Culture Spotlight Featuring Johnny De La Cruz
Johnny De La Cruz (EP, Creator of the “What’s Your Hustle” Documentary Series) I was lucky to be born to a strict Dominican household in Brooklyn, NY. Watching my parents work long hours in their Bodega, I was always attracted to the idea of owning or building something from a young age. I come from a neighborhood where many of us were not presented with too much opportunity. I think it’s important for kids growing up in these communities to see people that walk, talk, & look just like them. That spark of “I can too” can be transformational. My hustle is to empower these stories.
Tell us about your experience at the Hip Hop Film Festival? From the moment I received my “Official Selection” communication, I knew that this film festival was different from the others. This festival feels like home to a new filmmaker like myself, a place that offers the platform to not only connect with other motivated filmmakers & potential distributors but a place with high expectations with the goal of giving you the tools to be a stronger contender. CR Capers & her team were extremely communicative, clear, & concise. The festival is presented in a way where the opportunity to grow is in abundance, but the onus is on us as filmmakers to break down that door and prove why we deserve a place in the conversation of the greats. As this festival comes to a close, this experience has made me feel more confident, prepared, and focused as a filmmaker with big plans.
Why are stories from the culture important?
There was no blueprint growing up for us. Speaking for myself, I remember watching TV as a young kid and constantly hearing about the successes of the “common” American dream story (Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, etc). Growing up in our communities, it can be tough to see yourself in such public figures. It’s important for kids growing up in our communities to see people that walk, talk, and look just like them in positions of power. That’s when it feels real. That spark of “I can too” can be transformational. That’s where we can create our blueprint.
What projects are you working on now?
I hustle to build the platform to uplift the voices in our culture that can
inspire hope and change. I am the creator & producer of the “What’s Your Hustle?” Documentary series where we sit down & explore with hustlers from all sides of the spectrum – from professional athletes to artists to business successes – and learn more about what makes them tick. I have a passion for transforming underrepresented stories into powerful visuals and operate from a place of substance, meaning, and emotion. Our pilot episode “Inner City Legend” starring professional boxer Scrappy Ramirez has now been acknowledged at 4 film festivals at the time of this write-up, and we have completed 4 full episodes (at 25-30 minutes each) diversified throughout the world of sports, music, and business. Our goal is to complete a full season of 12 episodes within the next 6=8 months and land an exclusive licensing deal with a major streaming service.
Why do you think the Harlem Film House and Hip Hop Film Festival are important? Entities like Harlem Film House (HFM) & the Hip Hop Film Festival (HHFF) give a voice to the talented filmmaker who may be overlooked by many of the “traditional” routes to success. HFM & HHFF allow the platform for us to be ourselves, surround ourselves with others that inspire, and take the steps necessary to elevate and better ourselves as individuals and professionals.
For me, the goal has always been to get paid & sustain a life where you are valued for who you are. Not someone some may pretend to be at a 9- 5, not someone that is valued for what they have; but for who you are at your core and what you bring to the table. HFM & HHFF live by that mantra and are places that filmmakers of our culture can call home.