Written & Directed by Ellis J. Sutton
A homeless drummer boy fights the path of a changing, gentrifying city in an attempt to show his affection to a neighborhood girl.
Little Drummer Boy is part of Film Independent's Fiscal Sponsorship program.
Little Drummer Boy
2021 short film
Keon (Perry Garrison Jr.), a homeless boy skilled at street drumming, learns his friend Maria (Stephanie Hernandez) is moving away due to her father being priced out of the neighborhood. He decides to raise enough money with his drumming to give her an expensive gift before she moves away.
Little Drummer Boy was workshopped through the Sundance Collab online labs.
Written & Directed by Ellis J. Sutton
Starring Perry Garrison Jr. & Stephanie Hernandez
Produced by Ellis J. Sutton & Tom Muhl
Cinematography by Yorgos Tzoytzoyakos
Production Design by Lizeth Salgado
Music by Stevie Thompson Jr.
LDB and Ellis J. Sutton in the press
Poster designed by Mackenzie Starr.
Stills from the Film
Making Little Drummer Boy
A letter from director Ellis J. Sutton
I made this film because issues of the homeless affect me deeply and personally. My mother and I went through transitional housing when I was a small child, and I did not understand it at the time, but we were actually homeless. I also became more empathetic with extreme homelessness and tent culture while going to a Jesuit Catholic High School where we consistently learned about human dignity and giving to the “least of us.”
As someone who was born in San Francisco and had to relocate somewhere cheaper in the Bay Area, I know how the culture of a city can fade over time when the people who defined it have to leave because they cannot afford to stay anymore. The City has left them, so they have to leave the City. This story attempts to combine issues that I care about and explore them in my favorite genre: a coming-of-age type story.
I think what makes this story different from other ones that might focus on gentrification or homelessness is that the film is told from the perspective of a homeless kid. Keon has no business being in this story; he should’ve been taken into child protective services and gone through the foster care system. However, he found himself here through his skills and street savvy. Keon’s world gets turned upside down and it all happens because of the side effects of gentrifying a city.
I think as more and more cities go through these changes, it’s important to consider the culture that gets lost. How to improve our cities is a complex issue that impacts many lives, some positively and others negatively. The film doesn’t attempt to answer policy questions about gentrification, but it hopes to humanize the people affected. At the very least, those moving into gentrified places should be aware of who’s moving out, and Little Drummer Boy offers a glimpse into their world.
-- Ellis J. Sutton
"The way I saw the story is influenced by my family. My mother runs a charity for foster children in Los Angeles and some of the children they serve are unhoused. Her charity provides them with goods and resources where the city falls short… Ultimately no child is responsible for the way our society is but unfortunately they’ll have to inherit it, and it’s our job to help give them a shot at creating a better one."
Tom Muhl, Producer/AD
“The Production Design reflects how a kid sees the world. The warm tones and vibrant colors are nostalgic, and stylize reality. The goal was to find beauty in places that aren’t typically considered beautiful.“
Lizeth Salgado, PD
“Because the story is about a LDB, I wanted the score to have a lot of rhythm but also not be too complex— something that a skillful kid could play. I also wanted to use the same bucket Keon used in the film so it could sound as realistic as possible, but add piano and strings to add more feeling to the music and create softer tones for the main character."
Stevie Thompson Jr., Composer
Behind the Scenes
About Lead Actor Perry Garrison Jr.
Perry Garrison Jr. is the young actor playing Keon in Little Drummer Boy. He began his career at the age of nine and has since acted in a variety of projects, including music videos, short films, and feature films. Garrison Jr. also models. When not in front of the camera, he enjoys hiking, playing soccer, and reading.
Learn all about Perry Garrison Jr. (and his love for Kevin Hart!) at his website.
COVID-19 Safety Statement
COVID Compliance Officer: Antoinette Ricchio
Little Drummer Boy was made in compliance with LA county rules regarding COVID safety. Mask wearing was enforced, and everyone on set took a weekly COVID test when filming. All tests came back negative, and no one contracted or was known to transmit COVID-19.