It’s hard to believe SXSW is already upon us. This time last year I was living in a camper van in a trailer park in Austin living the dream of doing nothing. Fast forward 350 days and Thatsthehookup.com is killing it and we are weeks away from relaunching Proletariat™ and the Proletariat Graffiti Shop™, and all of this comes together in this interview with Adam Leon, Director of Gimmie the Loot, one of SXSW 2012’s most anticipated narrative feature films.
Gimmie the Loot is about Malcolm and Sofia, two determined teens from the Bronx, who are the ultimate graffiti-writers. When a rival gang buffs their latest masterpiece, they must hatch a plan to get revenge by tagging an iconic NYC landmark, but they need to raise $500 to pull off their spectacular scheme.
Over the course of two whirlwind, sun-soaked summer days, Malcolm and Sofia travel on an epic urban adventure involving black market spray cans, illicit bodegas, stolen sneakers, a high wire heist, and a beautiful, rich girl’s necklace that is literally their key to becoming the biggest writers in the City.
Being a graffiti writer and graffiti shop owner I have to admit I am VERY skeptical when it comes to movies about graffiti culture. So, I took it upon myself to sit down with Adam Leon and fire off a few questions about his new film, and to be honest I was pleasantly surprised.
KP: Adam, what’s your connection to graffiti? Is this story auto-biographical?
AL: There are elements of my life in the story, but I never did graffiti myself. However, I’ve been surrounded by that world growing up. There was a Crash canvas hanging in my apartment as a kid and my two best friends were writers, so basically it was hard not to be immersed in it when I was young. Then a few years back I co-wrote and co-directed a short movie called Killer and we cast some writers from the Bronx. I started to think about how they were real life action stars, running from the bad guys, climbing up buildings, ducking the police. It inspired me to do a fun adventure set in that world.
KP: I couldn’t tell much from the preview but how will the graffiti art look to people in the know?
AL: SP One was our advisor on the film and did some of the art (some is done by the cast themselves). He’s a name that will definitely ring out to anyone in graffiti culture, a legend. But the characters themselves are kids, they’re coming up. We were very conscious of that and it’s important for the story. They definitely have style, they bomb, they’re dedicated and they’re ambitious, even if they’re not veterans.
KP: Was it important to find actors that knew how to write graff?
AL: It was crucial that the actors in the movie were authentic and came from the streets of the city. One of our lead actors writes, the other did not going in, but we had extensive “graff class” on everything from history, language, culture, and of course the art itself. It was a many month long process. I felt very strongly that if real writers see the movie and call bullshit, the entire audience would be able, somewhere deep, to tell. We needed to pull that off or else the movie would be a joke. So it was essential to have the actors be able to relate to and live that life and learn how to actually write if they didn’t already. And while I was familiar with the culture, I was no expert, so having people like SP and others helped us all out tremendously.
KP: Where was this movie filmed and were there any moments where the police got involved?
AL: The movie was filmed all over NYC, mostly in the Bronx around Castle Hill/Parkchester/Soundview. Some in the South Bronx, a bunch of stuff downtown, a little out in Flushing and Greenpoint. I would prefer not to get into anything else on the police thing but the short answer is nothing major.
KP: Was the film title chosen from the beginning or are you just a huge Biggie fan?
AL: Both. I wrote the movie as well as directed it so I got to pick the title. There’s a bit of a heist element to the story and I always thought it would be a great title for a fast paced, fun heist. Also, while it’s a contemporary story, it’s a bit of a throwback, so the reference just adds to that. For the permanent record, I believe Biggie is the best rapper that ever lived and one of the only real geniuses of modern music.
KP: Can’t argue with you there. Thanks Adam for your time and I know we all look forward to seeing Gimmie The Loot. We wish you the best at SXSW 2012 and appreciate the nod towards graff culture.
AL: Thanks Kerry, That’s The Hookup and to all the writers out there.
You can see Gimmie The Loot at SXSW 2012 on the following dates:
Saturday March 10, 2012 Stateside Theater 8:00PM-9:21PM
Sunday March 11, 2012 ALAMO LAMAR B 11:15AM -12:36PM
Thursday March 15, 2012 Stateside Theater 7:30PM – 8:51PM