Ever wonder what some of the directors and actors on The Wire were doing before they got the gig? One of the most refreshing things about the HBO series has been its willingness to feature upcoming young talent, both in front of and behind the camera. Which brings us to Seith Mann’s intense, touching, and very well-made 2003 NYU short five deep breaths, which helped get both Mann a stint directing on the show (he helmed episodes in Season Four and Five) and its lead, Jamie Hector, the chance to play young drug lord Marlo Stanfield.
It’s easy to see why: The tale of two friends who get in too deep when they decide to help out a battered female friend, five deep breaths takes a small story of loyalty and turns it into something greater, a subtle and mournful meditation on African-American manhood. A model of economy and character development, it features two sterling lead performances. (Hector’s co-star, Anslem Richardson, has appeared on As the World Turns and will be starring in the upcoming indie sci-fi feature 2k3.) The short screened at Sundance and won Best Narrative Short at the Los Angeles and Chicago Film Festivals. Mann has since also directed episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, Friday Night Lights, and Entourage. He is currently at work on his debut feature. If it’s as good as this short, we’ll be very, very impressed.