Fresh Off The Production Of SIN, This New York City Producer Set Up Shop In North Carolina To Shoot His Next Feature Film Project

Follow Luc Stephen on Instagram @LucRStephen and @Second_Chance_Enterprises

Luc Stephen, is a writer, producer and director who is best known for his role in the series ‘American Gangster’ on Black Entertainment Television (BET).

Who is Luc Stephen and where is he from?

My name is Luc Stephen. I was born in Haiti and raised in Boston before I migrated to New York. The name of my film production company is Second Chance Enterprises. Producing is my strong point. I can direct if necessary, but I prefer to focus on producing. That’s where I feel most comfortable.

What brings you to the State of North Carolina?

Currently, I am in North Carolina working on a project called CREAM. It is written by Dutch, who is better known as Kwame Teague.

What was your initial reaction when you first read the script?

My initial reaction when I first read CREAM was that it was an amazing story. I love the way Kwame writes. Kwame has written Dutch, he’s written for Angel on BET, he’s written part of Legacy on BET, he’s written Sin (which will probably be a breakthrough movie for me), he’s written CREAM, and a host of other films. He’s a hell of a writer. A phenomenal writer.

What excites you most about the cast of the movie CREAM?

A lot of people will be excited about the bathtub scene, but the confrontation between the characters Charisma (played by Mena Monroe) and Carter (played by Crystal the Doll) is what excited me the most. We couldn’t film it in North Carolina, so we’re shooting it in Detroit.

I have to give a shout-out to Crystal because she spent two weeks hanging out with lesbians to prepare for this role. Crystal is usually cast as a vixen, but she wanted to showcase her range with this role. I will always call Crystal and respect her gangster because she really brings it, you know what I’m saying?

Behind the Scenes (BTS) footage of CREAM (2023) | Left to Right: Luc Stephen & Actress Crystal The Doll

What should people always expect from a Luc Stephens joint?

They’ll get better and better each time, and I won’t stop. I’ll keep going and pushing forward. Even when I can’t keep going, I’ll get up and continue. So, you can expect each project to be better, bigger, and greater every time.

What is AVOD and why is it growing so fast right now?

AVOD stands for Advertising Video on Demand (AVOD). Ad-supported streaming services like Tubi are growing rapidly because they offer free content. Everyone wants something for free, which is why these services are successful.

Tell us about Dennis Reed and Homestead Entertainment.

Homestead Entertainment is a distribution company that I have been working with for about a year. I sub-distribute with them. It’s a great company with four partners, and I know Sean and Dennis personally. K Deezy, another talented actor in this movie who plays the character Boom, introduced me to Dennis. It took some time to build a relationship with them. They rejected one project because they didn’t like the script, but that script wasn’t written by Kwame. However, this one was, and they accepted it. Dennis gave me the opportunity to try and make it happen. Dennis is a passionate artist, a creator, a director, a visionary, and a great person. Naturally, we have our clashes because we both have strong personalities. I’m not the type to engage in back-and-forth arguments; I prefer to listen and learn from him because he’s already doing it. He’s making things happen. So, I guess I want to be like him when I grow up.

Behind the Scenes (BTS) footage of CREAM (2023) | Left Of Center: Actress Devin Nikki Thomas

What do you look for when evaluating a film script?

The whole script is important, but the deciding element is the ending. I prefer surprise endings that make the audience go, “oh snap.” When I was directing the first few days of CREAM, actress Devin Nikki Thomas (who plays Banks) wanted to incorporate more reveals. For example, in a scene where the police arrived, she initially portrayed a worried expression. However, I advised her to maintain a straight face instead, so that viewers would be caught off guard and say, “oh sh!t, I didn’t see that coming.” I enjoy movies that leave you discussing them after leaving the theater. I don’t want to create a film where everything is predictable. I gravitate towards scripts that are unpredictable and keep the audience guessing.

What do you like or dislike most about post-production?

I like everything, I mean I love everything. Post-production is when you put everything you’ve worked on together and go through the mistakes. The only thing I don’t like about post-production is that you see your mistakes and think, “Oh damn, I shouldn’t have done that. Oh, we should have done that.” But every time you film, it’s a learning process. For example, this film, CREAM, was a learning process for me and my team. We learned what to do and how to do it.

What does North Carolina need to be able to put out independent films like Atlanta or Detroit?

I think you have the people, the interest, and the desire. What you need are a couple of studios that are already set up, not ones that you have to build from scratch. Building studios takes time, and in the independent film industry, everything moves quickly. Filmmakers aim to shoot in shorter time frames like 10, 11, or at most 12 days, rather than the traditional 21 days. Having studios with pre-built bedrooms, living rooms, apartments, kitchens, and clubs that can be easily transformed into different settings would be helpful.

Additionally, there is a tax incentive in place, but it mostly benefits big-budget movies, which doesn’t help independent filmmakers much because they don’t have millions of dollars to invest before qualifying for the tax incentive. The requirements should be more accessible for smaller productions. Nevertheless, I believe North Carolina is ready to dive into the independent film game. It just needs a diverse group of independent filmmakers.

Behind the Scenes (BTS) footage of CREAM (2023) | Center In Focus: Actress Shakeyah Parson

What challenges did you encounter while filming here?

One of the challenges I faced during this project was the logistics and traveling. I lost my driver the day before we came down here, so having a dedicated driver is essential when filming in different locations. Some people would finish work at six, but they couldn’t leave until the transportation arrived at midnight or even 2 in the morning. If my cousin were here, he could have helped with airport runs and hotel transfers, creating a less stressful environment. I understand that once you finish work, you want to relax and not linger around.

The project also faced challenges because we initially had a director who had to step down. To ensure we didn’t lose the deal, I had to step in as the director. However, in the realm of filmmaking, there are numerous moving parts, and each person plays a specific role. It’s crucial to have the best person for each position. Can I direct? Yes. Am I the best director? No. I acknowledge that I need to work on and practice to become a better director.

Although I started as the director, I had to pass the torch to Frank Blenman along the way due to the numerous issues that arose. He did an incredible job as a director. I excel in producing, and that’s where my strength lies.

I deeply appreciate my friends who traveled from New York, Texas, and Miami on their own to be extras. Their support touched me greatly. I have built many relationships, and these individuals genuinely want to see me succeed. With better organization, we could have finished on time, but given the circumstances, we might need an extra day. Nevertheless, the movie is going to be phenomenal. The footage and acting are outstanding.

Did you have any standout performances?

The most standout performance was by Raquel Mills, also known as Raquel Coco Mills. She has been acting alongside me since she started in 2008. Alright, let’s talk about the standout scene. I mean, all the scenes were exceptional, and the actors were fantastic. But the scene that stood out the most to me was the one featuring Tamika, portrayed by Raquel Coco Mills. Initially, I had casted a girl from New Orleans for the role of Tamika, but something didn’t work out. I want to give a shout-out to her because she’s doing great in her career. She’s a talented actress, and I think she’s in the Dirty D and now in Atlanta. However, it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened for the character of Tamika because Raquel got the role afterward.

Raquel brought everything that the character needed to the role. She conveyed the fear, the crying, the sweating, and she delivered it perfectly in every take. The particular scene she was in involved the robbery of a trap house. She was with a guy and had to run and hide in a closet. The intensity of the situation had her scared to death as she witnessed everything through the crack in the closet. She really nailed the role, and when you watch the movie, you’ll truly believe she was terrified. I can’t reveal too much, but even if you think you know what’s going on, you don’t really know until the movie unfolds until the very end. The movie has some great reveals that will make you go, “Oh sh!t, that poor girl,” and as the story develops, you’ll be like, “Oh sh!t, that’s the kind of movie it is.” It’s filled with amazing surprises.

What parts of your bio set you up to make movies?

I came from Haiti. My father was a senator, and my mother raised me in a single-parent household. I came to New York, on the wrong side of the tracks, and ended up in prison. Making movies was not on my radar during my time in prison. I was trying to become a personal trainer, and I also got into working in restaurants and sprinters. However, everything changed when a friend of mine passed away. Chaz introduced me to someone to start working in the film industry. Unfortunately, I felt that person lacked the ability to complete projects. So, I decided to get involved myself. That’s when I truly fell in love with filmmaking. My first taste of production came from working on American Gangster, which aired on BET. I was featured on the first season because they had a segment about the crew I used to be a part of. In the following season, I became a consultant. This was around 2007-2008.

Behind the Scenes (BTS) footage of CREAM (2023) | Left To Right: Joshua Perry, Evan Rogers, David Pyles

In 2012, I established my company, Second Chance Enterprises, but at that time, I was primarily focused on comedy shows and parties. Film still wasn’t my main focus. However, when things weren’t working out in other areas of my life, I turned to film. I decided that the next time I pursued something, I would personally get involved, and that turned out to be film. I started attending film festivals and seminars in 2015, and that’s when my love for filmmaking grew. I started taking it more seriously. When you ask me what led me to where I am today, it wasn’t any specific event or experience. It was just the lifestyle I lived that allows me to work on certain types of movies. While those may have been my initial projects because I could relate to them and they represented the hood, they’re not the kind of movies I prefer to make. I like to do things differently. For example, today I received a phone call from someone who races and breeds horses, expressing interest in doing a documentary. That kind of project attracts me because it’s unique. There are documentaries about race cars and golfers, but having a black person interested in making a documentary about breeding and racing horses is something special. It interests me because it’s different, even if the whole world may not accept it at this time. I enjoy doing things in a unique way.

Do you think spotting talent is a skill or a god given gift?

I know that it’s one of my gifts because I’ve been able to spot talent and place them where they excel. I’ve made mistakes in the past, but I think I need to listen to my gut more than my head. Sometimes as a producer, I prioritize selling the movie and use my head too much. However, using my gut often leads to correct decisions. Sometimes the logical choice doesn’t always make the most sense. It’s a skill that needs to be honed. Now, let me tell you about Detective Mills. I initially cast a guy from Chicago. He got his agent involved and asked for more money, even though he initially claimed he was willing to do it without any issues. I ended up replacing him. I found someone else through a Facebook page for North Carolina actors and filmmakers, but that fell through due to personal reasons. I was left with just two weeks to find a replacement. Then, a guy from Virginia reached out to me. He said he didn’t want anything except the opportunity. He drove all the way from Virginia and absolutely nailed the role. He performed as if he had been acting his whole life. I’m definitely going to work with him again.

Behind the Scenes (BTS) footage of CREAM (2023) | Left to Right Crystal Rogers (Makeup) & King Brandon

Another surprise was Talib Shakur. He had worked with me on other projects, and although he always claimed to be ready, he truly delivered this time. He played Detective Sergeant Anderson, working directly opposite Christopher Dahl. We also had other actors fly in, like Giovon from New York who played one of the guys beaten up by Inch, and BeNY Bermuda from Charlotte. We had extras coming in from Miami and Texas. Many people came through for me, and I’m extremely grateful because the budget was limited compared to what I’m used to. I want to give a shout-out to Dennis Reed and Homestead for giving me this opportunity, despite the challenges we faced during production. Every production goes through trials and tribulations before achieving success. It’s the final product that truly matters, and I’m confident this movie is going to be amazing. They’ll be singing my praises again. I also want to mention King Brandon, who played Inch. I made sure he practiced extensively, even at my own house, for a scene where he had to spit out a razor and pull out a gun. We worked on it for hours until it became second nature to him. It’s all about those moments. Carter was concerned about how she would handle the scene when she caught Mac, holding the drugs, giving him five, pushing him against the wall, and pulling out a gun as if to handcuff him. And she executed it perfectly. These were some of the surprises and successes we had during the production, including Detective Mills.

Why is visualizing success so important?

Because you have to be in the right state of mind. If you think that you’re going to fail, you’re going to fail. If you think you’re going to succeed, you’re going to succeed. So you can’t envision doing something and losing and then expect to win. That just doesn’t compute. So you have to envision winning the championship before you can actually win a championship.

Tell us about the other projects you are working on or planning.

So right now, we’re trying to finish up “Sin,” which features Academy Award winner Lou Gossett. We’re still waiting for “Better Than My Last” to finish, which stars Hassan Johnson. I’m also working on a documentary about the Kenneth McGriff case. It’s being executive produced by U.E. Wynn, Irv Gotti, and Mike Tyson. I was waiting for CREAM to finish so I could take a look at “Hoodfellas.” Today, Kwame told me about another movie called “Snow.” I need to find the script because he sent it for CREAM, but I didn’t have a chance to read it then. So, basically, we have “Snow,” “Hoodfellas,” and “Othello” written by Kwame that we’ll be working on in the future after we finish CREAM.

Behind the Scenes (BTS) footage of CREAM (2023) | Left To Right: Bettyna Theodore, Luc Stephen, Adrian Toscano