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Red Tails

Talkback Session Transcript

Question 1

When you get sent a script, what makes you decide whether to take it or not? Is there anything in particular you look for? (Cuba Gooding Jr)

Oh yeah, when I first started it was all about the character and what they had me doing it in but I have done 50 something films now and now it is all about working with filmmakers. Working with people who are not only going to tell a good story but also do it in a way where the entire world is going to see it because everyone wants people to see their work. You want people to get the same excitement that you do from the material so I think that is the first thing that I look for, who is directing it and who is producing it. And then, when I read the script I want to be caught up in the story. If I am excited about it, it doesn’t matter how big or small my part it, just as long as it is a good story.

Question 2

I am a big fan of Boyz n Hood. Was that what it was really like in that area at that time? (Cuba Gooding Jr)

Well now it is a little bit different but I used to hang out in Compton south central and specifically on Crenshaw there are a couple of spots, there a couple of nightclubs that we used to go to in the 80s and I tell you I was in a couple of instances where there were shots fired in the club. I started as a break-dancer before I was an actor so when you are in these street battles and there are a lot of gang members that hang out and there were some drive-by shootings that went down so the answer is yes. It’s a lot better today, it is a lot different. People don’t represent blood n cuz as much anymore and it is not as out and open in the street but back in the day, yes it used to be just like that. Especially with the police brutality aspect of it, the racial profiling, that was the real deal. But it’s good to see that we as a community have come a long way, especially after the financial crisis not just in American but over here as well, everyone is dealing with this thing with the banks. Now it is about who’s got money and resources available to them. When I was breakdancing, the guys in my crew – we were all homeless, we were all living at one point on a park bench. Three of us were white, one was Hispanic, I was black and this other cat Manics was black so this was like a rainbow coalition because we were all just broken and trying to eat you know. If we didn’t get people to smile at us as a crew, they weren’t looking at us saying these guys are mixed race, they were saying these guys are good, they are like gymnasts and then they would put money in our hat and we got to eat that night. That brought us together as a family and I think the community, specifically in South Central, recognised that. These movies were reflecting what was going on in the community and literally shaking them by the shoulders and saying do you really want to do this to your own people. I think that they grew from that movement and that is why they are moving on.

Question 3

Are there any current events that either you would like to make a film about? (Cuba Gooding Jr and Rick McCallum)

Rick McCallum: There are two things that I would like to do. I’d love to do a real one on this financial crisis because that is such a scam and all of us are going to be pay for it and none of those dudes are going to pay for it so that is number one but I would love also, if I could get the resources to do, is to tackle the major issue in the United States which is the industrialisation of the prisons and how it keeps especially African Americans down. You have to understand we are privatising prisons, we have 3 million people in prison in the United States – that’s more than the rest of the world combined and it is the biggest business. It is 50 times bigger than the film business, they are listed on the stock exchange. We have the 3 strike rule and if you get somebody into prison, if they have 3 felony charges or anything, they are in prison for the rest of their lives and every tax payer pays £75,000 a year to keep them in prison and that happens specifically to African Americans because they do not have the wherewithal to fight the system. This is crippling our country, it is the biggest scam and it has to be exploited, it has to be shown for what it is because it is going to happen everywhere else also. This is really big business but it is also about keeping a race specifically down and out and the impact that is has on families, on culture, on education is so destructive its insane.

Cuba Gooding Jr: And I would like to star in both of those movies. 

Question 4

What is the best advice you can give to a young director? (Cuba Gooding Jr and Rick McCallum)

Rick McCallum: Well it is the same advice that Cuba gave in the screen, all you are going to hear is no. Whether you are in the film business or whatever you want to do, is no. That’s the only thing. You are going to be dealing with people who have never been able to realise their dreams and they are going to roll their eyes and shake their head. The only thing that everybody has in the film business that’s remotely in common, we don’t have the same education, we don’t have the same. The one thing that everyone has in common is that everyone waited long enough to eventually do what they wanted to do.

Cuba Gooding Jr: They outlasted.

Rick McCallum: Yes, they outlasted everybody else, when everyone else was having fun in their 20s, and this is the key thing for you guys, it’s my own personal thing but it is really true. If you give up your 20s you are going to have a fantastic 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. So just work really hard, don’t listen anyone who says no and gang together because you need your friends, you need support, you also need the kindness of strangers to help you because its all based on luck a lot of it, but you have to make your own luck by the optimism that you show, by having the faith to do what you need to do because again it doesn’t matter what the business is.

Cuba Gooding Jr: Another thing to, I am going to answer something on what he said to. How many things have you seen a western or an alien movie and then another one and another one? The thing about Hollywood is that they follow what’s hot. You see a horror movie that works and then you another one and another one, all the same thing or two movies about the same thing at the same time. So, if they don’t know what they want to create as the next big thing but they can follow what has been successful how they can say that you are not the next superstar? They don’t know so you have to first and confident about your ability and they will be like, oh who’s this cat? And that’s a good attitude to have.

Rick McCallum: Are you guys interested in cinema? Ok, great. The great thing about cinema now is that, and it’s hard to believe because you feel like you don’t know anybody, is that it is a true marketplace. You come up with a script and all you need is for two people to like it at the same time and then you can dictate the terms of how you get the made. Now that is a major once in a life time thing. 

Question 5

How do you get a big film like this started? (Cuba Gooding Jr and Rick McCallum)

Rick McCallum: Well again, it is a piece-by-piece process. You need a good script so you have to get a good writer. That is why I said you need your friends. You need to find, if you know that you can’t write but you have a great idea you find somebody that can write. And once you find somebody that can write and you have a good script then you can go to somebody like Cuba and say hey look at this this. And if it is a good enough part then he is going to say yes and then that’s how it all works and then when he says yes you can go and get the money because everyone will want to put in the money once he has said he’ll be in it. So it’s a step-by-step process. The script is the most important part I would say because that dictates what kind of story, and then people can judge that and say yes, I would love to go and see that type of movie.

Cuba Gooding Jr: But at the same time I’ve read scripts, like I just did this comedy thing for funnyordie.com and I was like this is not first but the director, this kid is brilliant and sure enough I think it’s going to hysterical but you didn’t know that from reading it. He had a lot of the concepts in his mind, the way he moved the camera and stuff that I couldn’t read on the page. That is why I go back to the most important thing for me is these guys, the filmmakers and the directors are the most important thing. If they have a strong vision everything else will take care of itself.

Rick McCallum: And passion, you guys have got to have passion and make other people see that passion.