Inspired by love

“B.A.D.D.” is a family comedy that has something to say about bullying. 


Chicago-based writer Jil Ross’ circuitous route to creating her family comedy film, “B.A.D.D.,” included hearing a voice telling her to leave her job after 31 years in the airline industry to pursue her dream. The film will screen on August 11 at the 12th annual Martha’s Vineyard Comedy Fest (MVCF), which primarily features African American comics. The antics- and action-packed film centers around Foster Blake, and how his world is turned upside down when a bully transfers to his school, creating havoc for all. Although a bit of a nerd, Foster has to learn to fight to save his friends, as well as himself. The feature is based on Ross’ book, “Foster and That Bad, Bad Bully,” adapted from one of the installments in her Shenanigans series of tween moral comedies that shine a light on serious issues.

The route for “B.A.D.D.” to the Vineyard this summer actually began in 2003. “The whole thing started with my children,” Ross explains. “I always said that they did such funny things that I would write a book about them.” One day, her son finally told her it was time to get down to business. “That was really a punch in the gut, because he was holding me to higher accountability, which I always hold him to,” Ross laughs. Educating herself from scratch, she got her first book published in 2003. Ross says, “Then, when my son was in seventh grade, he got bullied, and I spun some things that were funny — but not funny when they happened — into the work.” Ross supplemented the incident with children’s experiences in the community that she gleaned when running her family’s nonprofit daycare center, which she did while working part-time with United Airlines.

With a book series to her name, Ross then decided to turn the stories into plays, even though she knew nothing about this genre either. Ross joined Chicago’s Black Playwrights Initiative, and although she produced a few plays, none were about her children. It then occurred to her, “There’s so much action in them that it’s really hard to do that in a stage play, so I wanted to make them into short films.” Again, Ross started from scratch, applying to and accepted by Second City’s screenwriting classes. And this turned out to be the pivotal moment. In March 2017, as Ross recounts, “I said to myself, ‘You know what, I just need something different.’ I got to work, and literally heard a voice that said, ‘Today is the day.’ I went to HR and resigned; I stepped out on faith and did it.”

After film school, Ross made six short episodes for a web series based on other books in Shenanigans; they won nine short film awards. Although coming close several times, Ross was unable to get funding from major investors for “B.A.D.D.” With ever-present tenacity, she raised just enough money herself to shoot the film over 12 days in her hometown of Chicago during the summer of 2022. When a neighbor who vacations on the Island told her to reach out to Steve Capers, the managing partner of MVCF, the link was made.

In a recent email, Capers says, “The Martha’s Vineyard Comedy Fest is excited to have Jil’s film featured as part of our offerings. We particularly like her film ‘B.A.D.D.’ because it is a funny and family-friendly film with crossover appeal. As the Comedy Fest continues to grow, we want to add more comedy-related activities, to include movies, shorts, and workshops.”

“Without it being blatant, the film demonstrates that youth who feel threatened or unsafe can advocate for themselves by trusting and talking to their teachers and other responsible adults,” Ross says. “Furthermore, the film celebrates diversity, and assembles a cast that reflects the world we share.” 


“B.A.D.D.” will be shown at the Strand Theater, 11 Oak Bluffs Ave., on Friday, August 11, at noon, with doors opening at 11 am. Post-screening discussion with Jil Ross. For tickets and information, visit Watch “Chi-nanigans,” the awardwinning web series, at, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.