“Payin’ The Price is a cautionary tale about teen dating violence. Poor girl meets rich boy, poor girl wants rich boy, poor girl can’t have rich boy … and that’s how we end up here!” - Jordan Coleman Director
“Payin’ The Price” is a gripping movie that chronicles the story of 17-year-old Jazz Johnson. Jazz’s privileged life is turned upside down when a beautiful young girl from the "wrong" side of the tracks accuses him of brutally assaulting her. The proverbial golden child becomes the poster boy for teen dating violence. Payin’ The Price film follows Jazz Johnson’s arrest and trial as it weaves between flashbacks of fellow classmates, friends, family members and school officials.
Written and directed by Jordan Coleman, then 14-years-old and produced by his mother, Award-Winning Journalist Chrisena Coleman. “It’s a cautionary tale about teen dating violence,” says Director Coleman. “Poor girl meets rich boy, poor girl wants rich boy, poor girl can’t have rich boy … and that’s how we end up here.”
The film’s cast members are all newcomers. RODNEY MACK stars as Jazz Johnson, MORGAN POWELL powerfully portrays Sabrina DeGraffe and DAILYN SANTANA shines as Faith Wellington. Secondary leads MARC MCDONALD as Jazz’s dad, TERRY BRIGGS as Sabrina’s mom, CHRISENA COLEMAN as Jazz’s mom, SALVATORE HODGSON as Deputy Police Chief Colby Cox and BRUCE BIRNS as Judge Solomon Barnes all deliver wonderful performances. JORDAN COLEMAN also plays the role of Jazz Johnson’s cousin and best friend Christopher (aka Smiley).
Coleman, his cast and crew of more than 80 people filmed the entire production (160 scenes) in 11 days. Coleman, a high school honor student and athlete, said there was only a small window of time for him to shoot the movie because he did not want to miss the start of football practice.
“We worked 10 to 15 hour days,” said Jordan Coleman. “I didn't get much sleep because after we left set because I had to tweak the script, review daily footage and prepare for the next day. I was tired, but the process was very exciting.
Director Jordan Coleman was inspired to make the "Payin’ The Price" film after the February 8, 2009 media report that superstar artists Chris Brown and girlfriend Rihanna were involved in a dating violence incident in Beverly Hills, California. The incident brought teen dating violence into American homes like never before. Prior to that day many teens, including Jordan Coleman, had never heard of dating violence. Whether Jordan was in school, at the gym or in the barbershop, everyone was talking about the incident. The mere mention of either of the superstars’ names sparked debates and heated conversations, especially among the teenage fan base.
“There were debates in the halls at school, on the Internet and every time Chris Brown or Rihanna’s names were mentioned everyone had something to say,” said Coleman. “At that point, I had a feeling my next film would be about teen dating violence because it was a subject that everyone had an opinion about.”
“The arguments were not based on gender, they were based on everyone’s personal feelings about Chris Brown and Rihanna,” Coleman said. “There were girls who said Rihanna was at fault and supported Chris Brown and other girls who said they ripped up their Chris Brown posters and vowed they would never buy his music.”
Soon there after, Coleman said he read a local newspaper article about a 15-year-old boy who allegedly raped a girl at a party. He surfed the Internet and found that there were more and more stories about teen dating violence. The statistics were alarming: one in three teens have been victimized or knew someone who had been.
“Every time I turned around someone was talking about teen dating violence and I knew I wanted to include the topic in my movie,” said Coleman. “Teen dating violence wasn't just in Hollywood it was all across the country, including my community, but nobody talked about it until the Chris Brown and Rihanna incident. Hopefully, my film will spark a national conversation.”
Jordan Coleman was a finalist for the 2009 DoSomething Awards. As a finalist his photo and story appeared on 40 million bags of Doritos. When MTV contacted DoSomething.org looking for “amazing kids” to be featured on America’s Best Dance Crew’ Champions of Charity episode, the organization selected Jordan.
“I was selected as one of five “amazing kids” to appear on ABDC and I won $10,000 towards my next project,” said Jordan Coleman. “I knew I'd use that money to start the filming of my movie; God smiled on me that day.”In the next weeks, Jordan was paired with the Quest Crew from ABDC TV show and the dance troupe visited Jordan’s school to film b-roll for a piece that aired on national TV. In the piece, Jordan mentioned that he would use the funds he won to make his second film about teen dating violence.
After the ABDC TV show aired several girls at Jordan’s high school shared personal experiences about teen dating violence. One girl said her ex-boyfriend choked her, slammed her into walls repeatedly and left bruises on her.
“She pulled up her shirt and showed me the permanent marks on her back and pulled her pants down to show me the marks on her thigh,” said Jordan Coleman. “It blew my mind. I had seen this girl in the hallway everyday and never thought she would be a victim of domestic violence.
“I felt sad for her and I knew she wasn't alone,” he said. “Several girls mentioned their situations to me and a teacher pulled me aside one day and said she was happy that I picked this topic for my film because many students are victims.”
Jordan, the former voice of Tyrone the Moose on the Emmy-Award
winning Nickelodeon cartoon, The Backyardigans, had already spent some of
his earnings from the cartoon to make his first film, "Say It Loud"
and used more of his own money for “Payin’ The Price,” but the bulk of his funding came from his mom and grandparents, Wilbert and Dorothy Coleman.
The SCRIPT & TITLE
In two weeks, Chrisena Coleman turned her son’s 20-page story into a 120-page screenplay complete with character descriptions, dialogue, camera and lighting directions and actions. After Jordan read the script, he was pleased, but thought his mother overlooked some important teen cultural language, actions and reactions.
“My mom was on the right track with the storyline and transitions, but sometimes she tried to keep everything Rated G and I wanted it to be realistic which meant PG,” said Jordan. “Some of the actions and the language she included did not sound like stuff my friends and I would do or say. I think most parents would be surprised at what their teens say and do when they are not around.”
With direction from Jordan, Chrisena Coleman incorporated more slang, texting, a party scene included sexual dancing instead of just a Soul Train line and a believable sexual assault.
“I was comfortable explaining these things to my mom because we talk about everything and she was able to revise the screenplay to my satisfaction,” said Jordan Coleman. “When we shot the party scene, I banned all adults, except the crew, from coming on the set because I wanted it to be authentic.“A few weeks later we looked at the footage and Mom was shocked to see me on the couch kissing a girl in the party,” said Coleman. “I was 14-years-old so if there was some kissing going on in my movie, I wanted in too!”
Coming up with a title for the movie wasn't easy. Jordan and his team were brainstorming about the title and his 9-year-old brother said: “You should call the film Payin’ The Price." He walked out as quickly as he had walked in. Jordan agreed right away. It was also Justin who came up with the tag line “A Love So Good It Hurts.”
“He’s an old soul,” Jordan says of his brother, now 10. “When he speaks its like talking to a grown up sometimes. Justin is wise beyond his years.”
The CAST & LOCATION
Payin’ The Price’s one and only video audition was from James Perine who auditioned for the role Jasper Johnson, but by the time his video came after the role had been cast. After one of the actors backed out, Perine landed the role of Prosecutor Ray. Odessa Iton, who minored in theatre at Howard University, coached the actors; she was also Jordan Coleman’s former English teacher. The budget was tight so Jordan Coleman looked for cost-effective ways to shoot and called in favors with friends create the fictitious city of Madison County. The screenplay was written as a courtroom drama with flashbacks so the first task was to secure a courthouse. Jordan drafted a letter and made a formal request to film at the Bergen County Courthouse and as fate would have it, the administration said yes. A neighboring church, Church on the Green, allowed the production to use their space for meals.
The next site requirement was for the two schools in the film; Madison County High School, a public school and Stellar Academy, a private school. Jordan thought he had the problem solved when a local Christian School with a fancy entrance in the front of the school and a more urban entrance behind the school agreed to let the production film there.
The crew had several site visits and began creating the scenes and signage based on the dimensions of the classrooms and gym and the set designers had come up with plans to bring the transformation to life. One week before the shoot, Jordan received an email from the President of the School Board who explained the film crew did not have permission to shoot the film because the principal (who approved the production shoot) did not go through proper channels.The board said Jordan would have to comply with a new set of rules, including script approval and the right to stop the release of the film if any of the scenes were not in line with the values of the school.
“I knew those requests would be a problem based on the fact that the movie is about teen dating violence,” said Jordan Coleman. “I couldn’t take the chance of agreeing to the school’s terms because too much was at stake. I called my principal at Hackensack High School and the administration made it happen overnight.
“As it turned out, Hackensack High School was the perfect back drop for the public and private school scenes,” Coleman continued. “I had a great sense of pride filming at my own school and everyone was very accommodating.”In a scene showing Jazz’s father, Jasper, a high-powered New York attorney's commute to the city, Director of Photography Ken Kotowski went guerrilla style. He and Jordan stood on a sidewalk in Teaneck while filming the passing cars on Route 4, and captured Jasper’s chauffeur driving him to work. The rest of the commute was shot by Kotowski from a car riding along side Jasper's vehicle.
"I was on the cell phone with the chauffeur and he had me on speaker so I could direct Jasper (Marc McDonald) from inside a car that rode side by side with his car,” Coleman recalled. “It was weird talking to the actor as we drove down the busy West Side Highway in separate cars. I also had to direct both drivers to speed up, slow down and stay right next to each other so Ken Kotowski could get the perfect shot.”
For More Information Contact:
Jordan Coleman, Jordan@payintheprice.com, 201.983.7941
Chrisena Coleman, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, 201.983.7941