Tell me about your background in film school? ^ My childhood was my film school. I grew up with a Super-8 film camera in one hand and an Akai reel-to-reel black and white video camera in the other. (The Akai video camera was very similar to what Bob Crane uses in Auto Focus.) I was also lucky enough to attend a High School that had a 16mm film production class. Throughout High School I made 16mm films with Ken Kokin and Steven Wolfson. Ken and I produced Bryan Singer’s first feature film “Public Access.” And Steven and I wrote Gang Tapes together.
What made you want to make movies? ^ It was the way movies made me feel as a kid. That power of emotion; I wanted to make an audience feel that way. In 1975, I was 8 years old and my Dad took me to see “Jaws” at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. That was it, that did it for me. Not long after that, my parents took me on the Universal Studios Tour and I fell in love with the process of making movies. Around the same time, I was being forced to take piano lessons. I started to refuse to practice anymore unless my piano teacher (who was a pot smoking hippie) brought his 8mm film camera and we could make a short film after each lesson.
What are your influences in film? ^ Insert all of the normal geek boy filmmaker cliché’s here. But Scorsese is at the top of my list, because of his strict adherence to gritty realism in many of his films. I’m much more interested in cinematic truth rather than Hollywoodized nonsense. Growing up on the films from the late 1960s-1980 was the golden age of film for me. This incredible period of filmmaking began with films like “In Cold Blood,” “Easy Rider” and “Midnight Cowboy” and ended with “Raging Bull.” There were many great films that came before and after this stretch of time but the films of the late 1960’s-1980 seemed to have had a certain consistency to them.
What films did you make before Gang Tapes? ^ I produced several short films and feature films including “Public Access,” which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and Heidi Van Lier’s very first short film called “Small Town Recollections.”
How did you come up with the story for Gang Tapes? ^ I wanted to make a film on Digital Video that lent itself to the look of DV. Instead of trying to make video look like film, I wanted to come up with a concept and story that would work with and not against the inherent look of DV. Since the advent of the VHS camcorder back in the day and growing up in LA, I had always had this crazy idea about doing a movie about gangsters in South Central all from the POV of a stolen video camera. I was also intent on making the most realistic film ever made about African American gangsters. After seeing “Celebration” (that was shot on a low quality one chip DV camera) I knew that we could make an indie film on DV. For me, “Celebration” was a break through film because it proved that you didn’t need to shoot a film on 35mm or even 16mm in order to get theatrical distribution. Hell, you didn’t even need to shoot on a high-end video camera. “Celebration” proved that a compelling story in the hands of the right filmmaker is enough. We started to gear up to shoot Gang Tapes as an indie credit card financed DV feature, but after
the Blair Witch Project came out, I knew that there was now a proven business model for us to use in order to get the financing and the distribution from an actual studio.
How did the deal with Lions Gate come about? ^ I had a prior relationship with Lions Gate and we went to them with the most Hollywoodized pitch I could come up with… ‘Blair Witch in the Hood.’ And within the same meeting we got the green light to make Gang Tapes.
How much freedom did you give your actors to improvise? ^ The film was scripted, but after casting the film I went into several weeks of rehearsals with my actors and had them translate our dialogue into real hardcore street vernacular. I left a lot of room and freedom for improvisation during rehearsals and shooting, but it all had to be structured and the rhythm and pacing had to be controlled. Gang Tapes may seem like random anarchy but it was a tightly scripted and highly designed film.
Get the rest of the interview in part three of ADAM RIPP: GANGSTA’S CONTROVERSY>>>

Posted on December 6, 2002 in Interviews by

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