Thursday, June 23, 2011

'Call us when you're ready to return from the living dead'

Excerpt from Let Me Take You Down, an hour-long piece I produced, directed, shot, edited at 17, 
about a young man pays for college by dealing drugs in the ghetto he grew up in. 

We were babies then. We were scarred but didn't know it. I wanted to make change. Or help facilitate it. Wanted to shock, cajole, incite, poke holes in your belief system. Prod you from your comfort zone. Revolution, baby. Don't be a sucker. Film was a means to an end. We don't need no stinking booms or lavs. Fuck the lights. Just gimme that camera with the gray duct tape holding the viewfinder and battery from falling off. The cast sometimes showed up high. I remember being disappointed. Got to be alert trying to stick a knife in The System's gut. A month later, the first beloved face you see in this excerpt would die of an OD. We shot during Christmas season. The blitz. Few years later, I'd see Allen Baron's Blast of Silence and it would make me smile. 
We all came at this as subversive black comedy. I believe it still works on that score. I start watching, I think, how silly. Then find myself engrossed. Which makes me smile again - not for myself, but the babies who made it. Folks have told me: 'raw', 'honest', 'intense'. A photographer friend said she thought it was about 'misplaced anger'. I'll take it. Alas, this was all before sickness and realization. Today, I lack self confidence and means. To the point of needing metaphoric crutches. And: all the folks I know in 'the industry', I don't think there's any I can call up and say, 'Let's start a fuckin revolution. Like, right now'. Tide's changed. But the need - in myself, and The Way We Live - hasn't. 

Notes: Ironically, tragically, we'd lose cast member/tech advisor Rob Spangenberg (my bff at I.S. 145 and my guardian angel) to an overdose a month after shooting. Transferred from 3rd generation VHS (that's, kids).
Originally dedicated (in end credits) 'To all the slaves of New York...and all the non-New Yorkers - especially the whiteys', it was shot in 4 days, in Queens (underneath the #7 el and in the James Bland housing projects near Shea Stadium - now Citifield) and all over (and under) Manhattan. If nothing else, it's an accurate portrait of where and how we grew up.
I think we predated Man Bites Dog (U.S. release), which it resembles in spirit, if not quality (I was all about 'natural' sound and light then; I was a lunatic child). Also 'reality TV', which it resembles down to overactive camwork and mix of fact and fiction.
@9:30, my Abuela, on the left.
@5:50, Metropolitan Museum of Art, smuggled shot.
@1:43, my aunt.

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