Sincere: Love, Hell or Right – Film Featuring SJD World Creative Director Stephan Johnstone as Dr. Raynor-Trott.
Hafiz Dill is banking on a lot the Wednesday before Cup Match, and it has nothing to do with which team takes home the trophy.
It’s the night he has selected to premiere his film, Sincere: Love, Hell or Right.
The movie is a prequel to Hustlerz Paradise, the web series he debuted in 2019. Mr Dill hopes that on July 28, fans fill the seats of the Media Lounge in Dockyard and Specialty Cinema on Church Street.
“What better way to kick off Emancipation Day [than] with an historical movie premiere,” he said. “An island-wide takeover is what we’re calling it; both theatres on the same day so, two locations, four showings, one night.”
For anyone who isn’t familiar with Hustlerz Paradise, Mr Dill describes it as “Bermuda’s answer to Power”, the acclaimed American crime drama that ran on Starz from 2014 to 2020.
Over eight episodes, the local series tells the story of an ex-convict who is trying to stay clean.
“It’s basically about the main character Sincere, what he was doing prior to getting locked up,” Mr Dill said of the upcoming movie. “It circles around him taking care of his cancer-stricken mother and he’s forced to do some things he doesn’t really want to do.”
He wrote the script over a two-week period in April 2020, as Bermuda was ordered to shelter-in-place because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Just prior to that we were working on Season 2 of Hustlerz Paradise,” he said. “When the lockdown came we had filmed three-quarters of Episode 1 for Season 2. The lockdown inspired me to go ahead and write the movie.”
At university, Mr Dill studied communications and public relations. Struck by the idea for Hustlerz Paradise, he “just jumped in it” without any formal training, confident that he could replicate what he’d seen others produce for film and television.
“However when I did it I didn’t know everything that it entailed. All of that came as much of a surprise afterwards – post-production, editing, lighting ….at the time I just thought, ‘Write the script and get people to film it.’”
Despite his inexperience “locals loved it”. After Mr Dill invited Digicel to one of the show’s premieres, the telecommunications service provider offered to run Hustlerz Paradise here, on its Catch 2 channel, and in other countries.
“I’ve had no formal training but nowadays you have YouTube University. After Season 1 was done two friends put me in contact with a young lady named Sia Spence.”
Every Saturday, for two hours for about three months, the pair met. Mr Dill picked Ms Spence’s brain, interested in the knowledge she had gained while studying towards her film degree.
“She had a format and she taught me the basics, the standards of how to write the script and you will definitely see that expressed in the new movie, Sincere: Love, Hell or Right.”
The all-Bermudian cast includes people who were part of the television series as well as new faces recommended by friends.
“Some are students, some are aspiring actors, some are people who just wanted to throw their hat in and try it,” he said adding that he’d been pleased to find a new producer, Rian “8track” Williams, as well as Terlena Murphy, an actor who “had some stage experience”.
“Most times I just had to tell the people to just be themselves,” he said. “Sometimes when you tell people to act, they do the most obvious but if you tell them be themselves [you get more of] what you want and I learnt that through Sia Spence when she was teaching me directing.”
Filming took “about 10 to 11 months” thanks to the lockdowns and movement restrictions brought on by Covid-19. Production costs were “pretty much out of pocket”.
“Fortunately the actors all volunteer,” Mr Dill said. “The production crew – the editor, sound design, director of cinematography – those three pretty much believe in the vision and hopefully when we raise money at the premiere, they can be compensated on the back end.
“When I told them what the plan was, they believed in it. And that says a lot about them.”
His hope is to build on the 100,000 viewers Hustlerz Paradise collected over Season 1.
“I’m loving it and aspiring to follow in the footsteps of Ice Cube, Tyler Perry – these are the individuals who just picked up a pen and started writing and directing,” Mr Dill said.
“Obviously I’ve learnt from some mistakes or I’m going to learn from some mistakes and I can apply them going forward. I have a great team. People only see me, I’m probably the face but I couldn’t get things done without my team.”
The film was created by Hustle Entertainment, under which falls Mr Dill’s clothing line, Hustle Gear, and Hustle Music Group which is led by his son, King Shakur.
“They all pretty much feed off each other. So in the film you would see a lot of the cast members wearing my clothing line. In the soundtrack to the movie you would hear our music – my son did probably like 50 per cent of the soundtrack, which was produced by Rian 8Track. And then there are his videos.”
The trick becomes balancing that work with his full-time job with the Bermuda Hospitals Board as an occupational health and safety officer.
“I don’t get much sleep. A regular bedtime is probably 1.30 in the morning. I go to the gym. I don’t really hang out much. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke; I don’t go out to the clubs.
“The gym helps me clear my mind and put all my scattered thoughts in order and by the time I get home I jump on the computer and just unload all of those thoughts.”
Although filming here “made things a little more difficult” Mr Dill never considered giving up his dream of bringing his scripts to life.
“In the States there’s a permit process that would allow me to film at a specific location. Here in Bermuda, because there’s no industry for it, it becomes more on a personal level, if I know the person – ‘Hey, can I film here?’
“And then sometimes some people don’t see the vision; they can’t separate fact from fiction or movie from reality and they’re like, ‘No, I don’t want to be associated with it.’ And the problem I have with that is most of them would say no but go home and watch Power, which is the same type of show. So that’s kind of hypocritical to me. But I manage. That’s the whole mantra behind the brand.”
Sincere: Love, Hell or Right will premiere on Wednesday, July 28 at Media Lounge in Dockyard and Speciality Cinema in Hamilton at 6.30pm and 9.30pm. Tickets are available at ptix.bm, Beast Gym and Ohana Boutique in Sandys. Follow Hafiz Dill on Instagram: @mr.hafizshakur.
The film is now available on demand here: www.hustleentfilms.vhx.tv/