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July 10, 2014, 4:11 pm

Germantown filmmaker ‘changing the game’

Sometimes two are better than one.

Germantown-native and filmmaker Rel Dowdell is well aware of this.

When he had the script ready for Changing the Game – inspired by his Northwest Philadelphia experiences, he knew that he needed major funding.

So, he approached commercial loan broker Karen Isaac to produce his project and the partnership has yielded a close collaboration for the film that will be released Friday, May 11 nationwide.

To celebrate this milestone Dowdell and Isaac were on hand for the private gala screening of Changing the Game held at the Philadelphia Art Museum’s Van Pelt Auditorium on Friday, May 4. Cast members like Irma P. Hall and Tony Todd were on hand to step on the red carpet. The feature film also stars actors Sean Riggs and Dennis L. A. White.

“I was in town for the Legacy of Love Awards when Rel Dowdell approached me with this inspiring and motivating script,” said Isaac, who lives in Bethesda, Md. “I knew right away that this thought provoking film had to be on the screen. I am so excited about producing my first feature film. It not only gives a talented filmmaker this opportunity, but this is a new venture for me as well.”

Dowdell is quick to point out that his Northwest city roots permeate the entire film. First, Changing the Game was actually shot here in parts of his “old stomping ground” in Germantown and in North Philadelphia. Secondly, the protagonist is a coagulation of many of the people he grew up with and/or went to college with before they started their careers.

The filmmaker is proud of the fact that it tells a side of the African American story that is not usually told.

“This is about Darrell Barnes who grew up in the notorious are of Eighth and Butler,” he said. “I chose that location because when I was growing up in Germantown it had a reputation as one of the toughest neighborhoods. Yet despite his address he was able to have a successful life.”

Yet Barnes must face other villains as he rises in income, status and power. This is where the film takes a sharp departure from many stereotypical movies with African American leading characters, according to Dowdell.

“So, this is not a typical urban African American genre film,” added John McDonald, who coordinated the publicity for the film’s opening. “Dowdell incorporates several plot twists to ensure this is not the case.”

Dowdell hopes local audiences will see parts of themselves in the film. “The characters could live in Mount Airy, Germantown or North Philadelphia. It has action, comedy and a story that someone can relate to. I hope people will go to see the film and not buy it on bootleg. When you make a multi-million dollar film those bootleg copies don’t hurt as much since the circulation is broader.

“What people have to understand is that in order for these types of African American films to succeed you need to see it,” Dowdell said. “That’s why I want all to come out relax and see this. You will have a great time and help positive films to thrive.”