We have done two films together “Bomb The System” and “Weapons”. Can you tell us a story about each of them?
The night before the world premier of Bomb the System a large group of cast & crew all get smashed, totally stumbling drunk, at a Tribeca Film Festival open bar party and spill out on the streets. Someone had spraypaint, I don’t even remember who. Someone started tagging “Bomb the System”, justifying it as a ‘marketing stunt.’ And from there one of the producers (who will remain nameless) who’d never done graffiti before started tagging his first name…. Let me repeat that, his first name. Well I decided things had gotten uncomfortably out of control, thought it best to bail and quickly hailed a cab home to Brooklyn. The next day I get a phone call “[Producer] is in jail! He got arrested right after you left!” I thought it was a joke. Seriously, I thought they were fucking with me and it wasn’t until his girlfriend called me crying that I realized it was not a joke, he was really locked up. The premier was at 6PM I believe. It was 3PM and he was still in jail. We sent an NYU friend who was in his first year of law school to try and spring him out. He wasn’t even a real lawyer yet, he’d taken like 3 classes. He was like Dr. Gonzo trying to spring Duke out of jail in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. “Your honor, my client needs to attend a red carpet premier in 2 hours. He’s a very illustrious movie producer.” “So why was he writing “Bomb the System” in the Chambers Street subway station?” Meanwhile we’re all gathered on the red carpet and this producer’s entire family is there, they had flown in from another part of the country, like 20 members of his family, grandma, aunt and little cousins and shit, and he’s still in jail. Incredibly as we are filing into the premier the producer comes running up to the theater, screaming like a madman, still wearing the same clothes from the night before. We’re all wearing suits and I think he had a Paul Pierce jersey on or something. He smelled like Tuberculosis. It was legendary.
I remember on WEAPONS, Paul Dano was always in character and he carried that little video camera from the movie around with him everywhere he went, shooting real tape. We collected all the tapes and loaded them into the AVID in case there was anything Jay Rabinowitz (the editor) could use. So we had hours and hours of footage that Paul as ‘Chris’ shot wherever he went. Mostly it was footage shot inside 7-11’s or outside of a car window while driving. Hours and hours of random video. And every once in a while Paul would turn the camera on himself and espouse these great monologues. Imagine Jay Rabinowitz, a seasoned editor of illustrious Jim Jarmusch and Darren Aronofsky films sitting at an AVID watching all this shaky-cam Paul Dano footage. He calls me into the editing room one day, “come check this out.” He’s watching footage of Paul secretly taping someone taking a leak in a bathroom stall in one of the set trailers. I’m laughing until I realize it’s me.
I will forever commend Paul Dano’s dedication to realism. That’s the type of atmosphere I work so hard to create as a director after all.
“The Carter” is a great documentary about the amazing artist Lil Wayne. What was it like spending time with him?
Sort of indescribable in words really. Everything and nothing you expect it to be. What I would imagine spending time with Thelonius Monk was like. Or John Coltrane. I was just thinking the other day about how originally we were going to call the film My Life is a Movie. That was his idea. If you’ve seen the film that might give you some insight.
“The Upsetter” is an incredible documentary about the legendary Lee Scratch Perry, how will audiences get to see it next?
We’re finalizing that and we expect to release it later this year. It got even better since the premier at SXSW since Benicio Del Toro redid all our narration.
You have directed some awesome videos for MF Doom. Can those be seen anywhere?
Sure you can see them all on YouTube. The vids are for “Question Mark”, “Dead Bent” and “Benzoin Gum.” I directed all 3 vids in 2000 when I was a film student at NYU.
What does “independent film” mean to you?
It doesn’t mean a whole lot to me anymore. It’s a term of the past. And perhaps we’re better off that way.
How do you feel about our government?
Government can work but the fact is our government doesn’t work, at least not for most people, so it’s about time we got together and fixed it. And it’s like your mom says, “You only get what you’re organized to take.”
What’s it like being a father?
I laugh a lot more these days than ever before. My 2 and a half year old daughter told me she wanted edamame M&M’s, that’s amazing, I would never come up with something like that and I’m 30 and a so-called writer.
How do you like living in Philadelphia?
It’s okay. On the plus side it’s a more manageable city than New York or LA. There’s less traffic. It takes 20 minutes to get to the airport and everything’s cheaper. But on the negative side it’s poor, violent, corrupt and racist. So basically it’s an American city.
You have been to a lot of film festivals around the world, do you have a favorite?
I love all the Scandinavian ones. Oslo is wonderful. Copenhagen and Stockholm too. Iceland is the best though. When were all there for Bomb the System in 2005 was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. We saw an elf, for real, running around on a hill. And we hung out with Sigur Ros at their studio in a converted swimming pool and then swam in a hot spring in the middle of an ice bank and fed horses Cheetos out of our hands. We saw ghosts in that hostel we stayed at. And remember when someone was like, “do you want to go to the President’s house?” We hopped in a van and just drove right up to the President’s house. There was no security, nothing. We knocked on the door but she wasn’t home. Iceland is really a magic place. We had spells put on us, for real. We couldn’t leave. We changed our tickets 3 times. I’m watching all this crazy footage on the news of the volcano and I worry for our Icelandic friends. I pray for them.
Who is your favorite rapper?
That’s not a fair question. I’m just gonna answer by saying Jeru The Damaja. I can still remember the exact moment I heard “Come Clean.” Freshman year of high school in history class on this kid’s yellow Sony Walkman. But ask me that question tomorrow and I’ll have a different answer.
What music are you listening to now a days?
Same shit I was listening to 15 years ago. Today I was listening to Geto Boys “We Cant Be Stopped.” That’s a classic. The album cover is so amazing. Bushwick Bill on a gurney after his woman shot him in the eye. I knew that album by heart when I was 12 years old but it’s only today I’m starting to understand the significance of some of those lyrics. But that’s the mark of a great piece of art; it changes and develops, as you grow older.
Of the young generation coming up I like Lil B and Das Racist. Those cats are doing creative shit, keeping things interesting while everyone stays boring. Check them out.
What are you working on now?
I wrote an original script for a franchise I wanna direct called Splatter Sisters. A horror franchise. I can’t reveal too many details but Evan Rachel Wood is down to play one of the “sisters” and Marilyn Manson is on board as well. I’m working with the legendary producer Ed Pressman. He produced Badlands, The Crow series, Bad Lieutenant, Wall Street, even Conan the Barbarian. He’s been amazing to work with thus far. And he has so many wonderful stories. David Gordon Green, who is also an exec producer on the film, introduced me to Ed. David really loves the script and has gone out of his way to see it get made.
Other than that, Ethan Higbee and I are preparing to release The Upsetter this year and I am developing a couple other secret projects that are way too early in the process to speak about.
What would you like to be doing five years from now?
Making a movie starring you and Tom Hanks, scored by El P on an analogue synth, shot entirely with Flip cameras and featuring lots of explosions and a scene where we get to crash a Lamborghini into a Yacht.
Follow me and Mark Webber on Twitter, eat healthy food, exercise every single day, stay humble, kiss your children, practice if you wanna get better at something, don’t complain too much, don’t mouth off to cops or anyone who carries a gun, even if they’re totally wrong, don’t burn bridges (that’s not cool anymore), stop thinking you’re so different from your enemies, respect pets and animals, remember that things easily understood are also rather shallow.