courtesy of Tahir Jetter

Faced with financial difficulties in 2010 after being let go from his job as a personal trainer at a gym in Brooklyn, Tahir Jetter did what any aspiring filmmaker would do, he took a post-employment plunge into stripping and conceived a web series.

That experience eventually led to "Hard Times," the delightfully not-safe-for-work web series Jetter, a 26-year-old graduate of NYU’s film program, co-created, wrote and directed. It premiered on May 21 on Issa Rae’s YouTube channel. "Hard Times" gives viewers a front row seat during the comedic contemplations and preparations of main character, Derek(Abraham Amkpa), after he’s propositioned by one of his personal training clients.

Jetter credited the high production value evident in the series to the team of filmmakers he paired up with, which includes director of photography, Daniel Patterson, who also shot Spike Lee’s new film, "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus," and Patrick Taylor, the Washington D.C. based composer responsible for the music, among others.

The first episode surprises with a sex scene that calls to mind the few films, such as "Jason’s Lyric" and "Belly," that depict black people in the bedroom or wherever else desire finds them.

“I feel like there's so many movies that we used to have that would do things like that and it didn't have to be raunchy, it was honest,” said Jetter. “I’ve been wanting to tell stories that are emblematic of things that very much represent who we really are.”

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In "Hard Times," this honesty also appears in the way the characters speak to each other like they’re at home with one another when no one’s watching.

“I live in New York and I hear kids talk and I talk to my 20 year old friends…we're not watching these soft serve black sitcoms, we talk a certain way, we act a certain way,” said Jetter. “We have a very particular culture that I don't see being represented and so I very much have relished in the opportunity to convey that culture.”

Though "Hard Times" might be considered a light approach to providing people of color with entertaining representations of themselves, Jetter holds strong beliefs about the lack of stories about people of color being distributed.

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“I don't know that it's ever been this bad. It's really difficult to get anything big made about people of color unless it's around some kind of social issue, or some kind of lionized public figure or some sort of depraved, urban social situation that everybody can rally around. I think that people really need to realize that if they want to see representations of people like themselves on screens, they may have to be more active than they ever thought in terms of making it possible for people that are actually making work to make connections by sharing their work and funding their work,” said Jetter.

"Hard Times" is not the first of Jetter’s creative offerings. His short film, "Close", screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011 and is available on the Sundance YouTube channel. Another of his short films, "Frisk," is available on his Vimeo channel as well.

The next episode of "Hard Times," which includes male, frontal nudity, premiered on YouTube on July 2.

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@fusion