A raw glimpse into the rollercoaster subculture of 90s London graffiti. Told through the eyes of 14 year old Justin on his street apprenticeship for a life of survival. Based on the critically acclaimed novel The Lost Boyz: A Dark Side of Graffiti.
The film No Dog serves as a preview into the world of the potential feature film The Lost Boyz.
NO DOG is a short film based on the critically acclaimed autobiography The Lost Boyz — A Dark Side of Graffiti by Justin Rollins.
Directed by Darius Norowzian, the film is told through the eyes of a young Justin Rollins, the film sheds light on the squandered youth of a few boys from late 1990s South London. We journey with them as they surround themselves with urban chaos, graffiti, racism, train-tracks, violence and the need for respect.
The short film NO DOG is a small window into the a young Justin Rollins’ life, as depicted in his book The Lost Boyz. It succeeds in thursting the audience right into the middle of his world surrounded by street violence, gang rivalries, domestic abuse and his mis-guided sense of belonging. Shrouded in 90s street culture and music, the short film serves the purpose of selling in the tone of what the feature film will be like.
What NO DOG doesn’t do is tell the full story of Lost Boyz: A Dark Side of Graffiti. That is where the feature comes in. Where NO DOG serves to gently dip your toes in, The Lost Boyz will immerse you from head to toe.
Adolescence is hard enough to deal with. Then add in an unstable home, racism and lack of belonging and we begin to feel what it is like to be a young Justin Rollins, filled with mental torture.
The film goes some way towards shedding light on (but not justifying) the rationale of the actions of London’s troubled youth. Be it 1999 or 2020, urban life can quickly spiral and it’s very easy to slip down the wrong path. The film subtly raising questions about youth violence and its connection to a lack of a male role model at home, the impact of coming from a broken home, and a lack of youth activities, which are all factors with repeat offenders.
Its relevance today is unquestionable — UK government funding to youth services was cut by 70% in 2019
Justin Rollins is a former South London graffiti gang leader turned critically acclaimed writer.
His autobiographical book The Lost Boyz: A Dark Side Of Graffiti, published by Waterside Press, is currently studied nationwide within criminology degrees. It is recognised and championed by the UK’s leading criminologist Professor David Wilson.
A competent speaker, Justin is a guest university lecturer and has appeared on numerous media platforms including Sky News, BBC News and radio, LBC radio, Five News and This Morning (ITV), providing first hand expert knowledge, advise and opinion on the Criminal Justice System and associated social factors.
WHAT MAKES THIS FILM UNIQUE
This is a coming of age film uniquely set top the backdrop of the London graffiti scene of the late 90s.
The London graffiti scene hasn’t been explored in British cinema. It’s a hidden world that to those that don’t know it, full of intrigue. It hasn’t been done before.
Visually arresting imagery of train yards and train tracks at night was where Justin and his gang felt most comfortable. Right under the feet of the everyday person, there was a whole world of hedonism taking place. To you and I a tag is simply ugly vandalism, but to these kids, it means so much more. It is their whole world.
Fashion and music will all play into creating this world.
THE WORLD OF GRAFFITI
The late 90s graffiti scene in London is what kept Justin Rollins out on the streets. Vandalism and associated adrenaline is what brought Justin and his friends together. Their shared love of graffiti gave them a sense of unity, or family, that kept them connected.
This sense of family evolved into gang life, and before too long, Justin and his friends were filling their voids at home with their new family out on the streets of south London.
Fashion is so important when trying to feel like you are part of a scene. And graffiti was no different.
Late 90s fashion was as important to Justin and his gang as the area he was from. Wearing brands like Moschino, Gap, Kickers, Nike, Reebok, Iceberg, Armani or Avirex gave them all their sense of identity.
No Dog Films collaborated with Wavey Garms on No Dog to help recreate the styling of the late 90s/early 2000s. Wavey garms are a UK-based streetwear collectiveare, experts in 90s fashion. They’re credentials span styling the tv series People Just Do Nothing as well as working along side brands such as Coach and CP Company, and have just aquired their own 90s clothing store now in Soho. On reading the script, Wavey Garms — who themselves come from the world of graffiti — jumped straight on board.
Staying authentic to the era, the short film NO DOG features real ex-pirate radio DJs from the late 90s (MC Tempo and DJ Smokey Bubblin B) and features music written by Audio Bullies within it’s score. This authenticity will continue in the The Lost Boyz feature.
HELPING THE YOUTH
What makes NO DOG special is the way the production of the film was carried out. We learned at an early stage that this film cannot be cast in the traditional way. To have someone play a kid who lived on the street and led a gang, we were instinctively drawn to street casting.
Director Darius Norowzian had previously built a relationship with the boxing charity Carney’s Community from Battersea, South London through his previous powerful short film Born A Believer — a film about the boxing charity Carney’s Community who help ex-offenders and disaffected youths turn their lives around by breaking the cycle of gang life. Together with producer Todd Von Joel — who also has roots at Carneys Community— it was decided that a call out would be done to offer to the anyone from the charity an opportunity to be part of the film.
Not only did we find our main protagonist, opportunities and work experience was given to other Carney’s Community members. If nothing more, to be able to have brought opportunities those that need them most is a success in itself.
This philosophy of giving back is something that will be part of the production of The Lost Boyz.
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