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BROWN SUGAR

About The Production
BROWN SUGAR has the distinction of being one of the first feature films to shoot on location in New York following the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Comments Famuyiwa, "It's good to make a film that celebrates the city in the way that this film does."

During the pre-production phase, the filmmakers scouted the city in search of the perfect locations to illustrate hip-hop's birth and ongoing evolution within the city. "New York is the birthplace of hip-hop music. There's a sensibility in New York – a sophisticated, cosmopolitan, urban thing that you get in New York and nowhere else. That was the energy that we really wanted in this film," says Heller.

Shooting on location in New York City, was a big drawing card for Famuyiwa. "I wanted the film to be a love letter to the city. I definitely wanted to capture how I see the city and what it means to me." Coming from Los Angeles, Famuyiwa felt that he could offer a fresh slant. "I think that I have a different eye and a different perspective on the city, as opposed to if I was born and raised in New York."

Two days after the tragedy, with the Queens production office inaccessible to the largely Manhattan-based crew, producers Heller, Hofmann and Famuyiwa met with the department heads in a park to discuss their options. "We sat and talked. Everyone got the opportunity to say that they didn't want to go on with the picture, that they were scared, that they were too emotional, or that it was the wrong time," remembers Heller. But no one felt that way. "To the last person, everyone insisted that we keep going," says Famuyiwa. "It's a credit to the toughness of New York that we were able to continue."

Famuyiwa says executive producer Magic Johnson played a big part in helping them to make the final decision. "He came in and lifted morale. His visit really helped. We already felt that we were doing something important and special, but to have him and his presence was just what we needed at the time."

Still, the decision to continue made for a difficult time. "There were many things that would have made it impossible to shoot the movie. Yet, we had to believe that as we went forward, those restrictions would loosen up," says Heller. Their optimism was rewarded. Film and location permits became available as needed. "We ended up being able to use all of the locations that we had originally picked, including one in Tribeca that required special permission from the Mayor's Office."

The film was shot in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx as the filmmakers retraced the evolution of hip-hop, and the trajectory of the story's romance. "We wanted to use the atmosphere of New York's hip-hop culture as a backdrop to a brewing romance," states Famuyiwa. "We also utilized Fort Green Park, parts of Williamsburg and Brooklyn, which really allowed us to show the city that comes across in the film."

Of those post-911 days Lathan recalls, "It was healing for everyone that came to set everyday to work, and actually have something to do. There were times when we were shooting in Central Park and people would walk by and thank us for staying and doing a film in the city."

Kodjoe remembers the family atmosphere that developed amongst the cast members. &quo

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