ZTV Network starts production on major feature film about music legend DJ Screw
ZTV Network began shooting a major new feature film about legendary cultural phenom DJ Screw on June 3 where it all started, in South Houston, Texas. As the epicenter of a still active music and cultural scene, Southside Houston neighborhoods is where the movie will be shot. Screw DJ-ed, made his epic mixtapes and opened Screwed Up Records and Tapes there shortly before he died of a heart attack at age 29.
Screw’s stretched, syrupy sound mixes continue to live through the music of artists such as Beyonce, Madonna, Megan Thee Stallion, Drake, Lil Wayne, Justin Bieber, and Lizzo, and thus have reached listeners worldwide. ZTV’s film will refine his legacy with a $14 million budget including professional writers, production, and score composers. The score, written to capture the emotions of the story, will be performed by contemporary hip hop artists and released as a soundtrack.
The film’s working title, “Soldiers United 4 Da Cash,” is an alternative name for the Screwed Up Click – freestyle rap artists who made tapes with DJ Screw in the mid-to-late 1990s at his home. Sessions would last all night and attracted both rabid fans and police looking for but never finding drugs, as there were none. At the time of his death, Screw was building a large recording studio in Southwest Houston to ratchet up from home-made cassettes he sold out of his window, to professionally made CDs with serious distribution.
Screw, born Robert Earl Davis Jr., started manipulating recordings as a child in Smithville, Texas. His mom couldn’t have been too pleased that he started by dragging a screw across her R&B records to alter sounds. Hence came Robert’s new name, coined by a cousin.
The phenomenal impact of Screw’s music is why ZTV Network wants to tell the story of his sound’s origins. It tracks to a place where the weather is humid and sluggish, the people and culture predominantly black, and getting anywhere takes a slow drive in heavy traffic – Southside Houston. The three combined to make DJ Screw’s slowed-down mixtapes perfect for chilling out, night clubbing, or driving – always played at top volume.
In fact, the first scene shot in the “Soldiers United 4 Da Cash” shows passengers in a car blasting New York-style rap. The car pulls up beside a local slab car blasting a heavy DJ “Screwtape.” The New Yorkers want to know what in the world this music is and where they can get it.
In keeping with the city’s Southside culture, the local car is a slab (“slow, loud and bangin’”) car — a Lincoln Continental, Cadillac, Olds ‘98 or other large, older model repainted a bright candy-colored tint and outfitted with protruding wire rims, sound systems loud enough to keep the car shaking, and trunk lid art on the inside. Since DJ Screw’s music gained popularity through blasting out of slab cars, they play an important role in the film.
Southwest Wholesale, a Houston music icon that spread southern hip hop broadly, helped get ZTV’s project off the ground. Its founder, Robert Guillerman, came to ZTV’s CEO Jake Salazar with rights to several unreleased DJ Screw tracks and discussed how to use them. Since the feature film will focus on the contemporary influence of Screw, they may not be used in the film but motivated ZTV to get the story of DJ Screw and the culture he birthed onto movie screens everywhere.
Al D, Screw’s friend since middle school and original member of the Screwed Up Click, came to the initial shoot along with other Click members.
Actor and hip hop artist Omar Gooding is being considered for the role of DJ Screw.
While others have covered DJ Screw’s story in documentaries and in print, “Soldiers United 4 Da Cash” will be the first full-length feature film to celebrate a musical genius who gave rise to a music scene, culture and economy that thrive to this day.