How did you get such frighteningly real performances out of basically non-actors?
The film was cast completely out of Watts and South Central Los Angeles. Everyone you see in the film is either a gang member, ex-gang member, or at the very least someone who grew up in the gang culture and environment, even though they may not have been active gang members. The cast brought their real life experiences to the film. You can see it in how they walk, talk and the looks in their eyes. There is just some shit that you just can’t act. Look into our characters’ eyes in Gang Tapes and compare that to the actors in Boyz N the Hood and Menace II Society and you will see a clearly distinct difference.

The violence in the film is terrifying, how did you go about doing those scenes without anyone really getting hurt?
Every moment of violence was carefully rehearsed and choreographed. Although everyone performed their own stunts, we worked very closely with a professional stunt coordinator. Many of these scenes were not only physically demanding, but emotionally draining as well. Because of the complexity of the home invasion sequence and the rape scene, we needed do about seven takes to get it right. Shooting a rape scene really pushes the limits of what you can ask for and demand from your actors.

What was the budget and how long did it take you to make it?
The budget was under $500,000 and we shot it in 12 days in South Central Los Angeles and Watts.

What problems did you run into during production in terms of keeping that budget so low?
(answered by producer David Goodman) Being financed by a studio has its pros and cons. Because we were financed by Lions Gate Films, we had to adhere to more traditional production procedures instead of the classic indie run and gun guerilla style. This included having to have permits, police, fire marshals, etc. We also had to deal with the size of the crew and what that entailed: Extras, payroll, catering, parking, etc. We had almost 40 different script locations and many weren’t decided until late into pre-production. We also ran into some trouble with some local gang members and a gang war that was being waged around us at the time, which forced us to shut down for two days to reevaluate some situations, including shifting locations and making sure the crew felt safe.

The other main issue is the age-old director-producer relationship. The director, in this case also a producer but almost exclusively wearing the directors hat during production to concentrate on the creative aspects, wants what he wants and does whatever he can to get it from the producer. This is always tough on a low budget, but we always came to points where either I gave in because it was going to add to the finished product or he gave in when it just became more important to get done what we had time for. In some cases, he just wore me down. In the end, our battles always came out for the best.

Can you give me a breakdown of a timeline for making the movie, when you came up with the idea, writing the script, production, completion, first screening?
(Adam returns) March of 2000. We pitched it to Lions Gate and they give us the green light.

March of 2000 – June 2000. Steven Wolfson and I take it from a pitch and turn it into a script.

June of 2000. Pre-production begins.

August of 2000. Production begins on a 12-day shoot.

In October we submit a rough-cut to Sundance and Slamdance.

In November we are violently spat on and rejected by Sundance.

December… Even though we make it to the final round of selections for Slamdance, we are still rejected. Sometime after that, I hear that we may have been rejected from Slamdance because certain members of the selection committee convinced everyone else that the film is not realistic and that there is an overall fear that there might be racial tension and controversy surrounding the film.

February of 2001. We premiere Gang Tapes at the Pan African Film Festival in South Central Los Angeles at the Magic Johnson Theaters where me, a goofy, white, Jew, is nominated as Best Director.

Film Festival time line…

NY Underground-March
Edmonton-Local Heroes-March
Pan African-Denver-April
San Francisco Black Film Festival-June

What are some of the scenes you had to cut?
There is a scene where Kris is jacked up by two police officers. In the scene, one of the cops takes the camera away from Kris as it is still recording and places it on the hood of the police car, giving us an extreme Dutch angle of Kris and the cops. In mid-scene, one of the cops realizes that the camera is still recording and walks over and shuts it off. While editing this scene, it ended up feeling too contrived, a little too coincidental that not only was the camera still recording, but that it would be placed in such a way as to perfectly capture the scene. For me, it was the one scene that took me out of the reality of the film. What I decided to do was to let the scene play, but to cut out of it when the one cop takes the camera away from Kris. This ended up working perfectly in terms of getting what we needed out of the scene, but also preserving the integrity of the conceit of the film.

Aside from that, there were about half a dozen other scenes that we shot that either didn’t work for me or simply got in the way of pacing of the film. I have included some of these scenes on the upcoming DVD as extras.

Get the rest of the interview in part four of ADAM RIPP: GANGSTA’S CONTROVERSY>>>

Posted on December 6, 2002 in Interviews by


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