Friday, April 30, 2010

...And the winner is: "White Lines and The Fever"

"Wow" and "Daaaaamn" are the only words I can think of to describe my reaction to "White Lines" winning yesterday at the Tribeca Film Fest.

Let's go back a sec. I was in New York last week for the film's premiere at the Chelsea Cinema. Had fun in New York by the way. My parents were there also. Anyway, the first night, Friday night, I sat there watching the film, I've never been so focused on a film before in my life. So much anticipation. From beginning to end, it was great. I knew the story - hell, I co-wrote it with Travis, but I hadn't seen it on that big of a damn screen before. Everything was extremely well done. The editing (Michelle Witten gets a strong shout here), the audio was well mixed, the story flowed extremely well. There is nothing I would change. Absolutely nothing.

As I sat in the theatre looking at the big screen, my eyes clouded up as I remembered that day eight years ago, when I first started writing, I had given up on my dream to be an MC. I was out of work, unemployed, and had this kooky idea to take up writing, at what I felt was a little late in life. At the age of 34, i had finally decided to listen to my mother and see if there was anything to this writing thing. My wife, who was extremely frustrated with the idea, asked me as I wrote one of my first stories, "Are you gonna get paid for it?" I told her no, that I would have to do some free work for a minute, before I could get paid.

I thought back to that morning when my publisher Andre Torres called me and said, "Yo, is this Mark?"

"Yeah," I said, as it was eight o'clock in the morning and I was still asleep.

"Yo, my name is Andre Torres, I'm the editor of Wax Poetics. Hey man, I got your query, hey, you're what we're looking for at our publication. I don't know if you've ever heard of our publication before..."

Heard of his publication before? Hell yeah. I have the first issue. I kinda borrowed-it-and-still-haven't-returned-it-yet from a guy called Cool Chris at Groove Merchant Records in San Francisco. Uh, Chris, if you should be reading this right now, when I get back to the Bay I'll make every effort to get over to the city to give you back your magazine. Trouble is I don't know when I'll be back in the Bay Area...

Anyway, so Andre asks me what do I want to write about. I pitched the Fever story to him. He said, "How many words do you want? 7,000? 6,000?"

I said, "Nah, 5,000 should be enough."

"You sure, man?"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," I said. A few weeks later I called him back and said, "Say, about those 6,000 words..."

Anyway, I wrote the story as I was transitioning from the West Coast, my home of many years, to the South. I drove across the country. I stopped at every Barnes and Nobles along the way to see Wax Poetics issue 14. I had to read it. I had to see my work in the stores. It was a great fuckin feelin. All of it was there. The little sub chapters "The Place to Be", "Chillin' VIP Style", "Junebug the Baddest Deejay Ever".

Fast forward to December 2008. I get an email from a guy named Nydrin Barnes. "The reason I'm writing to you is because I came across your article online entitled 'When the Fever was the Mecca" and wanted to know anything you can tell me about DJ Junebug, the reason I'm writing is because I'm his son, and I never got to know him. So anything you can tell me would be greatly appreciated..."

I didn't know Junebug. But I knew some guys that did. As a dad it touched my heart that there was a person out there that never got to know their dad, who was an extremely talented and celebrated person among his peers. I put him in touch with Disco Bee and Sal. And I left it at that.

When Michael Mouncer hit me up about optioning the rights to my story for a film project, i was overjoyed. Man, great, someone wants to produce this. Travis and I sounded the story out. We narrowed it down to be about Junebug. I reached out to Sal. Sal, the typical Bronx, New Yorker was a little leery at first. "Have these people ever done anything before?"

Travis and Mike sent me a link to their previous work. They did a video for a group called The Counts. What caught my attention, was that they went out of their way to make an authentic looking Sesame Street episode. They used the same camera and same graphics, that the show used way back in 1969, which was when I used to watch it. My street instincts told me to work with these guys.

"Sal, these are young, hungry, professional filmmakers. I have alot of confidence in them."

Sal agreed.

Now we needed Sweet G.

G lives in Columbia, SC just like i do. I've been here for four years and had never ran into G one time. And then one day, the day after Sal agreed to do the film, I'm standing on line at the gas station. That little voice in the back of my head started whispering to me in my inner ear. Cop. Cop. There's a cop near by. I don't know how to explain this to you, unless you've been in the streets before, but I can feel a cop or pick a cop out of anywhere. I turned around and there was a cop behind me. But this wasn't any ordinary cop. There was something familiar about this cops face. I turned around and looked at him again. Thought for a second, looked again. It was Sweet G.

"Are you Sweet G? George from the Fever?"

"Yeah, that's me."

"Lawd hammercy," I thought to myself, "there really is a Gawd."

"I'm Mark Skillz from Wax Poetics."

"Hey, I know that magazine I have it in my house."

"Yeah, I wrote the story."

We talked for a minute, I told him to give me his number. I couldn't believe how all of this was coming together.

Then we needed to get someone else who knew Junebug well. I reached out to my friend Disco Bee. "Yeah, I knew him," Bee told me. Turns out Bee and Bug were best friends.

We didn't know Junebug's real name. I called Sal, "Hey Sal, Sal, what was Junebug's real name?" In Sal's defense, he is close to 60. "Uhhhhhhhhh, I don't remember. Hey, I know look on G's record, you know that one "A Heartbeat Rap"? it's on there."

The credit reads: DJ Junebug.

I asked DJ Hollywood the man that taught Junebug how to spin. "Yo Wood, what was Junebug's real name?"

'Julio something or another."

Finally, I asked Sweet G.

"Yo G, yo man, I need your help. Yo, what was Junebug's real name?"

Without missing a beat, he said, "My friend's name was Jose Almeda."

It was at that moment that I knew that not only had I found one of Junebug's best friends, but I knew that we had a story with a lot of emotion.

And that's why we won at Tribeca....

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