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Adam Ripp | The Gang's All Here
an emily blunt interview





As you know loves filmmakers with balls! That sounds gross - but testical reference aside, you know what I mean. I adore the Walter Mitty Believers.

People who look at a project and say, "It aint gonna be easy... but success will taste like a double butterscotch sundae with a heapin' helping of slivered walnuts when we get it done!" That is Steven Wolfson and Adam Ripp' s Gang Tapes.

Ripp cowrote and directed Gang Tapes. And I tell you he has created (along with a slew of talented craftsmen) an unbelievably realistic film based on the mysterious gang life that doesn't pretty-up the throbbing points but says, "Here it is…the way it is."

In fact the Gang Tapes rings so true to what gang life is really like it was banned from theaters for fear of the multiple reactions it would cause…

Yeah, creating a banned film sounds cool, in theory, but now all the hard work and effort so many people put in to making a brisk stark honest film goes virtually unnoticed by an audience. I ask you to really hunt to find this cinematic accomplishment.

I had a chance to chat with director Adam Ripp about his film. He's a down-to-earth kinda sort. A guy who seems to get how important the integrity of film is…. or least that's how he comes off. So here goes:

EM: How do I know that you didn't just find a camcorder or dv recorder on the streets of South Central LA somewhere bucko?

ADAM: You can look at the making of on the dvd.

EM: Sweet man! I know, I was kidding! The first copy they sent did not have the cool extras- so I was riddled with suspicion.

ADAM: [laughter] You gotta see it. Besides, as crazy as gangsters are I don't think there are many that would let some goofy white Jewish kid tape their activities! [laughter] Or for that matter in regards to "finding the tape" that someone would be crazy enough to show that much horrific violence.
One of the things in the film was obviously that you see the stolen video camera and it ends up with this kid video taping his homeboys as he gets indoctrinated into the gang. One of the things that concerned me with the basic theme of the film was would it be believable that these gang members would allow this kid to video tape these things. One of the things that bothered me about the Blair Witch project was there comes a point were you say they would stop video taping- they would run for their lives!

EM: Not to mention the parents of these "missing" kids in BWP would have never allowed a film to be played documenting the kids demise- duh- right?

ADAM: Right! Exactly.

EM: I thought that you covered that quite well. This guy, Kris, was like the little brother of the gang…that was one of the nicer parts of the film, you kept our suspension bridge with to reality in place.

ADAM: Thanks! One of things in doing research and spending a lot of time in South Central was finding the gangsters and what they do is very different than what the Mafia does. The Mafia would never allow themselves to be videotaped on a crime spree. But we watch different video pieces of criminals' video taping their illicit activities. And I think pone of the things that they are doing through their criminal behavior I creating a reputation they ant to be a Ghetto Superstar therefore video taping their crimes would be a way to get that kind of fame.

EM: So they can all sit back and watch it later over a chilled brewski.

ADAM: Right. Opposed to just the crimes being just for financial gain.

EM: Apparntly, serial killers do things like that…keep "mementos" from their crimes so it makes sense in that same psychological way... to glorify themselves for themselves later.

ADAM: Exactly.

EM: How did you get into this world so completely?

ADAM: One of the things that I did is I was very passionate and very honest about what I wanted to do. Through my writing partner Steven wolfson I met a guy Quinton Drew. He's a community activist, a gang prevention activist in Watts. Born and raised in Watts and also the builder and creator of The Watts Village Theater. He had a foot in all the doors we wanted to be in; the gangster etc. but he was in with Bloods and Crips because he worked with all of them- putting together peace treaties helping them get out of the life…he was also into the creative community-or at least getting the kids utilize their creativity to help them get out of gang life.
I met with Quinton and said I wanted to make the most realistic piece ever made. I want to show the reality the brutality and the beauty. I want to juxtapose the images of the horror and the happiness of what's going on in Watts what's going on in South central I don't want to preach to audiences- I want to show it raw, I want to show it real. And through that depiction one thing you'll get-hopefully out of that experience we can create a kind of 'Scared Straight' for kids that will talk to kids in a way they haven't been spoken to. In other films - of this genre- there's always these characters that are preachy and stand up on the soap box and kind of talk down to the audience. I just wanted to through shear imagery say, "This doesn't glamorize, this doesn't glorify the life it shows the brutality of this life, and what happens if you get involved in this world."

EM: Are you hoping people are fooled into thinking the film is real?

ADAM: No I never created the film to trick people. I used that narrative device to draw the audience in. So they can go on this journey with Kris. So they can become this young man who becomes initiated into this gang…they become this young man who is descending into this world. As the events unfold in front of this character's eyes they understand why he makes the choices he makes. They may not agree 100% with what he's doing but the audience places themselves in a place where they say, "if I was in the same circumstances and environment I may have made the same choices." That's why we have a full credit role at the end - at no point do we try to fool the audience.

EM: The film is so real.

ADAM: I think there's something powerful about video. Just the aesthetic of it really. We were raised, brought up on video. Video on the news...I think there's something subconscious that clicks in when we see something shot on video…something automatically tells us, "This is real."

EM: Right.

ADAM: Now, when you use 35mm film and record the same event…there's something magical about film. There's something that happens- it takes on another life.

EM: It's otherworldly really.

ADAM: Celluloid and the chemical process that it uses gives it a magical… we could have shot Gang Tapes exactly the same way but on 35 mm and it wouldn't have had the same impact I think. One of the things that hurt the film theatrically -you know the film, ultimately, was banned - I think it was because the film feels too real. The violence during the home invasion robbery scenes every time we screened the film-I mean every time I've screened the film-there's at least one woman who runs out of the theater screaming.

EM: Yeah, it's pretty brutal.

ADAM: It is terrifying…there's a very important reason that scene is in the film though- and aside from that I think if we shot that particular scene on 35 mm it wouldn't have had the same impact - they would have said, "Okay…it's only a movie."
EM: Yes, that scene changes your whole attitude towards the gang. You realize after that some are real people stuck in this world, they have morals and had a problem with went on. The other man is just insane.

ADAM: Absolutely. That's one of the things I wanted to illustrate in the film. Before I made the film I want to a lot of people that are not aware of what's going on in South Central and I said, "Describe a gang member for me." And they said okay, "it's a young black man that doesn't give a fuck about anything, doesn't give a fuck about his life or anybody else and just wants to kill." I'd say okay you just described a stereotype that represents maybe a millionth of a percen t- but that's what you think all gang members are like. I wanted to show gang members are human beings first of all. And all of them get into it for very different reasons, and all are very different in terms of their philosophy. I wanted to show the audience where this anger comes from.


Adam has done just what he set out to do - in my humble and opinionated opinion. Aspiring filmmakers must find this film. Watch what passion and honesty have created on a small budget. Ripp proves a great piece of film doesn't always have to cost a billion bucks. Gang Tapes is not for all. Please be aware it's rough and in your face with its violence. There are no pauses for light comedy dashed in to coddle the masses…. it's gritty, relentless and electric. Make sure you read the review before you view. But please view.


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