About The Project

Isaiah Johnson, an inner-city kid from Oakland, California, has an opportunity to attend an elite university. In his first year of college, he struggles to maintain his grades, attempts to remain loyal to his troubled childhood friends, and valiantly tries to capture the heart of his dream-girl. But when he arrives at a crossroad, he’s forced to choose between his past and his future.   

After graduating from the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television, Elias Mael, felt a sense of urgency to return to the film set, as a director. Inspired by the making of Robert Rodriguez’s “El Mariachi” and Kevin Smith’s “Clerks,” Elias knew that he had to take initiative and make it happen instead of waiting for someone to give him a shot.  

Elias had several feature scripts that he wrote while in school, in particular, “Against the Grain,” a story that he penned in the hopes of shooting while still a film student. Unfortunately, his plan didn’t pan out, but the script, which was written with some locations and resources that he has access to, still seemed feasible with the right crew/cast and little money. He gained tremendous experience and tactics on how to run efficient sets, with limited resources, while making numerous short films at UCLA. He knew with the right planning and team, he can succeed at producing a quality low budget feature.

Before the film could be made finances had to be found. Elias spent the majority of his efforts searching for clever ways to fund the project. It was during this time, that a casual meeting with an independent producer, Mayon Denton, would indeed prove to form a life-changing partnership, as they shared a common goal to attain this ever-so-reachable and creative dream. Interestingly enough, Elias and Mayon had met a few years before, when they were both attending UCLA. Elias proposed the idea of shooting "Against the Grain” to Mayon. It was then, that Mayon revealed how he had grown “tired of making music videos and wanted to transition into making feature films.” After several conversations, Mayon agreed to read the script. Approximately a week later, after being very impressed with what he had read and identifying with the story, Mayon decided to become a part of the project. He jumped on board as the film's executive producer. Elias and Mayon immediately started to put a team together, including Jeanne Tyson (cinematographer), Marcello Robinson (co-producer), Michael Iinuma (Associate Producer/Assistant Director), and Derek Werthwein (Associate Producer). 

Within weeks they had their plan of attack. With the help of Marcello Robinson, they started casting and managed to attract a great pool of talent, who were very passionate about the project. 

With a skeleton crew, they started principal photography on December 2, 2010.  After shooting the first two weeks of December 2010 and another week in January 2011, they wrapped production and immediately started editing, giving themselves until September 2011 to complete the project.

Growing up, Elias G. Mael lived in one of the most financially and politically disadvantaged sections of Oakland—a place where he started to notice his storytelling abilities, which influenced most of his early narratives, including “Against the Grain” and the 2009 Samuel Goldwyn Writing Award winner, “Oaktown.” 

Elias honed his storytelling skills at the prestigious UCLA school of Theater, Film, and Television where he concentrated in directing/screenwriting. While in the program, he directed numerous short films that gained notice among the faculty, in particular his thesis film, “They Came Sprayin.” As a senior, Elias was recognized by the Edie Gross Manet foundation for professional promise and excellence in the field of film production and by Frank Glicksman for artistic merit in film directing. He’s also the recipient of the 2009 Motion Picture Association of America Award.

As a student at UCLA Mayon Denton started his own Production Company, DRG Films. He has produced music videos, commercials, documentaries and feature films. Over the last five years, Mayon has written, directed and produced numerous projects. These projects have allowed him to gain knowledge and grow into the passionate filmmaker that that he always envisioned himself to be.  One of Mayon’s noteworthy project to date is a feature length documentary entitled “A Love Supreme,” a story that focuses on the evolution of Los Angeles’ Hip Hop Culture.  The project featured one of L.A.’s most recently successful hip hop groups, “U-N-I.”  It was screened at the MGM Towers in Los Angeles, inside of the International Creative Management Theater (ICM).  “A Love Supreme” received distribution and was sold in Target and Best Buy.  
Mayon is currently producing a pilot entitled “How to Succeed at Birth” as well as a short film called “Lil Tokyo Reporter.”  The latter is a 1935 period piece about a Japanese American activist.  He’s also attached to produce two feature films, “Spin” and  “Wait a Minute Mr. Postman”.

“Film making is my passion, my love, and my life.  Every aspect of filmmaking fascinates me. The initial idea, which leads to the creative process, the business aspect (the investment/money making side), the way in which a few words can metamorphosize into a screenplay, and finally… The completion of something great, that STORY which can be watched, felt, and embedded into the hearts and minds of its viewers.  The storytelling process is truly amazing!”

CEO of The Triple Seven Group (777) and former senior executive at Asylum Entertainment—a ten Time Emmy Nominated Production Company—UCLA alum, Marcello Robinson, brings eleven years of experience as a feature film and television executive. Marcello has successfully created, packaged, and/or produced television and feature film projects for Sean ‘P.Diddy’ Combs, Magic Johnson, Master P, Jeff Franklin (“Full House” creator), Scott Carlson (Exec Producer, “The Coreys”), Sherry Gunther (Emmy winning producer of “The Simpson’s”), Cassius Vernon Weathersby (producer “You Got Served”), just to name a few. As a Producer and Casting Director, Marcello has cast over thirty feature films, music videos, industrials, commercials and shorts, including “The Beat” (Showtime/Sundance), “Red Is The Color Of” (Bear Island Films),  “How Weed Won The West” (Sacred Cow), “The Binds that Tie Us (Charlie Films), “Richard III” (Exec Prod: David Carradine), “The Roaches” (777), “SpyGirl” (Joel Surnow, creator of Fox’s “24”),  “Celebrity Feuds” (E!), “Arranged”(VH1) and more. Marcello previously worked for New Regency Productions, David O’Connor Casting, and RD Entertainment. Robinson is the youngest recipient of the Omni Services Life Model Award. His life story was published on the front page of The Chicago Tribune (Feb 13, 2000) and has been featured on “Good Morning America”, CBS, ABC and NBC. Marcello is currently in pre-production on the highly anticipated television series “OnStage” in association with Make It Happen Productions. 

Jeanne Tyson is a cinematographer who was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama. Her family and home have been, and always will be a source of inspiration. 

Jeanne started the MFA program for production and cinematography at UCLA in 2007. Throughout her career she was honored with awards from UCLA, the Motion Picture Association of America, and the Edie and Lew Wasserman Foundation. She had the privilege to work directly with mentor Stephen H. Burum, ASC through an internship offered to her by the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts, and Sciences in 2009. He remains a mentor and friend to this day. 

“Against the Grain” was Jeanne’s first feature. Since then she has shot several shorts, and is in the process of shooting a documentary. Her work on various productions has given her the opportunity to shoot not only in Los Angeles, but also in Germany, Alabama, Arkansas, and New York. 

In 2011, Jeanne received the award for Best Cinematography at the UCLA Festival of New Creative Work for her work on the short film “Foot Soldier,” Directed by Jon Crawford. This honor was accompanied by a grant from Panavision’s New Filmmaker Program for the project of her choice. 

In addition to shooting as many films as possible, Jeanne has started her teaching career at UCLA Extension, where she is teaching a course titled “The Craft of the Cinematographer.” Jeanne begins production on her next feature, “The Lovely Rejects,” with Director Judy Phu in October.