Hustlerz Paradise tells the gritty truth
“For many, in Bermuda, you are one paycheque from being homeless and one hustle away from being rich.”
Gritty truth-telling will be on display tomorrow with the premiere of the first two episodes of Bermudian Hafiz Dill's web series, Hustlerz Paradise at the Liberty Theatre. Tickets to the showing have sold out.
A promotional video has appeared on social media.
Mr Dill's screenplay follows Sincere, an ex-convict who has paid his debt to society but is faced with obstacles on his way to becoming a law-abiding citizen.
But this time, Sincere has an exit plan.
“I'm just telling a story. I'm sure there is a message for some, who the cap fits, let them wear it,” said Mr Dill, born in Bermuda to Bermudian parents but raised in New Jersey from age 2. “It's just a story, with no political agenda.
“Yes, it's just like how I see it. Although most people will be able to relate to one of the characters.
“The wonderful thing is that it is a web series and this narrative can change from episode to episode. I'm not trying to give people an anti-violence message, however, there is a lesson that can be learnt.
“I'm telling a story about a world that I created on papers, however, it is important to remember that art imitates life.
“What's more important than the content is the fact that I was able to bring people from various parts of the island together on the same screen; I want that to be greater than the actual content.”
Mr Dill says that the theme places its characters in difficult circumstances and follows the decision-making as they work out of them.
When asked if Hustlerz Paradise offers a bleak or unflattering view of Bermuda, Mr Dill said: “No. This is pure entertainment. I'm not taking any stances.
“Although, I'm sure someone will have something to say, of course, but my response is that if this bothers you, then what is going on in Bermuda has to bother you as well.
“And what are you doing to help remedy the situation? Are you just sitting back and being critical? If anything, this is going to start a conversation.”
The CEO of Hustle Entertainment, which comprises of Hustle Gear, a branded clothing line and Hustle Entertainment Films and show promotion, Mr Dill has turned his hand to scriptwriting and film production to satisfy a lifelong urge to tell stories.
An Occupational Health & Safety Officer at Bermuda Hospitals Board, Mr Dill attended Keystone Junior College, earning an associate degree in General Studies.
Mr Dill ultimately completed a degree in communication and public relations through Southern New Hampshire University.
Mr Dill's return to Bermuda in 2011 was in the midst of the surge of murders that shocked the community.
When asked about the gun violence, Mr Dill said he could not grasp the magnitude of its effect on Bermuda, adding: “Having grown up in Newark, I was kind of numb to violence.
“I read that Bermuda lost some number in a year. And I was like, ‘We lost five last night (in Newark).'
“That's a vivid memory for me a decade ago in hearing what was happening. The one that struck home was my cousin, Yankee, (Court Street figure Raymond Troy Rawlins, shot dead in 2010), who grew up right in Newark with his brothers and the rest of my cousins.”
Hustlerz Paradise started as a commercial short, with no dialogue, only music which can be found on the Hustlerz Ink YouTube page.
“Doing that video planted the seed,” Mr Dill said. “It's an all Bermudian cast and crew.
“May 2018 was the tipping point. That was when I started planning it. There was a point that I had creative differences with the initial production crew,” Mr Dill explained. “Then I hooked up with Shane Woodley and Donald Robinson.
“Shane and Donald have been magical in helping me bring this to fruition. I'm surprised by the reaction, it's been all positive.
“The feedback is phenomenal, I can't even lie. I get stopped every day by people wanting to be a part of it. People saying to me, ‘I want to be in it. I know this life.' It's been a good experience. Good, but exhausting.”
Mr Dill is creator and writer, Mr Woodley is director and editor and Mr Robinson is director of cinematography.
“Everything else is me. I just took on my cousin, Keita Wilson, as an administrative assistant.”
Mr Dill was frank about the series' funding. “Well, it's being paid for all out of pocket. That's why I am looking for sponsorship.
When asked why approach this topic now, Mr Dill said: “Why not now? Tomorrow is not promised. I had an epiphany, I asked myself what if I died today? What have I left behind?
“Six months or a year on from dying, I would surely be forgotten. That prompted me to start writing. “I bounce ideas off people. I start down a path. I often look to old heads here and remember their words and that might just trigger more writing. Then the pen just flows.
“You know, the stories are the same, from beginning to end; the difference is how it develops. The ‘how' and ‘what' are what grabs the audience. This show will definitely leave a mark.”
Asked about his inspiration, Mr Dill cites Courtney A Kemp's Power, Shonda Rhimes' Scandal and David Simon's The Wire.
“I hope to pretty much follow that idea — that kind of truth-telling story. I believe that poverty breeds irrational thinking.
“I firmly believe that. Irrational thinking is what is going to drive my characters' decisions with this show.”
Mr Dill credits being pushed by an urge to write from childhood.
“I had a professor that told me ‘you should write a book'. I started to write things down. Eventually, I thought that not many people are doing much reading.
“I thought, a lot of people like visuals. I watched a scene in Straight Out Of Compton, where Ice Cube is sitting with a laptop writing his script for what would become Friday. A lightbulb just went off in my head, ‘you could do that too!'.
“That's where the idea was cemented. That's me — I see something and I do it. I see it come to fruition and I'm just like, ‘wow'.
• Hustlerz Paradise premieres at Liberty Theatre on Saturday. Visit the Hustlerz Ink YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCazvdKieB6k6LuDVSM8euwQ