Craig Brewer

Craig Brewer

Brewer was born in Virginia on a military base, but spent his formative years in Chicago and California. Brewer's family finally settled in Vallejo, CA, where his mother, Gail, worked for the school board, and his father, Walter, was a corporate executive for the Matson Navigation Company. Throughout Brewer's youth, his father was a great champion of movies, letting his son enjoy movie rentals on the family VCR. Inspired by the films, Brewer began writing plays that showcased a nascent, but formidable talent. While attending College Park High School from 1984-88, his father often supported his son's creative efforts, helping to fund productions and renting out local theaters for performances. After high school, Brewer taught drama at his alma mater in courses overseen by his mother, while at the same time, fueling his passion for writing and theater by managing the Center REPertory Company in Walnut Creek and attending San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre.Seeking new inspiration and a bigger taste of life, Brewer headed down to Memphis, TN in 1994 and took residence in his grandmother's old home. There, he began to write screenplays while working at a local book shop, but lacked the funds to make his first film, "The Poor and Hungry" (2000). On advice from his father, Brewer embraced the digital revolution, opting instead to not worry so much about cinematic quality in order to tell a compelling story. His father soon died of a heart attack, leaving a $20,000 inheritance that Brewer used to finally make "The Poor and Hungry," a gritty crime thriller about a Memphis car thief (Eric Tate) who tries to go straight after stealing a car from a beautiful music student (Lake Latimer). Though failing to land theatrical distribution, Brewer's first feature became a well-regarded staple on the film festival circuit, winning Best Digital Film at the 2000 Hollywood Film Festival."The Poor and Hungry" opened new doors for Brewer. He landed a meeting with "Boyz in the Hood" producer and former Columbia Pictures head, Stephanie Allain, who enthusiastically championed his next script, a story inspired by the do-it-yourself mentality of local Memphis rap artists Brewer had known. Allain and Brewer spent three years trying to get "Hustle & Flow" made by Hollywood studios, but continually ran into resistance. Meanwhile, Brewer wrote scripts for independent films like the 2002 thriller "Pressure" and "Water's Edge" (2003). Still trying to push "Hustle & Flow," Allain finally turned to a man whose career she had helped to launch: John Singleton. The director flipped over the material, even mortgaging his own house to put up $3 million to help finance the film when all other avenues were closed off.By 2004, the film began shooting with Terrence Howard starring as a Memphis pimp looking to start a new life as a self-made rap artist. With rapper Ludacris, soul icon Isaac Hayes and actor Anthony Anderson in supporting roles, "Hustle & Flow" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2005, winning the Audience Award for Best Dramatic Feature and earning a nod for the festival's Grand Jury Prize. Purchased for the hefty sum of $16 million by Paramount Classics and MTV Films, the film was released in July 2005 amidst surging buzz for Howard's performance and the dynamic single, "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp." The movie failed to live up to the hype, however, grossing only $20 million, though Three Six Mafia managed to win an Academy Award for writing the film's rap anthem.By the end of 2005, Brewer was ready to work on his next project, "Black Snake Moan" (2006), an idea that came about while listening to the blues, which conjured images of classic Southern archetypal figures. Brewer soon crafted the story of an old Memphis blues guitarist (Samuel L. Jackson) abandoned by his wife who tries to redeem the soul of a girl (Christina Ricci) addicted to sex, by chaining her to a radiator. Singleton returned to produce alongside Allain, but the trio again failed to capture widespread appeal. And unlike his previous effort, "Black Snake Moan" received mixed reviews from critics who were a bit frightened off by the idea of chaining a woman to anything in an attempt to save her soul. Meanwhile, Brewer and Allain kept busy on their future endeavors, starting their own production company, Southern Cross the Dog, which was hard at work on more of Brewer's distinct southern music tales, including the country-tinged drama, "Denim and Diamonds."