WELCOME TO DETROIT
"Welcome To Detroit" is a new independent feature from Blackwerdz Studios Corp. It follows Jane, an exotic entertainer, who isn't sure where the line between reality begins and ends. Waking up in a mental hospital, Jane is convinced she's been kidnapped and psychologically abused by a madman. She attempts to face her fears and unravels a twisted tale of lies, paranoia, vigilanteism and pure dementia. The film features Northwest locales and a cast of mental patients, exotic entertainers and those who take the law into their own hands, The film is written, shot, directed and edited by Mr. Black and Tom Nordwall, and includes music produced and composed by Mr. Black and Kiel of the Portland-based band Debris.
We grilled Mr. Black about the details of making your own feature, his society of "lowlifes," and the darkly satisfying lifestyle of a workaholic, multimedia dad.
The Detroit you're talking about is Detroit, Oregon. How did you end up there?
Detroit, Oregon is about halfway between Salem and Bend on the Santiam Pass. I’ve never seen such an artistically dramatic area. They open the dam to empty Detroit Lake after every Summer and there are thousands of dark, water-soaked tree stumps on the bed. You have to see it to feel the full visual effect, but it’s very dark and inspiring.
You'll be shooting in a mental hospital? Will you be shooting at Oregon State Hospital, where Cuckoo's Nest was set?
Blackwerdz Studios is still casting for the State Hospital shoot, so the film hasn’t evolved into that aspect quite yet. I will mention that everyone in this film is crazy. I already know that way before I get to the real crazy wing.
Robert Rodriguez has jumped ship with Hollywood, choosing to shoot digital and build his own studio out in Texas. David Lynch recently swore he'd never go back to film after shooting digital and enjoying the freedoms it allows. Is digital a choice or a necessity in this case? What benefit does it bring to the production, besides economy?
I believe in the freedom of digital. The way I see things in my head becomes reality when less technology is used. Realism in cinematography is a direction that seems to be coming full circle through the use of digital. So yes, I would say digital is a necessity for me to make my films seem as real as possible.
You're working completely off the map in terms of Hollywood and the system. Do you foresee any troubles when you try and enter the distribution arena as an outsider? How are you going to get your movie out there?
Let me answer this question with a blunt answer. This business-- any business… is about who you know. I've made it a point to make contacts to bypass the politics. I've been involved in the music industry for 15 years, so I can pretty much deal with anything! Distribution is just a matter of product. If the film has visual and storyline credibility, everything should fall into place. It just takes one individual out there to believe in your project. If that one person has any strings to pull on, the rest is history.
It seems like you're dealving into the sort of mind games that pop up in noir and the early suspense thrillers. Who are your influences, and how do you make their subject matter and style workable on a shoestring budget?
Everyone’s version of a genre can be different. Some say “The Devil’s Rejects” is a horror film. It would seem noir to me. I credit the influence of people like David Fincher, Oliver Stone and Darrin Aronofsky because their visions are so clear. They know what point they want to get across, and they show it well. I respect that completely. I plan to make this more of a Hitchcock throwback with a new generation mentality; no fear, no rules, and nothing by-the-book. As for the shoestring, money means nothing. Big budget or none. It’s how convincing the actors will be and how good the dialogue is. A clever storyline helps, too.
There's a DUI verve to this production. Do you feel supported by the local film community, or outside of it? Do you feel excluded? Do you want to be included?
I am what I am, as a filmmaker and as a person. I am not doing anything to be a part of something. I will work inside and outside of the box to accomplish the goal at hand. If that means being included or excluded, then so be it.
How do you approach writing a script? Is it a skeleton structure you flesh out, or a series of events that reveal themselves as you start to write?
With a good story, you get a base of operation going at first. If the story is meant to be a movie, things will change over the casting and filming process. The locations, actors, and progression of time spawn new things that make that story more real and challenging to the viewer.
What part of your own experience is in the script? What drew you to these characters and made you want to express yourself through them?
Everything about “Welcome To Detroit” is a combination of life experience and what I’ve always wanted to see in a psychological thriller. Expressing yourself thru music and/or film is great therapy. Trust me! My new album is full of past-relationship moments of fear & loathing in Mr. Black.
Some people make completely different movies than they enjoy at home. What sort of things do you like to kick back to??
I like to watch anything with a real quality to it, something that challenges my sense of vision and personal interest. It could be anything, really; The Chapelle Show, Forensic Files on A&E, or even Spongebob. I choose not to funnel myself into anything specific, unless it's the project I'm working on. Life is too short not to learn more than one lesson.
If you had a chance to throw expensive CGI into your film, would you? What's your favorite use of technology in film?
CGI is mostly used to add icing on the cake, but sometimes as a fix because time ran short. When the candles have burned down to the icing, I want to be able to hear someone say “Wow! That movie was as real looking as it gets.” There's a better vibe from something genuine and non-synthetic. It’s believably evil and more convincing in it’s own way. My favorite use of technology creates great camera angles and shots. Boom cranes, helicopters and aerial devices always add a not-so-typical touch.
What's it like scoring a film as well as writing/directing? Do you work on the film with a song in mind, or develop a song after the fact? How much of the process is simultaneous?
I can't stress enough how important music is to a film. So many movies skip past that step. How can a great film with bad, 80's keyboard music really enthrall someone’s intellect? Music should either match or contrast the scene, but it should always add to the emotion behind it. After releasing my own album this year, and dealing with all the obstacles that come with distribution, I really want to support local bands and musicians. One of the few major label bands I would choose to fit this project would be Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society, or maybe something smooth by Otis Redding. The local bands that are down with the project are Debris, Supernaut and Keri Highland.
You're called Mr. Black. Your artistic world seems to be crawling with lowlifes, scoundrels and malcontents. How does your dark persona deal with the well-lit office world of bankers, insurers and lawyers?
I would hope you mean the characters in the film by the “lowlifes” comment! If so…there's no doubt this movie is full of fish that suck the sides of the tank. Everyone in this film is insane, in some form of the word. As for my dark persona…that would be a matter of how you look at my work. Is it dark because of the colors (or lack thereof) or because people fear something extreme? Is it that way because a lawyers world is full of light blue and pastels? Hell, I’m not beyond light blue and even salmon- colored dress shirts and ties! I managed gentleman’s clubs for years. I look damn good in a suit!
You've got an album, media production company, and now a film in the works. How's a guy have a social life with all that going on? How do you focus your time to manage juggling so many projects?
I am a joint custody dad of two boys, Brandon and Parker. I need no social life as long as I can be a father and provide for them. I am the 21 st Century robot of the year! But in retrospect, I can simply say that I am doing what I love and not sitting on the 30 th floor of the US Bank tower fondling files. I would call what I do the perfect social outlet.
You can learn more about "Welcome to Detroit" through a myspace profile at:
Check out Mr. Black's album at;