Arthur Cartwright’s passion for cinema emerged in his pre-teen and teenaged years growing up in Detroit.
“When my family went to see a movie, I was the kid who would convince his parents to stick around the theater until the credits were done rolling,” Cartwright recounted, smiling. “I wanted to take it all in. I’ve loved everything about movies, performing and everything like that for as long as I can remember. Attending a performing arts academy for high school like I did nurtured that love for movies.”
In 2008, youngsters that shared Cartwright’s cinematic passion would have spotted his name crawling up the big screen when the credits rolled for the critically-acclaimed Clint Eastwood-directed film “Gran Torino”.
Currently a resident of Belleville after residing in Canton for six years, Cartwright was one of three young Black men who shared a tense encounter with the legendary on-screen tough guy in the movie about a longtime resident of a once-idyllic inner-city Michigan neighborhood that — much to his dismay — was getting edgier by the day.
“The year I graduated from high school was coincidentally the time period when Michigan was offering tax incentives to shoot films in the state,” he said. “They were shooting literally hundreds of movies in Michigan; big ones, too, like Transformers and Gran Torino.”
Although barely four minutes long, Cartwright’s “Gran Torino” role was powerful as his character exchanged heated words with Walt
Kowalski (played by Eastwood), who ultimately ended the scene by pulling a revolver out of the waistband of his pants.
“It turned out to be one of the most popular scenes from the movie because Clint kind of went ‘Dirty Harry’ on us,” Cartwright reminisced, chuckling. “I know he’s a Hollywood legend and everything, but he was so easy-going and down to earth around us.
“Clint was probably close to 80 when we shot the scene on the east-side of Detroit, but I remember him doing push-ups on the set. And when he went out to lunch, his entire plate was filled with green. What a great guy.”
Fourteen years later, Cartwright is still impacting people’s emotions as a director, producer writer and actor in movies and plays.
He moved with his parents post-high school to Los Angeles for a time to learn more about the movie-making industry.
“My parents basically said, ‘Hey, instead of spending a ton of money on sending you to college, let’s get you going in what we know you already want to do’,” Cartwright said. “We met a lot of people; it was a great experience. Most importantly, I caught the bug to be behind the camera instead of in front of it. I learned I wanted to create stories that inspired people.
“The last few films I’ve made have been inspirational in nature, probably categorized as Christian films.”
A graduate of Detroit’s Marvin Winans Academy for Performing Arts — where, as a member of the high school’s choir visiting Europe, he sung for the Pope — Cartwright takes great pride in his involvement in Beat The Streets, a program that creates positive, engaging, content for children through live and virtual entertainment.
“We produce a play called ‘Beat The Streets’ that we perform in Michigan and throughout the country,” he said. “The play is based on a true story about three teenagers who promise their families they will become doctors. We use theater to spread important social and emotional issues and talk about proper conflict resolutions. We want the kids who see the play to learn how to make better decisions based on scenarios that play out in the performance.
More than 1 million students have witnessed the play, Cartwright said.
“I’ve actually had people who watched the play as kids tell me they were inspired to attend medical school and became doctors because of the play,” he said. “Several others said they pursued college degrees after watching the play.”
The “reel” deal
Cartwright said his ultimate goal is to produce a feature film — whether one funded by a major Hollywood studio or by other means. His directing credits already include short films that have been shown at high-profile festivals.
“There are quite a few big-name Hollywood directors and producers — Christopher Nolan being one — whose careers started with movies that had a budget of like $7,000,” he said. “They’re referred to as credit card movies.
“There are so many roads you can take in this industry. It’s like the medical field or becoming a lawyer where once you attend school eight years or whatever, you get your license. It’ a little trickier when it comes to making feature films. There’s no clear-cut roadmap.”
Fueled by equal parts ambition and talent, Cartwright’s real-life script appear headed down the road to success.