Bobby G Can't Swim
Interview with the Film Maker by Victoria Horsford.
1- What do you call Bobby G.? What genre? : I simply call Bobby G. a street-movie. I think that gives an idea of what it's about. Yeah, it's kind of film-noir, it's kind of comedy, it's kind of gangster flick; but in my mind street-movie can encompass all of those.
2- When did you know acting, writing, directing would be you life's work? I started out as an actor, but realized I wasn't satisfied with the "waiting for the phone to ring" part. I then started writing; and when I had my first script, thought, "shoot...I wanna direct this too...". There was a certain point before I shot Bobby G. where I thought to myself "If I don't make this movie I'll die...". I had no choice in the matter. Still don't.
3- Name some of your favorite films. Besides the ones I named already, I like. "The Last Detail" "The French Connection", "Fear Eats The Soul", "The Laws of Gravity", "Superfly", "Last Picture Show", "Reservoir Dogs".
4- Your DP shoots the noirish film in bright, luscious colors which makes your story, the setting, your characters not as dark as they should be. The film by day is pure sunshine. I thought it important to include a lot of color and brightness in the story, because it deals with a lot of dark stuff and I didn't want to depress the hell out of people. Also, we shot with no money, and if you are in that situation, you want to make a lot of your scenes exterior-day. The light is free.
5- Bobby G. has been a festival favorite. Name some of the festivals and what they achieved toward film completion and subsequent distribution. When we finished shooting the movie, we still needed a lot of money to finish it, which we didn't have. I sent a rough-cut to Gill Holland, who had produced the Sundance Winner "Hurricane Streets". He agreed to help me try to raise finishing funds. However, most of his usual investors passed because of the dark nature of the story. Many months went by. We finally got a huge break when The Santa Barbara Film Festival, headed by Renee Missel, agreed to let us screen as a work in progress. While there, the film was reviewed by Variety. It was a very nice review. The next day the phone was ringing off the hook. We had the completion money shortly thereafter. One of the companies that helped us finish, Gabriel Film Group, was about to start a distribution-division. At a certain point, they decided to acquire the film for distribution. Some of the festivals we've been to: San Sebastian (Spain), Los Angeles AFI (which we won), Florida (won), Hamptons, Saint Louis, Cleveland, Hawaii, Cairo, Troia (Portugal, Special Jury Award), Cognac(France), Torino(Italy).
6- You got lots of wonderful performances from your actors. How did you cast it? I cast the movie myself, through the actors' newspaper "Backstage". I got thousands of submissions. At a certain point, the Post Office wouldn't deliver to my apartment anymore. They would just leave a little yellow slip in my box saying that I had mail to pick up at the nearest branch. I would come home with duffel-bags full of pictures and resumes. I would then go through every submission. Exhausting. We finally called a number of people in. We put them on tape, and then I would go home and watch everything. Being on the other side of the audition process was very eye opening; I have always had great respect for actors, but watching them come in one after the other and make themselves vulnerable was really moving. There's so much courage involved. On a funny note, some of the characters in my movie are based on people I knew in Hell's Kitchen when I was bartending there. I actually asked some of them to come in and read for those parts without telling them that they were based on them. None of these people were actors, but I thought it would be simple enough for them to act like themselves. Strangely enough, none of them could. Give them a script, and put them in front of the audition camera and they would freeze. Oh well. That was another thing that made me realize how hard it is to act and act well.
7- What appeal did Hell's Kitchen have for you? I've always been drawn to that area for some reason. It's an interesting mix of people and things. The neighborhood has really changed over the past five years, but it still has a unique feel to it. When I walk around there I feel hope and I feel sadness. That typifies New York for me. You get a sense that a lot of stuff has "gone down" there.
12 - The Latin music is so deftly embroidered into the story. It is original, or culled from the labels discography? Actually a friend of mine played me a bunch of Latin music when I told him I wanted to use some in the film. When I told him which tunes I liked (the Latin tunes are all from one singer), he told me he knew the guy well. I called up the performer and then we called his record label to make a deal.
13 - What is your training or background in acting or directing? I studied acting at NYU. When I realized I wanted to direct, I went back to NYU and took a two-month intensive course.
14 - What was your pre-Bobby G. life like? I was a bartender for years while trying to get acting work when I could. If you want to be a writer, bartending is a good way to get material. You hear crazy dialogue all night, whether you want to or not. You see every kind of character in the book. First sober; then drunk. I didn't set out to be a bartender in order to find characters, but after a number of years, I realized that some of these people and the situations they talked about made such an impression on me that I had to do something with it.
15 - How did you raise moneys for Bobby G.? The bar I worked at in Hell's Kitchen was populated with all kinds of characters; Regular Joe's, hookers, dealers, pimps, union officials, you name it. The characters that filled the place were an inspiration for the story. When some of the regulars heard I was trying to raise money to shoot this flick, they pitched in to help me. None of them knew anything about the film industry, and I told them they might never see their money back. But the idea a lot of them went into it with was "I've blown money on dumber things". They helped me because they had good hearts and believed in me. I was very touched by that. I also got money from some fellow-bartenders and used money of my own. That got it in the can. After that, my sources were tapped out. We went for almost a year with no way to finish the movie. Then the Santa Barbara festival screened us as a work in progress, Variety reviewed it, and everything changed. We got the money to finish shortly thereafter.
16 - What's your next film and what's it about? One is called "Cherry Pie" and deals with the Hell's Kitchen Irish mob in 1981; another is called "Perfect Pitch" and deals with a car sales-pitch competition. I'm talking to producers about both. Whichever one goes first; I'm ready.