Shawn Cosby, making the most of the pandemic, has written and shot his first film, “33rd and Memphis,” which debuts Monday at the AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center.
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During the pandemic, Shawn Cosby, a native of Prince George’s County, Maryland, said she was tired of watching TV and didn’t want to “stand still”. She says that while listening to a jazz album that her brother gave her for Christmas, an idea for a film came to her.
It was the story of 16-year-old Memphis Braxton, who desperately wanted to become a hip-hop dancer. His parents did not want him to become a dancer because he suffered from heart disease. Braxton went behind his parents’ backs and joined a dance academy.
Cosby did not sit idly by, quickly turning the story into a script. She said she found herself awake, writing until 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. Two weeks later, she had finished it.
Cosby is the writer and co-director of the soon-to-be-released independent film, “33rd and Memphis.”
Cosby said his character’s ambitions got the better of him and he started making decisions that created a lot of trouble for his family, new friends and dance company.
“It’s a story of redemption. It’s also a story about the intersection of your life,” Cosby said.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when a decision has to be made, she said.
“You have to decide if you’re going right, or if you’re going left, or if you’re going to go straight, but what you can’t do is stand still,” Cosby said.
She said for the film, things fell into place even amid the pandemic, finding local dancers and actors, as well as finding local locations to shoot. They worked for two months in a row without anyone contracting COVID-19.
Cosby’s feature debut, “Those We Don’t Talk About,” was released in 2016.
Cosby is quite familiar with the world in which his Memphis character lives. She had a successful career as a choreographer and actress, and she started dancing when she was 7 years old. Cosby said she wasn’t the greatest dancer when she started.
But, she said she learned early on, “If you really want to grow up, find the best dancer in the room, watch them, and emulate them.”
Cosby was in the first class of performing arts students at Suitland High School. She said she was in love with the movie “Fame”.
“I wanted Debbie Allen to be my teacher and I wanted the whole ‘Fame’ experience,” she said.
She also started acting professional, which she said was “painful at times.”
She left the University of Maryland during her freshman year, after landing a recurring role on the “Homicide” series. She said she remembers having to tell her parents that she had made the decision to quit college. She said their response was, “make it happen”. And she did.
She has choreographed for many artists and films, including “Step Up”. And Cosby is a recipient of the Alvin Ailey Award for Choreography.
Cosby is also artistic director and founder of the Center Stage Academy for the Arts, a facility she opened in 2018. At the academy, students learn to teach vocal performance, acting for television and film, as well as as contemporary dance, ballet and hip hop. .
“33rd and Memphis” will premiere at 7 p.m. on Monday, August 22 at the AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Find more information about the movie on his website.