"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one." - Charles Mackay
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Party Science: Hustle 101, an Exploration of Atlanta's HBCU Party Promotion Scene
Published on April 30, 2008

By Jelani Harper

Donte Murry is a busy man. The Morehouse College senior, who recently partnered with Michael Cooke to executive produce his first feature-length documentary, Hustle 101, has his hands full. He is simultaneously handling promotions for the film, running a website and writing an upcoming book—on top of juggling a full course load and planning to attend film school after graduation.

Murry's precociousness typifies the entrepreneurial spirit of Hustle 101, which provides an unflinching glimpse into the recent development of professional collegiate party promotions. The film dissects the typical material trappings that attract employees and patrons alike to "the lifestyle," while championing the much needed social work and corporate infrastructure necessary to fuel this lucrative phenomenon sweeping through college campuses nationwide.

Jelani Harper: How did you come up with the idea for the film?

Donte Murry: The idea originally came to me last spring to write a screenplay. That idea came from friends I had who were telling me the inside of party promotions, and some of these stories I would hear would just absolutely blow my mind. There were stories of how other promoters recruit people to their teams, dirty tricks that they pulled against each other, money being stolen. I was like "Wow, this has never been shown before, on any level." Whenever you see the black collegiate experience it's about fraternities or sports, but there are plenty of people who would say a lot of these major Atlanta University Center party promoters are looked at as kings. It's bigger than fraternities, it's bigger than sports and nobody's ever shown that before.

So you wanted to showcase this entrepreneurial spirit?

I like to see young black men starting businesses and making money because some of these young guys really are making a lot of money. And they're getting a good experience on how to handle a business. These promotion teams are real businesses with LLC's and they structure themselves accordingly as they get more mature. Some of the companies that have been around for a longer time are really organized in the way that they operate, the way that they have a title and the way they distribute money and set aside a portion for future investments. I think it's good to see young black men doing that.

How'd you go from the screenplay to a documentary?

In May I ended up trying out for the show College Hill Interns. I made it as a finalist so they flew me out to L.A. When they flew me out to L.A., I was like "Man, this idea would be a good reality show, actually." So I was out there pitching the idea as a reality show and people liked it. But it was something that was so foreign to them they couldn't really grasp it. They were like, "We need something visual." I came back and made a pilot, although I wasn't able to land the pilot, people liked the footage so much they were like "You should make a movie."

How effective was the Internet as a marketing tool for the film?

Initially we had the movie up on our website and let people download it. And it was very successful for us. We had over 1,500 downloads in our first month because the word of mouth on us was crazy. It was January the seventh when we initially put it out there. It was just an experiment. We wanted to see would this really work because we had hyped it up, we had the trailers online, people from across the nation were hitting us up on Facebook and MySpace. So we wanted to see if we actually give them an avenue to watch this movie are people going to pay to watch it, and it worked. It was successful. Now we're selling DVDs and we're working on a distribution deal and all that good stuff.

One of the most poignant moments in the film is when one of the promotion teams sanctions a fashion show to raise funds and awareness for AIDS victims in Africa.

That was Pedro. When I first met him and first met Sky High Entertainment, he told me that when they were first starting he would see all these party promoters, and all it's about is money and women and how good they look. But he was like. "If we could get some pull, I want to use that pull to have an impact and raise awareness of issues." That's what he's doing and that's what he plans to keep doing.

The film goes beyond the typical images of excess associated with the party lifestyle.

There's a deeper meaning to it that I feel maybe only 15 to 20 percent of people see. Really what it was about, to me, was this follower mentality—this follow the leader mentality. I tried to get that across as best I could—how people get wrapped up into following a message and almost the cult-like status of it. To me what was so crazy about it was to see these kids that just wanted to be a part of something so badly. It was just like the same thing going all the way back to Hitler and the Nazis, or gangs or anything like that where people just do something just to be a part of something because they get caught up or wrapped up in the message.

You mean the people who want to join the different promotion teams?

Right. So you notice how we had the girl on there—and the thing is I can't wait to do a sequel because I can't wait to get this message across better—but for instance the girl, Courtnei, who was a part of the promotional team. You realize how excited she was. She was like, "We're not getting paid right now, but I love these guys" and she was going out and doing all kinds of stuff for them. And in the turn of one semester to see her at the very end she was like, "This isn't for me." And, like she said, somebody's going to jump in and fill her place.

How has the public reacted to the film?

Some people see the message that I said—the follower mentality. Some people see that these guys are hustlers; they're really doing their thing. And then some people are like, "Am I missing something?" And that's exactly how I felt before I made the film. I felt like, am I missing something? How are these people so hyped into a party that they'll pay 40 dollars at the door just because people have amped their name out so much?

Throwing the money out, wearing the jewelry... everything is fake. Nothing is real. And that's another thing I tried to get across: it's all an illusion. That's why we had the guy at the end say believe none of what you hear, half of what you see. We interspersed that with the promoter talking about, "We're getting money, we're taxing them." That's something a lot of people see that I want them to get from the film.

Aside from another Hustle 101, what other future projects are you working on?

Another thing I'm working on that I feel really strong about, really passionate about, is a book called Brother to Brother. I see a lot of these books that are done by older black men where they try to reach out to young black men. Like the guy that did Letters To A Young Brother where he pulled in all these celebrities and had them give these messages of hope and whatnot. But the thing that I know from my community service and from being at Morehouse is that young men listen to other young men. Our words have a lot of relevance to each other because we understand a lot of the same things. So I'm working on a book where I'm taking 20 guys from Morehouse and we're all collaborating on this book called Brother To Brother, just to give a message of hope out to other young brothers out there.


posted by R J Noriega at 11:09 PM | Permalink |


free hit counters
Best Buy Coupon