The concept of time is something no person can escape. This continuous sequence of events is how humans differentiate between the past, present, and future. Director, writer, and producer P.R. Bryan personified time in his new feature, “Playback,” at the 8th annual Hip Hop Film Festival. The 22-minute short film premiered at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture during the festival on Saturday, August 19, where it won Best Social Horror Film.
The Schomburg has had a significant impact on Bryan, 34, and his creativity growing up in Harlem. He was born at Harlem Hospital, right across the street from the Center, and visited the Schomburg library many times as a kid. “It’s an honor to have our film screened at one of the many pillars of Harlem’s history, such as the Schomburg Center,” said Bryan. “It’s an even greater honor to have it be screened there during a celebration of Hip Hop’s 50th anniversary.”
Hip hop is at the core of the film. The feature was about an obnoxious recording artist, Kid Kay, being stuck in a time loop while trying to record an impressive hip-hop verse for a big-time record owner. The main character, played by Beyonca Banks, was baffled by the cause of the time warp and how she could stop it. A memorable quote from the film is, “You think you can outrun time; in the end, time always wins.”
Brenika Banks photos
Kid Kay’s never-ending day forced her to race against time, frantically trying to figure out how to end the Hip Hop Groundhog Day. Time became personified through Sofie, played by Erika Mays, which strengthens the message of the essence of time. “Time is the most valuable thing—it’s more valuable than money, it’s more valuable than currency,” said Mays. She said a lack of time can change people’s thoughts and attention to detail. She added that this project gave her a better grasp of the importance of time.
During the post-film talk, Bryan said the message of his movie is not to waste time. “Time is also a gift, because time allows you to see things from one perspective from a point in time, to another perspective of a different point in time,” he said. He enjoyed the antagonistic personification of time: “[Regardless of the person], you can always relate to time going against you or time being for your benefit.”
Mays shared her perspective on how Sofie was aware of time’s paramount value. Sofie once dreamed of being an artist and a star like Kid Kay. “Over the course of time, she aged out of that opportunity,” said Mays. “Now, she has to pass the buck on [that] because it’s too late for her.” Mays said Sofie was easily possessed by time because much of it had escaped her. Mays appreciated Bryan’s writing and vision, which aims to create Black stories in the sci-fi genre.
Bryan included outtakes as the movie credits rolled to represent having fun while working. His favorite part of filming was the collaborative family vibe behind the scenes. Collaborating with his wife, who is co-producer, taught him much about the value of scheduling and time management. Synergy with the actors and crew was key. “My goal was to surround myself with a cast and crew who could help bring the story to life, but also have fun while we did it,” he said.
Bryan said there isn’t enough time when shooting on a less-than-extravagant budget. Time must be sacrificed for scheduling and completing the film punctually. “I believe every project is a learning experience so that the next one will be even better,” he said.
Bryan enjoyed attending the Hip Hop Film Festival and seeing the audience react to his work. “It’s like having a child graduate from college or a high school; now your baby’s out there in the world.” He emphasizes his happiness about enabling all to experience his art. “Although audiences have been very positive on it, I appreciate any feedback that can help me improve as a filmmaker and apply it to my next projects,” he said.
During the post-film talk, Bryan said he wants to transition into creating a series. He views the current Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strike as an opportunity for the television and film industry to examine the global impact of entertainment culture. “I believe it’s time to take chances on more original films,” he said. “Everyone has a perspective, everyone has a story to tell, and the quality of these stories [is] just as important as the quantity.” Bryan strives to produce well-executed, entertaining films with relatable themes and impact. For more information, visit https://hiphopfilmfestival.org/ and https://instagram.com/thephilmclub.