Stomp the Yard

Stomp the Yard
When DJ (Columbus Short), a troubled youth from Los Angeles, moves to Atlanta
to attend Truth University, he discovers “stepping,” the age-old style of dance traditionally
done in African-American Fraternities, where teams demonstrate complex moves and
create rhythmic sounds by using their bodies. DJ’s raw talent and hip-hop inspired moves
quickly place him at the center of a fierce rivalry between two fraternities, the winner of
which will be determined in front of a sold-out arena at the annual stepping championships.
But before he can help his teammates, he must battle his own demons and learn the true
meaning of brotherhood.
A compelling drama about the quest for individuality and the power of fraternity,
Stomp the Yard features some of the most original and exhilarating dance performances
ever filmed. Starring Columbus Short (Save the Last Dance 2, Accepted) and Meagan Good
(Waist Deep, Roll Bounce), Stomp the Yard is directed by award-winning music video and
commercial director Sylvain White (I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer), who brings
his innovative visual style and explosive energy to the production.
When an urban dance battle ends in violence, champion street dancer DJ Williams
(Columbus Short) travels from the underground clubs of inner city Los Angeles to the
moneyed precincts of Atlanta’s prestigious, historically black Truth University. Although his
athleticism and ambition have made him a top competitor in the gritty world of street
dancing, DJ feels out of place at Truth, with its elite fraternities and expectations of
professional success.
It is in this alien environment that DJ discovers the world of stepping. An AfricanAmerican tradition that has evolved from the centuries-old African Boot Dance, it combines
precise dance steps with chants and percussive hand and foot movements. At Truth, it also
plays a pivotal role in the longstanding rivalry between two campus fraternities.
When DJ shows off his dance skills at a local club, he attracts the attention of
Truth’s top fraternities and campus beauty April (Meagan Good), setting off a vicious feud
with April’s boyfriend Grant (Darrin Henson) – who also happens to be a star stepper for
Mu Gamma Xi.
After DJ decides to join rival Theta Nu Theta, his bold street style revitalizes the
decades long competition between the frats and challenges the stepping supremacy of Mu
Gamma. But his arrogance and self-centeredness quickly put DJ at odds with his new
fraternity brothers. With Grant plotting to have him expelled just before the most important
competition of the year, DJ must put aside his pride and learn the true meaning of fraternity.
In a breathtaking finale, the two teams square off in an epic, freestyle battle that propels
stepping to a thrilling new level.
“This isn’t just about you. This is about all of us.”
– Duron Williams, Stomp the Yard
While its electrifying dance sequences form the centerpiece of Stomp the Yard,
producer Will Packer and executive producer Rob Hardy are equally proud of the film’s
multi-layered storyline, a coming-of-age drama interwoven with elements of romance, class
conflict and the rich tradition of African American college fraternities.
“DJ Williams, the main character, is a kid from the streets of Los Angeles who
knows nothing about the college world, who is transformed through his involvement with a
fraternity,” says Packer.
“This film has so many different components,” he continues. “You have the love
story between DJ and April, the rivalry between the fraternities – which results in some
unforgettable stepping – and ultimately, you have the lasting bond of brotherhood that DJ
builds in the Theta Nu Theta fraternity. He initially thinks that it's all about stepping, but
what he learns is so much deeper.”
Although Director Sylvain White was born and raised in France, he too has a
personal connection to stepping. “My father was a fraternity member and stepped when he
was in college. Being able capture it in a feature film for the first time is a really special thing
for me. As a director, I have to be passionate about the subject. That came very naturally
with stepping. It’s the main reason I wanted to be involved in this film.”
White, whose other feature credits include I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer
and the upcoming The Trunk, was also attracted to the positive tone of the story. “It's about
college life and it's about very intelligent people. It has a simple, clean love story, but with all
these layers. The two characters come from such opposite backgrounds that just the fact that
they come together is a strong statement in itself.”
Because of the personal connection each of the filmmakers had to stepping and the
Greek system, they were determined to make the most authentic movie possible.
“Mainstream America isn’t really familiar with stepping – yet,” says Packer. “We had
a chance to create a rich view of this world that is relatable to people who know nothing
about it. At the same time, even stepping aficionados will find it realistic.”
“There hasn't been a film that has attempted a realistic portrayal of AfricanAmerican college life since Spike Lee did School Daze in 1988,” he adds. “We try to be
authentic and true to not only the stepping, which is spectacular, but also the goals of these
organizations, which is to aid and serve the community.”
Hardy observes that the heart of the movie is revealed in the pivotal scene in which
DJ examines the photo exhibit in Heritage Hall. “When DJ goes through Heritage Hall and
sees all the different fraternity and sorority members from Martin Luther King to Rosa Parks
to Dr. Betty Shabazz and Michael Jordan, it provides a bridge from the great leaders of the
past to the astronauts, businesspeople, entertainers and politicians of today. And, just like on
the step team, we all have to get together and combine our individual strengths to become
one successful unit. I hope in some small way our film gets that idea across.”
“Trust me. I know how to play it.” – DJ Williams
Director Sylvain White knew there was no room for compromise when it came to
finding the astonishingly talented performers he needed to realize his vision of Stomp the
Yard as an unforgettable marriage of drama and dance.
“The single most important part of making any film is casting, and this movie
offered an exceptional challenge,” says White. “We needed actors who could handle the
emotional demands of these roles and also be able to dance at an extraordinarily high level.
There are no dance doubles in this movie.”
White and the film’s producers took their search nationwide to find an actor who
had the star quality, acting talent and dance skills to bring the character of DJ Williams to
“When Columbus Short did the scene for us, I was blown away. His acting was
exceptional, his screen presence was exceptional. I thought to myself, please, please, I hope
he can dance. I asked him the question and he just looked at me and smiled.”
Short had already appeared on the big screen in Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds
and Accepted, as well as making regular television appearances. He began his professional
career with the Broadway tour of Savion Glover’s immensely popular dance extravaganza,
“Stomp,” before returning to his Los Angeles roots and becoming a popular choreographer
and tour director for A-list singing stars including Britney Spears, Ashanti and Brandy.
Short found a great deal to work with in the character of DJ. “DJ has a lot of levels
to him and that inner conflict makes him a great character to play. He’s on a journey through
this brand new environment. He discovers stepping for the first time. He discovers love for
the first time.”
The challenge of stepping was another attraction for Short. “I was on the road with
‘Stomp’ for two years. So even though I hadn’t stepped before, I felt like I came with the
tools for this already in my belt. Sylvain, the choreographers, all the dancers and I worked
hard and we've spliced together this hybrid of hip-hop and stepping that I can't even
describe; it’s so different.”
Executive producer Rob Hardy says that upon meeting Short, the filmmakers knew
immediately they had found the right actor to play their main character. “We needed
somebody with the swagger and confidence to represent this street kid, but at the same time
enough of the moves and dance skills to just wow you. Columbus totally blew us away with
his dancing. As an actor, he had the intensity, he had the sincerity and he had the edge to
win the audience over immediately.
“He was amazing to work with,” continues Hardy. “He came to the set with energy
and ideas, and he collaborated brilliantly with the choreographers. He came in one day and
said he wanted to jump through the air and they made it happen. When you see the shot,
you think there’s no way they did that without wires, but it’s all Columbus.”
Next, the filmmakers needed to find a worthy foil for DJ. To play the pivotal role of
Grant, DJ’s rival in love and stepping, they turned to Darrin Henson.
“I knew of Darrin from his work on ‘Soul Food,’” says White. “He is a dancer as
well as an actor. I was looking someone who was a genius at both and I found just the guy
who could do it.”
In addition to playing Lem Van Adams, street hustler turned husband, father and
businessman, for three seasons on the hit Showtime drama “Soul Food,” Henson is a
talented dancer, choreographer and director who has worked with such artists as Jennifer
Lopez, Britney Spears and N-Sync.
“With Darrin signed on, we had these two juggernauts of the dancing scene going up
against each other,” says Hardy. “It was a given that they’d be explosive together.”
Even with his extensive dance and choreography experience, Henson had a lot to
learn when came to stepping – and he had to learn it fast. “I was born and raised in the
Bronx, and my style was street dancing. My awareness of stepping was just from seeing it at
colleges. I had never even tried it, but I‘ve always loved drumming. I could see similarities
between the two in the way you have to keep two rhythms going at the same time. That was
my way into stepping.”
Although Grant is clearly the antagonist in Stomp the Yard, Henson does not see
his character as a purely bad guy. “Grant is a dynamic individual who is in the position of
protecting his reputation in school, and his relationship with April, who seems to be
developing an interest in DJ. His frat brothers are depending on him to lead them to their
eighth victory in the annual Step Show. Grant is the type of man who demands excellence
of himself, and his brothers. He's well loved and very well respected, and he wants to
maintain that.”
The next role to fill was April, the beautiful and privileged co-ed who catches DJ’s
eye his first day on campus. Meagan Good, a young actress with an enviable resume, was
perfect for the role, says the director. Good began her career at the age of four and has
appeared in films including Waist Deep, Roll Bounce, The Cookout, Deliver Us from Eva and Eve’s
“Meagan brought elements to her character that I never anticipated,” says White
“She's one of the smartest actors I've ever come across. She brings in really good ideas, and I
totally trust both her instincts and her intellectual take on the film.”
Hardy concurs: “Meagan brings a wealth of experience to the table. Her character
helps D.J. along in his journey, but she's also got some important things that she's got to deal
with herself.”
Putting together of a crew of frat brothers who could keep up with Short and
Henson’s dancing prowess also required a nationwide talent hunt. Actor and musician Laz
Alonso was hired for the role of Zeke, leader of rival fraternity Mu Gamma Xi. He had
previously appeared in films including Constantine, All Souls Day: Dia de los Muertos,
Disappearing Acts and Jarhead, but he had no training as a dancer. White says, “Laz was
relentless in his dedication. He rehearsed and studied and brought himself up to their level.”
Brian White, who plays Sylvester, big brother at DJ’s fraternity, had trained as a
dancer but worked primarily as an actor, starring in The Family Stone, opposite Diane Keaton,
Sarah Jessica Parker, Dermot Mulroney, Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams and Claire Danes,
and with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the Independent Spirit Award-nominated film, Brick.
“Brian had to go back to his roots for this movie,” according to the director. “His character
has to be one of the best steppers and the training he went through was amazing.”
Filling out the brotherhood are Def Jam platinum recording artist Ne-Yo in his
acting debut as Rich Brown and Jermaine Williams (Fat Albert, “The Jersey”) as Noel. Jive
platinum recording artist Chris Brown makes his feature film debut as DJ’s younger brother
“We set the bar extremely high for the cast of this film,” acknowledges White. “And
they came through for us in more ways we ever imagined. I feel very lucky to have the
opportunity to make a movie like this and to be surrounded by such gifted people.”
“Some of you may think you know what steppin’ is, but I assure you that
until you have stepped with Theta Nu, you don’t know s--- about stepping.”
-- Brother Sylvester
“Traditional step dancing to the power of 10,” is how Will Packer, producer of
Stomp the Yard and a former step team member, describes the film’s stepping sequences.
A modernized version of what is known as the African gumboot dance, stepping was
adopted by African-American fraternities and sororities, eventually evolving into an essential
element of the black college experience. With its roots in a rich heritage of performance
through speech, dance and song, stepping dates back more than a century. Because tradition
and ritual are such an integral part of this art form, the filmmakers were especially concerned
with ensuring that the film’s stepping was based in reality.
“Stepping started out with traditional African elements like body percussion and
coordinated group movement,” according to choreographer Dave Scott “The fraternal
organizations added the hardcore precision step moves. For the film, we wanted to update it
by integrating some street style and wild acrobatic moves.”
For Stomp the Yard’s unique blend of traditional stepping and hip hop influenced
dance moves, the filmmakers called in choreographer Dave Scott, who has worked both
with top recording artists and on numerous feature films including Coach Carter and You Got
“When it comes to choreographing dance for film, I don't think there's anyone
better,” says Hardy. “He put a lot of time and energy into pulling it together. In the interest
of absolute authenticity, he brought in a team that included people like Chuck Maldonado,
who's a former college stepper.”
Director Sylvain White agrees. “Dave kept amazing me with everything he did. His
choreography is the anchor of the film. We set out to create a new style of dancing, a
synthesis of a bunch of different styles. It all has this rhythmic, military cadence to it that is
typical of stepping, but it also has the immediacy of hip hop.”
Hardy, too, was excited by the successful fusion of historical stepping with
innovative, acrobatic dance moves. “Traditionalists will appreciate the hardcore stepping, the
lines and the precision. Younger audiences will be familiar with the flipping, the somersaults
and the krumping. But the most exhilarating part is the way they work together to create
something new.”
Before starting work on the film Scott gave himself a crash course in stepping. “I
was familiar with stepping, but when I took this job, I had to immerse myself in it. I started
getting videotapes and DVDs. I went to stepping competitions. I really got to know the
black college world.
“I'm from a hip-hop background and hip-hop dancing is really aggressive,” Scott
continues. “Stepping is just as aggressive, but the rhythms are different. It’s so precise that if
you are off by a millisecond, you've ruined a whole beat for the entire team. So it’s about
really working together, and it’s an important part of the Greek system of molding members
into outstanding individuals.”
Part of the dance casting process was finding characters who would mesh well, says
Scott. But since the performers came from such varied backgrounds and had such different
levels of dance experience, Scott decided to have them all start from zero and put them
through a rigorous training regimen in Atlanta.
“‘Stepping Boot Camp’ is a great way to describe it,” says Will Packer. “The dancers
rehearsed for six weeks solid, until the teams worked like a well-oiled machine. It looks like
they've been at this far longer.”
Scott elaborates: “They had to learn to work as a team. If people messed up, they
had to do pushups. And the end result was that the whole stepping element became like
second nature to them.”
Maldonado, Scott’s second in command, remembers the rigors of boot camp
ruefully. “We'd even started bleeding, our hands were bleeding, we were numb, black and
blue all over the place, it was crazy. It all paid off when we got to the point where we didn't
even feel it any longer.”
For the actors, the experience was irreplaceable. “We spent the first six weeks just
trying to understand what stepping is all about -- discipline, style, power and strength
compressed into a few brief moments on stage,” says actor Brian White.
An unexpected bonus of the boot camp experience was that real teams formed
within the cast and a genuine rivalry emerged between the fictional Mu Gamma Xis and
Theta Nu Thetas.
“We have two warring factions in the film,” explains Packer, “two fraternities that
are competing against each other. Some of what we did to prepare created a real division
within our actors, and a lot of times that came out on set.”
“We tried to reflect their differences in the choreography,” relates Maldonado. “Mu
Gamma Xi’s movements are bigger and more dynamic. With the Theta Nu Thetas, we made
sure that everything was fast and really intricate.”
“Each team lived in a different dorm or hotel,” Hardy elaborates. “They bonded as a
group. The fraternities in the film are fictional, but they created their own fraternity creeds,
chants, steps, insignias and signs. By the time we got ready to shoot, the lines had been
That spirit is on display in the film’s blazing finale. Filmed at the Georgia Tech
Coliseum in front of a live audience of 5,000 people, the Mus and the Thetas face off in
some sensational dance sequences. Everyone involved in the film agrees it is the most
memorable scene in the movie.
“The performances are as elaborate and sophisticated and epic as anything you’ll see
at an awards show or big Broadway production,” says Brian White. “We have incredible sets.
We have cannon explosions, pyrotechnics, special effects and pretty much something from
every dance style in the world on that stage.”
Audiences may be surprised to learn that no wires, special effects or camera tricks
were used to shoot the scene, notes Packer. “Every single dance move in this film was
performed by those actors. Without that, it wouldn’t be the same movie. It wouldn’t have
the richness or the humanity that the actors bring.”
Stepping, which has already begun crossing over from college campuses and major
competitions to high school and elementary school teams, church groups, commercials,
music videos, musicals, award shows and movies, could soon become an international
phenomenon, according to Maldonado. “I'm already getting calls from Japan from people
who want to learn to step.”
“TNT is one of the most powerful explosives
known to man. And that’s what we are.”
– Brother Sylvester, Stomp the Yard.
Because Stomp the Yard’s spectacular dance numbers are organic to the film’s
narrative action, they presented director Sylvain White with the formidable challenge of
creating varied and visually compelling set pieces that are at the same time grounded in
White’s combination of energy and imagination has earned him a reputation as one
of the most dazzlingly original visual stylists in the film business. For Stomp the Yard, he
returned to the lessons learned in his early years directing commercials and music videos.
“My instincts were honed in short format,” says White. “You have a limited amount
of time to make the work stand out. I had to work with the same intensity and the same
attention to detail to create a world that was both real and bigger than life at the same time.”
White knew that choosing the right director of photography was crucial to realizing
his vision for the film. “The obvious choice was to hire someone with experience shooting
music videos,” he says. “I went the opposite route. I wanted someone with a more subtle
sensibility to bring a new visual perspective to the project.”
White chose Scott Kevan, a cinematographer who has worked extensively in both
independent features and documentaries. “Having Scott on board has been a blessing,” says
White. “My background as a music video director and his experience with a more classic
independent film aesthetic fused extraordinarily well. The images that came out of our
collaboration are extremely beautiful and intricate and dynamic, but at the same time
completely real.”
Shot on location in and around Atlanta, the result is a rich and varied canvas that
seamlessly ties the emotional reality of the film to the heightened reality of the dancing.
“Sylvain was brilliant in the way he adjusted for each sequence,” remarks Hardy. “He did it
in a way that was natural to the story. It's not just cut to dance, a little bit of action, then cut
back to dance with a little bit of romance. The end result is that the audience makes DJ’s
journey with him.”
Born in Kansas City, Columbus Short relocated to Los Angeles when he was five
years old and began working in youth theater, including a production of “The Wizard of
Oz.” Short attended the Orange County School of the Arts before joining the Broadway
tour of “Stomp.” When he returned to Los Angeles, he became an in-demand
choreographer and tour director for pop superstars such as Britney Spears, Ashanti and
Brandy before returning to acting. Short’s previous film credits include Steven Spielberg’s
War of the Worlds and Accepted opposite Justin Long. On television, Short has appeared on
“ER,” “Judging Amy” and “That’s So Raven,” as well as in a recurring arc on the NBC series
“Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” He currently resides in Los Angeles.
Born in Panorama City, California, Meagan Good landed her first starring role in a
television commercial at age 4 and to date has completed more than 60 national spots. One
of Hollywood's most sought after young actresses, Good has appeared in the films Waist
Deep opposite Tyrese Gibson, Roll Bounce, The Cookout with Queen Latifah, Biker Boyz;
Deliver Us From Eva, Friday, The Secret Life of Girls; House Party 4 and 3 Strikes. She received
an NAACP Image Award for her performance opposite Samuel L. Jackson in Eve’s Bayou.
Good executive produced and stars in the independent film Miles from Home opposite
actor/director Ty Hodges. Miles from Home premiered at the Pan African Film & Arts
Festival in February 2006 and was screened at the Washington, DC Independent Film
Festival and the Atlanta Film Festival. Good currently lives in California.
NE-YO (Rich Brown)
Songwriter, arranger and vocalist Ne-Yo – a.k.a. Shaffer Smith – was born in
Arkansas and raised in Las Vegas. Ne-Yo began writing songs as a teenager, penning
material for multi-platinum artists such as Mary J. Blige, B2K, Faith Evans and Musiq, as
well as Mario's “Let Me Love You,” one of 2004’s most-played songs on urban radio
stations across the United States. His first release, “In My Own Words,” came out in early
2006 and debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, supported by the hit single “So Sick,” which
has become one of the most played radio songs of the year. The album has currently sold
over 2 ½ million units and is approaching triple platinum status. Also in 2006, he executive
produced the soundtrack for Save the Last Dance 2 and appeared on Remy Ma's There's
Something About Remy and Ghostface Killah's Fishscale. Ne-Yo has written huge hits for such
music superstars as Beyonce (“Irreplaceable”), Jay-Z (“Hollywood”), Mario Vasquez
(“Gallery”), Omarion, Christina Milian, Ghostface Killa, Fabolous and more. Ne-Yo was
recently nominated for 2006 American Music Awards and Billboard Music Awards.
Ne-Yo makes his feature film debut with Stomp the Yard.
Darrin Henson is best known as Lem Van Adams, a street hustler turned husband, father
and businessman, on the hit Showtime series “Soul Food.” A talented actor, dancer and
choreographer, Henson recently added directing to his resume with the film Violation,
starring star Malik Yoba (“New York Undercover”) and Cynda Williams (Mo’ Better Blues).
As a choreographer, he has worked with such artists as Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears.
His most recognizable dance routine is N-Sync's “Bye, Bye, Bye.” Darrin's Dance Grooves, an
enormously popular video created by and starring Henson, teaches viewers the same dance
moves that he choreographed for popular music videos. Henson got his start at age 14
when he joined the late legendary hip-hop artist DJ Scott La Rock’s Vermont school tour.
His community involvement includes speaking to inner city youth in an effort to increase
understanding of HIV/AIDS.
BRIAN WHITE (Sylvester)
The eldest and only boy of six siblings, White is the son of professional basketball
player JoJo White of the Boston Celtics and a financial advisor mother, whom he credits
as his hero. A graduate of Dartmouth College, he played both professional football
(NFL) and lacrosse (NLL), is certified as a licensed stock broker, and co-founded the
Phenomenon Urban Dance Theater. White most recently starred in Tom Bezucha’s The
Family Stone, opposite Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Dermot Mulroney, Luke
Wilson, Rachel McAdams and Claire Danes. He can also be seen with Joseph GordonLevitt in Rian Johnson’s Independent Spirit Award-nominated film Brick, and the crime
drama Dirty, with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Clifton Collins Jr. White’s previous film credits
include Mr. 3000 with Bernie Mac and Angela Bassett; The Movie Hero, with Jeremy Sisto
and Peter Stormare; Artisan Entertainment’s drama Redemption and the romantic comedy
Me and Mrs. Jones.
He is also the President of Celebrity Relations for Warm2Kids (We’re All Role
Models), an online membership community dedicated to inspiring teens and young adults
to make positive life decisions.
Born and raised in Washington, DC, Laz Alonso is the only child of black Cuban
parents who emigrated in the hopes of giving their child a better life. Alonso graduated
from the prestigious Howard University School of Business with a BA in Marketing. He
established a marketing business, promoting mainstream products to the urban/trendsetting market, but remained committed to acting. Alonso’s television credits include
guest-starring roles on “CSI: Miami,” “The Practice,” “Navy: NCIS” and “Eyes.” He has
appeared in films including Constantine, All Souls Day: Dia de los Muertos, Disappearing Acts
and Jarhead. He is also a talented musician and his current passion is reggaeton. The only
child of immigrants who learned to survive with pride in the toughest situations, Alonso
has taken hold of the brass ring of opportunity this country offered him and run with it.
Valarie Pettiford began her professional career at the age of 14 in the film version of
the Broadway hit “The Wiz,” starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross. Her performance on
Broadway in “Fosse” earned her nominations for Tony, Grammy, Outer Critics and Dora
Mavor Moore Awards. Other Broadway and national tour credits include Velma in
“Chicago” opposite Chita Rivera; “Big Deal” and Bob Fosse’s final Broadway show,
“Grind.” She also starred in the first national tour of “Showboat” as the show’s tragic
heroine, Julie. The performance earned her a Vancouver Sun Readers Choice Award and an
NAACP Image Award.
Pettiford starred in the UPN series “Half and Half” and created the role of Sheila
Price on “One Life to Live.” She has guest starred on numerous television shows including
“The West Wing,” “CSI: Miami” “State of Grace,” “Frasier” and “The X Files.” Pettiford’s
film credits include Glitter with Mariah Carey, The Cotton Club and Like Mike.
HARRY J. LENNIX (Uncle Nate)
Harry J. Lennix is a three-time recipient of the Joseph Jefferson Citation for Outstanding
Performance. He won a 1990 Obie Award for his outstanding performance as Malcolm X in
“The Meeting” and a Golden Satellite Award for his extraordinary performance as Aaron the
Moor in director Julie Taymor’s feature debut, Titus. Lennix was nominated for a Screen
Actors Guild Award for his work in Taylor Hackford’s Ray. Other film appearances include
The Human Stain, starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman; Matrix Reloaded and
Matrix Revolutions with Keanu Reeves, Barbershop 2, Get on the Bus, Clockers, Bob Roberts, The
Five Heartbeats and The Package. His theatrical credits include “A Midsummer Night's Dream,”
“Macbeth,” “The Great Gatsby,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “Masterpieces” and “Advice
to the Players.” Television appearances include “St. Michael's Crossing,” “Ally McBeal,”
“The Practice,” “ER,” “Murder One,” “Chicago Hope” and “House.”
Lennix began performing while a seminarian of the Roman Catholic Church. He
later served as a public school teacher in Chicago. He is a member of artistic staff of The
Goodman Theatre and on the Board of Directors for Congo Square.
Chris Brown comes to the entertainment industry fully loaded, as a talented vocalist,
a versatile songwriter, an amazing dancer, an emerging actor and a blossoming young
businessman. Brown is a Jive Records recording artist with a newly minted platinum album.
He enjoys a rousing game of basketball, and despite his demanding career, he may still be a
lot like the boy who lives next door to you. In his brief career, Brown has already won the
Outstanding New Artist Award at the 2006 NAACP Awards, Best New Artist at the 2006
Soul Train Awards, and Best New R&B/Soul Artist at the 2006 BET Awards.
Los Angeles native Jermaine Williams was “discovered” by a talent agent at the age
of 13. His first professional job was in Warren Beatty’s 1998 political satire Bulworth. He
later starred in three seasons of the Disney Channel’s “The Jersey” for which he was
nominated for the NAMIC Best Comedic Performance in a Series award. Williams
followed up with a gritty performance in the dramatic film The Beat. He has guest-starred
on “Veronica Mars” and “ER;” he also played Bill Cosby’s Mushmouth in the feature
film Fat Albert. Williams dances for the Norwood Kids Foundation formed by Brandy
Norwood, and he has also danced for Culture Shock L.A. Jermaine still lives in Los
Angeles where he spends his downtime playing basketball, or in the dance studio and
The son of an American pro basketball player and a French flight attendant, Sylvain
White was born and raised in Paris. He studied law at the Sorbonne, then earned a college
scholarship to Pomona College in Los Angeles. While in school, White wrote for and
worked with directors including Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and
Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich) at Propaganda Films. He graduated with honors in both
media studies and film production. White received several awards for his student films,
including the Directors’ Guild of America Short Film Award. His professional directing
career launched with a series of groundbreaking music videos and commercials seen in the
United States, Europe and Japan. In 2001, his work was nominated for an MTV Music
Video Award and a Music Video Production Award, and in 2003, he earned a “Telly” Award
for one of the most talked about commercials of the season. White’s short film Quiet won
the Grand Jury Prize at WorldFest and was a finalist for the HBO Short Film Awards. Stomp
the Yard is White’s third feature film. He is currently writing and developing several feature
film projects.
GREGORY ANDERSON (Based on a Screenplay By)
Gregory Anderson was born and raised in the college town of Tallahassee, Florida,
where both of his parents were professors at Florida A&M University. Anderson’s first
entrepreneurial enterprise was in elementary school, when he and some of his buddies
started their own comic book company. In high school and college, politics began to take
took center stage for Anderson, as he became the Director of Student Lobbying at FAMU.
He worked with the Florida Student Association and was nominated for membership on the
Florida Board of Regents. A few years after graduating from FAMU, Anderson turned to his
love of filmmaking, joining his fellow alums Will Packer and Rob Hardy in producing and
distributing the feature film Trois. Trois became one of the 50 highest grossing independent
films of 2000, according to Daily Variety, which landed them the #34 spot on the Hollywood
Reporter’s list of the Top 500 Film Distributors of the year. Anderson also wrote and coproduced The Escort, which was released by Columbia Tri Star Home Entertainment, and
Tridestine Film’s Room for Seven.
While Anderson continued working with his former classmates, he also commuted
to Harvard University during the summers to immerse himself in writing and directing
classes. He has stayed involved in community service projects and has been a motivational
speaker for many years, giving speeches at events including Walt Disney’s Impact Awards,
the Martin Luther King Holiday Convocation and the Clark Atlanta University Sports &
Entertainment Institute.
ROBERT ADETUYI (Screenplay By)
Robert Adetuyi made his feature film directing debut in 2000 with New Line
Cinema’s Turn It Up starring Pras Michel, Ja Rule, Vondie Curtis-Hall and Jason Statham. He
also wrote The Cleaner, a 2007 action/comedy from New Line, produced by Brett Ratner.
The film stars Cedric the Entertainer, Lucy Liu and Nicollete Sheridan, and is directed by
Les Mayfield. Adetuyi is currently writing an original screenplay for Screen Gems, which he
will also direct. The project is being produced by Will Packer.
Adetuyi has worked as a producer, writer and story editor in series television and is
currently developing a television pilot for The Cookie Jar. As a screenwriter, he developed
the action/adventure story Stone Warrior for USA Films, The Price of Freedom for Sony
Pictures, and Booker T. Washington and Celia for Showtime. He was the executive story editor
for “Ekhaya,” a thirteen-hour mini-series produced by Inner City Films. Adetuyi studied
filmmaking at York University and the Canadian Film Center.
WILL PACKER (Producer)
Will Packer is founder and chairman of Rainforest Films, an Atlanta-based film
production and distribution company. He co-founded Rainforest Films with partner Rob
Hardy in the summer of 1994 while both were engineering students at Florida A & M
University. His leadership fueled the production and successful independent distribution of
the motion picture Trois, the company’s first theatrical release. Trois grossed $1.2 million
dollars, reaching the million-dollar mark faster than any previous film distributed by African
American producers. Based on the company’s success as an independent distributor, Packer
brokered a profitable partnership in 2001 between Rainforest Films and Sony’s Columbia
Tri-Star to produce and distribute urban films. This partnership has resulted in numerous
urban-themed releases, including Trois: The Escort, Motives and The Gospel, starring Boris
Kodjoe, Idris Elba, Nona Gaye and Clifton Powell. Packer recently produced Mekhi Phifer’s
feature directorial debut, Easier Softer Way and serves as producer for The Ballad of Walter
Holmes, the feature film directing debut of George C. Wolfe, starring Usher Raymond.
Packer serves on the Board of Directors of IMAGE Film and Video, an Atlanta
non-profit organization that exists as a support system for independent film and video
artists. He also lends a substantial amount of time as a volunteer fundraiser for Readers Make
Leaders, Inc., a nonprofit organization that encourages urban teens to read. He has been
honored with the key to the city of St. Petersburg, Florida and “Will Packer Day” has been
proclaimed in the cities of Chattanooga, Tennessee and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Packer is a
dynamic and inspiring speaker who has delivered educational and motivational speeches to
industry groups as well as youth and community groups nationwide.
Packer recently became the youngest graduate to receive the Florida A&M University
Distinguished Alumni Award.
ROB HARDY (Executive Producer)
Rob Hardy made his directorial debut as a high school senior, with the camcorder
shot movie, G-MAN. While still pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering at Florida
A&M University, Hardy launched his feature film directing career with Chocolate City, earning
the institution’s highest honor, the Bernard Hendricks Leadership Award, in the process. In
1994, Hardy launched his production company, Rainforest Films with his partner, producer
William Packer. Their first theatrical release was Trois, directed and co-written by Hardy, who
was also instrumental in distributing the film. Trois grossed $1.2 million dollars, reaching the
million-dollar mark faster than any previous film distributed by African Americans. His next
project, Pandora’s Box, earned “Best Actress” honors for Monica Calhoun at the 2002
American Black Film Festival. In 2003, Hardy added the role of producer to his credits with
the thought-provoking thriller, Motives, starring Vivica A. Fox and Shemar Moore. In 2004,
he produced Trois: The Escort, as well as writing and directing the spiritually themed drama,
The Gospel. In 2005, Hardy’s hard work garnered him a nomination for the 2005 HBO
Director to Watch Award. The Hollywood Reporter listed him among the New Establishment of
Black Power Brokers. Additionally, Hardy has directed a number of commercial projects for
clients including American Honda, Coca-Cola, The National Cancer Institute and Burrell
SCOTT KEVAN (Director of Photography)
Scott Kevan began his career in cinematography by traveling the world shooting
time-lapse images for documentaries, but a desire to work in the narrative format landed him
in the MFA program at the American Film Institute. Prior to graduating in 1998, Kevan was
already shooting his first feature, Splendor Falls, winner of the Work in Progress Completion
Award at the Independent Feature Project (IFP) Market. By 2002, Kevan had lensed award
winning-pictures including Wednesday’s Child, which was the first film in IFP’s New Vision
Program, and The Woman Every Man Wants, winner of the Best Cinematography Award at the
2001 No Dance Film Festival. His work on the 2003 surprise hit Cabin Fever brought him
further praise and work in a number of different genres. He is the cinematographer for the
2005 psychological thriller Deep Water, starring Lucas Black and Mia Maestro, Borderland, a
true-life horror tale, and If I Had Known I Was a Genius, a comedy starring Whoopi Goldberg
and Sharon Stone.
JONATHAN A. CARLSON (Production Designer)
Born and raised in Northern California, Jonathan Carlson first developed an interest
in art while attending Yuba City High School. Carlson graduated from Chico State
University with a bachelor’s degree in drama and design. He received a master’s degree in
fine arts in design for theater and film at the University of Washington. With two degrees
under his belt, at the age of 27, Jonathan drove down to Los Angeles and landed a
production design job on a small movie of the week. After television movies, Jonathan
found work on films including Mortal Kombat, Beowulf, Highlander Endgame, That Darn Kat,
Desperate Trails and many others. Carlson’s work has taken him around the world several
times. He recently shot three mini-series back-to-back: “Frankenstein” in Slovakia,
“Poseidon Adventures” in South Africa, and “The Curse of King Tut” in Northern India.
He considers himself something of a Third World specialist, building and creating the
impossible in situations where the words “no” and “I can’t do it” are not options.
A proud alumnus of the University of Southern California, David Checel graduated
from the School of Film and Television in 1995. Checel began his career in the
entertainment industry as an audio/video coordinator at an ad agency. He quickly became
the in-house editor, and in 1997, he began assisting in a commercial editorial house. By 1999,
Checel was editing commercials and music videos. Some of his most notable work includes
spots for Gatorade, MasterCard, Target and Honda. He has cut videos for top acts like
OutKast, Destiny’s Child, Eminem, Missy Elliott and Linkin Park. In 2001, he edited the
short film Quiet with director Sylvain White. The film generated a lot of attention on the
festival circuit and won Best Editing award at the Beverly Hills Film Festival. Checel
continued his collaboration with White on Trois 3: The Escort in 2004 and I’ll Always Know
What You Did Last Summer in 2005.
KEITH G. LEWIS (Costume Designer)
Keith G. Lewis graduated from North Carolina School of the Arts with a degree in
costume design and construction in 1984. Lewis taught costume design at the North
Carolina School of the Arts and East Carolina University, where one of his prized pupils was
actress Sandra Bullock. From teaching, Lewis segued into a career designing for theater,
television and film. He has worked on over 30 projects in his more than 20 years in
costuming. Most recently, his work can be seen in popular director, producer and actor Tyler
Perry’s projects Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea’s Family Reunion, Daddy’s Little Girls and
the syndicated television series pilot “House of Payne.” Lewis was nominated for the 2005
Emmy for Best Wardrobe Supervision for HBO’s “Warm Springs.”
DAVE SCOTT (Choreographer)
A self-taught dancer, Dave Scott cites Michael Jackson as his biggest inspiration.
Scott began imitating the moves he saw in videos and films such as Breakin’ and Beat Street
when he was a teenager. Scott was attending Weber State University in Utah on a basketball
scholarship when he was invited to dance in the opening number for a well-known rapper.
Before long, he had a career performing with and choreographing for top recording artists
such as Tyrese, Ginuwine, Brian McKnight, and Bow Wow. Scott was instrumental in the
creation of multi-platinum R&B teen idols B2K, giving them their name, style and hot dance
moves. After choreographing the feature films House Party 4 and Good Burger, he guided B2K
to their feature film debut in You Got Served, which he also choreographed. Scott is currently
a sought after choreographer for films, commercials, videos and live shows. He has lent his
talents to recent commercials campaigns for Sunny Delight, Pantene and Chevy Cobalt.
Even with his busy schedule, he still manages to find time to teach master classes across the
country, continuing to inspire young dancers wherever he goes.
JESUS MALDONADO (Associate Stepping Choreographer)
A native of Atlanta, Jesus Maldonado (known to his co-workers as “Chuck”) earned
a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical
University and a master’s degree in education. He studied ballet, jazz, modern, hip hop and
break dance at the Atlanta Studio Dance, Gotta Dance Studio and New York City Broadway
Dance Center. His extensive and wide-ranging experience made him a natural for the Atlanta
Hawks dance team, which led to an opportunity to choreograph and perform in the opening
and closing ceremonies of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Maldonado has worked with
artists, directors, choreographers and dancers including Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Jennifer
Lopez, Blaque, Tamia, Sisquo, Usher, Mya, Taylor Dane, Pink, Anastacia and Exscape. He
has appeared in commercials for iPod and AT&T, as well as movies including You Got Served,
Garfield, Collateral and Honey.
ALI MUHAMMAD (Music Supervisor)
Miami native Ali Muhammad is the co-founder of MusicSoopz, Inc., a company that
specializes in securing urban music for use in films, television and commercials. Muhammad
partnered with music industry veteran Akinah Rahmaan to launch the company in 2001 after
college friends Will Packer and Rob Hardy recruited Muhammad to become music
supervisor for Trois 2: Pandora's Box. MusicSoopz’ other film projects include Trois 3: The
Escort, Motives 1 and 2, The Gospel, Beef 2 and 3, Letter to the President and The MC. The
company’s clients include Rainforest Films, Quincy Jones, Qd3 Entertainment and Vibe
Muhammad's music business career began at Florida A&M University, when he and
his roommate DeAllen Burgess created "On the Set," a late night hip-hop television show in
Tallahassee, Florida whose local ratings rivaled “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
After college, Muhammad went to work at Vibe magazine, moving quickly from an
internship to paid positions in the Events and Artist Relations and Marketing and Sales
departments. Early in 2006, Muhammad left Vibe to concentrate on MusicSoopz, and to
launch the modern business magazine 21st Century Hustle.
AKINAH RAHMAAN (Music Supervisor)
Akinah Rahmaan co-founded the music supervision company MusicSoopz, Inc. with
Ali Muhammad in 2001. As the company’s president, Rahmaan oversees all film and brand
related projects. Past projects include Trois 2: Pandora’s Box, Motives, Trois 3: The Escort, The
Gospel, Puff, Puff, Pass and Motives 2. She is also Director of Music Strategy at Translation
Consultation and Brand Imaging, where she creates and cultivates integrated entertainment
and non-traditional marketing opportunities for client brands including Verizon, Bath &
Body Works, GM and Procter & Gamble.
Rahmaan began her career in entertainment as a booking agent specializing in urban
talent. She held the position of Marketing Director at Violator Management where she
managed the day-to-day careers of artists such as Missy Elliott, LL Cool J, Tweet and Q-Tip.
She later became Entertainment and Pop Culture Manager for a major advertising agency,
working on campaigns for clients such as Reebok, DaimlerChrysler and Mars Candy. A New
York City resident, Rahmaan hails from Maryland where she received her Bachelor of
Science in Psychology from Morgan State University.
Sam Retzer was born in Richmond, Virginia, and grew up in a small town in the
Shenandoah Valley. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1996 with a
distinguished major in composition and computer music., and subsequently took a job with
bicoastal music company tomandandy in their Soho offices in NYC, where he scored spots
for Reebok, NBA, X-Games, and countless others.
In 1999 he moved to the West Coast where he continued composing spots for
tomandandy, as well as contributing to scores for Arlington Road, The Mothman
Prophecies, and the William Gibson documentary No Maps for These Territories. In
2002, Retzer created the boutique music company Echo Park Music & Sound with writing
partner Tim Boland. EPM&S has gone on to create music for MTV, The Sundance
Channel, Pontiac, and Toyota as well as contributing to the scores for Garfield and Taxi.
When not composing for high profile clients, Retzer can be found teaching Pro
Tools and music production to Santa Monica teens at the Pico Youth and Family Center
or managing his underground rock empire, Rudyland Records. Stomp the Yard is his first
TIM BOLAND (Music by)
Tim Boland was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland to a musical family. After
high school he went to work for professional recording studios around Dublin, working
with artists such as Ozzy Osbourne, UB40, Elmer Bernstein, the Commitments, Therapy?
and the Waterboys. During this time Boland’s band won a national band search competition
which brought the band much home grown success and led to a record deal and national
In 1994 Boland immigrated to Los Angeles, where he began engineering records for
artists as diverse as Earth Wind and Fire, Soul Coughing, Bone Thugs N Harmony, Dave
Grusin, Ike Turner, Morris Day, and Lili Haydn.
Boland joined the bicoastal music production company tomandandy in 1997 as a
staff composer in their Santa Monica offices. There he scored advertising spots for Nike,
Puma, Coca Cola, Dell, Boeing, BMW, Toyota, Intel, Microsoft and many others.
Also during this time he contributed to scores for Barry Levinson’s The Beat
starring Mark Ruffalo and the William Gibson documentary No Maps for these
Territories, as well as mixing scenes for The Rules of Attraction and Waking the Dead.
In 2002 he formed Echo Park Music & Sound with writing partner Sam Retzer
and has gone on to create music for MTV, Comedy Central, Sundance Channel, Toyota,
Motorola, Pontiac, Nike, Fuel TV, Garfield the Movie and Taxi. Stomp the Yard is his first