Since he last spoke to the Source, Jordan K. Paul, born and raised on St. Croix, has accomplished all of the goals he listed last August to produce a film and enter it in a film festival, despite obstacles thrown in his path.
In addition to raising the $30,000 needed to write, direct, produce, and film a short feature, Animals, he has entered the 15-minute short in several film festivals. Micheaux in Los Angeles is the first and, therefore, the premiere of the film. Paul was asked about the name — Animals.
“In the film — it’s a true story — one of the police officers, when he pulled me over, he gave me this whole speech, speaking about people in jail and how once you’re in jail, you lose your humanity and become an animal,” he said. “It’s the center of the whole film because it was such a strange moment.”
The event at the center of the film was a day when his roommate gave Paul, a new resident, a tour of Los Angeles on their bicycles. When they crossed a railroad on a sidewalk, a police car pulled them over and chastised them for something. Paul said the roommate resisted the officer. Then a second officer arrived and immediately headed towards Paul with his baton in hand, “like it was me that did something.”
“I could have died that night,” he said. “Looking back — that was dangerous.”
The rest of the film demonstrates how Paul, raised in the Caribbean, where he was a majority and experienced no racism, learned abruptly about white privilege and systemic racism on the U.S. mainland.
“The short is all about reactions. It’s about (my) reaction to the other three. The roommate, the first officer, the second officer are all doing things that are all new. New to me,” he said.
Paul’s first obstacle to making his film was raising $30,000. Originally, he estimated the cost would be $16,000. Donations through SeedandSpark accomplished more than half of the funding, while investors and other donations made up the difference.
Paul’s goal of producing the film in two days was technically reached, but there was a four-day delay from the initial start day. At the last minute, the location — a park — was closed because his crew, at 23 people, was more than allowed by the permit. After calling several studios, the film was shot in the back lot of a studio, depleting their funds an unexpected $4,000 — but escaping the usual $16,000 charge.
Losing a main actor to a COVID-19 diagnosis on the first day of filming was another high hurdle. Fortunately, a backup actor, Dallis Seeker, was able to study and learn the script between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. in time for the first camera roll. In the end, the film was completed in the two days, as Paul forecasted.
Now that the film is ready to view, Animals has been entered in several festivals. The premiere of the film and the first festival is The Micheaux Film Festival in Los Angeles from July 10-16. Short and feature-length films will be shown during the fest. There will be all of the glamour and glitter with a red carpet and directors will answer questions after the screenings.
The biggest difference between Paul’s film and other films is the Virgin Islands, he said, and his “very unique perspective.”
“I grew up not thinking about my skin color — not thinking about racism,” he said. “Moving to the states, I had to realize that my skin color kinda mattered. That’s what the film is telling.”
The film festival’s theme is “outliers,” which fits the theme of his film, Paul said.
The more the film is viewed at the festivals by producers, directors, and managers, the better the chance for Paul to be recognized and have opportunities to work in his chosen field. He said he is not interested in acting now, but maybe later in his life.
Paul plans to continue writing scripts and directing. He has already written two feature-length scripts and plans to produce another short film this year. The director said he is targeting feature-length films and television.
“You know what they say? Write what you know,” he said. “It all depends if Hollywood is ready for some more Caribbean representation.”
Paul hopes to bring his film home in a few months for Virgin Islanders to view.