- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 15, 2009

During the introduction of her first independent film, Neeta Wooten broke down in tears.

“I have lost a few friends to cancer during the production, so it was a little emotional for me,” Ms. Wooten said during the Aug. 23 premiere of “Misunderstandings” at the Cinema Arts Theatre in Fairfax City last month.

The Prince George’s County resident donated the premiere proceeds of $1,500 to the Maryland chapter of the American Cancer Society in honor of five women - her 13-year-old niece, Tiffani Handy; her aunt Jennifer Wooten; her close friend Kim Pelt; and friends Tania Wharton and Garcia Gabriel Johnson - who succumbed to the disease. The tickets sold for $10 each.

“While the story line of the film has nothing to do with cancer, it was placed in my heart to put the cause at the forefront of the film because of the impact it’s had on my life,” Ms. Wooten says on the film’s Web site.

Danita Mischelle and Walter Maxfield Jones star in the film, about a professional woman named Nicole who walks in on her new fiance, Rasan, in bed with another woman. Rasan insists that the situation is a misunderstanding, but the situation is made even worse by friends who ridicule, tease and offer detrimental advice to both Nicole and Rasan.

The couple, Rasan and Nicole, have been together long enough that both want to take their relationship to the next level, but, the film asks, can they survive the “misunderstanding”?

“This movie is one that I believe will keep people laughing. And it is always a pleasure having a part that can make people feel good, even if its only for a few hours,” Mr. Jones said.

“It was honor just being a part of this film, and it warms my heart knowing that money for this film is going toward a good cause,” Miss Mischelle said.

The movie is set in the District, though it was filmed in Prince George’s County.

The 35-year-old Ms. Wooten is a D.C. native and graduate of the School Without Walls. In high school, she participated in “Teen Summit,” a youth-oriented talk show that aired on Black Entertainment Television (BET). In 2002, she provided media training to Sixnetics Inc. and its on-air TV show hosts. Sixnetics is a consulting firm that provides audio, video and Web services, including creating commercials and music and wedding videos, among other services.

The movie was written as a short film in 2003, but the main tape was misplaced, and scenes needed to be shot again. With the cast living in different cities by then, the task became impossible.

In 2007, Ms. Wooten collaborated with writer Susie Kahlich to expand the short into a full-length feature. Filming took place December 2007 through April 2008 with help from Olishia Johnson and James Irving of Creative Two Productions, an independent film company based in Prince George’s.

“If it were not for them I don’t know what I would do. They were helping me when nobody else would,” Ms. Wooten said.

During the time from the conception of “Misunderstandings” to its completion, the five women to whom the film is dedicated died from cancer.

“Once I decided to make the profits of this film about benefiting cancer charities and research, it was placed in my spirit [that] from this point further … all of my films will have a portion donated to charity,” Ms. Wooten said, adding, “It’s not about what other people do, it’s about what we can do for others.”

The cast includes on-air host Jeannie Jones of WKYS-FM (93.9).

“I really believe that we have a huge talent base here in D.C. And it will be my mission over the next few years to explore and discover new talent for future films,” Ms. Wooten said.

She is working on distribution of “Misunderstandings” with film companies in Los Angles and is seeking independent release of the film to Blockbuster Inc. She hopes to expand the D.C. area into a hub for independent entertainment productions.

• Odell B. Ruffin is a writer and photographer living in Prince George’s County.

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