It’s a theme that probably resonates with many. Fed up with the daily grind that doesn't produce enough to survive, two friends turn to illegal means. Once the cash starts coming in, so do the problems. Is it worth it? If not, is there any turning back?
Monopoly Money got on the festival's roster after it won first place at the annual Visions of the Black Experience Film Festival, in late January, where local filmmaker and director Will Mauricette, 25, was awarded a $1,500 scholarship. The money went directly toward his tuition at Ringling College of Art and Design, where he’s a sophomore. There were 40 other competitors.
The biggest challenge of shooting Monopoly Money, his first feature, was having no budget, he says.
"All the artists and crew have work, school and kids. I'm basically asking for the No. 1 thing that's hard to come by, which is time, for free," he says.
When Monopoly Money won the first place award at the Visions of the Black Experience Film Festival, though, it was all worth it. “There’s a moment in life when you get rewarded and you think it's luck, but this time it felt earned," Mauricette says. "More than 100 people helped with the making of it. That award was thanks to the entire crew and cast.”
He credits part of the ongoing support he received to Nate Jacobs, founder and artistic director of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota, who Mauricette says is a mentor.
Mauricette moved here from Haiti when he was 8 years old and graduated from Manatee High School in 2015.
After high school, Mauricette also worked backstage at WBTT on the company's productions, honing his craft. He bought his own camera at 17 and started shooting skits. Before that, he was shooting with his phone and created roughly 80 short skits, one of which got a million views on Facebook.
He went to State College of Florida for an associate's degree but dropped out after a year when he realized he was there just for the sake of being in school.
"When you're an artist and you're not passionate about something, it really takes a toll and I had to leave. I wasn't where I was meant to be,” he says.
Where he was meant to be was in film. That's when Jacobs pointed him to Ringling College, where he was denied when he applied the first time in 2018, but accepted the next.
He wants other emerging filmmakers to know they can make it happen, too.
"It's not an easy road, but if passion is there, you'll make it happen," he says. And, he adds, "don't always say 'yes' to any opportunity. Take your time and it will come."