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an interview with filmmaker rashaad ernesto green
by jason gilmore (@JasonGilmore77)
6.17.09
film

Filmmaker Rashaad Ernesto Green is an up and coming force in the entertainment industry. The New York University grad's 15-minute dramatic short, Premature, has recently played on HBO and been selected to at least a dozen film festivals. It recently screened as a part of the prestigious Haig P. Manoogian Screenings at the Directors' Guild of America in Los Angeles, where it added the Audience Award to its growing tally of awards. I caught up with Rashaad as he was catching his flight back to New York to talk filmmaking, financing and the future.

Jason Gilmore: Tell me what Premature is about, in your words.

Rashad Ernesto Green: Premature is about a 14-year-old girl who gets pregnant from the Bronx and how she deals with it and with her family.

JG: What inspired you to tell this story?

REG: I taught school in the South Bronx and often times, I would see teenage girls who had big bellies and felt like I had to do something to address the subject.

JG: The film feels very real, like a documentary, did you do much rehearsal? Was there a lot of discussion with your actors?

REG:I did a lot of rehearsal. I come from a theatre background, so I approached the film like theatre. It's hard to quantize in terms of hours, but it was a few days. There was absolutely a lot of discussion.

JG:I think what also drew me to the story was that you did a good job of creating a claustrophobic world for your lead, which allows us to understand the decision she makes near the end, even if we don?t necessarily agree with it.

REG:What do you mean by claustrophobic?

JG:In my opinion, she just lives in a small world. Everything from the relationship her mom is in, to how her mom treats her, to how the girls talk about her at school. Even how her boyfriends kicks her to the curb after he learns she's pregnant. It just seems like everyone she knows just comes at her crazy and that?s her whole world. So you see that it's all on her and the things she does make sense.

REG:I'm glad that came across. I wanted to set up that she was alone in her world. Every scene depicted each area of her life by which she felt isolated. She had no one to talk to, including the person who we felt would be most understanding, that would understand her the best: her mother. Being 14, she didn't realize that she had other options. No one was able to listen to her.

JG:Where did you find Zora Howard, the young lead? She was really good.

REG:I had known her for about three years in the acting scene in NYC.

JG:What were some of the difficulties of shooting in New York City on this film?

REG:Difficulties of shooting in New York? Well, we had five different locations, so I'd say traveling to film in all these different places. We shot in the Bronx, Newark, Staten Island, all over New York City. Travel was an issue. With the sanitation truck, we just got permission from the actual track company to shoot them while they were picking up garbage. The problem was that there was no planned shot or shooting time. We just had to run out there documentary style while they were collecting.

JG:As a filmmaker, I was like, "How did he get the garbage truck?" But that's good that you just did it guerilla style.

REG:Yeah. (laughs)

JG:You were an actor first, right? Why did you switch to directing?

REG:I was frustrated by acting in the industry. The roles I was being offered were not complex as a young black man. Instead of complaining for years to come, I decided to try to get behind the camera.

JG:Would you consider acting again or is that door closed?

REG:No, I'd definitely consider acting again if someone gave me a good role. I'm just not going about an acting career in the conventional way, as far as looking for an agent or a manager to send me out on auditions. I'm done with that, I've done that before. But if one of my filmmaker friends wanted me to do something good, I'd absolutely consider acting again. It is my first passion and love.

JG:How does your acting background help you as a director?

REG:Being able to talk to actors in language that they like to be talked to. [I think about them] when I write my material. A lot of times, it's kind of like actors are sort of the last thing on the totem pole. Like you put everything else into the film and then kinda bring in the actors last. For me, they?re the first thing.

JG:Were there any films you screened prior to shooting or any films or directors that particularly inspired you on this film?

REG:Seith Mann's Five Deep Breaths. He's a friend and mentor of mine. That film was an inspiration. Raising Victor Vargas. Kids. I watched those a few times. I felt like they were dealing with the world I wanted to be in. Also Paul Greengrass. Bloody Sunday. United 93. Even the Bourne Supremacy. I just love his shit, the way he shoots.

JG:No, he's no joke. What did NYU film school do for you as a filmmaker?

REG:They've been very supportive of my career as a filmmaker. The professors are always available for consultations and script doctoring. They let you use their equipment and refer you to crew. They've been very supportive.

JG:What did you learn while fundraising for this film that you wished you knew later?

REG:I actually didn't do any fundraising on this movie. It was all on my own dime. I just swiped a credit card and used student loans. But now I wish I had sought outside help. I was very, uh? last minute. (laughs)

JG:I think every filmmaker should have that experience of using your own money for a film, then having to go out and raise it the next time. I used my own money for a short a few years ago that I'm still paying off and now I'm raising money for my own film and it's a totally different experience.

REG:Yeah. I wish I had done that. (laughs)

Rashaad's first feature, Gun Hill Road, is scheduled to begin production in the Bronx this fall. He can be contacted via his production company, at www.mialmafilms.com.


ABOUT JASON GILMORE

Jason Gilmore is a film director, screenwriter, novelist and unrepentant Detroit Pistons fan. Track him down on Facebook.

more about jason gilmore

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