Ripp | The Gang's All Here
emily blunt interview
you know BluntReview.com loves filmmakers with balls! That
sounds gross - but testical reference aside, you know what I mean.
I adore the Walter Mitty Believers.
People who look at a project and say, "It aint gonna be easy...
but success will taste like a double butterscotch sundae with
a heapin' helping of slivered walnuts when we get it done!"
That is Steven Wolfson and Adam Ripp' s Gang
Ripp cowrote and directed Gang Tapes. And I tell you he
has created (along with a slew of talented craftsmen) an unbelievably
realistic film based on the mysterious gang life that doesn't
pretty-up the throbbing points but says, "Here it is
way it is."
fact the Gang Tapes rings so true to what gang life is
really like it was banned from theaters for fear of the multiple
reactions it would cause
creating a banned film sounds cool, in theory, but now all the
hard work and effort so many people put in to making a brisk stark
honest film goes virtually unnoticed by an audience. I ask you
to really hunt to find this cinematic accomplishment.
had a chance to chat with director Adam Ripp about his film. He's
a down-to-earth kinda sort. A guy who seems to get how important
the integrity of film is
. or least that's how he comes off.
So here goes:
How do I know that you didn't just find a camcorder or dv recorder
on the streets of South Central LA somewhere bucko?
You can look at the making of on the dvd.
Sweet man! I know, I was kidding! The first copy they sent
did not have the cool extras- so I was riddled with suspicion.
ADAM: [laughter] You gotta see it. Besides, as crazy as gangsters
are I don't think there are many that would let some goofy white
Jewish kid tape their activities! [laughter] Or for that matter
in regards to "finding the tape" that someone would
be crazy enough to show that much horrific violence. One
of the things in the film was obviously that you see the stolen
video camera and it ends up with this kid video taping his homeboys
as he gets indoctrinated into the gang. One of the things that
concerned me with the basic theme of the film was would it be
believable that these gang members would allow this kid to video
tape these things. One of the things that bothered me about the
Blair Witch project was there comes a point were you say they
would stop video taping- they would run for their lives!
Not to mention the parents of these "missing" kids in
BWP would have never allowed a film to be played documenting the
kids demise- duh- right?
I thought that you covered that quite well. This guy, Kris, was
like the little brother of the gang
that was one of the nicer
parts of the film, you kept our suspension bridge with to reality
Thanks! One of things in doing research and spending a lot of
time in South Central was finding the gangsters and what they
do is very different than what the Mafia does. The Mafia would
never allow themselves to be videotaped on a crime spree. But
we watch different video pieces of criminals' video taping their
illicit activities. And I think pone of the things that they are
doing through their criminal behavior I creating a reputation
they ant to be a Ghetto Superstar therefore video taping their
crimes would be a way to get that kind of fame.
EM: So they can all sit back and watch it later over a chilled
Right. Opposed to just the crimes being just for financial gain.
Apparntly, serial killers do things like that
from their crimes so it makes sense in that same psychological
way... to glorify themselves for themselves later.
How did you get into this world so completely?
One of the things that I did is I was very passionate and very
honest about what I wanted to do. Through my writing partner Steven
wolfson I met a guy Quinton Drew. He's a community activist, a
gang prevention activist in Watts. Born and raised in Watts and
also the builder and creator of The Watts Village Theater. He
had a foot in all the doors we wanted to be in; the gangster etc.
but he was in with Bloods and Crips because he worked with all
of them- putting together peace treaties helping them get out
of the life
he was also into the creative community-or at
least getting the kids utilize their creativity to help them get
out of gang life.
I met with Quinton and said I wanted to make the most realistic
piece ever made. I want to show the reality the brutality and
the beauty. I want to juxtapose the images of the horror and the
happiness of what's going on in Watts what's going on in South
central I don't want to preach to audiences- I want to show it
raw, I want to show it real. And through that depiction one thing
you'll get-hopefully out of that experience we can create a kind
of 'Scared Straight' for kids that will talk to kids in a way
they haven't been spoken to. In other films - of this genre- there's
always these characters that are preachy and stand up on the soap
box and kind of talk down to the audience. I just wanted to through
shear imagery say, "This doesn't glamorize, this doesn't
glorify the life it shows the brutality of this life, and what
happens if you get involved in this world."
Are you hoping people are fooled into thinking the film is real?
ADAM: No I never created the film to trick people. I used that
narrative device to draw the audience in. So they can go on this
journey with Kris. So they can become this young man who becomes
initiated into this gang
they become this young man who is
descending into this world. As the events unfold in front of this
character's eyes they understand why he makes the choices he makes.
They may not agree 100% with what he's doing but the audience
places themselves in a place where they say, "if I was in
the same circumstances and environment I may have made the same
choices." That's why we have a full credit role at the end
- at no point do we try to fool the audience.
The film is so real.
I think there's something powerful about video. Just the aesthetic
of it really. We were raised, brought up on video. Video on the
news...I think there's something subconscious that clicks in when
we see something shot on video
something automatically tells
us, "This is real."
Now, when you use 35mm film and record the same event
something magical about film. There's something that happens-
it takes on another life.
EM: It's otherworldly really.
Celluloid and the chemical process that it uses gives it a magical
we could have shot Gang Tapes exactly the same way but
on 35 mm and it wouldn't have had the same impact I think. One
of the things that hurt the film theatrically -you know the film,
ultimately, was banned - I think it was because the film feels
too real. The violence during the home invasion robbery
scenes every time we screened the film-I mean every time I've
screened the film-there's at least one woman who runs out of the
Yeah, it's pretty brutal.
It is terrifying
there's a very important reason that scene
is in the film though- and aside from that I think if we shot
that particular scene on 35 mm it wouldn't have had the same impact
- they would have said, "Okay
it's only a movie."
EM: Yes, that scene changes your whole attitude towards the gang.
You realize after that some are real people stuck in this world,
they have morals and had a problem with went on. The other man
is just insane.
Absolutely. That's one of the things I wanted to illustrate in
the film. Before I made the film I want to a lot of people that
are not aware of what's going on in South Central and I said,
"Describe a gang member for me." And they said okay,
"it's a young black man that doesn't give a fuck about anything,
doesn't give a fuck about his life or anybody else and just wants
to kill." I'd say okay you just described a stereotype that
represents maybe a millionth of a percen t- but that's what you
think all gang members are like. I wanted to show gang
members are human beings first of all. And all of them get into
it for very different reasons, and all are very different in terms
of their philosophy. I wanted to show the audience where this
anger comes from.
has done just what he set out to do - in my humble and opinionated
opinion. Aspiring filmmakers must find this film. Watch what passion
and honesty have created on a small budget. Ripp proves a great
piece of film doesn't always have to cost a billion bucks. Gang
Tapes is not for all. Please be aware it's rough and in your
face with its violence. There are no pauses for light comedy dashed
in to coddle the masses
. it's gritty, relentless and electric.
Make sure you read the review before you view.
But please view.