Spike Lee and John Singleton, watch out there’s a new director in town and his name is Praheme Praphet. The Movie, “Troop 491”: The Adventures of the Muddy Lions’ Filmmaker, Writer and Director Praheme shared his inspiration, life and the creation of the movie.
The Lyfe Magazine: Who is Praheme Praphet?
Praheme Praphet: I am a storyteller.
The Lyfe Magazine: Where are you from?
Praheme Praphet: I’m from Richmond Va. but live in L.A. now.
The Lyfe Magazine: How did you get into storytelling?
Praheme Praphet: I was 14 or 15 yrs old, when I realized I wanted to be a storyteller.
The Lyfe Magazine: Why do you call it storytelling?
Praheme Praphet: Because I want to add diversity as to what it means to be black and a black man in America, through my lens by telling my story and experience.
The Lyfe Magazine: What do you mean by being a black man in America?
Praheme Praphet: In the 90’s we had movies like Boys In The Hood and A Menace To Society. But those things didn’t really represent me and my life or what me and my friends were going through. So, by me telling my story as it pertains to the things that I’ve gone through and have done, putting it into story form was my way of showing normalization in the middle class type America. Showing the different aspects to young black kids to open up their minds and look at other possibilities. Letting young black kids who never thought of themselves as nothing else other than a violent person because of the ‘Boys In The Hood’ and ‘A Menace To Society’ type movies that they are better than that.
The Lyfe Magazine: What are your hopes to contribute to the filmmaking industry?
Praheme Praphet: I want to contribute diversity as to what it means to be black and show that the things we see in the media don’t represent me or any of my black friends. So, adding the things that I’ve experienced and putting it into story form normalizes the middle class type America. Showing different aspects of young black kids to open up the possibilities and show young black boys who never thought or see themselves as nothing else other than a violent person because of ‘Boys in the Hood/Menace to Society’ type films.
The Lyfe Magazine: So, it’s important to you the way blacks view themselves?
Praheme Praphet: Yes it is, that’s why I added boy scouts to the narrative because not many have seen black boy scouts. That’s mainly why I do the work I do, so black people can view themselves in a different way but it also has a global impact as well. People in other countries see black people specifically on rap reality shows and cops showing blacks getting locked up and they think black people really are that way. So look at an Asian coming fresh off the boat, they are going to look at black people as being dangerous because of the media putting out bad visuals of blacks. I don’t want to add to the negativity.
The Lyfe Magazine: Who is your inspiration?
Praheme Praphet: I watched Spike Lee and John Singleton for 10-15yrs. It made me realize that’s what I wanted to do. Spike Lee represented black people, and he was doing it well with Doing The Right Thang, Malcolm X and others. Spike Lee is my favorite. He made me realize that it’s not that far fetched to become a movie director and he looks like me. So, seeing Spike Lee and John Singleton doing something I can see myself doing is such an inspiration and is attainable. John Singleton laid out the path and gave me perspective. So, I went to college and studied film.
The Lyfe Magazine: When did you do your first film?
Praheme Praphet: I did my first short film in the 10th grade. Telling a story gave me a taste of an entirely different element and I actually loved it. Like music, arts, writing, photography; all the things I like separately helped me tell a story in my own creative way.
The Lyfe Magazine: I heard you’re releasing your first feature film. What is the premise of the film?
Praheme Praphet: Yes, I am. The movie is called, “The Adventures of the muddy lions.” It follows Tristan, a naïve adolescent boy, coping with life in the inner city.
Tristan’s mother enrolls him in the Boy Scouts in an effort to keep him off the streets, when he witnesses a homicide; the local thug demands his silence. Tristan learns, with the help of his new Scout friends, that doing the right thing isn’t always easy.
The Lyfe Magazine: Were you once a boy scout?
Praheme Praphet: Yes, I was a boy scout.
The Lyfe Magazine: How long did it take to make The Adventures of Muddy Lions?
Praheme Praphet: It took me 7 yrs to make this film from paper to screen.
The Lyfe Magazine: So, I take it that it wasn’t a very easy project to complete?
Praheme Praphet: No, it wasn’t, but there is no progress without struggle.
The Lyfe Magazine: Tell me what you mean by that?
Praheme Praphet: I was admitted into a mental institution twice and diagnosed as mentally unstable and in 2009 my mother passed away in a car accident.
The Lyfe Magazine: I’m so sorry to hear that.
Praheme Praphet: Thank you, but yeah, I had just finished my first year in film school. My parents were driving down to see the first movie I directed and got into a car crash a couple of hours before the screening.
The Lyfe Magazine: How did you deal with that on the day of your screening?
Praheme Praphet: It was not a good day. I had been promoting my film and looking forward to my family coming to see my first real film and then I got the call from my brother that mom passed and dad was in the hospital. My brother was coming from Atlanta, so, I hit my dean up and told them the situation and then cried and waited on my brother to arrive. He wanted to rest for a bit when he got to Tallahassee, so, I went to school and ended up watching a few films before my brother called and we left to go see my dad in the hospital. It was the worst day of my life and on what I thought would be my happiest. My mom was a breast cancer survivor, and now she’s gone and will never see my work on the big screen and she helped me with the ending of “Soaked” so, I was tripping to know that she died coming to see it. But I hope she’s looking down on me and that she’s proud that I never gave up on my dreams to be a filmmaker.
The Lyfe Magazine: Praheme, I believe she has a big smile shining down on you. So, are you saying your mom passed and your dad survived?
Praheme Praphet: Yes, he survived with a broken arm and other injuries.
The Lyfe Magazine: How did your dad handle surviving?
Praheme Prahphet: My dad is a vibes man. He understands life and how it works. He did feel bad that he wasn’t driving and that he couldn’t do anything. My dad is a very strong man. He’s still pushing on, but he definitely misses her.
The Lyfe Magazine: Has that made you and your dad closer?
Praheme Praphet: Yes, my dad and I have a very close relationship. I like my dad. I had an ATM business that I owned and operated with my dad. We worked very close and spent a lot of time together. He’s the one who put 200k plus into my movie. It’s great to have your dad as a big supporter of what you do.
The Lyfe Magazine: Tell us about Praphet productions?
Praheme Praphet: Praphet productions, I started in early 2000. My mom and I will always be in total control of Praphet productions because she was the one who helped me create it. I also have “ I am we”, which is a studio that is open to bring other people on board, so that my partners don’t feel like they don’t have some kind of ownership into the company, but prophetic productions will always be me and my mom, only.
The Lyfe Magazine: How do you stay focused?
Praheme Praphet: I try to stay aware of my body, get a lot of rest; don’t isolate myself, and eat right. Because me, not paying attention to my body was what sent me in a downward spiral and landed me in the hospital. Now, I know, I need to work out at least once a week to burn off the energy and eat right. When I’m feeling down, now, I talk to somebody, play ball or watch movies.
The Lyfe Magazine: I understand you won some awards. Tell me about that?
Praheme Praphet: Yes, Muddy Lions won Best Youth Film from the San Francisco black film festival, Best Narrative Feature from the Blackstar film festival in Philadelphia , Audience Choice Awards for best narrative from Blackstar film festival 2015, best narrative Baltimore international black film festival. I won the top 40 under 40 award from Style Magazine in Richmond Va. I worked on a short film in graduate school at Florida state called the underground a slave musical. I was the symana photographer. That film won 21 awards and 3 student academy awards. It was a very powerful film; it went all over the country.