A group of inner-city kids goes to school together, goes to church together and joins the Boy Scouts together. And when one of them witnesses a murder he must decide: Does he follow the code of the Scouts and do the honorable thing to protect his community? Or does he follow the code of the streets and not snitch?
That's the moral dilemma of "Troop 491: The Adventures of the Muddy Lions," the semi-autobiographical and confident debut of Richmond filmmaker Patrick "Praheme" Ricks.
Ricks has wanted to make movies since he was 14. After getting into short films at Richmond Community High School, he went on to Howard University, where he made an underground slave musical and short film about a black man and a magical bar of soap that turns him white. After receiving his master's degree in film production at Florida State University, Ricks worked on the indie film "Lake Effect," produced by Sarah Simmons. He says that gave him enough confidence to return to Richmond, where he shot the script he'd been working on, "Troop 491."
The acclaimed film is still making festival rounds and Ricks recently flew to Los Angeles to meet with leaders of the Boy Scouts of America, who want to use the film to reach more diverse young people in 2015.
"When I was coming up, Richmond was a rough city," Ricks says. "It was pretty tricky to get out and learn some things. I'm proud I was able to come back in and see this thing grow. We didn't have the money to promote the film, it's really been just word of mouth."
Like any filmmaker worth his salt, Ricks already has written another script. The R-rated comedy, "Walking Under the Influence," is going through casting for its eventual Richmond shoot. He says it's another semi-autobiographical tale about a recent college graduate who's depressed, whose friends try to take him out to a club but are forced to walk because of a citywide sobriety checkpoint.
"It's about how you deal when reality doesn't match up to expectations," Ricks says, adding that the project likely will involve crowd funding.
"I feel like I have a unique voice," he adds. "I want to show these are universal stories, not just specific to black people. Really my purpose is to broaden the spectrum of what it means to be black in America."