Miami hip-hop rapper musical drama released by Lionsgate on DVD and at Blockbuster
By Robin Rowe
From tennis to rapper to actor, Susie Abromeit
HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Today) 5/30/2009 – “We were having a miserable time trying to cast the role of Pearl,” says Know Thy Enemy producer Jeremy Mitchell. “I mean, where exactly are you going to find a white female rapper? The whole point of the role in the movie is that it’s a very unique thing. So, we’re in the auditions, striking out, and one of the assistant CDs says to me ‘There’s a girl who’s a MySpace friend of mine. She’s, white, attractive and raps.’ I see that she’s talking about Susie Abromeit! She’s an old friend of mine from my tennis days. We came up through the junior ranks together. She’d told me years ago that she wanted to be an actress one day.” Abromeit’s rap song on her MySpace page fit the movie and so Mitchell used her song in the film, too.
In Know Thy Enemy, Nemesis, played by Sheaun McKinney, is the hottest rapper in rap’s hottest city, Miami. His big secret? He’s not a rapper. He’s a made-up creation of the record label, an invention of two music moguls, played by Jeremy Mitchell and Bechir Sylvain. Pearl, an aspiring rapper played by Susie Abromeit, is pushing herself as an artist and ready to do whatever it takes. She wants Nemesis to
help get her on the label. When Nemesis gets a label deal that drops rapper Razor Ric, it means war. Razor Ric, played by Marlon Taylor, had introduced Nemesis to the label. The two friends are now bitter rivals.
Susie Abromeit ranked sixth in the U.S. for tennis before becoming a singer-songwriter. “I had hits on the radio,” says Abromeit. “I’m edgy and a little hip-hop. In my MySpace messages a fan wrote to say, ‘There’s this movie and you’d be perfect.’ I was surprised it was Jeremy Mitchell’s movie. He was a kid I grew up with playing tennis. We lost touch when I went to play at Duke.”
The first day of filming was performing at a club in Miami. “It was 50-cent Tuesday, a hip, urban crowd. They were like, ‘Can this white rapper girl handle it?’. It was a great night. You can see the performance on my website [www.myspace.com/susiemusic].” Abromeit has guest starred on One Tree Hill and Burn Notice. She stars this fall in the feature comedy I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, based on the best-selling novel by Tucker Max about a bachelor party disaster.
From Miami theater to Hollywood cool, Sheaun McKinney
Sheaun McKinney was driving a friend to the audition for Know Thy Enemy. McKinney’s agent called to say he was in the same audition. McKinney got the part. He’d worked before with Bechir Sylvain, in a movie called Bahamas Hustle. “I’d seen Sheaun onstage in Florida theatre and knew he was incredible,” says Mitchell. “But, I didn’t know that he used to rap when he was younger.”
“The first day of shooting was a blast,” says Sheaun McKinney. “I thought we’d be shooting a couple scenes. At the nightclub, all these flyers had been printed billing me as an artist, a real rapper to play this club. I used to rap a while back and had to brush up on my skills to work with Messiah [the rapper name for Marlon Taylor]. The crowd was going crazy. They probably couldn’t hear what I was saying.” Since moving to Los Angeles, McKinney has been working on moving his theater company to the west coast (www.groundupandrising.org).
Marlon Taylor hosts Miami music show Miyayo
Marlon Taylor found the audition for Know Thy Enemy on Craigslist. “There were four or five guys going for the role,” says Taylor. “I gave it my all and got called back. It’s my first film. My role had a small part until they rewrote the script. We shot in fifteen days.” Taylor was also the music director. “We met Messiah at his audition, were blown away by his presence and command of the scene,” says Mitchell. “Later we were thrilled to discover that he was also a rapper.”
Taylor hosts the show Miyayo (a nickname for Miami) on www.krib.tv and on www.thestreetsfm.com radio. The music variety show is recorded on the roof of the Sony Building.
Know Thy Enemy is Mitchell’s second film as a producer. “We had access to a 5,000-seat concert venue in Miami,” says Mitchell. “We already had an idea for a hip-hop film in place, and the merging of the two, the venue and the genre, was a perfect marriage. Almost concurrently with our completion of the script, we lost access to the venue. We were considering shelving the project when our eventual third producer and DP, Justin Marx, requested to shoot some test footage for us. He had just bought the new Panasonic HVX camera.” Those tests showed it was possible to go ahead immediately using the HVX camera with an adapter for 35mm lenses, that they could produce their film in HD without sacrificing production values.
Mitchell’s first film, Harder They Fall, is being distributed in June. Know Thy Enemy is releasing now. Both were acquired by Grindstone Entertainment Group and are being released on DVD by Lionsgate. So, how does an unknown producer get a two-picture deal with no stars?
Producing a message, Jeremy Mitchell
“We focused on the quality of the film instead of the name actor,” says Mitchell. “With what little budget we had, we did not sacrifice content. We threw all our energy and resources into production value, story and acting. My career in the industry came as an accident. I was an aspiring pro tennis player seeking funding and on a lark was referred to a casting for a commercial about young athletes. I was hooked and immediately pursued acting full throttle and approached it from an athlete’s mindset.”
“Before we’d started production I had contacted Film Finders, seeking information about producers reps,” says Mitchell. “I spoke with Peter Belsito who asked to read the script. He called it ‘an incredibly sensitive piece, about love, loyalty and meaning’. He told me to contact him when I’d finished the film. Upon completion, I moved to Los Angeles. Peter showed the film to lawyer-rep Greg Bernstein, who referred me to Seth Kittay at All Channel Films. Seth works incredibly fast. In about a month we were offered a deal at Grindstone Entertainment Group for both films to release through Lionsgate.”
The Florida Delray Beach Film Festival presented a special pre-release screening at the Know Thy Enemy on May 22nd. “I grew up in Delray,” says Mitchell. “It was a really special homecoming. The house was packed. The projection was perfect and the whole local Florida film community really appreciated and celebrated Know Thy Enemy. It was a very rewarding finish to this process.”
Know Thy Enemy
Distributors: Grindstone Entertainment and Lionsgate DVD
Release Date: May 26, 2009
Duration: 86 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language and some sexual references