Ride or Die

After college, Paula's California dreams intertwine with a reunion with her crush Jamie. A casual errand becomes a cathartic journey through the Midwest where a budding romance is transformed by a plot for vengeance.

Project type: Fiction Feature
Project status: Development
Writer/Director: Josalynn Smith
Producer: Matthew Keene Smith
Casting Director: Lois Drabkin
Impact Producer: Keely Weiss
Email: josalynnjsmith@gmail.com
Website: josalynnsmith.com
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After college, Paula’s California dreams intertwine with a reunion with her crush Jamie. A casual errand becomes a cathartic journey through the Midwest where a budding romance is transformed by a plot for vengeance.


PAULA, feeling stuck running videography at her stepfather’s Megachurch, reconnects with her high school crush, JAMIE, on an errand to Kohl’s. The encounter turns into a rescue mission when Jamie’s accused of stealing by her manager; Paula defends Jamie and provides a getaway vehicle. Jamie then invites herself to Paula’s house. Paula’s mother, SHERRI, (a religious zealot) reluctantly allows Jamie to stay the night when her ride home cancels. In bed, Jamie reveals troubling details of childhood abuse to Paula. In the wee hours, Paula’s pastor stepfather, CREON, arrives home and Paula gets into an altercation with him. Jamie convinces Paula she’ll never be safe at her home, so they make a pact to run away together and extort Jamie’s own fucked-up father.

On the road, Paula’s tire blows. ANTHONY, a predatory mechanic, solicits Jamie for a free fix while Paula’s on the phone with roadside. Jamie blows him and then Anthony accidentally blows his brains out when trying to scare Paula and Jamie with his gun. They get as far away as possible from the scene of the crime and drive like demons all night. The next night, at a drive-in movie theater, Jamie runs off to get high with some junkies who eventually rob them. When Jamie’s strangled by one of the junkies, Paula stabs him so the two can flee. Once again they drive for hours without stopping and end up at a diner the next morning. While Jamie’s still asleep in the car, Paula finds that Jamie has taken the gun Anthony used to kill himself. Paula calls her mother at the diner and wants to end their trip, but instead of comfort, Paula receives unwanted religiosity.

Paula tries to ditch Jamie after she confronts her about the gun and her true motive for finding her father. But plans change when they hear about the stabbing on the diner’s TV. They ditch the vehicle and Paula forces Jamie to get rid of the gun. Eventually, some hippies offer Paula and Jamie a ride. Jamie expresses to Paula her intent to find her father. Paula declines the ride and instead accompanies Jamie to her father’s house; their only transportation is a bike one of the hippies gave them. When they arrive, Paula waits for Jamie outside… then gunshots. Paula goes inside. Jamie’s blinded. She takes Jamie downstairs and urges her to call for help. Jamie asks Paula to stay with her until the cops come. Paula agrees to stay but backs away from Jamie, knowing what will happen when the cops arrive. Paula leaves Jamie alone in darkness and rides away on the bike to safety.

Meet the Filmmakers

Josalynn Smith – Writer/Director
Josalynn Smith is a queer black American filmmaker based in Los Angeles. They were honored with the Sundance Uprise Grant in 2021, awarded a residency at SFFILM as Sloan Science in Cinema Filmmaker Fellow for their feature screenplay Something in the Water, and most recently, Josalynn was part of the 2022 Athena Film Festival Writers Lab for their pilot script L’Amazone. A graduate of Columbia University’s Film MFA program, their thesis short, Something in the Water, received the Sloan Foundation’s Production Grant. Additionally, Josalynn is the recipient of the Jesse Thompkins III Screenwriting Award from Columbia and spent time as an artist-in-residence at the Catwalk Institute. Their shorts, and a feature documentary on which they served as a narrator and videographer, have screened at St. Louis International Film Festival, Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Bentonville Film Festival and others. Josalynn is represented by Matt Leipzig at Modern Literary Arts.

Matthew Keene Smith – Producer
Matthew Keene Smith is an independent film producer based in Los Angeles. Films produced under his Twice Told Films banner include Heidi Saman’s Namour that won the LA Muse Jury Award at the 2016 LA Film Festival and Neil Drumming’s Big Words, a 2013 NY Times Critic’s Pick, both released by Ava DuVernay’s distribution collective ARRAY; and 9 Rides from Oscar-winning Director Matthew A. Cherry that world-premiered at South by Southwest in 2016. Other credits include The Thing About Us from Director Keely Weiss and Executive Producer Joey Soloway that premiered at Outfest 2016; Marie Jamora’s Flip the Record that won Best Short at Urbanworld 2017 and Jamora’s Harana that won Best Narrative Short at the Sarasota Film Festival 2021. Formerly a production executive at Myriad Pictures, Matt began his career working for director Bob Rafelson on HBO’s Poodle Springs and as Associate Producer on Rafelson’s No Good Deed.

Lois Drabkin – Casting Director
Lois Drabkin is a Casting Director who has worked extensively on many projects, most notably in independent film, including major festival premieres and Independent Spirit Award acting-nominated features. Additional credits include the Emmy-winning first season of the Showtime documentary series investigating climate change, Years of Living Dangerously, the second season of HBO’s documentary series The Vow, and as part of the casting teams for Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, the acclaimed series The Wire, and Michael Mann’s Public Enemies. A member of the Casting Society of America, Lois has been nominated for multiple Artios Awards for Outstanding Casting.

Keely Weiss – Impact Producer
Keely Weiss is a writer, filmmaker and attorney. She is the director of the short films Do You Need A Ride and The Thing About Us, which premiered at Outfest and was executive produced by Joey Soloway. She was formerly the Features Editor at Harper’s BAZAAR and has written for Interview, Nylon, and LA Weekly. Keely began her career working with Noah Baumbach and producer Lila Yacoub on the film Frances Ha before going on to support Soloway on Amazon’s Emmy-winning Transparent. She is a graduate of USC School of Cinematic Arts and UCLA School of Law and a member of the State Bar of California.

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