alive for you. You have to find out how far you can go with every actor. Some actors don’t mind you calling up those stories. Some actors will talk about the day their brother died, and they don’t mind you’re talking about that to help them get to where they need to be. Some actors do not want that. That’s too much. So as a director you just have to know what line you can cross with what people. But if they don’t mind me going there, I don’t find it exploitative. That’s what to be a good actor you have to go there, you have to recall those memories, and you have to be able to trust the director to help you to get there. Ya’Ke Smith know anything about being a soldier, but he does know about hurt, he does know about pain, and I had to make him recall that in his own way. TO: Is there a line in your head when you’re dealing with actors and you’re trying to bring out something in them, bring out past experiences? Particularly in relation to Hope’s War, where you have all these violent scenarios, one after another. Is there a line with an actor, and does it get blurry you’re whispering in his ear, dredging up unpleasant memories where the process can become exploitative? YS: That’s what acting is all about. And actors know that. I’m not afraid of them opening up, but actors are sometimes courtesy of Ya’Ke Smith afraid to open themselves when other people are around. Because you have to really be inside yourself to find those moments that you’ve tried to hide, find those secret things inside of you that you tried to bury. And those are the things you have to use to give off that truthful performance. If you can’t do that, I don’t think you can be a good actor. But the moment you start finding yourself in the character, that’s when those performances are great; those are the people that win Oscars. Actors are like open wounds. They’re wide open to you and your crew and everybody else, so as a director they have to really, really trust you. If your actors do not trust you they won’t come TO: How important to you is your independence? YS: My independence is very important. But if I can find a studio in Hollywood that would allow me to be independent, that would allow me to make the work that I want to make, I will gladly go to Hollywood. I’m not married to totally being an independent person because I think more African-Americans need to be in Hollywood. We need to be making mainstream films. And I want to be one of those people that can do that. But if they won’t let me do what I want, then I’m out. I don’t want anyone telling me what kind of films to make. Because it’s not about entertainment to me, it’s not about money. It’s about a message. Film is very powerful. Before you pick up a book, before you pick up a newspaper, you go to the movies. And that’s where you reach a lot of people. I think that’s why a lot of this generation is going downhill because a lot of shit that’s on TV is very degrading. It’s very stereotypical. And it’s not showing them any values or morals. Everybody wants bling bling. Why is that? Because of what they see on TV. Hopefully I can change that image. I watch music videos and think, What the hell is going on? These images are so powerful, but these [filmmakers] don’t care. And that is an irresponsible use of the media. What is your message? What are you trying to say? You just trying to continued on page 29 APRIL 21, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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