Date of Interview: 02/09/2012
Quincy “QDeezy” Harris is a radio personality for Philadelphia’s Hot 107.9, which is owned and operated by Radio One. As a native of Philly, his reputation – and popularity – have steadily increased since his early years at Clear Channel’s WUSL Power 99 and successful transition to “Big Boy’s Neighborhood,” a syndicated morning show ran by Power 106 KPWR in Los Angeles. Back on his home turf, in a comfortable – and receptive – artistic space, QDeezy tapped into another passion: film.
As the producer and principle star of Exit Strategy, QDeezy leveraged the relationships fostered in radio and brought them to the film project. Among the many “cards” tucked into his “sleeve,” a cameo appearance by long-time friend Kevin Hart. In the midst of a promotional campaign for Exit Strategy (theatrical release, February 10, 2012; DVD release, June 5, 2012), Quincy “QDeezy” Harris spoke with Clayton Perry about the independent film landscape, the value in fostering quality professional relationships, and the importance of “striking while the iron is hot.”
Clayton Perry: After speaking with two of your fellow black independent filmmakers, Qasim Basir (Mooz-lum) and Dee Rees (Pariah), I am very interested in hearing about the struggles or obstacles you had to overcome in order to get your film – Exit Strategy – showcased in AMC theaters.
QDeezy: Since I am known primarily for doing radio, when I told people that I wanted to do a film – and trying to do a film of quality – it was quite a challenge. I’m not going to say people doubted me, but they only knew me from one thing. The great thing about this film project is that it had a first-time director for a feature, as well as a first-time producer. Even so, we all came from our own respective spaces in entertainment with a certain level of respect. In my case, for example, I have been doing radio for over ten years. Kelly Maltagliati worked for Village Roadshow on the financing side. Michael Whitton – [the director] – is a movie buff and he’s insane when it comes to editing and film and he’s been a student of the game. So we’d all come from entertainment, and we tried to make the best film possible. So that was the great thing.
Clayton Perry: Walk me through the production process – from script to screen.
QDeezy: When I first I moved out to L.A. to become an actor, with a lot of the auditions that I was going on, it felt like a really narrow base. Everything had a really narrow focus. I’m a fan of Step Brothers. I’m a fan of Seth Rogen and all of these different comedians. But I just didn’t see me being represented in any of these films. So when I got the script, I felt like it was something that Jameel [Saleem] and I could do. At the time, we were doing webisodes and different things in L.A. separately. And eventually I was just like: “You know what? I think this can be a film that we can shoot.” I am a big fan of Jonah Hill – and I was able to get him the script. And I actually got the script to Seth Rogen, too, while he was doing promotion for Get Him to the Greek. I gave him the script, because I believed in the script. He asked me: “Did you write it?” I lied, and I said: “Yeah, I wrote the script.” He said: “Okay, I’m going to read it.” I was in contact with his camp, and he went overseas to promote Get Him to the Greek, so he wasn’t going to be back for like four to six weeks. So I was telling Jameel: “Dude, we’ve just got to make this film, because if we wait on the kind of roles that we like, they’re never going to come. They’re just never going to come. First of all, they’re not going to come to new actors virtually unknown in the acting space. And then two, we have the script right here. Why not try to make it happen?” So I was talking to my boss at the time, Big Boy, and he said: “You know, we were just having a deep discussion about doing things outside of radio.” I told him I had a script that I wanted to make into a movie. And he said: “Q, let’s do it.” I called Jameel – and said: “Dude, Big wants to make the movie. He’s down. He’s with it.” And Big Boy, just off of my relationship with him, he cut a check for the starting funds of the movie. And that’s how the story began.
Clayton Perry: It is amazing to hear how everything came together. I agree: you can’t just sit around and wait forever – especially in pursuit of one’s dreams. You must be credited for creating your own opportunity and making things happen. Considering the fact that you are well-known for being an on-air personality with the comfort of “invisibility,” when you transitioned to film, did you have any inhibitions being in-front of a camera?
QDeezy: Even though this was my first role, I was taking acting classes with a great acting coach in New York. Her name is Tracey Moore. She helped Busta [Rhymes]. Her specialty was helping people in entertainment transition from one side of entertainment to acting. So I was taking acting classes with Tracey Moore, I want to say, from 2004 to 2007, and I took some classes when I was in L.A. But I am very animated – and I am very visual with my facial expressions. I’m not going to say I’m a pro, because I know it takes years to get to that level. But with this script – and having a high comfort level with Jameel and Kimelia [Weathers ], both of which I met like the first month I moved to L.A. – it really felt like I was just doing a movie with my friends.
Clayton Perry: Even though this film is being labeled as a romantic comedy of sorts and has a fictional narrative, what lessons about love were you able to pull from the script?
QDeezy: I’m married, so if I learned anything, it would be a problem! [laughing] I think my wife would say, “Wow. Really? You’re learning?” [laughing continues] But I think the common thread of this film is the importance of communication. You have to keep the lines of communication open, and you have to be honest with your mate and let them know how you’re feeling. In this film, because James – the lead character – wasn’t honest and his lines of communication weren’t open, he had to go around and do all these other things. Exit Strategy is an exaggerated reality of what happens when the lines of communication aren’t open.
Clayton Perry: So, why do you feel so many people have an issue with communication? And more importantly, what potential solutions do you think can help people communicate better?
QDeezy: Well, to be perfectly honest: I think some people don’t want to be honest. Honestly. People don’t like being honest, because they don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. Sometimes you need to be honest. But it’s easier to talk about somebody behind their back, or what you should do, or what you need to do versus just being up-front. People always say: “Man, if that was me, I would just tell them.” I think this is one of the major lessons that people can pull from the film. Even the toughest person, they just don’t like to hurt people’s feelings. And sometimes, in hurting someone’s feelings, you may help them in the long run.
Clayton Perry: Sad – but true. Since you’re married – and Exit Strategy’s theatrical release is situated close to Valentine’s Day – what do you envision as the perfect activity or event to celebrate the occasion?
QDeezy: Dinner. I don’t believe in candlelight, because I’m scared of fires! [laughing] Low lighting is a must! [laughing continues] But, I’m not into holidays like that. I feel like if it’s Valentine’s Day, you should just be nice to your mate, regardless. [laughing] “Hey, I’m coming in with flowers.” You only do that once a year? [laughing continues]
Clayton Perry: Sounds like you need to teach a “Relationships 101” course! [laughing] Valentine’s Day is certainly not the only day you can visibly express your love.
QDeezy: Yeah. And some people don’t have the money to shower their mate or whatever. But I’m just saying it’s not about the money. You can go to Wawa or go to your local hoagie shop and get a hoagie, get a blanket, and go out in the park. That could be romantic. So, I’m telling everybody not to wait for holidays to express how they feel or wait for a certain holiday to turn something on.
Clayton Perry: Initial screenings of Exit Strategy have taken place in AMC theaters. They were instrumental players in distributing Mooz-lum and Kevin Hart’s Laugh at My Pain documentary, too, with regard to their independent network policy. Describe your relationship with AMC.
QDeezy: It didn’t hurt Exit Strategy that Kevin Hart, a good friend of mine did a cameo in the film. Kevin Hart is one of the funniest comedians in the world right now, and I don’t know how his deal was structured, but he got in AMC. Meanwhile, I’m back in Philadelphia on the radio station. My radio station, HOT 107.9, was very instrumental and very supportive with whatever we needed for the film, and just really coaching AMC and saying: “Hey, Kevin Hart’s in the film.” And then, AMC saw the film and they liked it. As soon as they believed in the film, that’s how our relationship started.. We were blessed to have a great team of people that was dedicated to the project and had the knowledge to access these different relationships and access to the know-how of how do you get an independent film into an AMC. Because a lot of people get stuck – and say: ” I’ve got a film. How do I get in?” You have to have a great team, have a great leader, a great person in marketing, some connections and great presentation.
For more information on Quincy “QDeezy” Harris, follow @QDEEZYDOTCOM on Twitter.