Where did you get the name?
A. The original title – Albino Gorilla –
was inspired by a Gil Scott Heron album cover with a big white gorilla
in front of an American flag. The final title is a riff off that idea.
Where did the concept come from?
A. Frustration. The story came out of frustration at what has
become popular culture, and with the idea that we all play so many roles
in real life.What if we could break out of our expected roles? What
if we could just be ourselves, all the time? What would be the effect
of that kind of social disobedience?
The process also came out of frustration from doing everything by the
rules and seeing little progress. For almost 6 years prior to doing
RBG I had been working unsuccessfully to get my 1st feature length project
off the ground. I was beginning to hate film and needed to do something
that was fun. I did a few shorts to warm myself up to the idea of ‘breaking
all the rules,’ and basically did this piece as an exercise in
trust. Normally I am an extremely regimented filmmaker; meticulous storyboards,
every shot planned. I had to let go of all that. My meditation for this
film was “let go.”
These two frustrations came together to create a story about revolution.
In particular, I wanted revolution and being a revolutionary to appear
fun and I wanted the viewer to feel that change was an attainable and
achievable goal. It’s not without risk, but it can happen. You
can make it happen.
How was this movie done? What do you mean ‘no script, no second
takes?’ Can you talk about the directing process?
A. For all practical purposes we shot it as a documentary.
Although everyone knew the trajectory of the story, no one was told
what we’d be shooting on a given day until they arrived on set.
Everyone was asked to show up in character because when they hit set,
we were rolling.
We went over the story with the actors, as a group, ONCE, a few weeks
before we began shooting. We gave each one of them detailed outlines
and background on their characters; including videos, movies, books,
music that the character would use. They were not given scripts.
The actors responded to this challenge splendidly! They really became
those characters. The Red Bone Guerillas were real. We actually did
the interventions, created those realities in the streets. My only regret
if any is that we were unable to shoot all the interventions that Jamyla
& I conceived… and also, that we didn’t have mics powerful
enough to catch the reactions of some of the people on the streets.
How long did it take?
A. We shot for 13 days (over 2 1/2 months) in the summer of
2002. It took 9 months to edit the first cut of the project.
How much did it cost?
A. The total cost was about $6000; most of which came from
the book advance for Bullsh*t Or Fertilizer. We figured how better to
use a chunk of money that came from a pro-art inspiration book than
to make a piece of art.
What was is like to edit it?
A. As the director I had great fun, exercise in trust and all
of that. It was very freeing for all of us involved. As the editor I
wanted to kick the directors ass! We wrapped shooting and I had 36 hours
of footage and no script. I basically had to recreate the entire story
Is this the final edit? Are you happy with it?
A. I was happy with it when it was 2 hours and 15 min but 4
test screenings and a lot of feedback later it’s slimmed down
to 99 minutes. I’m cool with it. Everything I wanted for the movie
to say gets said. I still have my directors cut. This cut is for you.
What is the difference between this version and earlier versions?
A. The lesson I learned with this version was how to cut things
OUT; how to leave holes and trust the audience to fill in the blanks.
I actually call this version my ‘stand up metal chair’ version.
I noticed at the rough cut/cast screening that people’s attention
spans varied in direct proportion to the comfort of the chair they were
sitting in. So after editing this version I watched the entire thing
standing up; and then again sitting in a metal chair. These conditions
aren’t ideal, but might sometimes be the case in more intimate
venues. I’m happy to announce that it passes the metal chair test
How do you plan on promoting this film? What are your plans for the
film? How are you going to distribute a film with so many borrowed clips?
A. We think of this project as more of a movement than a movie;
an extended meditation; a piece of artistic propaganda. Ideally we will
show it at galleries or art houses, colleges, museums, and smaller independent
theatres. We enjoy interacting with an intimate audience who can hang
out, ask questions and talk.
There was an independent Black filmmaker at the turn of the century
named Oscar Micheaux. He made dozens of films and distributed them himself,
carrying prints and projector from town to town and showing them wherever
he could assemble an audience. In honor of this ancestor we’ve
dubbed our traveling film caravan The Micheaux Show and would love to
come to your town. We also are open to having individuals who the movie
speaks to, hosting screenings on their own. You can learn more about
this viral distribution plan here.
We will also be happy to give away copies of RBG in appreciation for
donations to support our work.