In the wake of the pandemic and social unrest, Rudeboy’s Restaurant filmmaker Philipp Yaw has turned to art. “I think like a lot of African American people, we’re not unfamiliar with struggle,” he tells So Booking Cool. “And so, I think I’ve kind of been raised and trained from a young age to take the hurt, take the pain, and channel that into something.” During his childhood, he utilized his angst for creativity not necessarily to be productive but to cope and escape woes.
He played basketball as a kid but found it wasn’t for him. Instead, he gravitated towards music and would play the guitar while watching late night hosts Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno. His musical pastime catapulted into a discipline with him studying music and ultimately becoming classically trained.
“So my kind of trajectory as a creative person obviously was becoming a musician, having limited success—and I say that very generously to myself—having no success at that [music], and kind of the death of that dream and then the emergence of a passion of filmmaking,” the California-based director shares. It was then that he gave himself permission to pursue his longtime love of film and television.
In 2018, he was a semi-finalist in the Fox Writers Lab, in which writers receive feedback, guidance, mentorship, master classes and networking opportunities with veteran writers, showrunners, and directors; he then executive-produced the 2019 AT&T Mentorship Program alongside Emmy-winning creator, writer, producer, and actress Lena Waithe (also a Fox Writers Lab alum) and her partner Rishi Rajani, President of Film/TV at Hillman Grad Productions, both of whom Yaw calls “two of the nicest people in the business.” It was his first time executive producing, an opportunity he seized by betting on himself and volunteering to fill the role. That same year he participated in the ABC | Disney Writers Program, where he became a finalist for his musical comedy pilot Street Songs: The Legend of Rick James.
His debut feature Rudeboy’s Restaurant won the 2019 Emerge! Filmmaker Lab Short Film Competition, in which he received funding from Ghetto Film School, Vimeo, and Dolby Labs. This past summer, it premiered at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) as part of the 2020 Emerging Director’s Showcase. In the film, a white woman goes to a Jamaican restaurant and in fear of thinking she’s going to get kicked out, she pretends to be related to 2000s dancehall superstar Sean Paul. Yaw says the movie is broadly a mediation on whiteness in a Black space and explores wokeness vs. hyper wokeness. It also touches on themes of loss and humanity.
“Lastly, it was and is my attempt to visualize Jamaican food in a very prestigious and beautiful manner,” the musician says. “…There’s so much—I’m just going to call it what it is—there’s a lot of racism of how we talk about food and how we consider food. There’s a Eurocentric lens through which we deem certain foods as high cuisine and other things as kind of more low and kind of base; and I think it’s bullshit.”
Watch the interview to lean more about Yaw including how his classical music training enabled his path as a filmmaker; his anxiety during the pandemic; his perspective on how the entertainment world has been affected by the pandemic; what Chadwick Boseman’s passing means for him and the industry; what he learned from Waithe; his experience working with Dascha Polanco; his advice for filmmakers; his next short film, Cary in Retrograde, a semi-autobiography in which he stars and is executed through his and his wife’s production company Cosmic Otter Productions; and more! Check out the trailer below!