In media and journalism, it’s not always common practice to give the leading voice on a piece of content to the creator themselves. Of course there is reason for this; every musician in the world would give their album a 10/10, every new video would be “the hottest thing out right now,” and fans would have to reckon with the fact that nothing is objective and that the merit of art is all relative, rather than subscribing to the idea that tastemakers create the definition of cool and that’s the way it is and the way that it should be.
Too much? We’ll leave that for a different article, but for now we wanted to give you a first-hand look into the significance of a new video premiering today on Emcee Network for “Terrace View” by Christian Jaimez, directed by Greg W. Harris who makes his hip hop directorial debut (!) with this special collaboration. Below you’ll find the story of the video, told by Greg W. Harris himself. Hope you enjoy!
Terrace View is my hip-hop directorial debut with Christian James. We’re both from Toledo, now living in Brooklyn with pitstops in Detroit, Atlanta, Cleveland Heights, and Ypsilanti between us.We met senior year of high school and stayed across the street from each other the summer after graduating, on Terrace View North and Terrace View South, respectively.
Terrace View is the story of a young man with aspirations, playing the lottery to get out of his circumstances. I put Christian in a cage to reinforce the lack of a true path of economic mobility for so many everyday Americans. Things get even more challenging within certain demographics and identities. Many people where we’re from see sports or music as a way out. So we chose to present a lottery story, including a lottery ticket as well as the prospect of an NBA draft lottery, within the visual context of our current circumstances; all using music and film.
We filmed entirely on location in Park Slope, as to show our own experiences in the neighborhood where half of our crew resides, using independent cinema to encourage a further understanding of place in what is known as a gentrifying city.
The only terraces we actually see are only those behind the gate, on the outside of the cage out of reach. They are person free and even don the American Flag, which itself hangs lower than those higher symbols of wealth and status, a message on how our capitalist economy has taken precedent over the mission statement of our country.
That said, the only people actually shown on terraces are the women of color featured in the work of art shown in the opening montage, all engaging in creative expression and scientific exploration, finding the freedom to do so even as officers walk on the prowl. The officers themselves have a tiny representation in the frame, pale in comparison to the compelling, curious, welcoming nature of the mural.
That building itself functions as a sanctuary of sort for young mothers and their children, who are provided with homes while also learning employment skills and receiving aid in finding a permanent home. The mural, “I Deal, I Dream, I Do,” was designed by Katie Yamasaki and completed alongside several other women of color.
Christian and I have always had aspirations, trying to get the proverbial house on the hill—and while the narrative only allows Christian to free himself toward the end of the film in frames where he becomes larger than the cage around him, the existence of the project itself means we actually did make it out of our hometowns to New York City.
We made this video for about $35 in total. Having met the day before shooting, and again at the 5AM call time to film the cop scene in “evening” light. I borrowed the camera from a friend, the computer that I edited on from another friend (they’d both be “executive producers” on an industry-level show, but still, shout out those homies). The only real costs were the chalk we used to color the car, an xacto knife we used to carve the car out of a cardboard box we found on the street, and a taxi cab getting Theda to and home from set.
New York City iconography was important to place us in the town where we now pay rent, da republic of Brooklyn. This includes the NY lottery sign, the neon bagel sign, some street signage and the earth tones of the basketball court.
Our main prop was the car, considering it is the method of travel for so many kids in the midwest, one that offers both freedom as well as the potential for them being stopped by the police and losing their lives, as Big Sean said “got caught up in the news about what happened in St. Louis, we midwest kids that shit could’ve happened to us.”
The privilege seen by our main character is the number of shots he’s allowed to miss while still growing, finally shown larger than the cage itself as the film approaches it’s close.
The opportunity I have as a filmmaker is similar to what Kanye had as an artist, what Pi’erre Bourne is doing now—producing the projects we create; being able to facilitate the artistry in both expression and execution. Jordan Peele mentioned his planning to becoming a producer in order to make the films he wanted. Peele saw the lack of agency as a non-producing writer when unable to accept an opportunity due to a contract he had with another project. After gaining that agency, he produced his first film, Get Out.
Working a 9-5 in film allows me to continue along a producing path and deepen my relationships and understanding of how things are done at the top level, while smaller projects like Terrace View give me a lot more creative agency. The mission is to make those functions converge.