- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2006

“Click,” the new Adam Sandler comedy about a man who can make time stand still with his remote control, sounds a lot like an idea Selton Shaw had for a film when he was 7 years old.

“I remember it vividly,” says Mr. Shaw, a D.C. native. “I wrote a movie about a group of kids who stop time with a remote, and it won third place in a contest.”

Since then, Mr. Shaw, 24, has come up with other film ideas — from far-fetched fantasies to playful observations of current trends to more serious, socially conscious fare.

But one idea has people talking and just may catch Hollywood’s eye.

“The Let Out Guys,” his movie about a group of young men who play the age-old game of pretending to be someone they’re not — in this case, upscale partiers with deep pockets and an eye for beautiful women — is one of three finalists in the AXE Black Filmmaker’s Series, a national competition for up and coming auteurs.

The film premieres this weekend at the 10th American Black Film Festival in Miami, an annual showcase founded and sponsored by HBO. More than 40 films will be screened at this year’s event, which generally attracts about 2,500 participants, organizers said. Festival-goers also will attend film and technology panels, symposiums and workshops and will have the chance to hobnob with Hollywood brass.

“‘Let out guys’ is a term used among young blacks to describe the men who show up at the clubs when they’re about to let out and stand outside for a chance to blend in with the actual club-goers, making it look like they’ve been inside all along,” Mr. Shaw explains. “This way, they can meet the women who were in the club, tell them they were there, too — without having to pay the club’s admission cost.

“It’s a popular thing, and getting away with it is actually pretty easy.”

Filmed in Los Angeles, all the action in Mr. Shaw’s 23-minute movie takes place in one night as five male friends show up at a popular bar frequented by nightclub patrons. “They hang out for a while,” Mr. Shaw says, “and then a group of young ladies come in. Each one of these guys has a different personality, and the film shows you exactly what type of woman each of them likes.”

Contestants in this year’s AXE Series, Mr. Shaw says, were asked to present “a humorous and creative script on African-American experiences in the dating game.” F. Gary Gray, director of “The Italian Job,” then chose three finalists from among these submissions.

“Once the scripts were selected, each of the finalists was given a $35,000 budget to produce the film plus a cash award of $5,000,” says Mr. Shaw.

The winner — who will only get bragging rights — will be selected on the Web through votes cast at theaxeeffects.com. Mr. Shaw’s film and those of his two competitors (Stephanie Louis, 23, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Richard Montgomery, 49, of Cleveland) can each be viewed in full on the Web site.

Advancing this far in a national competition is one more achievement for Mr. Shaw, a self-professed movie junkie who always dreamed of becoming a filmmaker. “I always had a love for movies,” he says. “I went to see everything — even some R-rated films if I could find a way in.”

There were also fleeting brushes with Hollywood.

“As a kid, I always admired Spike Lee, so when he was making ‘Malcolm X’ my family and I auditioned for roles as extras, but we didn’t get in the film,” he recalls. “And a few years later I met Denzel Washington during an after-school program at Howard University.”

A career in film seemed all but certain — until adolescent folly and the temptation of the District’s mean streets resulted in a memorable detour. Without hesitation, Mr. Shaw says, “My mother shipped me off to Piney Woods,” a predominately black boarding school near Jackson, Miss. “I was definitely a fish out of water. Can you just imagine going from Washington D.C., to Mississippi?”

Mr. Shaw went on to receive a degree in political science from Virginia’s Hampton University and briefly considered attending law school at Howard. Not surprisingly, he is planning a film based on his Piney Woods experience, which he hopes to produce through his own production company, Change the World Films. But first, he’ll take a look at homelessness in his next project, “Finding Home,” which will feature his brother Jerrod in the starring role.

“There haven’t been too many films about homelessness that have not been comedies,” says Mr. Shaw, a one-time volunteer at the District’s Center for Creative Non-Violence.

“But my film will be different. My thing is, you can tackle a social issue and weave it around a good story line.”

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