I Don't Live Today
An expressionistic Drama about a disillusioned Black visual artist who, on his final night in the New York City, wanders the streets trying to fight off the demons of the morally corrupt art world only to be forced to come to terms with the demons within himself
Inclusion StatementAt the helm is Mtume Gant, an African American Filmmaker-Actor-Writer. With him are African American producer Chris Everett and Indo-Canadian producer Shant Joshi. The story depicts the darker ends of our arts economy where race, gender, sexuality, and ethics are put on trial.
About The Project
It's the story of...
Any person who's felt like they keep hitting a brick wall and it's not their fault. That they aren't finding their success because others are cheating and are "rigging" the system. An anxiety and an angst builds up inside them until they become ready to just simply leave it all behind.
Meet ROBESON KING - a down and out, black NYC-bred painter who has had it with his life of struggle as an artist. Compelled to make a drastic change, he grabs a few things and decides to hit the road. Where to? How ever far he can get. One problem. He doesn’t have any money.
A lack of viable options forces Robeson to turn to CARLTON - a well-off white male actor with whom he has a complicated relationship - for help. Carlton agrees to lend Robeson the money but says he must wait till the following morning.
This wrinkle in Robeson’s plan leaves him to roam the New York City streets for the evening, which turns into an unexpected night of misadventures, bizarre encounters with old acquaintances, and reflections on how he got into his current predicament.
Finally, Robeson's journey leads him to a point where he meets a wealthy patron, KELSEY, who wishes to take him under her wing, but at a great ethical cost.
As day breaks, Robeson heads back to collect his get-away money and is faced with a disturbing reality that he has willfully ignored - a dark truth about Carlton’s predilections. The two characters come to a head in an angry final confrontation that ends in rage...
In the wake of scandals filling the headlines in Hollywood, the ethics of the artistic vocation are being held to the fire with revelations of gross misconduct by some of the industry’s biggest patrons. But the exploitation of artists has long been documented, and our current reckoning of the toxic relationship between those with power and those without comes of no surprise to the people most affected by it. I DON'T LIVE TODAY explores the power-dynamic of modern-day patronage while examining the consequences artists must face when they choose to reject their exploitation.
The film is a modern day morality fable that takes place in the darker ends of our arts economy, where the subjects of race, family, loyalty and ethics are put on trial. Is it possible to be truly ethical in our system of arts and capital? Can the Black artist function truly as himself in an industry not designed by his own people? What happens when the once marginalized become power players in the system that once exploited them?
THE CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE
"There's a surreal aspect of the film where the script pushes the audience off balance in the most creative way."
I DON'T LIVE TODAY is as much an exploration of the life of the visual artists as any of the other subjects. Influenced by the abstract expressionist work of Norman Lewis, Mark Rothko, Romare Bearden and Alma Thomas, the film will exist also as a much needed homage to radical abstract art, in particular the abstract art of African Americans that for many years went ignored and under-appreciated. The film will feature original works from living artists, as new pieces will be commissioned to make sure an authentic representation of abstract art is seen in the story and aesthetic, showing the vibrancy of visual art culture today.
FICTION COMING TO LIFE
I DON'T LIVE TODAY follows the themes and stories of the artist who is exploited for their work by the powerful... Fate had it that our story would come to life in the form of controversy surrounding our writer/director, Mtume Gant.
In April 2017, Mtume's latest short film WHITE FACE premiered at the Ashland Independent Film Festival to a Best Short Narrative nomination. Since then the film went on to garner a lot of notoriety throughout the 2017 festival circuit, being nominated and winning a number of awards.
In April 2018, Donald Glover's ATLANTA aired an episode featuring Glover playing Teddy Perkins in white face. What became exceptionally clear was that the imagery of both Mtume's WHITE FACE and ATLANTA was all too similar.
Left: WHITE FACE, dir. Mtume Gant. Courtesy of Speller Street Films (2017).
Right: ATLANTA S02E06, dir. Donald Glover, 20th Century Television, FX (2018).
The studio, network, and producers were notified of these strange similarities and gave no response to the matter.
In I DON'T LIVE TODAY, Robeson faces a situation where, as an artist, he has a stylistic similarity with a past prominent artist, and could, therefore, create new works and claim them as lost paintings, thus profiting off of unoriginal work and blatant plagiarism. The ethical and moral ideals he preaches would be broken for the sake of fame and money.
Following the controversy of ATLANTA, Glover was yet again subject of plagiarism controversy when his "This is America" song turned out to be melodically identical to Jase Harley's "American Pharoah".
While Glover has not responded to either matter, we can be sure that Robeson's predicament in I DON'T LIVE TODAY rings true and is grounded in a certain reality that we live in today.
Making this film suddenly becomes all more important as we point a spotlight on Robeson, a struggling obscure artist, and see the powerful exploit and take advantage of him.
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About This Team
MTUME GANT - Writer / Director
Mtume Gant is a Director and Performer hailing from NYC. A graduate of NYC's Laguardia HS & The Acting Conservatory at SUNY Purchase, he has worked heavily on stage, screen & TV, most notably as a cast member of the HBO show OZ and one of the leads in the film CARLITOS WAY: RISE TO POWER, where he was featured in the role of "Reggie" next to Mario Van Peebles and Luis Guzman. He made his screen debut as Louis in the Sundance Award Winning Film HURRICANE STREETS. His most recent accomplishments include writing/starring in Contact Theatre’s critically acclaimed production Fields of Grey and his film directing debut of SPIT released in 2015.
SPIT has gone on to win over half a dozen awards (Best Short Film at the Coney Island Film Festival) through its circuit at over 25 festivals in the United States alone. It premiered on TV on the ASPIRE station.
His second film WHITE FACE, a controversial critical investigation of whiteness in American society, premiered at Ashland, then screened throughout the world at the likes of Kinofilm, Cucalorus, and Martha's Vineyard, garnering a Programmer's Choice Award at Bushwick, Best Short at San Francisco Black, Best Actor at Jim Thorpe, and Best Experimental at Harlem International!
SHANT JOSHI - Producer
Shant Joshi is an Indo-Canadian film producer based out of Los Angeles and Toronto. With his company, Fae Pictures, Shant pursues projects that feature the stories and perspectives of “the Other.”
In the world of feature films, Shant worked as a unit production manager on Ingrid Veninger’s PORCUPINE LAKE, a fem-queer coming-of-age tale that premiered in Toronto, Busan, Rome, Cheries-Cheris, Mill Valley, & Outfest. Shant also worked with New Queer Cinema director, John Greyson, as a line producer on his avant-garde features LAST CAR and JERICHO, centred around subverting and addressing topical issues such as archival untruths and the extinction of Palestine.
Shant has produced over fifteen short films and two web series.
Most recently, Shant worked in motion picture literary representation and packaging at Buchwald.
CHRISTOPHER EVERETT - Producer
Christopher Everett is a film director and producer who is currently residing in Durham, North Carolina. In 2015, Christopher started Speller Street Films in which he directed and produced the award-winning documentary WILMINGTON ON FIRE. Speller Street Films recently acquired the distribution rights to the 2002 cult classic AS AN ACT OF PROTEST which they remastered and officially released this year.
Christopher and his company Speller Street Films also consults various production companies, film festivals and film programs on social media strategies, grassroots marketing, audience building, community engagement, and programming.
Christopher is currently filming a documentary short on 4-time world karate champion and martial arts pioneer, Vic Moore.
EMILY FLEISCHER - Casting Director
Emily has collaborated on a number of features including Paul Schrader's First Reformed, I Am Not A Bird, Life Itself, Low Tide & Siberia to name a few.
She is currently working on the feature MINYAN as well as HBO/A24s Black Rest (aka Random Acts of Flyness).
SUSAN SHOPMAKER - Casting Consultant
Susan Shopmaker is one of independent film's most respected casting directors, with over 20 years of feature film credits to her name. In 2018 she won the Casting Society of America's Artios Award for Eliza Hittman's Beach Rats and previously won an Artios Award for Sean Durkin’s acclaimed Sundance drama Martha Marcy May Marlene, and was also nominated for Goat, James White, Afterschool, and Disney's Enchanted.
She previously cast such projects as John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, John Slattery's God's Pocket, Andrew Neel's King Kelly & Goat, and Michel Franco’s Chronic (Cannes 2015 Award Winner & 2017 Spirit Award Nominee). And a fun fact...she was the Casting Director for a film called Hurricane Streets (1997 Sundance Audeince Award Winner) which is also the first feature film IDLT Director Mtume Gant ever acted in.
FRANKIE TURIANO - Director of Photography
Frankie is a New York native director, cinematographer and photographer hailing from Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He is known for White Face (2017), Spit (2015), Buffering (2013) and Non-dicktion (2014). He specializes in dark, neon images and commercial storytelling. In addition to his DP work, he also writes and directs and is currently in the process of finishing his first feature film Beyond the Last Horizon.
LAURA MOSS - Production Designer
Laura is an NYC based production designer. Her design worked has graced the screens with features like 306 HOLLYWOOD (Sundance, Full Frame), YOMEDDINE (Cannes - Competition), and MENASHE (Sundance, Berlinale, New Directors/New Films). Her work on shorts has also made it to the screens of the Museum of Modern Art and the Telluride Film Festival.
LAURA is an alumna of NYU's graduate program. She was recently named one of Filmmaker Magazine's 25 NEW FACES OF INDEPENDENT FILM.
KRISTAN SPRAGUE - Editor
Over the past nine years, Kristan's work in the edit suite shines with acclaimed films like "Newlyweeds" and "Manos Sucias", for which Kristan was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Editing. Kristian consistently works in the narrative sphere having cut over fifteen shorts and four features, the last of which, "Nigerian Prince," just premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. He also recently completed work as one of the editors for the hit HBO series "Random Acts Of Flyness".
SCOTT THOROUGH - Composer
Scott Thorough is a Brooklyn born rap producer, film composer and INFP Scorpio. Thorough began making beats and producing albums as a young adult, eventually working with rap and indie artists across the country.
As a composer for film, Scott is sensitive to the art of storytelling. He composed his first score for the short film Mariachi (Dir. Elena Greenlee, Aspen Shortsfest 2010), and immediately found a comfortable fit making original music for film and advertising. Using hip hop aesthetics as his jumping off point, Scott employs sounds of varied cultures to carefully bind and examine the relationship between the moving image and music. His work has been used for major advertising campaigns and he has scored several feature films including Newlyweeds (Dir. Shaka King, Sundance ‘13) and Manos Sucias (Dir. Josef Wladyka Tribeca ’14) receiving awards and high praise at top film festivals.
MIKE GASSERT - Location Sound
Michael J. Gassert (a.k.a. "MikeSound") is a New York-based sound artist and producer working at the intersections of film and music.
As one of New York City's top resident sound mixers, Gassert keeps very busy in the film and television industries. Most recently he engineered the film, Jason Moran: Looks of a Lot, documenting the acclaimed jazz musician in performance across the country. His recent film credits include the celebrated movies, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Another Earth".
Gassert has further distinguished himself in the studio as both producer and mix engineer. Notably, he produced 2009's "Master Musicians of Jajouka with Bachir Attar" as well as 2011's "Mango", hosting the music of celebrated Nicaraguan balladeer, Mango Ghost. Guitarist, synthesist and co-producer for the Brooklyn electronic duo, Sky Prison, Mike is also a savvy sound-maker himself.
ARJUN SHETH - Sound Designer
Arjun G. Sheth is an award-winning Sound Designer and Re-Recording Engineer who has been working in New York since 2007. Most recently, Arjun was the Sound Designer on the Sundance Special Jury Award- winning film, "Monsters and Men." Arjun’s work has been shown around the world at festivals including Sundance, Tribeca, SXSW and Cannes; “God of Love,” a film he helped design, won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short in 2011. Projects Arjun has worked on have been shown on platforms like HBO, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Fox, ABC, TLC, ID, OWN, Bravo and ABC Family, to name a few. Arjun approaches his work with a good sense of humor, enthusiasm, and a focus on storytelling.
Aria Ferraro - Make Up Artist
ARIA FERRARO is an Italian born and raised artist, based in NY and bi-coastal. In New York, Aria studied at Fiorello H. LaGuardia and also obtained a bachelor degree in Studio Art with concentration in Drawing and Human Anatomy at Hunter College, continuing then her studies at The Art Students League of New York while assisting moma & other museums' resident artists. Aria acquired a Master in Special Effects Make-up from the world's top make-up artistry school, Cinema Makeup School. Aria also trained at one of Hollywood's premiere special effects laboratories, MEL, inc. and B2FX, working on projects for big studio clients such as Universal and Marvel while under the supervision of Oscar and Emmy-winning industry professionals.