Your new project Badasssssploitation! - in a few words, what
is it about?
An anthology celebrating the history of Black Cinema, the birth of the
Black Movie Star, and Black Pride and Power in Cinema in general.
What's the idea behind Badasssssploitation!,
and what does blaxploitation and "black" cinema mean to you,
I met Melvin and Mario Van Peebles 11 years ago at Sundance and it was
just a surreal moment. I then attended a Blaxploitation seminar in Los
Angeles a few months later which Mario was speaking at along with Foxy
Brown director Jack Hill and several other prominent folks of the
Blaxploitation era. I just loved what I heard, and I loved Mario's film Badasssss! which
was about the making of his father's film Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss
Song. I totally connected with the independent spirit of what Melvin
went through. Although in Melvin's case it was much different, as he was
Black, not White, and putting his career in major jeopardy instead of
playing it safe. But I loved that rebel attitude. Folks like that, ones
who just go for it with all odds against them, the ones who survive that,
they really change history... or make history. And Melvin not only made a
huge change for Black Cinema, but for indie filmmaking period, which is
why I think anybody struggling to make it could be totally inspired by
what he did, some 45 years later.
So, the "badasssss" in the Badasssssploitation! title is a
reference to Melvin. And also to Mario (the exclamation point
referencing Mario's film that he made about his father). As Blaxploitation
or Black Cinema, to me, when I was a kid/teen in the 90's, was the kind of
stuff that Mario was doing. Which I think you could say Melvin is the one
who paved the way for those 90's films as he paved the way first for those
70's Blaxploitation films. Next came a lot of great hip-hop music
in the 80's, and filmmakers like Spike Lee, and then big time Black movie
stars like Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes as we pushed towards
the 90's. All these films and actors and directors started intertwining. I
was at first heavily influenced by ninja and action films in the 80's when
I was like 7. Then I started getting into movies like Menace II Society
and New Jack City as I came close to my teenage years. New Jack City
starred Wesley Snipes, who became a major action hero which grabbed my
attention in the action world I loved so much, but he was also in movies
like Jungle Fever (and then we had the more indie version of Jungle
Fever called Zebrahead which I really loved, probably because
the characters were teenagers and not adults). And Mario, having directed New Jack City,
led me to follow him with films like Panther and Posse, as
well as action films where he stayed simply in front of the camera. Plus I
was in love with 2Pac's music so I followed him as an actor in films like Juice.
And I remember even buying tickets to see Jurassic Park only so
that I could then sneak into Poetic Justice. I just really started
following these actors, too. When I saw Dead Presidents 20 years
ago I pointed out this guy Terrence Howard who was in like 5 minutes. I remember going
"this guy should be a movie star, what charisma." I should have
been a casting director, usually when I say that the person blows up,
eventually. Though originally I watched the film for Larenz Tate and
Bokeem Woodbine, both amazing actors. Bokeem reminded me of the guys from Onyx, another group I loved. I even tried to mimic Bokeem's walk in Strapped
(which actually co-starred Onyx's Fredro Starr). And his performance in Jason's
Lyric is one for the books.
These films just really clicked with me. I was never into horror films,
like people always claim I am or was. I loved action films, and tried to
mimic those in my films from the time I was 7-14, then for the rest of my
teen years I was trying to recreate movies like Clockers. I
made a 35 minute short film called The Setup aka A Thousand
Chances when I was 14 as well as a feature film when I was 15, which I
didn't finish, called Safe and Sound. I actually recently found the
trailer I made for it back in 1995 -
- excuse the quality as I had to video it on a tube TV while it played from
a 20 year old VHS tape!
I was talking to my mom about this anthology and realized during the
conversation why I connected so much with Black Cinema and music in the
90's. I told her, "you know, I didn't understand movies about white
kids." All that they did was play sports, live great lives, and all
the drama or conflict was strictly their prom dates, losing their
virginity or battling to win their sports games. Now, I had a great life
at home (when the law wasn't screwing it up for me), but I didn't play
sports, or care much about sex. And at school, I was beat to shit so badly
that I'm left with two permanent injuries to my face. My
first memory of a family dinner was in foster care with some Mexican
family I didn't know. My first memory of my dad was seeing him through a
court room door when I was 5 years old, watching him and my mother from a
distance as I was being held back by authority figures as I was in a
holding area with a ton of other kids after being picked up from foster
care. My younger brother, aged 1 at the time, my only sibling, was then
adopted by his second foster family until he was 18, so I barely ever saw
him. I bounced around schools a lot. I seemed to connect better with black
kids than white kids (my first friend was black). When I was 13 I was one
of the few white kids at my school, it was almost all Hispanic. I didn't
have any friends. I was the only white kid who sat alone, so I got picked
on left and right, I wanted to kill myself due to the bullying got so out
of control. For some reason some of the black kids would stick up for me
when they saw me bullied. I don't know why, but they did. That's about the
time that I really started getting into these movies about black kids
growing up in the ghetto. While I was not living in bad areas (or black,
obviously), I seemed to understand the fear of walking outside thinking
that you'll be beat down or shot, growing up in foster care and with a
fear of the system taking you away for good, hating cops (as my only
encounter was being dragged out of home by them when I was 5 and then
later being arrested when I was 16). But the problem is that I started
dressing like a gang-banger in hopes that I could fit in. Next thing that
happens is that I get a 9mm gun put to my head with a tweaker at the other
end asking me if I'm afraid to die before he pulls the trigger. Click.
Another friend (a black friend, my longest friend at that time, actually)
got gunned down a couple weeks later while walking down the
street (survived, fortunately). I had another kid always threatening
to shoot me, always rolling up on me every time that he saw me
walking down the street and every time I thought I was gonna get shot. I
skipped so much school out of fear that I barely graduated high school
from missing months of my 9th grade year. Finally I switched schools
again for 10th grade. I got nicely settled in at a newly built school
until I created my own problems; stealing merchandise from stores left and
right, tagging up walls at school, getting suspended my first month there.
So, I cleaned up my act pretty quickly, started loving school life for the
first time ever for a few short months, but then I made a stupid joke out
of boredom when I was 16, got arrested and charged with a horrible crime
that I couldn't fathom (it was like I was 5 years old all over again),
spent the rest of my childhood making court appearances battling charges
that I didn't actually mean what I said (I was a bored kid making a stupid
joke), becoming fearful and withdrawn from friends, and had
a D.A. whom I'd never met try to send me back to foster care. I still
remember standing in court listening to this bitch trying to ruin my life
again and she hadn't even taken one glance at me. I had to take night
classes, on top of R.O.P. classes and regular high school day classes just
in order to make up for all of the time that I missed school in 11th and
9th grade and barely made 220 out of the 220 credits I needed by
graduation time (I literally made 220 on the dot at the last minute).
still from Shane's The Setup
still from Shane's Safe and Sound
Shane in Safe and Sound
With all that said, the Black films of the 90's (and the music - 2Pac's
death really hit me hard) changed me, saved me, defined me, ruined me - I
don't really know what exactly but I connected with them more than
anything else at that time; they moved me whatever they did. For me, that
was my blaxploitation experience and it had a huge effect on my life in
about every which way. And that's what Black Cinema means to me; my entire
Even though the title Badasssssploitation!
is of course a blaxploitation reference, you don't want your entries to be
limited to just "blaxploitation" as such, right? Care to
elaborate on that point?
Right. I want my Blaxploitation
experience included as well. Originally I was going to call it, simply, Blaxploitation,
but then I started thinking about my life, the entire last question you
asked and my answer to that. I want it all. And this all came, in many
ways, due to Melvin's film, which is why I decided to change the title and
accept all forms of Black Cinema, in honor of Melvin Van Peebles. The 70's
Blaxploitation era might not have happened without Melvin. An without
those 70's films, we might not have had groups like N.W.A. in the 80's or
filmmakers like Spike Lee, or the 90's street dramas like Boyz n The
etc. Plus the 90's films I talk about, you know, they were just a short
run, from around 1991-1997, and then they were gone, just like the 70's
Blaxploitation films had their short run. These days, I don't know what we
have, just lame comedies starring Ice Cube or Tyler Perry or bad thrillers
which look like they should have gone straight to DVD (i.e. No Good Deed).
Yet these films are hits because we don't get films like Menace II Society
anymore (thank God for Dope and Fruitvale Station).
Perhaps it's a good thing, meaning not all films with black stars have to
be about ghetto life or drug dealers, but the thing is that those were
really good movies. How great do you think Ride Along 2 is going to be? So,
why can't James Bond be black? Why can't these indie mumblecore or
arthouse movies have a black cast (or any black people for that matter)?
Better yet, why can't we all just fucking mix like a goddamn vanilla and
chocolate ice cream desert with sprinkles on top??? That'd be
the ideal future, for me, at least. No race but the human race. Until
that day, what we have is history, and that's what I 'd love for this
anthology to celebrate. The history of cinema. Black Cinema. From the 70's
to the present.
So how does one submit, and
what are some of the submission guidelines?
rap music videos, Pam Grier homages, films about leaders (Martin Luther
King, Malcolm X), concept trailers, documentaries. Just keep it between
1-10 minutes in length. View the full run down here
- and deadline's May 1st, 2016.
submit a segment to Badasssssploitation! yourself?
know I tried to find the next Pam Grier for a Coffy type concept
trailer for a film that I wanted to make back in 2008. But I just couldn't
find the right girl. I actually wanted Laurence Fishburne's daughter,
Montana, if I could get her, this is when that porn film she was in came
out, so I guess 2010 I was still looking, eventually gave up in 2011. I
found a couple girls who looked great but none that could understand my
zero budget style. I attempted once again recently for Tony Newton's Grindsploitation
anthology and found a girl but then she flaked so I shot something else
entirely different. That's what actually gave me the idea to do my own
anthology. I figured, if I can't shoot it, I know I can distribute it (go
figure, I can easily get distribution for a film but not the actors to be
in the film, what the fuck?), so why not do an anthology? I'm not the one
directing it but at least I'm producing it, and hopefully at least one person
gives me my Pam Grier homage. Unless I can actually get a fucking actress
to show up, then I'll definitely do it, if not, I'll probably sit this out
and see what everyone else brings. Or maybe I'll do one of these 90's
can you tell us about your co-producer Tony Newton, and what will he bring
to the table?
I contacted Tony because I wanted to let him
know, "hey, I'm doing this anthology, been dying to do a
Blaxploitation homage for 7 years, but because of Grindsploitation,
I don't want people to think I'm taking your idea. How bout you join
me?" Besides, he seems better at wrangling filmmakers. I had lots of
trouble getting the word out. Again, I can get distribution, but I can't
get actors for films, or films for anthologies, what the fuck I say?!
Tony's really been working the scene, becoming like the anthology go-to
guy, so I knew he could really help bring people on board.
The key question probably, how do you plan
to make Badasssssploitation! available to the general public, and
Initially I had thought of making a
deal with a distributor and having it all set up, but when I decided to
focus on Black Cinema in general instead of simply the Blaxploitation era,
I realized there's a small possibility of this really getting big. It
might take time, word-of-mouth, but maybe this will catch on and become
something special. So, I don't want to make plans just yet, I want to see
what this morphs into. If it's starting to look real special, then we'll
see about taking it to festivals, and really making some waves with it
before going to distribution.
Some of your personal blaxploitation
and black cinema favourites?
was probably my
favorite Blaxploitation film. Honestly, I haven't seen a great many as I
was more focused on the 90's films (as well as the birth of the
Blaxploitation movement, i.e. Sweetback's Badasssss
Song again). As far as
those 90's go, I loved them all. Above the Rim, Set it Off and
New Jack City were some of my favorites at the time, but Fresh,
Clockers and Juice are the ones that held up over time
extremely well. Dead Presidents was a masterpiece.
Any future projects beyond
Cop 2, which I co-produced and co-star in is now in select
theatres and arrives on DVD/Blu-ray Feb 2. I'm acting in a little gig for
my friend Aramis Sartorio [Aramis
Sartorio interview - click here] next week, prepping to star in/direct Ted
Bundy Had a Son, still shooting God Got Ill and still editing The
Owl in Echo Park. Waiting for the releases of Grindsploitation
(acted in a segment for Jim Towns [Jim
Towns interview - click here] and directed a segment), Virus of the
Dead (directed and wrote/acted in a segment with Clint Eastwood's
daughter, Kathryn Eastwood, and frequent co-star Tommie Vegas [Tommie
Vegas interview - click here]), also
acting with Tommie in Albert Pyun's latest Cyborg movie, finally
and hopefully prepping to shoot a concept trailer for an idea way back
from 2001 called The Birmingham Cycle, got some more anthologies,
and might be starring in Samurai
Cop 2 director Gregory Hatanaka's next film, which is an
expansion on a very familiar character for me... oh, also awaiting the soon
release (finally, I think) of The Girl Who Wasn't Missing (though I
believe the title's been changed to Abandoned at 15), and there's a
book being released next month which has an extensive chapter on my Amateur
Porn Star Killer creation, Brandon. It's called Snuff: Real Death
and Screen Media. Hmmm... and also not making a mutha fuckin' dime, so
trying to find actual work which pays, in between these 20 or so films.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Your/your project's website, Facebook, whatever else?
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
out Heaven Knows What. Amazing film. Best this year. Needs way, way
for the interview!