I Met a Real Pirate and He Rides the Bus!
In Fall of 2009, I was still new to my move to Newark, NJ and frequently rode public transportation. Always packed, the eight-minute bus ride up the hill to my corner in University Heights was a commute from Manhattan I often referred to as “two trains and a bus.”
And, it never lacked drama.
While riding one night, exhausted, I watched a guy board the next stop who was just overflowing with bootleg DVDs in his back pocket of large pocket jeans. In fact he had films spilling out of his back pockets, front pockets and a stack of titles the length of his arm. He pays his fare and plops down on the sideways bench-style row of seats right in front of me. That’s when I noticed: At the top of the pile, was one of my films!
The film was Journeys in Black: The Jamie Foxx Biography that I produced/directed/edited for BET many years before. I couldn’t believe it was now contraband. I was stunned.
I immediately said, “Where did you get this?”
He’s like “Downtown.”
I’m like, “I made this film and now YOU’RE selling it!”
He’s like, “I’m not selling it. I bought it….Did you really make this film?”
I’m like, “YES! And I don’t make any money when you do that. You’re robbing me, Sir! You’re robbing me!”
By this time, people on the bus are chiming in, “Man..she mad!”
I said “That’s my film,” and I told him my name and he flipped over the DVD, finding it on the back cover.
He’s like, “That’s really you?”
He asks, “This is one of Jamie’s comedy shows, right?”
“Part of it is,” I reluctantly replied. “I filmed his life story. And that’s what this is.”
“Why are you on the bus?,” he asks.
“Because I live here. And I don’t make money when people sell my film on the street,” I said.
More from the bus choir: “They sell them downtown. They’re bootleg…all through downtown.”
“I know.” I turned behind me to say to my newly found entourage. I turned back around and stared down the man sitting deep in the bowels of piracy, our biggest threat to our filmmaking industry (other than Hollywood studios who flat out tell you they would never make your film in the first place).
I looked right at the thief and said defiantly,“Enjoy your film, Sir.”
He’s like, “Can I have your card?”
Was he not listening?
“Enjoy your film.” And I deboarded.
He then follows me off the bus.
“What are you doing?” I said.
He started telling me that he likes to take pictures on his cellphone and asked what kind of films do I make…and says he really wants my card.
“Why?” I said. “Are you an actor?”
He brought up the pictures thing again and asked if I do rehearsals. Whatever.
Then he got serious — and a little protective. “Look, my name is Eugene. If you ever get in trouble, I live up on 16th.”
Fair enough. I gave him my card and let him walk off first before he was able to follow me home.
Was I ready to have a personal pirate? No thanks. But from then on my encounter with Eugene provided the best story that makes friends and family think twice before shelling out few bucks for a damn bootleg.