Shawn Cosby’s Film “33rd and Memphis” Debuted on August 22


( ENSPIRE She Did That ) Cosby’s Film was Created to Elevate DC as a Mecca for Artistic Talent

ENSPIRE Contributor: Alexandra Rivera

This film “33rd & Memphis” was written and directed during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic out of Cosby’s desire to create something beautiful amid so much tragedy. Her goal was to create something that showed a positive representation of family, love, and the arts. 

Cosby’s film tells the story of the importance of dance and the human heart. The story centers around, sixteen-year-old, Memphis Braxton. He lives in an upscale historic highrise in the North-West section of Washington, DC. All he wants to do is dance, but without his parent’s approval, he won’t be able to pursue what he is passionate about. Even if it cost him everything, he would rather die than not be able to dance. Memphis lives with cardiomyopathy, a disease that makes it difficult to deliver blood to the body, which can lead to heart failure and sudden death. The disease took his father’s life and Memphis cannot help but wonder if it will take him too. 

Photo of Shawn Cosby

Do you think having a mom in the industry kickstarted your interest in the arts? 

Yes, I think having my mom in the industry kickstarted my career because she was the one solely responsible for putting me into dance class. In my household, music, dance and musical theater was always a part of our lives because my mom went to school for theater and was a drama teacher in the Montgomery County Public School system.

My mom would always take us to plays and shows; we filled our days with creative expression. Even though I never expressed a specific interest in dance, my mom got me involved with Joyce Mosso Stokes and that was my official introduction to dance.

I transferred the habits my mom instilled in me to establish my artistic career. I took on my mom’s work ethic – I watched how she embodied excellence and how she rehearsed, practiced and kept her focus. The discipline that she modeled for me prepared me for all that I do today.

How did you come up with the story for this film?

The story for 33rd & Memphis came from a pilot that we had written and submitted to TV One. The pilot centered around a struggling dance company that was on the corner of 33rd & Prospect Street in Washington, DC. The project lay dormant for a while because TV One wasn’t looking for pilots at the time.

During the pandemic, I revisited the script and started developing the first scene that I read, where Cameron gets kicked out of the dance studio. I thought about my friend Kwame who died from cardiomyopathy when I was a child. He had a dream and passion to play football and the only thing that stopped him was his heart. I continued to ponder these events while listening to jazz artist Pat Metheny’s latest album, and in two weeks I had a complete script.

You wrote and directed this film during the pandemic, what was that like and how did you tackle the challenges of the shutdown? 

Honestly, my anxiety was on 1,000 every day! And that’s because we started this process at the beginning of COVID-19 when everything was still unknown. It was a traumatizing time for everyone. We did not know which end was up; there was such pain and turmoil. Kids were out of school, people were out of jobs, and people were trying to figure out how to pay rent and mortgages. We got so many conflicting stories. 

Our number one priority was to keep people safe. I also understood the assignment – we needed to complete this film for our community. The project offered a creative escape for us to use our talents and create something wonderful and magical for people. I think the need for a creative outlet was the reason we had an overwhelming response to our casting calls. There were makeup artists who drove from Delaware and back every single day, and they were on set for 15 hours. 

We did everything that we could to stay safe and are pleased to say that we had no COVID-19 outbreaks during our entire production. We consulted with doctors and nurses on how to do sanitation stations and fever checks. We scaled down scenes that may have required 15 to 20 people and took it down to 4 or 5 people.

We shot the nucleus of the cast together, which was the family unit so that they interacted with each other all the time once they were tested. Our mask requirements were strict – the only time we removed masks was when we were filming. Otherwise, we kept masks on even when we were outside. We also clarified that if anyone felt uncomfortable at any point in time, we totally understood. We wanted to make great art, but safety was most important.

Photo from

Do you think you had more creative control over the film because you wrote and directed it? 

Yes, absolutely. Being the writer and co-director gave me significant creative control. However, I still yielded to the team that I partnered with to write and film. I leaned on Tree Walters, my cinematographer, for his expertise in shots and angles. I worked with my mom on how to evoke emotion from the cast at just the right time.

I know well that as a visionary, sometimes what you’re married to has to change. Being an effective writer, director, producer, or leader of any kind doesn’t exclude you from taking direction from others, especially in their areas of expertise. The ability to accept feedback and adjustments makes you better.

What do you hope watchers get out of this film? Is there a certain part you are most excited for people to see? 

I want people to understand that no matter what has happened to you, it’s never too late to live your passion. Don’t let age, marriage, kids, or anything stop you. There’s a line in the movie that Memphis’ mom says to him after he made a decision that compromised his values. She puts her hand over his heart and says, “As long as you have this, you always have a second chance to make it right.” I believe that’s true.

Whether you need to apologize for something or repair a relationship, as long as you have breath in your body, as long as your heart is beating, you live your dream and live your passion. Now, it doesn’t mean your journey will be easy, and you may not always know exactly what to do. But it means that you always do what you love.

I also want people to remember that we all face intersections in life. Whether it be which college to go to, which person to date or marry, the decision to have kids or not, career choice, living for others vs. yourself, all of those things are intersections. And when you come to an intersection, choose. You can choose to go right, left, or forward – but what you can never do is stand still. Many people are stuck in their lives watching the traffic flow – at some point, we must choose.

Do you have any current projects you are working and what are your plans for the future? 

I have two films that I’m getting ready to go into pre-production for; I have a skeleton script for both of them but some characters aren’t fully developed yet. So I’m going to dive into that. The goal is to film next spring and summer. I want to continue to create great TV and film projects, do film festivals, and hire and cast more great local talent. I want to create good work, and quality work, and open doors and gateways for people in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) to be seen.

Watch the Trailer for 33rd and Memphis

Cosby’s goal in filming was to elevate the talent coming out of the DMV area. She wants to continue to create things that give local talent the opportunity to shine which this film does perfectly. ‘33rd and Memphis’ stars Nathan Butts and Amber Miller Moore and tells the story of a boy fighting for his dream despite all odds. 

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