INTERVIEW: RODERICK LAWRENCE – Creator, Lead Actor and Producer of “Silent Partner”

Silent Partner is a 16-minute short film that beautifully encaptures the difficulties and threats that black Americans face every day of their lives, from judgemental and hateful looks to seemingly innocent and passive comments made out of ignorance. Silent Partner tells the story of Silas, a young and hungry defense lawyer with the dream of making partner. He seems to be on the verge of getting his wish after winning the case of his life when he’s posed with an unprecedented and obscure proposition. The mindset possessed by all but two of the lead characters is woefully a reflection of the state of upper-class America today.

One feature of Silent Partner that is beautifully captured is the lighting. The lighting throughout the vast majority of scenes is extremely dark. Some people may see this as an issue however I feel it is a beautiful touch as it adds to the gloomy undertones that the story is trying to tell.

I had the amazing opportunity to speak with the Creator, Lead Actor and Producer of Silent Partner – Roderick Lawrence. This was a fantastic opportunity to delve into his mind.

Is there any particular case or any kind of influence that inspired the vision for Silent Partner?

The story for Silent Partner is influenced by our current atmosphere: the story is this world, today, and now. The current state of white cops killing Black people—white people slaying black bodies, justifying it, and getting away with it—coupled with the everyday struggles and battles fought by the affluent, educated Black professional are the biggest two components creating the atmosphere of our piece. It’s never really changed in my lifetime; it is and has been, our disposition and our atmosphere. I think the film very much so represents our current atmosphere.

Were there any roadblocks or hurdles you had to overcome during any process of the film’s creation? And how did you overcome them?

The biggest hurdle, honestly, was shooting during the pandemic. Our schedule was dependent upon the other shooting schedules of our key creatives, which had been pushed by COVID and a blizzard (there was another blizzard on Superbowl Sunday when we shot the dinner scene and had the majority of the cast in Connecticut, but that is another story); so once we got a window to shoot, we locked in the dates. My best friend and co-producer, Emmy-award-winning actor-producer and Tony-award-winning producer Eric Nelsen was originally cast as Jace. However, two days before the shoot, he got a false positive on his first COVID test and then tested negative later that day and negative again over the next few days. But because we needed to ensure everyone’s safety by following strict COVID guidelines and because we had a limited time to shoot and could not push the schedule any further out, we had to make the decision to replace him. Emotionally, it was the toughest decision to make, and it killed me. But there was nothing we could do. We had to quickly find a replacement, and thankfully, we were able to cast an actor-filmmaker friend, Jeff Ryan, who had been quarantining and testing, and he turned in a great performance. We learned that, especially in this time, you have to have backups and stay as open to change as you can.

Were there any funny moments or bloopers during the filming process that you could share with us?

There really were no bloopers—just “happy accidents,” as our writer-director Aristotle Torres says. The shot that starts the dinner scene is one of those happy accidents. I was thinking deeply about what my character had just experienced in the study and trying to get into his emotional headspace when Aristotle decided to roll the camera. If it’s rolling, it’s no longer rehearsal! Ha! The other moment was when Aristotle asked me to play with the ending, and let me tell you, he unleashed me, and one by one, I told off each white person at that dinner table. It was magical—we didn’t use it in the final cut, but it may come back someday.

If you got the opportunity to make a re-make of a classic film in the style/genre of Silent Partner what would be your choice?

I would love to make Fight Club from a Black man’s point of view. We have a lot more justification in blowing up the white patriarchy. Or Devil’s Advocate for the same reason.

Do you have any advice for any young film makers or actors that would like to make an impression in the industry?

Creating content for content sake is not the way to make an impression. You have to say something. Have a strong vision for your film that is grounded in authenticity and in something about which you are passionate. If that isn’t the starting point, you won’t be successful. You must live and breathe the mission for the next year or more, so you must have a reason as to WHY you are telling the story.

Silent Partner is screening at selected festivals. FInd out more on the official website.

Interview by Kane McEvoy

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