'Exit Strategy' makes the leap from YouTube to big screen

Kimelia Weathers (left) and Jameel Saleem star in "Exit Strategy," Saleem's movie about a guy trying to leave a tortured relationship.
Kimelia Weathers (left) and Jameel Saleem star in "Exit Strategy," Saleem's movie about a guy trying to leave a tortured relationship.
Posted: February 10, 2012

JAMEEL SALEEM wasn't getting the types of parts he wanted when he and his girlfriend moved to Los Angeles to make it big. Saleem rattled off a list: gang banger, parolee, ghost rapper.

How could he turn down ghost rapper?

"It wasn't a comedy," Saleem said.

But instead of waiting around for the right part, Saleem, who spent his early years in Germantown, followed in the footsteps of his hero Woody Allen: He wrote his own material, enlisted girlfriend Kimelia Weathers, picked up a camera and shot a series of YouTube videos.

Those videos have become the movie "Exit Strategy," opening at the AMC Cherry Hill and AMC Franklin Mills tonight.

The film features Saleem as James, a guy forced to move in with his crazy girlfriend Kim (Weathers) who goes way beyond simply clingy. She's the type of girl who casually mentions that all of her exes have mysteriously disappeared post-break-up. James hopes that Kim will break up with him, but let him continue to crash on her couch.

Weathers, who cites Lucille Ball as inspiration for her character, said that Kim is a combination of a lot of women, including herself. "She's me to the extreme. We're both control freaks but she's way out there. I'm only about a 4 or 5 most of the time."

Saleem confirmed that Weathers wasn't lying. "But I've experienced her at a 10," he said.

Giving James horrible advice throughout is his buddy, Carville, played by Quincy "Qdeezy" Harris, who can be heard over Philly's airwaves as the afternoon DJ on Hot 107.9.

"From an urban cast, you don't see this kind of film," Harris said. "There's no violence, there's no guns, no drugs."

Saleem didn't write the script with race in mind. He just wanted to write a funny script that everyone who has ever been in a crazy relationship could relate to.

Harris brought along an old friend: comedian Kevin Hart, who makes a cameo as a customer at James' store with an affinity for mannequin heads.

"He came through for us," Saleem said. "The day before he was shooting a Nike commercial and that night he had to fly to Miami."

Armed with the knowledge that what might start out as a few ideas between friends could end up on the big screen, Harris moved back to Philly in September with the intention of continuing to make movies.

He has one planned for this year about a married man who is convinced the grass is greener on the single side.

"I just feel like I can do it here," Harris said. "I don't need to go to New York or L.A. If you get with a talented group of individuals, you can make it happen."

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