Saturday, May 16, 2009



Sherman Payne - Classified (Short Film)

Posted: 16 May 2009 07:00 AM PDT


Sherman Payne is an old friend of ours from the Philaflava Forums who happens to be an award winning filmmaker and screenwriter. He is currently pursuing his master's degree at Columbia University's prestigious film division, and has a penchant for incorporating hip hop music, imagery, and themes into his work. In 2007, he was named Filmmaker-in-Residence at The Ghetto Film School where he taught filmmaking to youth in the Bronx, New York. The embedded video you see above is his first film, from 2007, titled Classified.

Classified clocks in at a little under fifteen minutes but manages to exude thoughtfulness and eccentricity even in that short amount of time. The story centers on a seemingly ordinary Harlem youth named Chris (played with commendable restraint by Terron Jones, who fittingly bears a slight resemblance to the late Big L). Chris' everyday struggles are like those of any urban youth, ranging from attempting to establish a more functional bond with his incarcerated father to keeping his fridge stocked and feet covered by immaculate kicks. But life is never mundane for too long, right?

Chris' stonefaced composure and uncomplicated outlook are challenged and ultimately altered, in a huge way, when he nonchalantly decides to address his privations by answering an oddly vague job listing. Payne's skillful writing and direction move this mini-drama forward with just enough bizarre Twilight Zone appeal sprinkled in to add extra dimension to already weighty themes like generation gaps and the balancing of individual wants versus collective needs. Play the video and see for yourself.

Nowadays Payne is working on his latest film, Cred, a drama about Wynton Richardson who returns to the neighborhood he grew up in as a building superintendent. When noisy tenants ignore his pleas for silence, Wynton is drawn into a spiral of masculine one-upsmanship that forces him to utilize behavior and friends he thought he left behind. Music plays a big role in this film, too. Payne and the producers of Cred are now soliciting hip hop songs to be played from the nosy tenant's apartment. According to Payne "this is a chance for indie and up-and-coming hip hop acts to have their music included in a film that is sure to have a successful run on the festival circuit as well as likely showings on HBO in 2010." Check it out:

What we're looking for: music should be dense, noisy, glitchy, and have a sense of urgency. Think Bomb Squad era PE or 90's era RZA beats. Some of the songs that have inspired us while working on the film are "Liquid Swords" by GZA, "Here I Come" by the Roots, "You Know What I'm About" by Big L , and "Juice (Know the Ledge)" by Eric B. and Rakim. But please do not hesitate to submit songs that don't fit this profile. Send any mp3s or wavs to We ask that you are the sole owner to the rights of any songs you send and that you're willing to sign a simple release granting us the right to use the song in the film (this is a non-exclusive release, meaning you still own the song and can do with it as you please). Also, we'll include your website or myspace info in the credits so everyone who sees the film knows where to find you online.

Think your music can hang with the boom-bap of yore? Give it a shot, and submit your song to Sounds Like The 90s, too.

-- Thun