By Eric Campos | September 22, 2005

Do you remember the group Digable Planets? I remember the group Digable Planets. Now, Ishmael Butler from Digable Planets can be found playing a slacker in Mad Matthewz’ “Men Without Jobs.” Get ready for lazy!

Is “Men Without Jobs” based on any personal experiences of yours?
MWJ definitely stems from my own struggles to overcome the fear I had of commiting to a career as a writer and filmmaker. While I managed to break through, many of my friends, who are incredibly talented artists, seem to be stuck in a rut, working dead-end jobs and finding less and less time to pursue their creative endeavors. I made this film to speak to them and anyone with a creative passion who may be paralyzed by fear.

How did you assemble your cast?
The roles of Oz (Bonz Malone) and Junie (Andre Royo) were written with the actors in mind. Bonz and Andre are both friends and Andre was in my last short Big Bank Take Little Bank. I wrote Ish with actor Ishmael Butler in the back of my mind but wasn’t even sure if he would be interested in acting. Ishmael was the founding member of rap group Digable Planets and his personal and musical style seemed to reflect the character of Ish. I started making some phone calls and found out that he appeared in a short film that was at Sundance 2002. I tracked down a copy of the short and knew immediately that he was perfect for the part. I finally managed to get in touch with Ishmael and sent him a script. He called me a few days later and said to let him know when I needed him to come out to New York (he’d moved back to Seattle from Brooklyn). The role of Veronica (Anita Kopacz) was the most difficult to cast. I’d auditioned a slew of really talented actresses who just weren’t right for the role. Two weeks before rehearsal I spotted Anita dancing in a club and asked if she was an actress. She looked skeptical when I told her I was casting the female lead in my debut feature but took my card anyway. She gave me a call the next day (after checking me out on the internet!) and agreed to audition. As her performance in the film demonstrates – she nailed it!

What was the biggest lesson you learned while making this film?
The biggest lesson I learned making “Men Without Jobs” was to always trust your instincts. Independent filmmaking is largely about problem solving, due to the fact that your resources are so limited. You have to make some pretty tough decisions and you have to make them quickly. I learned to examine every option and every scenario available to me and to make decisions with confidence and faith that things will turn out for the best. Hopefully I will get to share some of the other lessons I learned in the book I’m writing, Men Without Budgets – The Making of “Men Without Jobs”.

Where else can people look for “Men Without Jobs”?
MWJ will screen next July in competition at the 2004 American Black Film Festival in Miami and based on the overwhelmingly positive response the film has received so far, I’m optimistic that we’ll secure a distributor relatively soon – bringing it to a much wider audience.

What’s up next for you?
I’ve written three other screenplays that have already generated some interest from the studios, so we’ll see. Whether or not my next project ends up being a studio film or an independent, I’ll definitely be shooting by next year.

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