The art of the hustle
Review: Independent, Doiní Major Things
|Hotep is always hustlin'.|
Running into a wannabe music mogul in the ATL is as ubiquitous as running into an aspiring auteur in LA. For less than the price of a decent used car, any basement can be converted into a production studio. With the emergence of digital video the number of self-proclaimed filmmakers has also exploded.
On one side, there's the demystification of the producer and director roles and at the grass-roots level an increase in the variety of voices. (How often and where we hear those voices remains a challenge.) Conversely, the more people you let in the bathroom the more crap you're going to find. In other words, just as the ability to swing a hammer doesn't make you a master carpenter, neither do software and a keyboard make you a working producer.
Not only does it take more than having the right tools—that more would be t-a-l-e-n-t, if you ain't up to speed—it also requires a certain savvy and an understanding of the kinetics that keep the entertainment industry in constant motion. Which is why Independent, Doin' Major Things should be required viewing for those who are just jumping into the entertainment game.
Written, directed and produced by Hotep, a.k.a. Hustle Simmons, Independent is a doc that's one part business guide, one part look at the entertainment industry and one part celebration of the ATL itself. Okay, it's also part Hotep infomercial, but considering the topic, it's easily forgivable.
From interviewing the Atlanta Journal Constitution's music critic Sonia Murray to sneaking—excuse me, hustling—his way into the Vibe Music Fest, Hotep's mission is putting the world on notice. Things are happening here and none of it is by accident.
Clocking in at around an hour, I do wish Hotep hadn't aimed so wide, and some topics I wish he had explored in more depth. More "Why Atlanta?" More of the dos and don'ts (you know some of these hardheaded folk need more of those). And I definitely was craving a clearer vision of not just the now, but of Atlanta's possible futures as well.
While Hotep is optimistic about Atlanta's featured position in the entertainment world, what that position might look like in future lacks definition. But when you're trying to create momentum, you sometimes have to sell the dream before you're even sure what that dream is. And that's what makes hustling an art. Few people want to miss the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the next big thing—and true hustlers like Hotep know that.
The film is going to date quickly, but at a time when the ATL is continuing its quest to be the Hollywood of the South, Independent is exactly what we need.
Charles Judson is a local screen & comic book writer and a regular contributor and film critic for CinemATL.