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There Goes the Hood

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Before anyone can worry about the Oscars, though, this sucker needs to get made.

And right now, crew members are checking their watches, wondering whether pro skateboarder Chad Muska will ever walk in the door to play the role that's been written for him. Another actor, slated to play the contest announcer, has also failed to show, so an assistant director is running around asking every adult: "Would you feel comfortable on camera?" In the end, Muska never shows, and the wardrobe guy steps in to play the announcer's part.

"Welcome to guerrilla filmmaking," says script supervisor Melinda Taksen, who has worked on much more efficient productions like The Waterboy (the Adam Sandler comedy) and The Notebook (a Rachel McAdams romance). With a wry smile, she notes that she was brought on two days after filming had begun.

Not that there was much more formality to casting the leads.

Eighteen-year-old Ricky LaVoir, from Oakland Park, is almost six feet tall and looks like he's pushing a hundred pounds. With an infectious smile, spiky hair, tattered clothes, and mismatched socks, he comes off as a wise-cracking Sid Vicious. He plays Stringbean, one of three skaters at the heart of the film. "I was working in the Apple store at the Galleria Mall," he recounts during a break between takes, "and Cess came up and said, 'I like your look. Can you skate?' " He could.

Fourteen-year-old Chadd Kerr rocks a pair of stylish, black-framed eyeglasses and a baseball cap cocked sideways on top of his Afro. He says he was at Brian Piccolo Park "skating, talking shit to my friend," when Silvera approached him. "That's what he was looking for." Chadd told his mom he'd been offered a film role, and she wondered what kind of pedophiles were trolling the parks these days. But once his dad realized who the director was, Chadd had a job playing a skater named Loon.

The third skate-kid role — a character called Dame — would be filled by someone Silvera knew through tight-knit Jamaican music circles: 20-year-old Gamal "Lunch Money" Lewis — a hefty guy with a sweet demeanor and an expressive face who flirts with every female who enters his orbit. Lunch Money's dad is Ian Lewis of the reggae band Inner Circle (remember "Bad Boys," the theme song of Cops?). The family runs a legendary Miami recording studio called Circle House.

Although Stringbean had acted in the Fort Lauderdale Children's Theatre, Chadd's experience as a thespian consisted of having memorized a poem in the fifth grade. None of the three leads knew much about showbiz basics such as getting an agent. Co-star Taye Hansberry — a pretty, button-nosed actress who also does photography — says she offered to take their headshots, "and they were like, 'What's that?' " She found their reaction a refreshing contrast to the polished, lawyered-up kids who wave their résumés all over L.A.

Stringbean says he hadn't necessarily planned on an acting career — but he'll take it. "Some big executive will watch [this movie] and say, 'I like that kid. Get his phone number!' " Ultimately, he'd like to direct slasher films.

He and Chadd are stoked to have just met Stevie Williams, another pro skater whom Silvera has written into the film. The role calls for Williams (who at this moment is sitting backstage with bloodshot eyes, learning the lines he's supposed to say in five minutes) to award the contest winners a sponsorship with his real-life skate company, DGK (Dirty Ghetto Kids). Although black skaters are no longer an oxymoron, Williams is one of the first to have inked a multimillion-dollar endorsement deal and have his likeness built into Tony Hawk's Pro Skater videogames.

For knowledgeable skateboarders like LaVoir and Kerr, Williams approaches Superman status.

Chadd: "He's a freaking genius on four wheels."

Stringbean: "He makes love on the board."

As the teenaged actors ruminate about Williams (each now dismissing the other as "homo"), Lunch Money wilts in the heat, soaking through his T-shirt and wiping his forehead. "It's hotter than ten hot bitches in a burning building," he says.

Maybe that's why Cess Silvera is in such a pissy mood. Like halves of the Red Sea, actors part to make way as the director marches through the crowd toward the video monitors. A dark-skinned guy in a wife beater and unlaced Nike high-tops, he has sculpted his hair into a fauxhawk. Boxers stick out the back of his low-slung jeans as he slides into the director's chair and plops his Marc Jacobs sunglasses onto his nose. His round, solid belly protrudes like a shelf. A drink could rest comfortably on top of it.

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Deirdra Funcheon

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