At the end of the film, Juno, the two main characters Paulie (Michael Cera) and Juno (Ellen Page) sit on the edge of the porch with their guitars and sing “Anyone But You” by The Moldy Peaches. “That would never happen here " were Newark filmmaker, LeRon Lee’s first thoughts. Anything considered to be out of the norm immediately alienates you in this environment. That alienation can limit your freedom to be. Sometimes it can create a very uniform method of thinking based on a fear to be different. “UGLY” is a short film by LeRon Lee inspired by those thoughts. Ugly is a film about self-esteem and the laws of attraction in an urban environment. The story is told through a coming-of-age love story.
LeRon Lee, of Newark, New Jersey, got to experience first-hand what the students were going through on a daily basis in his career as an educator. “I took a special interest in kids that struggled to identify while being surrounded by popular, misguided thinking. In some cases, students were pressured into situations that fell outside of their comfort zone.”
In Ugly, the main character Doug(Devon Moyd) represents the outcast teen trying to conform to his surroundings. We see him “struggle to juggle” two identities as he chases after Kay (Andrea-Rachel Parker), who is used to being the center of attention. In the trailer released in January, the character Mr. Thomas (Jamal Steven DeFrietas) Doug’s father, is speaking to a classroom, shooting down the theory of thinking outside of the box. In Doug’s case, he struggles to find comfort in his comfort zone. In Doug’s box, lies the existence of being himself, the lonely outcast teen with one friend who shares an interest in art and comic nerd culture. Doug seeks acceptance outside of his box.
“I see Ugly as coming up for air. The film I’ve always wanted to see. A way to tell a story based in an urban environment in a fresh format. It was important not to glorify or promote the negative. It is an alternative story that shows the characters that do indeed exist in this scenery that are never represented. This is a real story.”
Ugly was shot in Newark, New Jersey by Director of Photography, Charles Jones and produced by Derrick Williams, also of Newark. “It was important to shoot at home. It’s important to broaden the landscape and expand the limit of resources here.”