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May 27, 2017

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Young Las Vegas filmmaker goes for modern-day Frankenstein with ‘Artificial Human’

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Steve Marcus

Filmmaker Norvell JiFloyd poses at the Eclipse Theaters in downtown Las Vegas Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. JiFloyd will debut Artificial Human,” his fourth feature film, at the Eclipse Theaters on Saturday, March 25. .

‘Artificial Human’ Premiere

• What: Between the screening and the after party, the filmmaker and cast will do a Q&A, meet-and-greet and autograph signing.

• When: March 25, doors open at 12:30 p.m. (red carpet at 1 p.m.)

• Where: Eclipse Theaters, 814 S. Third Street, Las Vegas

• Cost: Free, though seating is limited; RSVP at [email protected]

Whenever Will Smith’s music video for “Men in Black” played on TV, 4-year-old Norvell Ji’Floyd would don his Sunday suit with sunglasses and dance along, entranced by the screen magic.

Now 20, Ji’Floyd gets to see his feature film, “Artificial Human,” debut at Eclipse Theaters this Saturday through NJC Productions, a Henderson-based company he founded and for which he serves as CEO.

Despite such early success, Ji’Floyd’s life wasn’t always picturesque. Raised by a single mother, he watched her struggle and sacrifice for him.

“We know what it’s like to have corn bread and gravy and be without,” said Minnie Foxx, Ji’Floyd’s mother and ‘momager.’ After divorcing his father, an ex-heavyweight boxer, Foxx left California and “walked away from the house and the car, with just me, my child and the dog.”

She worked as an actress, though she says she didn’t push her son into the arts. Her parenting motto was: ‘Let your child choose and they’ll grow into it.’ Foxx recalled Norvell being bullied in school, and that he didn’t fit in when he tried out for sports teams. “I introduced him to everything and allowed him to choose,” she said. “I put him in the arts so (despite) that box he didn’t fit in school, he’d have a way to express himself.”

Ji’Floyd flourished, taking roles in musical-theater favorites including “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Rent,” “A Christmas Carol” and “Oliver.” After receiving a video camera as a reward for good grades in middle school, he stepped off the stage and got behind the lens. He waded into the medium by making YouTube videos, working his way up to the production of three full-length features in the realms of action and comedy.

Now studying film at the Art Institute of Las Vegas and working at Cashman Photo, Ji’Floyd carved out time to partner with his friends and create “Artificial Human,” with the hope of seeing it play on the big screen. This feature differs wildly from his past work, and grew from a short film he started in high school and captured on an iPhone.

“I wanted to do something different,” Ji’Floyd said. “The plot centers around the concept: When unnatural things are made, unnatural things happen.” Ahead of the premiere, he would elaborate only that the story follows a pair of scientists who create a humanoid and must deal with the consequences.

He is hands-on in all aspects of piecing together his films, from directing, acting and editing to script writing and composing most of the music. Foxx said composing came the most naturally to her son, like “spreading peanut butter on a piece of bread with no effort.”

Ji’Floyd looks to established artists for inspiration, from cinematography — he likes the styles of “Nocturnal Animals,” “Gone Girl” and “Neon Demon” — to the director-actor crossover exemplified by Ben Affleck in “Argo,” to the range in films directed by Antoine Fuqua (“Southpaw,” “Training Day” and “The Magnificent Seven”), to the method acting of Marlon Brando.

His life is dominated and enriched by the art form. This may be his first film to drop inside a theater, but it is unlikely to be his last.

“Filmmaking has always been a part of me — it’s a part of my blood,” Ji’Floyd said. “I don’t know what I can do if I’m not doing film.”

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