Ryan Richmond was excited to direct his first feature-length film in August 2008, but by the end of the first day he was almost ready to quit.
An assistant cameraman didn’t properly load film into the camera. The mistake limited the amount of footage that could be used for editing. There were so many production errors that the director of photography, who was responsible for filming, quit.
“It was a brutal, brutal day,” Richmond recalled.
Three years later, the 32 year-old District native’s film “Money Matters” will make its D.C. debut at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Landmark Theatres E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW.
“It’s a long time coming,” said Richmond, a 1997 graduate of Banneker High School. “It means a lot to me. It’s going to mean a lot to the people who were a part of the process.”
The film is a coming of age tale about a 14 year-old girl from Southeast who struggles with her faith and sexual orientation while trying to steer clear of her parent’s troubled past.
Richmond originally wrote the script as a short film while attending New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
“I felt I hadn’t seen a story about young black girls in the city,” he said. “Young people deal with serious issues very early and they’re dealing with it without guidance. You rarely hear about faith in young people’s lives and young people have it. I wanted to show that.”
He also wanted to show a city that looks different from it’s typical tourist attractions. The film was shot almost entirely in the District with the majority of the scenes shot in Naylor Gardens, a co-op community on Naylor Road SE.
“A lot films come here and shoot because it’s a politcal city. It’s not often we see the city we know,” said Richmond, who was chosen as filmmaker of the month by the District’s Office of Motion Picture and Television Development in April.
The monthly award highlights a District-based filmmaker who produces films locally, nationally or internationally.
Leslie Green, spokeswoman for the District’s film office, said Richmond’s portrayal of the city showed it in a way residents could recognize.
“What we really saw in Ryan’s film was a depiction of the neighborhoods. Our neighborhoods are so diverse [and] he really captured it well,” said Green who saw a portion of the film in February.
Richmond also found local actors for key roles in the film.
The lead character, Monique “Money” Matters, features Terri Abney, a senior at Clark Atlanta University in Georgia. Abney is a graduate of Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Northwest.
“She gave a lot of herself. Her life was very similar to the character,” said Richmond, who went on a six-month casting search for the lead role. “She just brought a level of honesty and vulnerability to the role that we couldn’t have asked for. As the lead character, we really needed that.”
Richmond, the writer and director, is happy to finally have a feature-length film.
“I really felt it was a great opportunity to expose a young person’s life in D.C.,” he said. “Doing it here just means a lot for so many reasons. It’s a big deal to me.”