Swagger explores the world of youth basketball, and the players, their families and coaches who walk the fine line between dreams and ambition, and opportunism and corruption.
Bythewood grew up in The Bronx, New York City. He loved going to the movies and to Yankees games with his father. However, his main love was boxing. When his parents split up, his mother forbade him to pursue the sport. He was not allowed to go to the neighborhood boxing gym anymore because she thought it was too dangerous.
During this time, hip hop was considered a fad outside of New York. However, in the #Bronx, it was an emerging art form. Bythewood was consumed by the movement. He was a rapper in a neighborhood hip hop crew. During assemblies in junior high school, he and other school mates, were allowed to get on stage and break dance.
After junior high, Bythewood’s main focus became acting. He went to the High School of Performing Arts as a drama major. However, the school did not allow students to work as professional actors. When Bythewood was cast in the soap opera, “Another World” during his senior year, he left Performing Arts and attended Quintanos School for the Young Professionals. While on “Another World” Bythewood acted with Morgan Freeman, Joe Morton, Kyra Sedgwick and many others.
After high school, Bythewood acted in a John Sayles film called, “The Brother from Another Planet.” Sayles inspired Bythewood to write and direct and he shifted his focus away from acting. He graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with a BFA in theater. He co-founded a New York City based theater company called The Tribe which performed plays written and directed by Bythewood. The aim of the theater company was to entertain while raising consciousness. Several activists attended Bythewood’s plays including Black Panther Jamal Joseph who became one of his best friends.
In 1990, Bythewood was offered a role in the soap opera “One Life To Live.” However, he turned down the offer and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in screenwriting. He became one of the first members of Walt Disney’s prestigious Writers Fellowship Program. From there, he was hired as a writer on the hit NBC comedy series, “A Different World” where he met his future wife, Gina Prince-Bythewood. He went on to write and produce Dick Wolf’s drama series, “New York Undercover.” He also did production rewrites for action films produced by Joel Silver. After attending the Million Man March, Bythewood wrote the screenplay for Spike Lee’s indie film, “Get on the Bus.” Bythewood was also one of the film’s investors.
With the 2007 Writer’s Strike looming, Bythewood was hired to do the rewrite for Notorious. He completed several drafts and the film was green lit. When the strike ended, Bythewood went back to the project to do more revisions and stayed on until the film wrapped. He was given written by credit along with the film’s initial writer, Cheo Hodari Coker.
Bythewood made his feature film directorial debut on the acclaimed indie flick, “Dancing in September” which screened at the Sundance Film Festival. It was acquired by HBO and became an HBO original movie. Bythewood has also directed, “Biker Boyz,” the documentary, “Daddy’s Girl” (starring Laila Ali), the 30 For 30 documentary, “One Night in Vegas” and “Gun Hill” the two-hour pilot which he won the 2014 NAACP Image Award for. He co-created the ten-hour event series “Shots Fired” with Gina Prince-Bythewood and directed the season one finale starring Sanaa Lathan, Richard Dreyfuss, Helen Hunt and Stephan James.
Bythewood was chairman of the B-Dads organization. Along with other fathers, he fed homeless families in Los Angeles, California, raised thousands of dollars for the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation and conducted workshops on fatherhood. He has also spoken on various panels regarding police reform such as the annual convention for NOBLE (National Organization of Black Law Enforcement).