COVER STORY : Lights! Camera! Access! : Film Training Program Gives Troubled Youth a 2nd Chance : Mortez Bradley

"I've seen the other side, and this side looks a lot better to me." *

Someday, Mortez Bradley predicts, a movie will be made about his life--and he plans to make it.

And it will be a great story, he says, the tale of a former Venice drug dealer who forms his own production company and makes it big in the entertainment industry.

For now Bradley, 26, is content with working as a second assistant director on commercials and movie videos. It's a big step from his drug-dealing days.

Arriving in Los Angeles from St. Louis in 1986, he lived with his aunt and worked as a cook in posh Los Angeles restaurants. Things were going pretty well until a relative introduced him to rock cocaine.

Then, he said, "all hell broke loose."

He got strung out on cocaine, he said, and quit his jobs. He tried living with his father in the Valley, but things didn't work out and Bradley moved out. He wound up homeless in Venice.

It wasn't long before he was panhandling and selling rock cocaine on the streets. He feared for his life after a run-in with a supplier known as Bulldog.

"I was sitting there in Venice, sampling the profit and the investment, thinking, 'Now what am I gonna do?' "

Bradley hustled up enough money to get a room Downtown and checked into Brown's Amer-I-Can program, which he had heard about from a friend. He quit cocaine cold-turkey. "It's been seven years since I did cocaine. I never went back to it."

Brown's program directed him to Streetlights in 1992.

The production assistant job, he said, is one "nobody wants to do. But I showed them I would do anything."

In the meantime, he got married and had a son. Success, he said, soon became a priority.

"I wanted to be an inspiration for my son--a role model," said Bradley, who now lives in Inglewood.

He quickly rose through the production ranks, eventually becoming a second assistant director on music videos and commercials. He makes sure the performers have their makeup done and wardrobe in place, rounds them up for the shoot and proofreads contracts, among other tasks.

And he harbors the dream of becoming an executive producer and running his own company. He wants to increase the number of African Americans in the business and help others like himself with a troubled past.

His old hustling friends, he said, "need to see something different. If you could take some of them out of the drug scene, that could change some things.

"I've been there, I've seen the other side, and this side looks a lot better to me."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World