By Tina Mabry
In a future where schools are segregated by economic status, a struggling mother must decide whether to sell her own organs to give her children a better education.
While exploring ethical and political issues to address in this project, I immediately gravitated to the state of public education in the state of California. I knew firsthand of the increasing gap between public and private schools due to my friendships with teachers and administrators in the public education system and by having been a substitute teacher many years ago.
In particular, I remained in constant contact with an expert, a special education teacher, who helped me understand autistic children at various levels. One of my close friends has an autistic child, so I had been introduced to the disability firsthand. In addition to the expert informing me about autism, she also addressed the flaws in the bureaucracy that sometimes conflict with her students’ well being. She didn’t shy away from talking about the daily challenges she faces as a public school educator teaching students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
This led me to delve into my own impoverished past and wonder where I would be without receiving a proper public education; school was the vehicle by which I was able to step out of my disenfranchised community so I would be in the position to give back in the future. Public schools in my small town were not burdened then with the No Child Left Behind Act, rather they did everything possible to make sure every last student had a fair chance by taking into account each child’s personal achievements and shortcomings. This is why I can personally say that my educators and parents were instrumental in encouraging me to push myself by reminding me of my goal of obtaining higher learning.
All of this made me think about how far a parent would go in order to give their child an opportunity they never had. Would a person illegally sell their organs for their children? After all, people in third world countries have engaged for many years in transplantation tourism, as it’s called, in order to provide themselves and their family with better options.
Not being a parent, I talked to individuals with children in public schools and immediately came to realize that thankfully there was nothing a parent wouldn’t do for their child. However, the issue became more complicated when faced with the dilemma of advancing one child while holding another one back. Just asking the question to the aforementioned individuals caused them to uncomfortably shift in their seats and prompted a series of discussions.
These intense discussions along with my contact with my expert helped shape the educational world in 2028 where separate-but-equal has once again raised its head. Only this time it would come with a vengeance, attacking anyone who doesn’t make a six-figure salary. While the facts I gathered when writing this script both disturbed and saddened me, it all paled in comparison to my expert’s confession: “Sadly, this script honestly depicts the dangers our kids might face in the future, but the really sad thing is that the dangers in this script are not that far off from the reality we’re living in today.”
—Tina Mabry, Writer/Director
As with any production, feature or short film, making your budget match your artistic vision can be a challenge. I had ambitious goals about how we as a production team would construct this dismal and futuristic world in which our characters are set. The main questions that surfaced were would we have enough money to make this world believable and would we be able to secure the necessary cast and crew.
When it came to assembling the primary crew, I naturally had to reach out to many of the available key crew members from my feature film, Mississippi Damned. Thanks to our production supervisor Caroline Stephenson, we were able to pare down our schedule from a six-day to a four-day shoot in order to meet our budget. With a four-day shooting schedule, we didn’t have the luxury to get behind and had to be very meticulous in our planning as to make our days.
Our primary obstacles were cast and locations. Dealing with children on a shoot made it quite a challenge because of the limited hours we would have to work with them. While I knew who I wanted to play the lead character of Angela (Michael Hyatt) in the film, I had no idea who would be a strong, young actress who would be able to carry the film along with her and hit all of the necessary emotional beats. Our casting directors, Meg Morman and Sunday Boling, found Alexis Matthews, an extremely talented newcomer, to play Jennifer. Meg and Sunday were also able to build an excellent cast around Michael and Alexis that took the film to another level.
Bruce Francis Cole (director of photography), Aiyana Trotter (production designer), and I established the look of the film where the Restricted Access community would have a monochromatic feel to it because even though it’s nicer, it’s void of authenticity. As a contrast we chose to have the Unrestricted Access Community have more saturated colors so it would have more vibrancy, even while inside of an eroding community. Aiyana and our art director, Garrett Lowe, did a fabulous job of transforming the Unrestricted Community.
We knew who we wanted to edit the film from day one: Morgan R. Stiff. Morgan and I have worked on several projects together and I knew she would be able to bring another dimension to the project that went well beyond the script pages.
We were dealing with some serious subjects in Crossover, but I can’t help but say how much fun we had on and off set. There’s nothing like being able to handle the business aspect of our business while joking and laughing the whole way through. We wanted to create a family-like environment where everyone (cast and crew) felt they were equal partners in making this film happen. Without everyone’s help, there is no way we would’ve made it through our schedule with such powerful material.
—Tina Mabry, Writer/Director
Tina Mabry has an MFA in film production from the University of Southern California. Her thesis film, Brooklyn’s Bridge to Jordan, screened at more than 50 film festivals and on Showtime and BET J. Mabry co-wrote Itty Bitty Titty Committee, which won Best Feature Narrative at South by Southwest. Her feature film, Mississippi Damned, premiered on Showtime and won awards at the Chicago International Film Festival. In 2009, Mabry was named one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film in Filmmaker Magazine. Her feature County Line won the Tribeca All Access Creative Promise Award in 2011.
A native of Alexandria, Virginia, Rikki Jarrett graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema and Television. She worked in development at Muse Productions and has been producing films independently since 2007. Her first feature film, the sci-fi romantic comedy TiMER, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2009. She currently resides in Los Angeles and has several projects in development.
Debra A. Wilson
Debra A. Wilson made her national debut with her film Butch Mystique, which she wrote and directed. The film has won jury and audience awards as well as Showtime’s Black Filmmakers Showcase. Her documentary Jumpin’ the Broom: The New Covenant, premiered on Showtime and MTV-Logo’s Real Momentum series. In 2009, Wilson co-produced the feature film Mississippi Damned. She was selected to write and direct the short documentary Ward 86, an installment in Still Around. As a producer, she is currently in development on her next feature Man Up Above.
Michael Hyatt – Angela
Born in England of Jamaican parents, Michael Hyatt migrated to the United States at the age of 10. She studied acting at Howard University and New York University. Before working in film and television, she performed on stages across the U.S., most notably on Broadway in Ragtime.
Lyn Alicia Henderson – Victoria
Lyn Alicia Henderson’s stage performances in Los Angeles include Go Fish at the Gardner Stage and Guilt with the Blank Theatre Company. She wrote and starred in the play Girls Night Out and wrote, produced, and starred in the short film Short on Sugar, which had a three-year run on HBO and Cinemax. She has appeared in the numerous independent films and the horror film The Relic Her television credits includeDexter, Criminal Minds, Eli Stone, ER, Chuck, Scrubs, The King of Queens, andSeinfeld.
Alexis Matthews – Jennifer
Alexis Matthews was born in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles at age 12 to pursue her dream of acting and dancing. Within two years, she landed starring roles in the feature film Abide In Me; the play Oh, Momma! & Obama; and the short film A Snapshot of My Family; as well as a co-starring role in the series HawthoRNe. She is trying her hand at screenwriting, focusing on teen suspense.
Elijah King – Quincy
Atlanta native Elijah King first appeared at the age of seven with his godmother, former WNBA player Texlin Quinney, in a national studio recruitment video for the American Institute of CPAs. In March 2010, King and his mother made the move to Los Angeles to pursue his career in acting and modeling. His television credits includeCriminal Minds, The Office, Community, and Parenthood.
Ashalyn Garner – Tamela
Ashalyn Garner is a 15-year-old aspiring actress from southern California. After landing a role in her high school’s production of Little Shop of Horrors,she attended summer acting camp to pursue a professional acting career. This is her first film role as a co-star. She is also a singer and competitive dancer.