Filmmaker has his eye on hometown


It's the little things about Baltimore that make Darryl Wharton want to create movies here -- like women's hairstyles.

They're so "structured" and so sophisticated and so meticulously maintained, he explains. He knows women from other East Coast cities who come here just to get their hair done.

Mr. Wharton is intrigued also by the way Baltimoreans talk. It's ideal for movie characters, he says.

"People in Baltimore have a definite vocal distinction about them," Mr. Wharton says.

But, mostly, it's a great place for him to launch his movie-making career because the city is home for him and three other members of Middle Passage Cinema, his production company.

"You tend to know more about what you've been around all of your life," Mr.Wharton says. "That's what I do with my films. It's what I know. I'm from Baltimore. Baltimore is home. I don't know any place better."

The 23-year-old graduate of City College, Class of '86, and New York's Ithaca College in 1990, has written a film script set in Baltimore and has ideas for several more films set in the city. All of his movie ideas deal with blacks and depict their lives in a positive manner.

His dream is to establish a base in Baltimore for aspiring black filmmakers. He says there are at least five other young black filmmakers in Baltimore.

"Films have a large impact on people. African-Americans make up a large percentage of the audience. I want to show them what they can be and what they can do," Mr. Wharton says.

His first film, titled "Poem Unwritten," was a 19-minute movie set in Baltimore and dealt with a man who sought frequent sexual pleasures. After the film, a class project while he was at Ithaca, Mr. Wharton was awared a $2,500 grant from the Maryland Arts Council last year to work on other projects.

His current script, titled "Youthful Expressions," is about the escapades of eight high school students and how they communicate with each other during a four-day period. He hopes to begin shooting in March.

"The story has social significance. The location isn't really set yet, but it's probably going to be in northwest Baltimore because I feel it is more different than any other place there is," Mr. Wharton says.

One location which will definitely be included in the film is Mondawmin Mall, where he spent many days as a child. Even now, he spends time there.

"There is a very large gathering at Mondawmin every day of African-Americans that I like," he says. "It's African-Americans doing business and involved in business, as well as gathering there."

He attributes his initial success in part to other black filmmakers like Spike Lee, who helped open the door for minority filmmakers.

"You will always get compared and people say you will be the next Spike Lee. But he's not me and I'm not him," Mr. Wharton says.

"This city is ready for something like that," he says of his dream of making the city a base for aspiring filmmakers.

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