Columbus-based independent hip-hop artist Al Shepard, also known as Blueprint, is bringing his documentary “King No Crown” to the Wexner Center for the Arts Wednesday.
“King No Crown” is Shepard’s first self-portrait documentary and gives the audience a behind-the-scenes look at Blueprint, a local MC and producer who has been a pivotal figure in Columbus’ hip-hop scene since the 1990s, according to the Wexner Center’s website.
Throughout the film, Blueprint portrays the daily life of an independent artist during the release of his latest album, also titled “King No Crown.” Shepard said he focused on giving a raw and accurate depiction of what the life of an independent artist is really like.
“There are a lot of stories about artists blowing up almost overnight, but very rarely do people get an inside look into the life of an artist who has made a living off of their art for 15 years but hasn’t blown up,” Shepard said. “The concept of being a working musician is kind of a new thing in hip-hop, so I wanted to shine a light into what that’s like.”
Shepard said he reached out to the Wexner Center to show the film, and it was more than happy to support his efforts to expand from music to film. “King No Crown” will be the most recent featured film in the Wexner Center’s “Visiting Filmmakers” series.
“The film speaks wonderfully to the trials and tribulations of an independent artist, who tries to create work on his own terms,” said David Filipi, director of film and video at the Wexner Center. “We’re excited to show it because it gives us a chance to support a local artist who has been successful [in music], and is now branching out into film.”
Because Shepard has been active in the local Columbus music scene for nearly three decades, he said competing with himself is what keeps him motivated.
“I’m inspired by the challenge of trying to get better at my art,” Shepard said. “There will always be a higher mountain to climb and I will never know it all, but the challenge of trying to master my craft motivates me every day.”
With years of experience under his belt, Shepard’s film aims to show just how rigorous of a process it is for an artist to put his or her projects out to the world.
“Because an artist –– a painter, musician, or filmmaker –– has his or her work shown or experienced often and all over, some might get the sense that the hard part is over,” Filipi said. “For most indie artists, each new project is a new process, and one has to hustle and struggle to get the work in front of an audience.”
Throughout his career, Shepard has received praise for five of his solo records, and has collaborated with renowned hip-hop artists including Aesop Rock and Illogic. But rather than resting on his laurels, Shepard said his list of goals keeps growing.
“My career goals are to take the art as far as possible, whether that’s music, writing, podcasting or making films like ‘King No Crown,’” he said. “Just making this film has shown me that I have a talent for filmmaking and that if I keep pushing and learning, I can be really good at it.”
The screening of “King No Crown” will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m at the Wexner Center. Admission is $6 for students and $8 for the general public.