Toronto’s Director X marks first feature with Across the Line

WhatsOn Apr 10, 2016 by Nick Patch OurWindsor.Ca

Even after helming some of the most beloved music videos in recent meme-ory — from Drake’s “Hotline Bling” to Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Rihanna’s steamy latest — Director X admits he has still had trouble finding work, work, work, work, work as a feature-film director.

With Across the Line, a movie starring Race’s Stephan James about a black hockey phenom and fever-pitch racial tensions in North Preston, N.S., X finally crosses out a lifelong goal.

But he would like to have had the opportunity sooner.

“The film and television industry cannot comprehend people not talking,” X said recently. “I was doing all these narratives in music videos and people understood them and they looked good. But they didn’t have people talking in them.

“Then something like this comes along, a good, low-budget indie, where someone’s like, ‘Honestly, I wish I could afford a guy who has people talking, but I’ll take this music-video guy instead.’”

Oh, but what a music-video guy. X’s career started back in 1998, when he directed videos for Noreaga, Onyx, EPMD and, most importantly to the CanCon-nostalgic among us, Rascalz’s classic “Northern Touch.” Gradually, he put together an MVP CV, including Nelly’s “Hot in Herre,” Usher’s “Yeah” and Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous.”

More recently, he helped Rihanna and Drake render the Real Jerk even spicier than usual with “Work,” heralded Justin Bieber’s adult makeover on “Boyfriend” and set teen hearts throbbing with the Wanted’s “Glad You Came.”

Sipping black coffee with a black YYZ hat pulled down close to his eyes, X — a.k.a. Julien Christian Lutz — is characteristically blunt when asked why he chose this film as his first.

“Sidney Lumet says the reason you do your first film is because it’s your first film,” said the 40-year-old director. “I got lucky in that it’s a great first film with a real powerful story. It’s about a part of Canada we haven’t seen before.”

That would be North Preston, the Halifax-area community with the highest concentration of African Canadians in the country. With a black population whose roots date to the mid-19th century, North Preston has a rich history that X didn’t know much about until he took on the film, written by East Preston native Floyd Kane.

In Across the Line, James’ bookish hockey star attends a high school divided down the middle by corrosive racial tension, where brawls and racist epithets arise with the casual commonality of the morning announcements.

And X noticed first-hand the sour attitudes people still hold toward the place.

“Our crew didn’t want to shoot in North Preston,” he said. “Everyone was convinced there was going to be trouble if you went into North Preston. There’s no trouble in North Preston. It’s probably the tightest-knit community I’ve ever been in.”

Making the film stirred reflections among the cast on their own experiences with racism in Canada. X, the son of a Swiss father and Trinidadian mother, grew up in the Brampton suburbs before moving downtown, and saw “levels of misunderstanding” but nothing on the film’s level.

Actress Sarah Jeffery, who plays a wizened classmate torn between James’ sensitive athlete and her white, occasionally unenlightened boyfriend, says she had a harmonious experience growing up in Vancouver, but has faced prejudice in Hollywood.

“Struggling with identity in terms of ethnicity has been something I’ve struggled with in my life,” said the star of NBC’s Shades of Blue. “I’ll be told that I’m not black enough or I’m not white enough and therefore I don’t fit the part.”

You could count the number of films about black Canadians, says X, “on one finger.”

So X figures his film marks a first for more than one reason.

“These are the Canadian stories I want to see,” he said. “I want to see the Winnipeg one about what’s going on with aboriginal women. I want to see more about these communities we don’t hear anything about.

“I want more North Preston.”

Across the Line opens Friday, April 15 in Toronto.

Toronto Star

Toronto’s Director X marks first feature with Across the Line

Director X has made some of your favourite music videos. Why has it taken him so long to make a movie? He doesn’t know

WhatsOn Apr 10, 2016 by Nick Patch OurWindsor.Ca

Even after helming some of the most beloved music videos in recent meme-ory — from Drake’s “Hotline Bling” to Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Rihanna’s steamy latest — Director X admits he has still had trouble finding work, work, work, work, work as a feature-film director.

With Across the Line, a movie starring Race’s Stephan James about a black hockey phenom and fever-pitch racial tensions in North Preston, N.S., X finally crosses out a lifelong goal.

But he would like to have had the opportunity sooner.

“The film and television industry cannot comprehend people not talking,” X said recently. “I was doing all these narratives in music videos and people understood them and they looked good. But they didn’t have people talking in them.

“Then something like this comes along, a good, low-budget indie, where someone’s like, ‘Honestly, I wish I could afford a guy who has people talking, but I’ll take this music-video guy instead.’”

Oh, but what a music-video guy. X’s career started back in 1998, when he directed videos for Noreaga, Onyx, EPMD and, most importantly to the CanCon-nostalgic among us, Rascalz’s classic “Northern Touch.” Gradually, he put together an MVP CV, including Nelly’s “Hot in Herre,” Usher’s “Yeah” and Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous.”

More recently, he helped Rihanna and Drake render the Real Jerk even spicier than usual with “Work,” heralded Justin Bieber’s adult makeover on “Boyfriend” and set teen hearts throbbing with the Wanted’s “Glad You Came.”

Sipping black coffee with a black YYZ hat pulled down close to his eyes, X — a.k.a. Julien Christian Lutz — is characteristically blunt when asked why he chose this film as his first.

“Sidney Lumet says the reason you do your first film is because it’s your first film,” said the 40-year-old director. “I got lucky in that it’s a great first film with a real powerful story. It’s about a part of Canada we haven’t seen before.”

That would be North Preston, the Halifax-area community with the highest concentration of African Canadians in the country. With a black population whose roots date to the mid-19th century, North Preston has a rich history that X didn’t know much about until he took on the film, written by East Preston native Floyd Kane.

In Across the Line, James’ bookish hockey star attends a high school divided down the middle by corrosive racial tension, where brawls and racist epithets arise with the casual commonality of the morning announcements.

And X noticed first-hand the sour attitudes people still hold toward the place.

“Our crew didn’t want to shoot in North Preston,” he said. “Everyone was convinced there was going to be trouble if you went into North Preston. There’s no trouble in North Preston. It’s probably the tightest-knit community I’ve ever been in.”

Making the film stirred reflections among the cast on their own experiences with racism in Canada. X, the son of a Swiss father and Trinidadian mother, grew up in the Brampton suburbs before moving downtown, and saw “levels of misunderstanding” but nothing on the film’s level.

Actress Sarah Jeffery, who plays a wizened classmate torn between James’ sensitive athlete and her white, occasionally unenlightened boyfriend, says she had a harmonious experience growing up in Vancouver, but has faced prejudice in Hollywood.

“Struggling with identity in terms of ethnicity has been something I’ve struggled with in my life,” said the star of NBC’s Shades of Blue. “I’ll be told that I’m not black enough or I’m not white enough and therefore I don’t fit the part.”

You could count the number of films about black Canadians, says X, “on one finger.”

So X figures his film marks a first for more than one reason.

“These are the Canadian stories I want to see,” he said. “I want to see the Winnipeg one about what’s going on with aboriginal women. I want to see more about these communities we don’t hear anything about.

“I want more North Preston.”

Across the Line opens Friday, April 15 in Toronto.

Toronto Star

Toronto’s Director X marks first feature with Across the Line

Director X has made some of your favourite music videos. Why has it taken him so long to make a movie? He doesn’t know

WhatsOn Apr 10, 2016 by Nick Patch OurWindsor.Ca

Even after helming some of the most beloved music videos in recent meme-ory — from Drake’s “Hotline Bling” to Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Rihanna’s steamy latest — Director X admits he has still had trouble finding work, work, work, work, work as a feature-film director.

With Across the Line, a movie starring Race’s Stephan James about a black hockey phenom and fever-pitch racial tensions in North Preston, N.S., X finally crosses out a lifelong goal.

But he would like to have had the opportunity sooner.

“The film and television industry cannot comprehend people not talking,” X said recently. “I was doing all these narratives in music videos and people understood them and they looked good. But they didn’t have people talking in them.

“Then something like this comes along, a good, low-budget indie, where someone’s like, ‘Honestly, I wish I could afford a guy who has people talking, but I’ll take this music-video guy instead.’”

Oh, but what a music-video guy. X’s career started back in 1998, when he directed videos for Noreaga, Onyx, EPMD and, most importantly to the CanCon-nostalgic among us, Rascalz’s classic “Northern Touch.” Gradually, he put together an MVP CV, including Nelly’s “Hot in Herre,” Usher’s “Yeah” and Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous.”

More recently, he helped Rihanna and Drake render the Real Jerk even spicier than usual with “Work,” heralded Justin Bieber’s adult makeover on “Boyfriend” and set teen hearts throbbing with the Wanted’s “Glad You Came.”

Sipping black coffee with a black YYZ hat pulled down close to his eyes, X — a.k.a. Julien Christian Lutz — is characteristically blunt when asked why he chose this film as his first.

“Sidney Lumet says the reason you do your first film is because it’s your first film,” said the 40-year-old director. “I got lucky in that it’s a great first film with a real powerful story. It’s about a part of Canada we haven’t seen before.”

That would be North Preston, the Halifax-area community with the highest concentration of African Canadians in the country. With a black population whose roots date to the mid-19th century, North Preston has a rich history that X didn’t know much about until he took on the film, written by East Preston native Floyd Kane.

In Across the Line, James’ bookish hockey star attends a high school divided down the middle by corrosive racial tension, where brawls and racist epithets arise with the casual commonality of the morning announcements.

And X noticed first-hand the sour attitudes people still hold toward the place.

“Our crew didn’t want to shoot in North Preston,” he said. “Everyone was convinced there was going to be trouble if you went into North Preston. There’s no trouble in North Preston. It’s probably the tightest-knit community I’ve ever been in.”

Making the film stirred reflections among the cast on their own experiences with racism in Canada. X, the son of a Swiss father and Trinidadian mother, grew up in the Brampton suburbs before moving downtown, and saw “levels of misunderstanding” but nothing on the film’s level.

Actress Sarah Jeffery, who plays a wizened classmate torn between James’ sensitive athlete and her white, occasionally unenlightened boyfriend, says she had a harmonious experience growing up in Vancouver, but has faced prejudice in Hollywood.

“Struggling with identity in terms of ethnicity has been something I’ve struggled with in my life,” said the star of NBC’s Shades of Blue. “I’ll be told that I’m not black enough or I’m not white enough and therefore I don’t fit the part.”

You could count the number of films about black Canadians, says X, “on one finger.”

So X figures his film marks a first for more than one reason.

“These are the Canadian stories I want to see,” he said. “I want to see the Winnipeg one about what’s going on with aboriginal women. I want to see more about these communities we don’t hear anything about.

“I want more North Preston.”

Across the Line opens Friday, April 15 in Toronto.

Toronto Star