Your film Gimme the
Loot - in a few words, what is it about?
It's about two teenage graffiti writers from the Bronx that go on this
two day summertime adventure all around NYC.
were your inspirations when writing Gimme
the Loot - and to what extent can you relate to the graffiti
subculture your film depicts?
I grew up in New York and was
tangentially involved in that world, both with some friends and some work
I had done, but I am no graffiti expert. I really wanted to tell a story
about these kids who have these harder, tough lives but aren't necessarily
miserable people, they're just kids ultimately, and I felt graffiti was a
great jumping-off point to tell a fun story set in that world. But we
worked very hard on making the graffiti elements, both visually and in
terms of the story, authentic, and worked with this amazing, legendary
graffiti writer named SP 1.
the Loot being your feature film debut (at least according to my
information) - how did the project actually come into being to begin with?
as I stated, I wanted to make a movie set in this world but with a tone
not normally seen in that environment. And then I felt that the story lent
itself to low budget, first time filmmaking with non-professional actors.
So the story excited me, but it also really fit into how we could make the
movie in terms of production.
a film about graffiti artists, there is surprisingly little actual
spraying in your movie - would you care to elaborate?
Well, graffiti is a jumping-off point for this NYC based adventure. A
movie about graffiti artists doing graffiti, I don't know, that doesn't
interest me. It's essential to who these characters are, but
cinematically it can get tiresome. In general, movies about artists,
it's tricky too have too much watching someone paint or draw or write or
whatever the art is, unless the art is very performance based in itself,
like singing or dancing.
Still, it was essential that the graffiti - both the art and genreal
culture - be very authentically portrayed and we worked extremely hard
and long on that. And they do paint, draw in their pads, catch tags and
stickers, etc. There's a moment where they're checking out other
people's work. They steal paint. It's actually fairly regular, just as
more of a background thing, an everyday part of their lives, and not the
focus of scenes except in the very beginning. But that's what it is like
to be a graffiti writer. They do a big piece in the beginning, but over
the course of two days the typical writer isn't going to go out and
paint seven or eight blockbusters, yet the art is always being
practiced, and we do show that I believe fairly regularly throughout the
movie to be honest.
the most part, your film at least looks as if it was shot guerrilla-style
- is that true, and what can you tell us about the actual shoot, and the
locations you used?
We wanted everything about the movie to
be authentic, from the graffiti to the language to the locations
themselves. We shot in close to seventy different locations around the
city, mostly in the Bronx and Manhattan, and yeah, we took a guerrilla-like approach of just showing up, acting like we belonged, and shooting
the movie on the streets we're from. Not every shot was officially
"guerrilla" but that vibe was there throughout and important to
how we were capturing the story we were telling.
Your musical score ... you just have
to talk about your rather surprising choice of tracks for a bit?
well thank you (I think!). I had that as a really early instinct, to use
these older rock gospel tracks and older R&B songs. It's part of setting
the tone, that we're on an adventure, that this is going fun and probably
not what you'd expect from an "inner city graffiti movie". But
we also have a super wide range of music, including reggaeton, hip-hop,
old jazz, disco, funk, etc. Just capturing a certain spirit, and also I
should note that many of the songs that sound like old tracks are really
the work of my amazing, amazing composer, Nicholas Britell, who is
basically a magician in terms of both composition and production. He did
everything from those old jazz songs, to Booker T type R&B stuff, to a
dancehall track. Insane, insane stuff, he's the man and we love him very
wrote about Gimme the Loot
that it is "not at all unlike the best movies of
Eric Rohmer" - a comment you can at all live with, and how would you
describe your directorial approach?
Ty Hickson, Tashiana Washington
You're amazingly the
second person who has said that and I'll take it, I'm not sure I exactly
get it, but sure, why not? Maybe in terms of the conversational element or
also the aspect of travel being essential to the story? I don't think of
him as a direct influence though.
What can you tell us
about your leads Tashiana Washington and Ty Hickson, how did you find them
and what made them perfect for their roles?
think I just found Malcolm and Sofia, that these are those kids. They are
most definitely not, although they did grow up in NYC and know people like
that. But no, Tashi and Ty are extremely talented young actors who are
very focused and dedicated and extremely different than their characters.
Tashi is very glamorous and soft-spoken, Ty is a very grounded and charming
have to talk about scene-stealing Meeko and his character?
Tashiana Washington, Meeko, Ty Hickson
thank you. I met Meeko through my cousin and just knew him for a bit. I
definitely wanted to put him in the movie but I was very taken with how
talented he is as an actor the more I worked with him, so I kept expanding
his role. He is an extremely natural, gifted actor, both capable of being
comedic, which he mostly plays here, but also I think he has a wider range
than one might think just from looking at him. I think he's the real deal,
great instincts, very dedicated, smart guy that has just this unbelievable
look (tattoos on his face, etc).
few words about the rest of your cast and crew?
I would watch out for the third girl from the left in the party scene.
That girl thinks she's the queen of the neighborhood, she's got the
hottest trike in town.
Uh, yeah, these kids all showed up and were so talented and game for
what we were doing and in all seriousness I owe them forever. They're
very special, charismatic and I'm excited for people to discover them.
as I know, Gimme the Loot
has so far been shown only at a few festivals. So what can you tell us
about audience and critical reception so far?
we've had quite the festival run. I we've played at over 30 film
festivals. It's just tremendous to be able to show this very local, sort
of "small" movie that we made from our own experiences and
communities on this greater stage. To play the movie around the world, in
places like Cannes and Argentina and India, etc. is sort of surreal and
overwhelming and yet also deeply touching. I was definitely curious if the
movie would translate but it seems to have gone over really well in these
foreign countries, in particular in France and the UK.
back to the beginnings of your career: What got you into filmmaking in the
first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
wanted to do this since I was a little little kid and have pursued it
since then, but no formal training.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Gimme
I co-directed a music video with these
cats from Chronikill about a plastic penguin that fucks their girls so
they get the plastic penguin and beat the shit out of it. Just torture the
poor bastard. So basically, torturing and killing penguins. And we also
made a short film that played in some cool festivals, it's called Killer
but there's no penguin in it, that's probably a negative but I still like
it in spite of the lack of penguin content.
Any future projects you'd like to talk
Not particularly if that's ok.
How would you describe yourself as a director?
and charming, just an absolute joy to be around. Guys want to be me, girls
want to be with me. I'm not sure that's true at all or that you could find
even one person who would agree, but it's how I describe myself. My mom
once said, "You're not that bad, sort of", so that pretty much
validates my self description I guess.
who inspire you?
So many but I would say Robert Altman,
Woody Allen, Ernst Lubitch, Fritz Lang, Sergio Leone. Also, Stanley
Kubrick, he was alright too I guess.
Your favourite movies?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
of all, let's slow down with the "u" in favorite over there. I'm
beginning to suspect you're British. But to answer your question, Barry
Lyndon. Empire Strikes Back. Those are both great. Days of Heaven is
amazing and really inspiring. Trouble in Paradise. Tootsie's awesome,
almost underrated. Again, Altman and Woody Allen. Of the past ten years or
so I would say Margaret, There Will Be Blood, several Coen Brothers
movies, Spike Jonze's work, Birth, etc.
and of course, films you really deplore?
I don't really
deplore any movies, at least not that I can think of. That's too strong of
a negative emotion to have about movies. I deplore things like murdering
babies. There's no movie I can think of rising to that level of shitty as
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
- and we're on Facebook too.
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
the Loot is not my favorite Biggie song, my favorite Biggie song is Kick
in the Door. But Kick in the Door isn't the best movie title for what
we're going for I guess.
for the interview!
Thank you, sir.