For as long as he can remember, J. Cleaves has wanted to be a filmmaker.
When Cleaves, 36, was a child growing up in Covington, he'd watch classics by renowned directors like Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Tyler Perry.
But he didn't watch them like most kids did.
Cleaves was more interested in things like cinematography and editing than explosions and car chases.
“I was amazed how they did the transitions, the cuts, the production,” says Cleaves. “I always said when I got a chance to do something like that I would do it.”
His chance came about five years ago when he joined forces with some other local film enthusiasts to write, produce and direct “Fast Money,” a film about three friends who decide to rob a local drug dealer.
The movie came out in 2010.
Now he and his partners – Covington natives Ulus Dye III and Douglas Baker, both 37 – have a new movie out the trio hopes will take their company, Beyond This World Film Productions, to the next level.
The movie, “Turbulence and Love,” has already shown twice at Malco's Studio on the Square in Memphis as part of the theater's initiative to showcase independent films. The most recent showing was yesterday.
According to Cleaves, the movie is about “love, war and emotion and the ultimate betrayal.” A trailer is available on YouTube and those watching will recognize the locations of some of the scenes.
Covington locations include Marlo's, Pappy and Jimmie's and Whitey's Bar. The film was also shot in Brighton, Memphis and Nashville.
Dye, who wrote the film, plays the lead character, Trayon, who is caught in a love triangle with his girlfriend and best friend.
Baker, who handles marketing and public relations for the company, said the movie will be taken to the International Black Film Festival in Nashville next.
“The immediate goal is to establish a regional foundation,” Baker says, “and ultimately be able to distribute the movies we have so far and build up a decent budget for upcoming films.”
The trio, which also works closely with Pamela Dean and Brittany Thompson, has plans for future movies in various genres.
Cleaves used to work at Slim Fast in Covington and all three have held other jobs over the years.
But now they're focused on movies.
“Right now, this is our job,” Cleaves says. “This is what we want to do. We have a company. We're pursuing our dream.”
“You've got to have a passion for this,” Dye says. “I eat, drink and breathe this.”
Cleaves, Baker and Dye all have backgrounds in music.
Dye has put out several records as a rapper that went by the name “Young U,” Baker is a performer and Cleaves has produced videos for Juicy J, who founded Three 6 Mafia, a well-known rap group based in Memphis.
The soundtrack for the movie comes exclusively from local artists including Tony Ross, who, like Dye, Baker and Cleaves, graduated from Covington High School.
It took about 50 people to produce “Turbulence and Love” and most of the cast and crew came from Covington and Tipton County.
Cleaves said part of the company's goal is employ local talent and provide an outlet for young people.
“It doesn't matter where you are from as long as you work hard at what you want to do,” Cleaves says. “You can do that no matter where you live. You can go to Hollywood, but just because you live in Covington it doesn't mean you can't do this. We want younger kids to know you don't have to go out there stealing, robbing. You can work for us. We want to keep you out of trouble.”
Auditions for the company's next movie, a horror flick called “The Nature Trail,” will be held April 25 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Quality Inn in Covington.
"Fast Money" can be purchased on the company's website: www.btwfilmproductions.com. The company's new movie will be available on the website soon.
In the meantime, Cleaves, Dye and Baker will continue doing what they do.
“We're all relentless when it comes to making films,” says Cleaves. “We want a positive light to shine on Covington.”