Interview: The Miseducation of Cameron Post’s Chloe Grace Moretz, Desiree Akhavan, and Mathew Shurka

Posted on August 7, 2018 at 3:42 pm

Copyright FilmRise 2018
Sundance winner “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” takes place in 1993, when a teenager is sent to a Christian “gay conversion” program something between boarding school, boot camp, rehab, and prison. Chloe Grace Moretz gives a performance of great subtlety and sensitivity in the title role. My friend and fellow critic Leslie Combemale and I spoke to Moretz, director Desiree Akhavan and gay conversion survivor and activist Mathew Shurka about the film.

I always think that one of the greatest challenges an actor can have is a part like this one where your character is so much an observer, with no big speeches.

Chloe Grace Moretz: What’s beautiful about the film is that it really is an ensemble piece. It’s called “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” but I walk through it with you guys, perceiving and understanding and taking in and comprehending this space that I’ve been thrust into. We shot the movie chronologically. We only had 23 days to shoot the movie. It was wonderful because we just walked through each beat. Because we didn’t have much rehearsal time, there wasn’t much to do other than feel and hear and listen and perceive.

Because my character didn’t have a lot of lines, all this stuff is happening to her and around her and she’s having all these projections put on her about of what she is and what her problems are. And all she says is, “I don’t think so.” It all happens in her head and it was really fun for me to play with that and depict it all through my face and my eyes. It’s what I like doing best as an actor, ever since I was a little girl. It’s always been something I enjoy, showing context and subtext in my head and having it pushed it out through my eyes, not having to vocalize it. A lot of times in life, when you’re faced with sadness and depression and anger you can’t really formulate words for that. When someone is looking at you and telling you everything you’re doing is incorrect, sometimes the best you can do is say, “I don’t think so.” You internalize that.

Desiree Akhavan: That was the character. Someone who wasn’t that talkative. An introverted, athletic lesbian, an ode to every woman I’ve ever loved. I was building a type. I’ve been asked if that was something that changed specifically through casting Chloe, because she has a strength for communicating without words, but it was just a happy marriage, when the character meets the right actor.

Copyright FilmRise 2018

Mathew Shurka: It was incredibly powerful to see that in Chloe. It is so hard to turn conversion therapy into a film. All the subtleties are really clear in the film. My favorite part is when she just walks into the conversion therapy center and Reverend Rick is playing the guitar. There’s a shot of Chloe’s face. There’s doubt, there’s fear, and “where am I” and it’s every teenager. As a survivor, it read really clear to me, what was going on with her character.

We’d like to believe we are wiser now than in 1993, when this movie takes place, but how many states still allow conversion therapy?

Mathew Shurka: Only 14 states have banned conversion therapy for minors, which means that some form of it is still permitted in 36. But it’s legal for adults in all 50 states. A majority of conversion therapy programs are religion-based, but not all. This movie shows both, an actual therapist and a pastor. In reality, that’s how it goes. All of my treatment was conducted by licensed professionals. My father, who was the one who was really adamant about me going into conversion therapy did his due diligence and he wanted someone who had gone through the training of a therapist to conduct this.

They’re fighting these bills so a lot more are getting licensed as therapists to have more credibility, because they are fighting these bills. There are licensed and there are unlicensed and then the overlap who are both, pastors and licensed therapists. We say you have to choose. In the states where we passed those bills, people say, “What if there’s a pastor who wants to conduct conversion therapy?” and we say, “You have to honor and obey the terms of your therapist license.” You have to choose. You want to be a pastor and have those rights, fine, but if you’re acting as a therapist you have to honor that license.

Because these issues are still so present, did you ever think of setting the film in the present instead of in 1993?

Desiree Akhavan: We thought about it because it would have been cheaper. But no, it was always really important that they were as isolated as possible. For the dramatic stakes to be as high as possible, Cameron could not even know about other gay kids, let along see them on Instagram or reach out and ask for help. I didn’t want there to be a world outside of what they knew around them. I wanted to be loyal to the book but I also didn’t want to deal with technology and the whole host of changes that would bring to their lifestyle and personalities and their identity and their self-expression. The way kids live right now is very different from the way they lived in 1993 and it was important to keep it that way. But it is a very relevant film and when I began this process I didn’t realize how relevant it would become through the course of production.

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Actors Directors GLBTQ and Diversity Interview

Interview: Kelly MacDonald and Marc Turtletaub of “Puzzle”

Posted on August 7, 2018 at 8:00 am

Copyright 2018 Sony PIctures Classics

In the midst of the summer blockbuster season, a quiet film about a neglected wife who does jigsaw puzzles is getting a warm reception from critics and fans, with special praise for an exquisite performance by Kelly MacDonald as Agnes in her first lead role. I spoke to MacDonald and director Marc Turtletaub about the film.

There’s a timeless quality at the beginning of the movie as we see Agnes getting the house ready for a birthday party. We don’t know if it is set in the past or just today in a place that has not changed very much over the decades. It’s a surprise when one of her gifts is an iPhone because until that moment it could have been taking place in the 1950’s or 60’s.

Marc Turtletaub: Yes, it was intentional. You do it in the production design and the cinematography. Those early scenes are shot in silhouette and there is a lot of smoke being blown into the room by the cinematographer. It creates an atmosphere in which it feels almost like Agnes, the central character, is stuck in time, and she is as a character. She’s in the house she was raised in, in the house where she took care of her father, the one she raised her children in and so we wanted to create a sense in the environment that it was almost from another era.

It’s not only in the cinematography but it’s the production design and the costume. I spent way too much time picking out a dress for Agnes that would meld into the wallpaper we were picking out so you’d get the sense that not only was she stuck in time but that she was almost unseen in part of the environment.

Kelly MacDonald: There is a book, The Yellow Wallpaper, and that’s exactly what happens to her as she disappears into the walls.

MT: And in Garden State where it’s a complete match. We didn’t want to go that far. We did have a reference though, Bonnard. I was at a museum and I saw some of his work and I was so taken with how the study had a woman in front of the background and they melded so perfectly I went, “ That’s it, that’s what I’m looking for.”

Kelly, you had an unusual opportunity and challenge because you created the character without any words for the first part of the movie.

KM: I’ve always been interested in what it would be like to be in the silent era like Lillian Gish and just solely rely on expressions. So this was like my opportunity. I hadn’t realized when I read the script quite how much of the film has Agnes on her own. I just find those scenes were quite lonely because I got used to being around boys and family and everything and so there was a bit of that but I did quite enjoy just being able to express things without words. Quite often I’m trying to get rid of extraneous dialogue anyway. I’m happy without words.

Your character solves the puzzles very quickly. How did you make that look so natural?

KM: It brought back how much I like puzzles. So I was doing them when I would finish work for the day. I stole a couple from work and I would go back and decompress by doing puzzles. It’s very Zen and relaxing.

And I’d be presented with the prop of the day puzzle and then I would start to find a spot and take the best side that I wanted to work on and then place them on the table and try and remember where I put the pieces I’d be using. It was good brain training. And then I would start do it as fast as possible.

You were acting with one of my absolute favorites Irrfan Khan. Did you consult one another on the chemistry between your characters?

KM: I don’t think we really did discuss it. It was just suddenly he arrived as a fully fledged oddball. The first scene we filmed together was when I tell him I know he is an inventor. That was a good introductory scene to do actually because it was quite a long scene and we got to be face to face. I got to be awkward and he got to be just sort of bemused by this strange woman. When I think of him in the film I think of him in that doorway just being so physical and brilliant and just compelling I think.

There are a number of literal reflections in the film. What does that, well, reflect?

MT: I think of one that probably stands out most of all to me and it’s about it’s the moment where Irrfan Khan’s character Robert talks to Agnes about how active her mind is and the fact that she has nowhere to express it, no one to express it t. He sort of nails it and says something to her that no one has ever said to her but at the same token he actually listens to her. He can be a bit of a mansplainer but he also sees her in a way that maybe no one except her eldest son somewhat sees her.

There’s this wonderful moment after that where we hear Ave Maria and then she walks off and she goes down the street and we set it up so that as Kelly walks you see her reflection in the windows of the stores. And then she stops in front of one store and she flips her hair up and she puts it on top of her head and she pulls it behind her ear. As soon as I read it, that’s the visual I had in my mind. I wanted to see her looking at herself maybe for the first time in years as a woman and thinking about being more self-conscious.

We wanted to show different images (I call them portraits) of her at different stages of the movie and some were more successful than others; that was a successful one. I think another successful one is some of the reflections in the train and we just tried to capture Agnes at a different point in time to see how she’s evolved during the course of the movie.

Marc, You have an unusual career path for a director. What does being a CEO teach you that helps you as a director?

MT: I’ve had a strange life, not just career and I’ve had a lot of experience in a lot of different things. What I think I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is how to collaborate. People who are leaders in whatever endeavor and become successful over a long-term learn how to encourage other people. That’s something you do as a director. You encourage others, whether you’re a parent doing that and leading your children or whether you’re running a company, you’re encouraging. You hold a vision, you know how to set a boundary when you need to but there’s so much about encouraging people to do their best. And when you have people like Kelly and (I really say this in all candor) and Irrfan and David Denman and the young people we had, it makes the job really easy.

I love the way that recognizing her gift for puzzles inspires Agnes to notice more of what is going on around her. She even tells her husband she thinks they should begin watching the news. And she notices for the first time how unhappy her son is.

KM: It isn’t that film about a sort of savant which is great. She’s good at puzzles and she is fast but it’s not the through line of the film. What it does is remind her that she used to really quite like math. It just starts this little thing inside her brain, like this little scratch, and she wants to know what life might have been if things had been just even slightly different.

I just love that. The thing I love about her is she’s kind of got Truth Tourette’s — she just says what’s in her head. She does lie in the film but she does quite a bad job of it and struggles. But when she’s relaxed she can’t help but just see and some things that she says are totally brutal.

She’s a grown woman but she’s like a child. She is being kept like a sort of child-woman and it’s quite right that she has to at some point start discovering herself.

And her oldest son completely sees his mother and what she is and who she is in a way that Agnes isn’t even aware of. but he hasn’t spoken about it and it’s when she starts to sort of change slightly in these tiny ways to normal people but to her family it’s just seismic and it’s the tremors, the after-effects that touches them all. It’s really a beautiful thing that as she’s beginning to sort of open that door inside herself.

When you’re so trapped inside yourself it’s hard to see anyone else. If you do not see yourself with any depth how can you see depth in other people? This experience gives her the ability to just recognize her son’s in real trouble and she’s a very good mom and I think it’s lovely.

MT: She frees him.

KM: And it’s not a romance film either. It’s not about who is she going to end up with, who is going to make her better because it’s her journey. She could have fallen into either set of strong arms and the problems would remain and she would still have a lot of work to do on herself.

Marc, as I look back on the movies you have produced, it seems they are all about imperfect people trying to do the best they can.

MT: I try to. That’s like all of us, right? Audiences are hungry for real people realistically displayed. Mike Leigh said it beautifully: He takes the mundane and makes it poetic. That’s what we aspire for in this movie, to have ordinary characters but their lives stand for something so much bigger.

KM: Ordinary stories that move you, When people talk to us about how this movie makes them feel, they touch their hearts, literally put their hands on their chests, and I love that.

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Actors Directors Interview

Interview: John David Washington of “BlackkKlansman”

Posted on August 6, 2018 at 8:00 am

Former pro football player and “Ballers” co-star John David Washington stars in Spike Lee’s new film, “BlackkKlansman.” It is based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first black law enforcement office in Colorado Springs, who infiltrated the Klu Klux Klan over the telephone in the 1970’s. In an interview, Washington talked about playing someone who is pretending to be what he is not, rocking a 70’s look, and his dream role in a Shakespeare classic.

Was Stallworth really so inexperienced that he accidentally gave the KKK his real name?

Exactly. He was just trying to make a name, he was ambitious and he was in the moment very emotional and he had a brain freeze. I asked him several times what really happened, and after like the third week of asking he said the same thing, and I was like, all right, that must be the real story.

Your character is basically lying to everybody, not just to the Klan but also to the girl he likes, who would not spend time with him if she knew he was a cop.

He was a man that believed in what he was doing. He was this sort of Jackie Robinson police detective. I can’t imagine what that feels like, being in that community being the only person that looks like you. So I think he had to build up this sort of defense or shield he had to protect himself so maybe getting into these characters helped him be able to do his job more fluidly. If he exposed too many emotions or trusted too much that could compromise how he does his job and the integrity of it, What happened with the love interest, though, that’s when he started to break that wall down and because of not just her and her passion and her beauty but the cause.

It’s not like he wasn’t aware of his people. He says, “Because I’m not going to give it away it doesn’t mean I’m not for the liberation of my people.” He believes that he can do on the law side and I appreciate that. He thinks, “We’re trying to do the best we can. We’re protecting ourselves and the community and that means we got to do what we got to do but we’re doing it the right way or for the right reasons.” It means a lot to have a platform like this to show such emotions and show that we care too.

What was it about or his outlook or his background that made him think that he could change things from the inside?

I can’t give too much away about his background and what motivated him because there is some deep stuff there, but there were some personal experiences that he had gone through to help motivate and sustain him and give him the stamina to take it on the chin and get to where he was. I can’t imagine being a black man in Colorado Springs in the 70’s. He had to persevere.

In “Ballers” you play a guy who pretty much says whatever is on his mind and in this movie you play a guy who keeps a lot inside so tell me how you approach that as an actor.

One’s therapeutic for sure. Ricky Jarret on the football show is more of a representation than the actual person. Ron is living and he’s alive and well and there is a lot of information in his book and I spent time talking to him so it was a different type of concentration, a different type of representation. It’s not just an idea. It’s just about this man who lived and how he lived and what he believed in.

Also I feel like who’s directing and who’s guiding the ship makes a huge difference for me too. The direction I got from Spike Lee and the trust I got from Spike Lee made this the most unique experience I’ve ever had.

Copyright 2018 Nell Minow

How did Spike Lee first talk to you about the role?

Got a text from him: “this is Spike – call me.” I called him and he said there was a book about a man who infiltrated the Klu Klux Klan. He sent the book, and I was like, “All right.” I read the book and was blown away. I called him back like, “I can’t believe this! This is incredible.” From then on it wasn’t like “So, you want to do it?” It wasn’t like, “Let’s discuss feelings,” or anything like that. He was like, “I’ll have the script for you in a couple months,” so I started doing research as if I was getting ready for the role.

What did it feel like to see yourself in that 70’s hair and wardrobe?

I loved it! I didn’t want to look like we’re playing Halloween 70’s like in films that almost are like making fun of how they dressed. I remember Spike was talking about this passionately like, “We thought we were fly. We thought we looked great,” so that authenticity really helped inform us as what choices to make based off of how we felt with the clothes we put on with the fabric and the accessories and obviously the hair and the shoes. It was great.

So when you first looked at yourself in the mirror tricked out like that what did you think?

I thought, “There he is,” and then, “Just go get it.

At one point you’re talking to the head of the KKK, David Duke, played by Topher Grace, over the phone, and he brags about being able to tell by voice who is black. How did you think about your voice in those calls?

He can speak jive or the King’s English. I have a wealth of experiences too from private school to HBCU, historically black college, to North Carolina where I spent a lot of time. All that is a part of me, how I talk and how I speak and even in my cadence; it can change when I get excited about certain things and so sometimes I have this North Carolinian cadence.

I love that he didn’t put on, he didn’t see it like putting on a white voice and I don’t know what that means either to be honest personally, but what he did do was use a certain language. There was a certain hate vernacular that helped entice hatred to him so that he can penetrate that hatred. He called them trigger words, and David Duke was so sure a black man would not use those words he never suspected.

The KKK members use those hateful terms and describe horrible acts in such a casual tone of voice, too.

It’s one thing when you’re emotional about something and you express it through a curse word or raise your voice, but like you said, this is regular conversation.

Ron’s partner, played by Adam Driver, had to pretend to be him when they met in person. How did you work with Adam on coordinating that?

Ron in the book talks about how they worked together. They would meet and make sure they were on the same page with the information that he got and what he said and once Adam’s character got it they had to make sure they coordinated to make sure they were on the same page, so we were doing the same things. We weren’t necessarily trying to sound like each other because Ron said they really did which is a huge take away for me, too. One time it was a close call but like they just didn’t pick up on him; they never did.

The movie makes it clear that the fellowship was really a large part of the appeal of the Klan. They just wanted to feel like they were a part of something.

Absolutely, it was institutional hate; it was organized. There is a camaraderie. That brotherhood I think was a part of a draw and strength in numbers. Again that’s why these trigger words, the language that’s used in this film are vulgar and a bit abrasive but it had to be; it was necessary because this is the language that is spoken and this is how he was able to get in and maintain this case and get it to where he got it to.

It took a lot of courage to do that.

I agree. One of the hardest days on the film for me, it seemed like one of t=the most authentic days, when I was really in a time warp was the banquet scene, when Ron is on security detail. I called Ron Stallworth afterward and told him, “You’re a true hero. I can’t believe you did that.” I felt like personally John in that role on that day was looking death right in the eyes several times.

Watching the scene it was giving me anxiety. I know what’s going to happen and I’m still like, “Oh my,” it was tripping me out. That day was a hard day for all the actors, we all talked about it.

I heard that your dream role is Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare.

I’m trying to! If you know anybody tell them I said we’re looking for funding and by God, I’ll do it. I keep the monologue on me at all times. The way when I was working on it I found him a bit of a misunderstood character. Traditionally it is played a certain way but I felt like he was more sensitive than given credit for. I felt the sensitivity that was insecurity like some mother issues coming out which I would have loved to explore through this guy. So I had this other kind of approach. That’s just me and the language.

Ashlie Anderson, whose character I have to I run after and chase, before every take we would do the scene. We would get our Taming of the Shrew on before they started to film, Ashlie, shout out to you girl; we’re partners in that.

What do you think of when you think of the KKK?

My mom had an encounter with the KKK when she was I think 7 years old in North Carolina. She snuck into a cross burning. I’m so lucky she didn’t get caught because I wouldn’t be here.

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Actors Interview

Disney Voice Artist Jim Cummings on Pooh, Tigger, and Two Other Favorite Characters

Posted on August 4, 2018 at 9:19 am

It was wonderful to hear Jim Cummings as Pooh and Tigger in the new “Christopher Robin” movie.  Here he talks about those characters and two of his other favorites.  It is remarkable that so many voices live in just one actor!

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Actors

Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casel on “Blindspotting”

Posted on July 18, 2018 at 8:00 am

Sometimes it takes forever to get a movie made and then it arrives at exactly the right moment. Longtime best friends Daveed Diggs (“black-ish,” “Wonder,” Tony-winner for “Hamilton”) and spoken word poet/academic Rafael Casal began working on their extraordinary film, “Blindspotting,” inspired by their experience growing up in the uneasily gentrifying Oakland, California area long before either became successful. It took about ten years before they got the financing, and when it premiered at Sundance it was immediately acclaimed as a remarkably assured first film with exceptional performances a gripping story, and a nuanced, sometimes poetic portrayal of issues of race, class, and friendship.

Copyright 2018 Foley Walkers Studio

Diggs plays Collin, three days from completing his parole and under enormous pressure to make it through without any infractions that would send him back to prison. He sees a policeman kill an unarmed black man and says nothing because he does not want to jeopardize his parole. Casal plays his best friend Miles, a loving father and husband but also a volatile man quick to fight who may lead Collin into danger.

In an interview, Diggs and Casal talked about their on- and off-screen friendship and why it was important that the movie — like life — combine comedy, drama, family issues, and poetry.

In the film, your characters play movers who come into contact with a wide range of customers, including a photographer who shows them photos about the oak trees that can no longer be found in the city named for them, and he asks the two of you to stare into each other’s eyes. Tell me what inspired that and what you were thinking about in that scene.

RC: The exercise was stolen from one of my mentors, Chris Walker, who made us do it when I was teaching at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He would have the students do that and then there were all these mimicking games and stuff. It was about getting the giggles out and establishing intimacy between two actors or two performers. That’s also just a very hippie thing to ask someone to do something you really love. I think the Bay Area is so hippie in that way and the idea of making two grown men try to connect in an intimate way was a way to display how uncomfortable that is for two guys who have known each other their whole lives. It just felt like a fun thing to do early in the script. Performing it — we have a different level of comfort than Miles and Collin do so that was easy for us. There were a few moments during the photoshoot for the film where they had us so close together it was so funny. For the photo we were within an inch away and I go, “This is alright but normally only a girl or my dog could get that close to my face.”

DD: There were all sorts of different versions of who the character was but they were all a particular Bay Area energy that we didn’t have represented other places in the film, somebody who despite being forced to interact with capitalism in the way that we all have to would much prefer to peddle understanding as opposed to paintings. He would rather give all of his pictures away and just be able to promote these moments of true honest understanding with each other. So he sees an opportunity here and one of the things he gets to bring out is that we get to see how difficult intimacy even on the basic level is for two male friends despite being friends their whole lives. There is something awkward about just being this close together and actually looking each other in the eye. Most of the time you don’t look at the person you are talking to. But that is where all of the cues for how somebody is feeling are.

Why is it that your characters can live in a community of interracial relationships that seem completely accepted but as the movie shows, the world around them is still having trouble dealing with racial differences?

RC: I don’t know that no one notices the differences. I think we’re presenting a reality where those conversations have been had already. That melting pot does not happen without a ton of talks about it. That’s why I think a lot of the conversations that do happen on screen happened a few steps into the conversation. We assume that any place that has gotten to a point where these are the kinds of relationships that are around didn’t skip forward and get to something like racial harmony. The world is not there, but they’ve had those conversations or some degree of those conversations with each other. It’s not like Miles and Ashley have never talked about the fact that she’s black and he’s not; they’ve definitely had that conversation.

DD: I’m mixed, a ton of my friends were mixed. By virtue of being mixed I’ve almost never dated somebody who was of the same race as me in a relationship, so growing up that wasn’t a thing. That was normalized to a degree that nobody batted an eye about it and so I didn’t know until I left that that it would be a thing anywhere else and I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand any of the hang-ups with it. I felt like we were having a discussion that I was born already having had and it was pressuring in me in a certain sense but I think the fact that communities exist under the fact that people are able to interact in a lot of ways within a community has really nothing to do with what’s happening in the country on a grand scale.

One of the themes of the film is the struggle with gentrification of the neighborhoods.

DD: I think it’s natural to be fearful of somebody literally taking your resources and removing you from them. That is what’s happening to a lot of the folks in that community it’s what’s happening to Miles and Colin. The green juice isn’t the problem; the fact that it is reasonable for the green juice to be priced at $10 leads you to beg the question of who is that for and why did it never exist before we started seeing these new people coming in. It’s not like nobody in this neighborhood has been health-conscious before. Val loves going to SoulCycle and she’s so excited that that is part of this community now. She uses it all the time but it didn’t exist until very recently and the thing that comes along with its existence are raised rents and a difference in policing. Police are being called to events that they would not normally be called to. That recent story about “barbecuing while black” is this beautiful example of where here is something that’s been happening in the same place for over a decade every weekend and because the neighborhood changed, somebody called the police on it, on a bunch of black people just having a barbecue.

I know you’ve been working on the film for 10 years and yet it seems like it just seems like it has come out at exactly the right moment. How did it evolve to reflect some of the Black Lives Matter events and the crucial plot element about “the talk” that black parents have with their children?

RC: Yeah the evolution that we bring up a lot is just the nature of the conversation around how communities are prioritizing issues and it’s just changed. It was shocking 10 years ago when we would hear about a police officer murdering somebody now it’s here and gone so fast. The list is just so long of names of young men and women of color who are being murdered by police officers. So the movie had to change. The movie had to become about that, about the fact that it’s not a headline anymore, that Collin is the only one who seems to care when he sees a black man being killed by a policeman. Even his best friend knows about it and doesn’t ask about it again after the first day. He sees it on the news and processes it and goes, “but we know what this is; this will not be the one that moves the needle so let’s move on from it”.

What makes Collin and Mile friends? They seem very different, more like family held together by ties unrelated to what they have in common.

DD: Oh I think they have the entirety of their lives in common. They essentially grew up with each other.

RC: The way that they joke; the way that they see the world, their shorthand of references.

DD: And they also need each other for different things. I think Collin doesn’t activate nearly as much without Miles around and sometimes over the course of the film that becomes a problem. But also think about how many times it was probably a good thing. How many jobs did Collin get because of Miles and how many other opportunities did he have?

RC: How many times did they bail each other out of dangerous and violent situations because there are two instead of one? Their whole relationship is based on massive loyalty and understanding and family; Colin is like a second surrogate father to Miles’ son. There is so much shorthand support and it’s a poor neighborhood, so survival is the key; loyalty is key. That’s why you have guys who grew up together and they’ve known each other their whole lives. Sure they’re totally different in the group but they are a group. You are only aware of their differences if you’re in the crew. But if somebody throws a bottle at them you will see how they all respond the same. It’s like a sports team — watch how quick they fall in line.

One of the things I loved about the film was the range of tone. You’ve got just outright funny stuff, you got very heightened stuff, you’ve got very realistic drama. Did anybody push back on you and say “hey pick a lane?”

DD: We heard that early on a little bit, but I think philosophically for us we wanted to portray the Bay area honestly. It had to be in the DNA of the film so it wasn’t just swinging wildly it was actually intentional. This is how we all laugh one second and cry the next and I think that is not Bay Area specific. I’ve never felt one thing at a time. Nobody has. We are often pushed in art to focus on one thing, to mine all of the available material out of one lane. For us to try in order to be true to life as we could which was the premise of us making this film I couldn’t find a way to do that.

RC: That tonal specificity is a fear-based constraint of studios, not a capacity of the audience. Our job is to push the medium. We don’t just want to make a film within a medium; we want to move the medium. The excitement was to go, “Well, the great news is we didn’t go to film school. We don’t know any of those rules. All we know is honesty.”

What is it about hip-hop that makes it so vital a part of today’s expression?

RC: Heightened language is just the mechanism that tells you how important information is. It is an attractive thing to listen to that functions the same way that musical theater does. When a feeling or idea crosses over to be too emotional to just talk about it, something elevates, so you sing. You could put it in the hip-hop bucket but that’s just songs and poetry and it predates all of that. There is a cadence to the way in which we use hip hop, as well as the concept of disenfranchised communities using verse to shout from the mountaintop when they’re not being listened to otherwise. But the idea of verse as a way to elevate language has been in the arts since the arts began. So I think we both were allied on the very contemporary mechanism that has its roots in something that has a very feeling mechanism which was creating dense and beautiful language to tell you what’s important about the moment.

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