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THE CYPHER

A USC MFA short film.

THEMES

Masculinity 

Self-Identity

Hip Hop Culture

 

ABOUT

With his reputation and a potential record deal on the line,

Khalil fights to keep his secrets safe

during an underground freestyle rap competition in Philadelphia.

 
 

WHY SUPPORT

THE CYPHER

We are filming in Fall 2019 and we need your help to secure our rap battle location!

Become a part of our team and support this story by making

a tax-deductible donation toward our production. 

We are a 501c3, under USC's School of Cinematic Arts.

Donations go to: 

  • Locations

  • Camera and Lighting Equipment

  • Music Licensing

  • Meals

  • Production Design

  • Wardrobe

  • Festival Submissions


The Cypher is a part of the advanced MFA production class, CTPR 546, at the University of Southern California.

Only three projects, writers, and directors are chosen each semester for this course.

Previous notable 546 directors include Ryan Coogler (Black Panther, Fruitvale Station, Creed) and Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II, The Land).

OUR CREW

Ben Cory Jones /

Executive Producer

Ben Cory Jones currently serves as the showrunner/executive producer of the BET comedy series, BOOMERANG, loosely based on the iconic 90’s-era film, starring Eddie Murphy and Halle Berry. Lena Waithe and Halle Berry also serve as executive producers. 

Most recently and prior to Boomerang, Jones served as writer and producer on the acclaimed HBO comedy series, INSECURE, starring Issa Rae and executive produced by Larry Wilmore. Additionally, Jones wrote for WGN’s groundbreaking slave rebellion epic, UNDERGROUND, produced by John Legend and run by Misha Green and Joe Pokaski. 

After graduating cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Morehouse College, with a degree in English Literature and a minor in finance, Jones began his professional career as a communications executive for a major Wall Street group. With a wealth of stories to tell, Jones left the financial sector amidst the 2007-08 mortgage crisis, and sought out a career in TV and film writing. 

In 2013, Jones was selected to participate in the prestigious ABC Television Writing Program and was a Staff Writer on the ABC Family drama series, CHASING LIFE. He also served as a writer on the Amazon drama series, HAND OF GOD, executive produced by Marc Forster (Monster's Ball). 

Recently, Jones produced the Netflix feature film, STEP SISTERS, along with Lena Waithe. Additionally, Jones created and wrote drama series, CANDY, about a young, African American female mayor, set in his hometown of Memphis, which is currently in development at Universal Cable Productions.

LETIA SOLOMON / DIRECTOR

Letia Solomon is an award-winning African American filmmaker of Jamaican descent based in Los Angeles, CA. She graduated from the University of California Riverside with a degree in Chemical Engineering and worked as a Materials Engineer in Aerospace for four years before transitioning into a career of film. She wrote and directed “Elevate” which won for Best Student Film in the 2017 Philadelphia Independent Film Awards and Co-Founded the African World Film Festival in Detroit, MI. Letia currently attends USC’s School of Cinematic Arts for a MFA in TV & Film Production and recently completed an internship with the groundbreaking production company MACRO. 

WES AKWUOBI / WRITER

Wes Akwuobi grew up in Queens, New York as a first generation Nigerian-American. He earned his BS in Psychology from Drexel University while working in clinical research and impatient care for mood and affective disorders. After pivoting to entertainment and working at a major talent agency, Wes gave in to his lifelong passion for storytelling by pursuing an MFA at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. He works to develop and produce films that lift up the voices of underserved communities and tell their stories.

c. CRAIG PATTERSON  /  PRODUCER

c. Craig is a writer and director from New Orleans’ 7th Ward. He's also a magna cum laude graduate of Columbia University with a BA in Film Studies and has studied directing at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. His screenplays have received accolades from The Blacklist, Sundance Screenwriters Lab, Cannes Screenplay Contest, as well as the Award in Screenwriting at Columbia.  c. Craig’s directorial debut, a GIRL, premiered at last year's Austin Film Festival. He currently is a George Lucas Scholar at USC. 

ANNE BRASHIER  / PRODUCER

Writer & Director Anne Rene` Brashier makes emotionally gripping, physically dynamic, boldly engaging film and theater. Her work has appeared at Indiecade, Company of Angels, Some Assembly Required, Sacred Fools, and the NYC, New Zealand, and Hollywood Fringe Festivals. She directed the LA Webfest award-winning webseries Corporate, and was nominated for Best Choreographer at the LA Weekly Theater Awards with the LA Theatre Ensemble. She was a producer at The ScreenJunkies, making 20 live youtube videos a week for over a million viewers. She is getting her MFA at USC, and is currently in pre-production for Dugout, an adaptation of MacBeth set at a Little League baseball game.

 

NICK BROOKS  / 1st ASSISTANT DIRECTOR

Nick Brooks is an author and filmmaker from Washington, DC. His work has been championed by Forbes, Starbucks, Alaska Airlines, Amazon Studios and more. Nick is a M.F.A candidate at the University of Southern California and was named a George Lucas Scholar, one of the most prestigious awards in USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.

DEREK  BOSKO / EDITOR

Derek taught himself the craft through books, the internet, friends, and trial and error, creating short films, music videos, and web content. After undergrad, he worked as a multimedia journalist in New York, but his position didn’t align with narrative filmmaking, and his Chinese language abilities had stagnated. He dropped everything and moved to Taipei, Taiwan in the summer of 2013. Four years of living, working and studying Chinese in Taipei forced Derek to level with himself: film was his only future. And he’s learned that whether it be New York, Taipei or Los Angeles, the places he’s lived reside inside of him and that film has always been his most universal language.

Anthony Gaitros hails from north Florida. The son of a computer scientist and an artist his upbringing was always a mixture of science and art. Before coming to USC for his MFA in Film and Television Production he worked as a System Engineer and published short stories and poetry.

ANTHONY GAITROS /  PRODUCTION DESIGNER

Christopher Hernandez received his B.A. in Cinema and Television Arts from the California State University, of Northridge in 2016. He is currently pursuing a Master’s in Fine Arts., in the Film and Television Production program at the University of Southern California. Christopher is an aspiring filmmaker, who aims to shed light on the daily lives of minorities. Both his parents immigrated from the third-world Central American country of Guatemala.  Christopher is creatively driven to seek for new ways to cultivate innovative visual experiences for his peers.

CHRISTOPHER HERNANDEZ  /  SOUND

Ramone Farrier is a filmmaker and photographer currently residing in Los Angeles. Ramone holds an MFA from the Peter Stark Producing Program at the University of Southern California, as well as a BFA from San Jose State University. Ramone is currently working as a post production assistant on Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams upcoming HBO show 'Lovecraft Country.'  

RAMONE FARRIER / ASSOCIATE PRODUCER

MELISSA PATTERSON  / ASSOCIATE PRODUCER

Melissa has worked for Sephora for over 12 years helping stores increase profits by identifying opportunities. She has received numerous awards throughout her time at Sephora . Melissa got into film production about 5 years ago, by helping her husband’s visions come to life. During this time she realized her passion for film. The last film Melissa produced was selected to premiere at 2018 Austin Film Festival.

Basil Schneeberger is a passionate adventurer and filmmaker from Bern, Switzerland. His interest in film originated from his first job working at an online clothing shop assisting photographers in the production department.  While commencing his undergraduate in business, Basil founded a start-up video production company to pursue commercial and corporate based project. Basil began taking part in several short film competitions at the Zürich Film festival. His journey into the narrative world has led him oversees to Los Angeles in order to pursue the MFA production program at USC. 

BASIL SCHNEEBERGER /  CINEMATOGRAPHER

ALESIA WILLIAMS /  EDITOR

Alesia Williams is a filmmaker and editor whose creative interests lie in conveying the breadth of sincere emotional experiences through a visually stylistic and dynamic lens. Hailing from the small town of Sylacauga, Alabama, and by way of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and now USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, she brings a fresh, ever-curious, and honest perspective to film, games, and media in Los Angeles.

KATHERINE MUNIS /  PRODUCTION DESIGNER

Katherine Munis is currently pursuing an MFA in Film and Television Production at the University of Southern California. Prior to graduate school, Katherine recieved a degree in Classical Studies at the University of Minnesota, and worked in international medical aid for areas of conflict. She aspires to use narrative film to highlight the stories of under-represented peoples and voices. As a designer, she challenges herself to create both captivating and meaningful compositions for the screen.  

James is a storyteller who aims to share the lives and humanity of his community through film and music. In 2015, he received his B.A. in Religious Studies from UC Berkeley in 2015. After graduating, he became the full-time editor and music composer for Still I Rise; a documentary that brings awareness to the disproportionate rate of child sex trafficking on black girls in America. In 2017, he was nominated at Cambridge University’s Watersprite Film Festival for Filmmaker of the Future Award for his work on Still I Rise. He is now pursuing his MFA in the Film & Television Production Program at USC.

JAMES GRISOM  /  SOUND

KC OSTERBERG  / ASSOCIATE PRODUCER

KC Osterberg is one semester closer to getting her MFA in Film & TV Production at USC's School of Cinematic Arts. She once ran through a swarm of bees - nary a sting nor tear. 

Salnave won a CA Resolution Award for her work in documentary film. She graduated from Mills College with a B.A. in Creative Storytelling and Cultural Perspectives. Salnave has worked with youth in professional development internships and video production houses through the Sweeney Camp and Youth Radio programs. She has also worked with young artists through Girls, Inc., the Yerba Buena Arts Center of SF and the Bay Area Video Coalition. She was also instrumental to the expansion of the Bay Area based program Camp Reel Stories to Los Angeles - an intensive filmmaking program geared towards young budding female creatives.

ZOE SALNAVE  /  ASSOCIATE PRODUCER

 

GET IN TOUCH

Director's Statement

The Cypher is about a young man accepting his truth and understanding that he can exist in more than one facet of society with his manhood and identity still in tact. As human beings, we are beautifully complex and multi-faceted. We face immense amounts of pressure to conform to society’s standards while usually sacrificing ourselves along the way. Khalil reminds me of someone very dear to me - my brother. I’ve watched him overcome his struggles and evolve into a beautiful, extremely accomplished young man with a passion and a purpose. Rap/Hip-Hop is Khalil’s purpose. His lyrics are his power but he must fight the crowd in order to be heard. This film is for Men. Black and Brown Men. And any one of us that are still dealing with self-acceptance. Now is the time. Own who you are and spit your truth. 

- Letia Solomon