up," as Stanley puts it. But Stanley also points out how Fruitvale and Overtown are very different in context -- one taking place in California's Bay Area, and the other across the country in Miami.
In fact, one of the best parts about Overtown is that it is being filmed right here in the Magic City, Stanley says. "It is very important that this movie is filmed in Miami because it is about Miami and letting people know what [our city] is about from other viewpoints, like Cess Silvera's." From big action films like Iron Man 3 to the handful of reality shows that shoot on location here, Hollywood has a big say in how people outside Miami view this city, so we're in need of a more heartfelt movie, one with fewer explosions and catfights. Stanley also hopes that filming on location in Miami will "encourage other film projects to film here as well, putting more local talent to work and bringing in revenue for the city."
Johnson and Stanley during pre-production.
Part of that "local talent" is casting some big names with local roots. Headline-grabbing former football star Chad Johnson, the Miami native formerly known as Chad Ochocinco, is one of the stars, she says. Also appearing are Miriam Colon, who played Tony Montana's mother in Scarface, Keyshia Ka'oir, a "video vixen," and Bushwick Bill from the Geto Boys.
Stanley says she can't give away any details regarding the characters -- no spoilers -- but she does say she's excited to see "the list of greats keep growing."
UPDATE: We received character bios from the people producing Overtown shortly after this post was published. According to them, Johnson will play a character named Dusty:
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The character Dusty is good-looking, confident, and street-smart. Dusty is the definition of Overtown, a survivor. Always focused on money and how to get more, his attitude leads him and his friends into some big trouble. He's got a big heart and loves hard, but greed clouds his judgement.
Filming for Overtown is scheduled to begin September 16 in Overtown, Miami Beach, and other locations around town. Production is scheduled to take about a month, so if you want to catch any celebrity sightings or accidentally end up as an extra, follow Chad, Cess, LaShawnna, and Ethnicity Models on Twitter in the hopes of some sweet filming tips.