This young black director leapt straight out of film school into feature film making at age 19 with the powerful drama, "Straight Out of Brooklyn" (1991). Financed initially by $12,000 in cash advances from his own, his sister's and mother's credit cards, and then bit by bit with fund-raising screenings (which netted $77,000), the film, concerning a black family torn apart by alcohol, anger and despair, was inspired by Rich's painful youth spent in Brooklyn's Red Hook housing project. To make "Straight Out of Brooklyn," Rich formed a production company, Black N' Progress, and hired non-professional actors and crew members who responded to his trade ads. Post-production money came from the PBS subsidiary American Playhouse Theatrical Films. Rich then was signed by the William Morris Agency on the strength of the film's screening at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival where it won a special jury prize.
Despite some critics' charges that "Straight" was perhaps crude or simplistic, few denied its power or basic sincerity in portraying a world Rich knew intimately. The same did not apply to Rich's second feature, the Disney-sponsored "The Inkwell" (1994), a story set in the black upper middle-class milieu of the 1970s. Conflicts consequently arose between Rich and novelist-turned-screenwriter Trey Ellis. Some of the mixed reviews seemed to suggest that the tale of a confused youth sent to spend the summer with wealthy relatives in Martha's Vineyard uncomfortably mirrored the inexperienced Rich's travails in Hollywood.
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Special Thanks (Feature Film)
Inspired to be a filmmaker after watching TV-movie, "Sophisticated Gents" (scripted by Melvin van Peebles)
Moved to Park Slope with mother and siblings at age 10 (date approximate)
Graduated from high school at age 16 (date approximate)
Began writing "Straight Out of Brooklyn" at age 17 (date approximate)
Directed, acted in, scripted and wrote song ("A Woman Is a Confusin' Thang") for first feature, "Straight Out of Brooklyn" at age 19
Signed contract at William Morris Agency based on success of screening "Straight Out of Brooklyn" at the Sundance Film Festival
Opened clothing store, "Matty's Red Hook" in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn
First Hollywood production, "The Inkwell"