Last year, a video of Hosea Chanchez performing a ratchet rap song surfaced on the internet. The clip featured Chanchez and random bikini clad women dropping it low and busting it wide open. Many people thought it was the worst rap video ever. However, what many didn’t know was the video was a scene in a new film Dysfunctional Friends.
The film is about a group of college friends who are reunited after a funeral. In order to receive a multi-million dollar inheritance from their fallen friend they must stay in a mansion for a week and hash out their issues.
Datari Turner is the man behind Dysfunctional Friends. Turner produced and starred in the film alongside Megan Good, Jason Weaver, Stacy Keibler, Christian Keyes, Terrell Owens, Stacy Dash, Tatyana Ali, Essence Atkins, and Regan Gomez-Preston, among others.
The Urban Daily spoke with Datari Turner about his journey from a sought after fashion model to reality show creator and powerful black filmmaker. Turner also shared some insight about the hardships of getting a film with an a predominantly black cast made. Meet the man behind the shows LisaRaye: The Real McCoy and The Ultimate Hustler, and Dysfunctional Friends.
TUD: How did you go from model/actor to movie producer working with the people that you have been?
DT: I was inspired to be behind the scenes and produce and write. The first show that I actually created and was executive producer of the show was on BET called “The Ultimate Hustler” with Dame Dash.
When I created The Ultimate Hustler I was very successful in the fashion world, it allowed me to travel the world and work with some amazing people. But, I would always think about, how do I make this work for me long term? More than just them seeing me as a male model. I started writing the script in 2002 that was loosely based on some experiences, and some women that I knew personally, called Video Girl. That’s where they would describe it as the urban version of Gia. I don’t know if you ever seen the movie with Angelina Jolie, it was kind of an urban version of that.
From there I signed a deal with TvONE and created the first athlete wives reality show called I Married A Baller with former Tennessee Titan Eddie George and his wife, Taj from SWV and LisaRaye’s TvOne reality show.
How has the business of movie production changed since you’ve been involved in it?
The business has changed so much in between that time. It’s becoming more of an independent producer’s business. Even if you look at the Academy Awards, not this year but last year, 7 of the 10 movies nominated for Best Picture were all independent films. So, I think the business has changed and is going more in that direction.
But I always wanted to be Jerry Bruckheimer. You can’t be a male model forever. I definitely had some acting roles here and there, but I told myself in my 50’s and 60’s I would have more of a career like Jerry Bruckheimer and Brian Grazer, those are the kind of guys I really looked up to and wanted to have success like.
Is Dysfunctional Friends the urban version of The Big Chill?
Yeah I would [say that]. I’m a huge fan of movies. I watch as much as I can and I study film makers. I always wanted to do a large ensemble cast film like The Big Chill, even like in Dazed and Confused. I wanted to make a movie that kind of marked a generation of actors that went on to become major stars. I wanted to do a film and have people 10-20 years from now see the film and have them like, “Oh that was the film such and such became such and such.” I had a really great time making this film with a lot of people I’ve known ten years plus. A lot of people in the film world [are my] friends already. I’m just grateful they took my call and said yes they wanted to do the movie.
Is it hard dealing with friends in the business? Do you ever have to regulate your friends on the movie set?
Not really. Everybody is professional. All of the actors in the film have already had long careers. When you look at people like Stacy Dash, Regan Gomez-Preston, Megan Good, and Jason Weaver, a lot of these people have been on TV since they were kids. Everybody is extremely professional. I think it elevates the work because it’s almost like Lebron James leaving the Cavaliers and going to play for the Miami Heat. He went to play for the Heat because he was friends with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. They wanted to bring their A game and be the best they could be. So everybody in the film has had long careers and have had a lot of success. Everybody’s coming to work everyday trying to not be the weak link, not be the person that drops the ball. So everybody came with their A game and these people are some of the most professional people in the business.
What do you think about the state of lack of roles for black actors?
I think that today the film industry has changed a lot from the 90s and I consider the 90s to be the heyday of black films, because you had all these iconic films come out like Boyz N the Hood, Menace II Society, Love Jones, Soul Food, and Friday. But I think what’s changed is that 70% of profit in Hollywood is coming from overseas now. The business has changed so much. If you really look at the grosses of the films, films like Love Jones and Dead Presidents really didn’t make a lot of money in the box office even though they became classics. I think a lot of people don’t understand that it’s really more about the numbers than anything else.
The Tourist, for instance, that kinda flopped in the states, that made $60 million in the states but made $275 million overseas. What they try to to tell you is that AfricanAmerican films don’t translate overseas, and that seems to be where the majority of the profits are coming from. It’s not just about always making it a racial thing because there are black actors you always see in films. [The same] ten actors are always working. Now you have new actors coming up and adding their name to the list of black actors you always see in films.
What advice you would give to aspiring actors, producers and directors about staying in this business and having longevity?
I would just say, be passionate and be patient because if it was easy then everyone would be doing it. I think for me, I love the business so much that I’m learning things everyday. I would be producing, writing and acting for free. I love it that much.
I heard DeNiro say something a few years ago that spoke to me. He said, “Make a list of all the things you want to attain and spend the next 20-30 years trying to get them piece by piece.” With that, I always feel like I’m running a marathon and not a sprint. If I can continue to make quality movies, I don’t really care about the box office grosses. I just want to make good art. So I would say [to] anyone aspiring to be in this business that wants success to stay at it and just give yourself time because it does take a lot of time. It took me 6-7 years to get a movie made. I heard so many no’s before I heard a yes. With that, I always feel like I’m running a marathon and not a sprint. If I can continue to make quality movies, I don’t really care about the box office grosses. I just want to make good art. Just be passionate and stay at it because eventually doors will open.