“I was kicked out of high school and got my GED when I was 17. My older brother, Pikasso, is an artist and showed me how to use a camera. He painted clothes, and I took pictures of them. Pikasso also made music videos, and I followed his lead learning how to shoot and edit. It would almost kill my spirit when Pikasso watched my videos and said, ‘No, that ain’t it.’ or ‘I don’t like it’, but he pushed me to work harder. I started my own video company, Ziare 251, and went from music videos to short films. I do all sides of making a film. Now I have films on Amazon Prime and also teach acting classes.
Life could have gone a different direction. A lot of people where I am from don’t make it past 25 or 30. My dad was murdered when he was 32, and my mom died about ten years later in a car wreck. I was only six months and 11 years old when they died. My grandma stepped in and raised us. Death hit early and often with no way to work through the trauma. Knowing that me or the people I care about can be gone tomorrow makes me love harder and show my emotions in different ways. I am straight up with people and try to help as much as possible while I am here. I have to figure out most of my life and career on my own, and that motivates me.
I am passionate about creating and telling stories from what I have been through. It is a place to use my emotions. Most of my short films are free-style, low-budget, paid out of my own pocket. That is about to change because I have some financing for the next movie.
One of the best nights of my life was showing one of my films at a red-carpet event at the Crescent Theater in November 2020. I had been trying for two years to show a film here, but Max Morey, who ran the theater, found it hard to believe that I was filming, editing, directing, and doing everything by myself. He finally agreed to watch one of my films. I sat at the top of the theater; Max sat at the bottom. When it was over, he walked up to me and offered the theater any day I wanted it. Max gave me my shot. The screening was black-tie, and it sold out. It was my first time to wear a tux because I never went to prom. That event was also a chance to shine a light on others – we were all winning.
I never dreamed I would have the chance to take over this theater a couple of years later.
John Switzer, who owns the Crescent building, was in one of my movies and started talking with me about leasing the theater. It was sitting empty, and a bell went off in my head. Who else is going to do something with this? I had to do it.
The dream came together. I met Tony Sawyer, the owner of Bob’s Downtown Diner, while we were waiting on our cars at Downtown Car Care. We talked about movies, and our friendship grew from there. Tony is helping me start the theater and mentoring me on the business side. Pikasso and our friends, who are like brothers, are helping clean, paint, and get the theater ready to open. A couple of them play chess during our breaks. Each of us wears a necklace with FTH, it means ‘full time hustler.’ We work hard chasing our dreams and push each other to be better.
I changed the name to Push Cinema; Push is my alias for producing and making beats. We will still show first-run movies, but Push will be more innovative with nights of comedy or music videos from local artists. We will also rent out the theater for events and have acting classes.
Mobile has a vibe, and it’s the place to be. I showcase the city’s good, bad, and ugly in my films; now I get to showcase more of Mobile in Push theater and give other creatives their shot, too.
I also have two daughters, ages one and nine; I love being their dad. My big girl wants to get into directing, so I take her to work and teach her what I know. I didn’t have a father, so I am figuring out how to raise my girls and give them the things no one gave me. Everything I do is learning as I go.
Sometimes I sit alone in this theater with my feet kicked up and think, ‘Damn. This is crazy.’ My brothers and sisters are proud of me. We come from nothing, so it feels good knowing I am doing something positive for my family that will also help others in Mobile.”