I was a “fixer” on this music video. Treach, of Naughty by Nature, was not happy with the cut. It had been through several editors by the time it got to me. If I remember correctly, a record company rep supervised the edit rather than the director. Treach sat in the back couch with his girlfriend at the time, Pepa, from Salt n Pepa, and did not speak to me at all, only addressing the rep, who then gave me instructions.
For me the problem became clear fairly quickly: the video was overcut. Fast cuts can be a crutch for music videos. It’s a sure-fire way to add energy, so when in doubt, make more cuts. But it can also make a mess. Apparently, the previous editors had a lot of doubt, because the over-editing was interrupting the flow and distracting from some great shots. My solution was to remove some edits and let the nice shots play out, especially the evocative shots of Treach in the darkeness. For example, the shots at about 2:17 might have had 4 or 5 quick cuts interrupting Treach’s move in and out of the shadows. I got rid of all of them.
I knew I was on the right track when I would preview an edit, and Treach would exclaim his approval from the back. But always to the rep, never to me. When the edit was over, Pepa had already left, the rep went to retrieve the master tapes, and Treach and I were alone in the room together for the first time. As he was walking out, he surprised me by giving me a big hug and a Thank You.
This poem was originally called Two Fathers but everyone called it "that Mandela poem”, so now I call it Mandela. It was a useful slam poem, perfectly pitched to disarm black judges. One of my best moments in slam poetry was when I performed it for an audience of over a thousand slam poetry enthusiasts at the Ann Arbor Nationals in 1995, where Deb and Steve Marsh let me read it the evening of the finals, as part of a few pre-show readings.
This was barely a year after Mandela was elected president of South Africa. I remember doing a very relaxed reading, like gentle story telling, as if I were some raconteur, and saving the emotional fireworks for the very end. Well, the crowd went wild, what with Mandela's ascendance to the presidency very fresh in people's minds. Besides, your bourgeois armchair revolutionaries really love to be milked by social justice rhetoric, whether they come from limousine liberal America, Africa or elsewhere. I should know; I'm one of them.
When I walked back to my seat, I saw people in the audience with tears in their eyes, including some cynical, hard-bitten buddies of mine who normally needed a poke in the gonads with a sharp stick to activate their tear ducts.
Another time I read it in Winston-Salem, where a black friend of mine from New York listened and then fled the venue into the night, because it reminded him too much of his own father problems. We remain good friends to this very day, even though we've never shared any confidences about our fathers beyond this poem that apparently stabbed him in the heart as fiercely as it had stabbed me. Sometimes you only find out how powerful your subterranean emotions are by writing them down.
OK, some links. My book of poems, Suck My Poem, is available here, and my novel Vagina Rebel is available here.
These days I've reincarnated myself as Adam Ash, singer-songwriter, who performs solo and with his band the Dingbots. Check out my band's CD here and follow my music career here,where you can also listen to three of my songs, including the rather bizarre My Girlfriend Got Freaky with a Strap-on.
Wammo was also featured in our film SlamNation. He visits often when he's in New York City and offered to write a theme song for the movie, BLAST! while it was still in post-production. The result is this charming, exclusive performance edited by Rina Svet in her early days with DevlinPix.
This excerpt shows how the art of Freestyling infuses all aspects of hip hop - “that fleeting moment of escape.”
The Making of Freestyle (continued)
It took me awhile to decide whether or not I would join the Freestyle team. Technically the project was a mess – all sorts of different formats, several editors, many iterations. It was going to take a long time just to get it ready for a re-edit – guaranteed brain damage. By then I was working on my next project, Power Trip, and wasn’t sure I wanted to dilute my time. There was a lot of negotiating, and stalling, but finally I decided the movie deserved to find its audience. I signed on as “Producing Editor” (or Preditor, as I preferred to be called).
This piece is from one of the daytime showcase events at the Portland National Poetry Slam. It’s a exuberant, fanciful rumination on nuclear destruction from the man who got it all started – Marc Smith, Father of the Slam.
(Valeri Odikadze is the Georgian co-producer of Power Trip.)
These elections were the most important in my life. Bidzina Ivanishvili seems like a good choice to lead our country and I am really glad the Georgian Dream coalition won the election. After all, almost all of Georgia wanted change.
For the last 4-5 years Mikheil Saakashvili lead Georgia in the wrong direction. There were too many problems with free media, human rights, free law, and a huge high level elite corruption and business monopoly. There wasn't any economic growth. Ivanishvili promises a lot and Saakashvili is now in opposition. Saakashvili will try to come back in several years or even earlier and the USA and Europe consider him a very democratic President.
Last year I worked for Ivanishvili ever since he started his party. I filmed all his pre-election actions and provided a live TV signal for his campaign. I also had several ongoing contracts with TV9 and I provided them with consulting services and video production equipment & cameras since the government had damaged his equipment at customs. Many people were afraid to work with him under the pressure of the KGB police revenue service.
At the beginning of last summer the Revenue Service started an urgent 2-phase audit of my company, Videoscope, as a result of my cooperation with Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream coalition. They initially fined Videoscope a penalty of GEL 120,000, rougly $72,154 USD - a huge and unjustified sum of money for my small company that nearly bankrupted us. The fine was over allegedly unpaid taxes, but my company had paid several thousand GEL in advance tax payments so far. The 2nd audit was concluded in August 2012 and I am still waiting for the results.
But I continued working with Ivanishvili and hope that I will someday get this money back. Even more importantly, I hope that Georgia will become a better country under the leadership of this fantastic new team!
Could we have ever guessed at the start of this project that it would culminate with my astrophysicist brother appearing on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report? My science adventure movie, BLAST! was very popular internationally. It screened on television all across Europe, Japan, Canada, even had a weekend of global broadcasts that reached 120 countries on BBC World News.
But the United States is the toughest market for independent filmmakers and BLAST! received a lot of resistance from both film festivals and broadcasters in the U.S. – even though the movie was a suspenseful story by an American filmmaker about an American scientist. Was it because of too much science? Too little science? Too much religious discussion? No “Voice-of-God” narrator? Too personal – breaking convention by examining scientist’s family sacrifices? Who knows? But the traditional gatekeepers kept BLAST! from a national broadcast in the U.S.
Otherwize is a fierce competitor and shows just how brutal Freestyle Battles can be. “Noone cares who came in third place. If you’re gonna do it, DO IT.”
The Making of Freestyle (continued)
Soon after I met Kevin Fitzgerald, his producer Henry-Alex Rubin (who later went on to co-direct Murder Ball) contacted me. Kevin was having trouble selling his movie. The cut was good enough for festivals, but not for broadcast. It needed to be re-worked. They wanted to know if I would join them and re-edit the movie.
Great example of an identity poem from Andrea Thompson. This one was an extra, but another, “After Kissing,” made it into SlamNation to show how hot the rookie Vancouver team was, almost beating Taylor Mali.
I was able to catch up with Andrea a few years ago in Toronto when I was shooting parts of BLAST! there. You can catch up with her too, in this interview.