How did you go about casting? ^ We hired an amazing casting director by the name of Anissa Williams who had primarily cast gangsta rap music videos. We held open casting calls in the heart of Watts at a community theater on 103rd Street and Wilmington. Over the course of two full weekends, we interviewed several hundred kids from the community who auditioned for the parts. We then narrowed that number down further and further over the course of several weeks during our callback auditions until we finally had the cast that we were looking for.
How did the film play on the festival circuit? ^ We played at Pan African Los Angeles, Cinequest in San Jose, Nashville Film Festival, Pan African Denver, Urbanworld, New York Underground where we won a special jury prize for Best Ensemble Cast, San Francisco Black Film Festival where we won Best Feature Film, Edmonton and Berlin Beta in Germany.
What pleased me most was how well the film played to both the art house crowd and to audiences that are not that familiar with the extremities of the gang problem in L.A.. It was also amazing to see people passionately debate the film with each other and us. The film really divides audiences. It was also great to be approached by teachers and school administrators who want to use the film as an educational tool, a kind of “Scared Straight” about gang life.
I know you received some criticism from some African American moviegoers, how did you respond when asked the question of how a white guy could make a movie like this? ^ Sometimes it takes someone from the outside to tell another person’s story honestly and accurately. Had an African American filmmaker made this film, they may have been pressured from airing what is perceived to be dirty laundry. As an example… Norman Jewison was the original director on “X” but was pressured off of it by Spike Lee who stepped in to helm. If you have read the book and seen the film, you will see how much Spike downplays and waters down major parts of Malcolm X’s life. From what I understand, the Nation of Islam pressured Spike into doing this. Had Norman Jewison directed the film, he may not have felt as pressured. An example from Gang Tapes is the fact that black on black crime is a harsh reality, but there are many in the African American community that do not want this shown in film. The bottom line is that Gang Tapes is the truth about what is going on in urban America. One African American gentleman at a film festival asked me if the Ku Klux Klan financed my film.
The reality is that MTV does more to damage the image of African Americans in one day then a hundred films about life in the hood. Several African American leaders have stepped up to try and place a ban on Barbershop because of some comments in the film that they disagree with. Where are these leaders when it comes to MTV and the negative images that it is not only projecting, but also encouraging? Lastly, filmmakers have the right to tell any story they want without regard to their race, creed, sexual orientation or political beliefs. It’s called freedom of fuckin’ speech. One project I have in mind is entitled “Jesus Was a Black Jew.” What do you think white Bible belt Christians will think of that one?
Have you ever been mugged and had your camera stolen? ^ No, but I do remember back in junior high, I was about to indulge in a feast of BBQ ribs that I had brought from home. Suddenly a big kid came walking by and stole my friggin’ ribs.
Tell me what you’re working on right now. ^ Chris McQuarrie and I are writing a script together called “Beat Cop,” which is the next project that I’ll direct. I’m also producing a feature with Jan De Bont that is based upon a story and treatment written by myself and Steven Wolfson who co-wrote Gang Tapes with me.
You can check out the trailer for Gang Tapes at the official site.
The Gang Tapes DVD is coming out through Lions Gate Films on December 10th. It’s feature packed with audio commentary, making of documentary, deleted scenes, trailers, music videos, music from the film’s soundtrack and story board to film comparisons.
The Gang Tapes soundtrack is currently out on CD, featuring the first single by Coolio called “In The Hood.” Also featured on the soundtrack are tracks from DJ Quick, Too Short, LV and Prodeje.

Posted on December 6, 2002 in Interviews by

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