Surprise Blockbuster of the Year. One of the Year’s 10 Best Films. Those are just a couple of the accolades on the video box for Eyez Reversed, the 62-minute debut movie from local filmmakers Anthony Tyler and John C. Reid Jr.
Sure, the quotes are just boasts made by the duo’s friends at the Kut Klose barbershop in Hyattsville, but they hope that one day their buddy comedy/cop drama will generate similar enthusiasm among actual critics.
Tyler, 38, and Reid, 31, met on the job in the filing room of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services in 1996. It was monotonous work, and the two continually clowned around, earning reputations as office cutups. Impressed with their off-the-cuff comedy, a supervisor asked them to perform for a co-worker’s goodbye party.
“Whenever people leave DOJ, they roast them,” Tyler says, “and one time they had me and John do a skit. After that, people started calling us….I think we roasted every director there.”
Inspired by the urge to get out of the file roomand by the runaway success of the low-budget hit The Blair Witch ProjectTyler and Reid decided to put their antics on film. A taste for police dramas and their real-world law-enforcement experiences helped shape Eyez Reversed; the title refers to crooked cops who turn a blind eye to crime. The story follows two D.C. detectives, Cortez and Owens (played by Tyler and Reid, respectively), as they try to take down the local drug lord responsible for the death of Cortez’s brother.
Enlisting several friends, including cameraman Daren Henry, 38, Tyler and Reid began shooting in the winter of 2001. There wasn’t much of a script, Tyler says; most of the dialogue was improvised. “Ideas just came to me in my sleep,” he remembers. “With the other actors, I’d write things, but for me and him…[w]e had a scene, a plot, and we just improv’d from there.”
The team started with one goalto make a quality movie on the cheap. They used inexpensive props, including a $2 toy gun from CVS, and relied on such everyday things as roaring Metro trains and ringing church bells for texture. “No one gave us support when we started,” says Tyler. “So we put our own money upour own nickels.”
“And he does mean nickels,” says Henry.
Shoestring budget? “We were on dental floss,” Reid says.
Fourteen months and a couple of false starts after the first day of shooting, the three finished what, despite the cops-and-robbers plot, they consider a family film. “We all have families, kids, [and] we wanted them to be able to enjoy it,” says Henry.
“We knew we could do a movie with no cussing, no eye candy or sexual content, and still make sales,” Tyler says. “I didn’t want my pastor to see me’Boy, I saw that film you did. We gotta talk tonight!’”
Tyler, Reid, and Henry hope to distribute Eyez Reversed to local video stores through their company, P-Chop Productions; meanwhile, they’re gearing up to sell copies on their Web site, www.geocities.com/eyezreversed, for $10 apiece. Eventually, they’d like to graduate to a big-screen project, but for now they’re happy with the reaction they’re getting from family, co-workers, and friends.
“We tell people that it’s our first film, it’s mostly improv, it’s a ‘home movie.’ I guess they’re expecting grandma’s dentures or something,” says Tyler. “But after they see it, they tell us it’s pretty good.” Sarah Godfrey