“‘The V’ is a love letter to my city,” said filmmaker and actor Damien D. Smith. “When I was writing this, I wanted to highlight and accent St. Louis the best way I can.”
He’s lived in New York and Los Angeles – where he currently resides – with a film resume that includes acting, production and direction. But bringing “The V,” his first full-length feature narrative home, is top of mind.
Not only has he written a story that is so St. Louis, but he wants to raise the money to film it here.
“It would have been easier for me to shoot ‘The V’ in L.A. or Atlanta, where there is a tax credit, but I particularly wanted to bring this home to my people,” Smith said. “I want to use this film to teach my people how to fish – to show my people there are other opportunities in the entertainment industry besides being on-camera, to show my people what we can do and help promote the arts and use the film to be able to show everybody ‘you can do this.’
“The V” is a fictional story set in St. Louis at the fictitious Victory High School, about a legendary basketball coach with the most wins in the history of high school sports – who is hiding a very dark secret.
“It’s not based on any real person,” Smith said. “It’s an amalgamation of all the stories that have been going around from the Sanduskys to the doctor from the Women’s National Gymnastics Team.”
The story is told through the eyes of two high school students. One is coach’s newest recruit. The other is the editor in-chief of the high school’s newspaper and blog – whose family history gives her a vested interest in taking the coach down.
“She is using journalism as a tool to fight back,” Smith said.
Smith has already received acclaim as a filmmaker. He has three short films under his belt as a director. His film “Daddy’s Big Girl” won the Gentleman Jack Real to Reel national short film competition. He was presented his award at the 2018 American Black Film Festival.
“My three short films, for me they were business cards for me – and helped me to find my voice and what I want to say as an artist,” Smith said.
He understands very clearly that a full-length feature is an altogether different beast.
“It is an experience that I have been anticipating and somewhat fearing since I started this journey as a director,” Smith said. “ It’s a sprint, it’s a marathon, a 4x4 100, it’s a decathlon – it’s all those things. I have to pull a lot of things together.”
The next item on his plate is the financing. He is looking to raise between $100-$120K so that he can begin filming.
“Raising money is stressful,” said Smith. “I wish I could just focus on the art and not fundraising. But until I get to that position, I have to hustle.”
He is already envisioning the process of filming “The V.”
The idea of having the people who raised him come down on set to watch him in action, brought a smile to his face.
“My family rarely gets to see me working,” Smith said. “It’s going to be the longest amount of time I’ve spent in St. Louis since I moved out.”
He wants to have St. Louisans working alongside him on every aspect of the film – from crew and staff to the musical score and soundtrack.
“I’ll get to show the world the potential of St. Louis,” Smith said. “I’m always representing where I’m from no matter what circle I’m in – because the world needs to see that I am a product of the Northside.”
Part of why he wants to film here is to show other people who only have limited perceptions – and misconceptions – about the city, and to show off what a beautiful place it is.
“Those are the type of things that drive me,” said Smith. “I can’t wait to be like, ‘Hey, I’m up under the arch directing a movie.’
‘I’m up under the arch, in my hometown shooting a movie I’ve written and that I’m directing.’ I can’t wait for that.”
To donate to 'The V' film, visit www.4910rosalie.com/thevfilm