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Hey, Babies! Ch-check it out, our happening little visit with Beastie Boy, Adam Yauch, A.K.A. MCA, A.K.A. Nathaniel Hörnblowér, A.K.A. director of the fun and fascinating basketball documentary, Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot (Click here for our review) chats with us about the brilliant high school boys in his latest opus, New York in the 1970’s, crappy hotels, Brass Monkey and the joy of a slow motion dunk shot.


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Q: Were these young basketball players impressed or freaked out when they found out that a Beastie Boy would be filming them for a movie?

Adam Yauch: I don’t know, I mean these kids are pretty young, I don’t know. Some of them they probably heard of Beastie Boys, I don’t know if they really listen to Beastie Boys at all. There was one boy, Donte Green, I remember his coach going up to him and saying, “Do you know who that is? I used to listen to Brass Monkey,” and all this. And then Donte kinda looked at me and he said “Oh, I should be shaking your hand.” It was cool. It was definitely interesting meeting those kids and hanging out with them, they’re funny. It was interesting looking at the world that they live in, just the world of elite high school basketball.


Mighty Ganesha: Now that this is documentary #2 for you, were there lesson you learned making “Awesome, I F*****’ Shot That!” that you applied to this film? Techniques or styles or mistakes you learned from?

AY:  I was definitely interested to try working in HD on this one, working in more like high-def, kinda go the opposite route of the last one which was all shot on DV. I don’t know? I guess I feel like I’ve been working in film for so long, since I was a kid like Super-8, it didn’t feel like I was just jumping to my second project {it} just felt like some other thing.


MG: Did you enjoy working in HD this time?

AY: Yeah it was cool. Actually, it was very interesting the way those cameras look especially in daylight is pretty incredible. And the way they can shoot overcrank now and shoot in 24p’s. The thing that always unsettles me about video is the 30 frames per second thing, it just looks kinda plastic-y, but these kits shoot at 24 it gives it a little more of a film look.


Q: How much of following these kids around the country reminded you of your own touring experiences and what was it like seeing the different cities through the lives of these boys and their families?

AY:  The big difference is that when we roll into a city on tour we’re coming with buses and crew and staying at fancy hotels and stuff and this was like me and three other guys in a minivan like just driving. We drove to Philly and Baltimore and out to Coney Island and staying in crappy hotels. Yeah it was fun, but it’s definitely very different than going on tour.


Q:  Can you talk about using the low-res footage that we see of the players? Did you like how that looked on big screen?

AY:  I mean it’s incredibly low-res showing that stuff. Some of it we got off of YouTube, off of the internet, so it’s incredibly compressed. I actually thought it was kind of an interesting effect. Some of it probably would’ve been better to try to find higher-resolution versions, but at the certain times there’s something that’s kind of surreal about those giant pixels moving and you can just barely see a figure. It’s almost like an impressionist painting when you can see what the guy’s doing, though you really shouldn’t be with that little amount of information. So, sometimes with the music playing and the low-res footage I actually kinda liked it. Maybe because I didn’t have any choice, but I actually kinda liked it.


Q: Did you choose the music for the film yourself?

AY: Yeah, pretty much. I mean, sometimes my editor or other people that I was working with threw out an idea or different things, but for the most part.


Q:  What did you base those choices on?

AY:  Just stuff that I liked, or stuff that made sense or feel right in the scene. Like a lot of it is New York-based hip-hop because the film is really about these guys coming together and playing together New York, so a lot of it is based on that. But stuff that just felt like it had the right energy. Some if it is a little bit nostalgic like there’s some point when kind of like introducing New York after we meet at the players and they’re coming together in New York and its kind of a moment when we’re seeing New York through their eyes and there’s like helicopter shots going over the city and I played a Staples Singers song that just kinda reminded me of New York in the 70’s, of being a kid here.


Q:  Do you think being a Beastie Boy helped with acquiring the music you wanted?

AY:  It was certainly easier. I don’t think I would’ve been able to clear all this music without some of the connections that I have in the music business. Like when I went into it, I knew it was going to be crazy and then when I started editing I just decided I would cut anything that seemed like it would work and just try it and then I would just try to clear it later and it was just hellish trying to choose it all.


MG: How did you choose the kids the filmed focused on?

AY:  The kids were recommended to me. The way this came together was a friend of mine was organizing this All-Star game up at the Rucker and he was actually asking me for advice on how to document that game. And I started throwing out ideas about what would make sense, I started saying, “Well, if you profile some of the players beforehand, then you would kind of get to know these players and you would have a vested interest in watching the game.” And the more that I started throwing out these ideas; it just started sounding like a cool documentary. Like it would makes sense as a documentary and I kinda threw my hat in the ring and offered to do it.

And the way the kids were chosen was they actually recommended - the people that were organizing the game – I said to them, “Who do you think would be like…” I wanted kids from different geographical areas, different kinds of backgrounds financially or guys that had interesting personalities, guys who were really strong ball players who would probably wind up being successful, probably make it into the NBA. And these were the guys that they recommended. I think they chose incredibly well cause I actually wanted to profile or interview eight guys and I was gonna pick five of them for the movie. But they were all interesting guys and so I ended up using all eight of them.


MG: And how did you approach them about doing the film?

AY:  They helped with that, the guys who were organizing the game helped to reach out and put us in touch with them.


MG: Were they all excited to be in the movie?

AY:  I think so. I mean they probably almost looked at it as part of this thing. They were so psyched about coming and playing at the Rucker, that I think it was kinda like a part of that. It was a big deal that they had been asked to come and play at this tournament; they were sent this embossed basketball with their name on it and the name of the tournament as the invitation. It was definitely a big deal for them to come to this thing, so the idea that somebody’s gonna come out and film them ahead of time was probably like, ”Oh sure.”


Q: What were the kids’ reactions to the music? Some of it is from their time and a lot of it is music from long before they were born.

AY:  They probably know a lot of it from when they were kids. Some of it is from the 70’s, yeah, but a lot of it is hip-hop from the 90’s, so they probably heard it when they were five years old.


Q: Do you see similarities between A&R guys or producers who try to pimp up and coming hip-hop acts and the agents and advertisers that try to pimp out these high school athletes?

AY:  I think there are similarities. I think there’s people who kinda do what they do and there’s people who either help get that out there and help those kids make things happen, or use it in some ways at times. I definitely saw similarities. But there are a lot of people around these kids that have their best interests in mind, too, y'know? It’s kinda like both sides of that. I found a lot of times they had coaches and family around them that really cared about them or are protecting them.


Q: Will you be excited to watch the NBA Draft?

AY: Yeah! I’m gonna go to the Garden and see it, I’m psyched. Four of the kids in the documentary have made themselves eligible for the draft.  And {Michael} Beasley, people are saying will probably be the first or second draft pick.


Q: Were there any of the kids’ stories that particularly moved you?

AY: Well, with Tyreke Evans from Philly, certainly. When I went to do these interviews in Philly and Baltimore, it was interesting to me because I had almost forgotten what New York was like when I was a kid in the 70’s, and seeing all those burnt-out building everywhere was intense. And definitely I saw with Tyreke in Philly, there’s one line in the film where he says, “There’s a lot of violence going on around here,” and that’s pretty telling. And then Lance (Stephenson) says something like that, he says, “I just wanna get my family outta here.”


Q: Do you think there is a comparison between your becoming famous at a young age and these high school boys?

AY:  Somewhat, but I think that the pressure that they feel is greater. Beastie Boys was a punk band when I was in high school and we were making records, but it was really for a small group of people, like for a group of friends and the media, whatever we were dealing with, was really like fanzines and was on a very small scale. I even don’t think we really intended it to blow up to the scale that it did, whereas these guys are on a very specific track trying to make something happen. It has a real kinda like “make-or-break” feeling about it that we didn’t really have.


MG: One of the fascinating things about the film is that while the kids have all these pressures on them, when it comes down to shooting the tournament, it isn’t about which team wins or which team loses…

AY: Yeah!


MG: You focus the camera on the play, the teamwork and the passing, and I wondered if that was something that was important to you to show?

AY:  Well, I think it’s the nature of this type of game. In an All-Star game, you don’t have the same kind of stakes that you do in a finals of a season or a league. You know if you spend a year working toward something, then the goal is intense to finally make that happen, which we saw with the NBA Finals the other day. But when it’s something like this with an All-Star game, they’re just taking a bunch of kids who are really talented guys and just throwing them together. It’s like a pick-up game. And these guys all know each other, you could switch which teams they’re, on whatever, they’re just kinda like having fun. And in a way, it’s really more of an opportunity for them to showboat and just show their personal talent. Like even if their team loses, if they make a couple of nice plays and people say, “Yo, did you see that dunk?” That’s more of what this is about. Of course these guys all have an incredible drive to win, that’s part of their makeup like what makes them who they are. They probably wanna win if they’re playing ping-pong or if they’re playing blackjack, they do have an intensity about winning and wanting their team to win. So in a way, it was actually really nice seeing that in this game cos they are having fun and they way they’re passing the ball and kinda like screwing around a bit more where a coach might get mad at them for doing some crazy dunk if it was in the middle of the game.


MG: How long have you known Bobbito, the MC of the tournament?

AY:  I’ve known Bobbito for a while, I think since the 80’s or something like that.


MG:   And was he always the choice to MC the game?

AY:  I didn’t choose him as the announcer, but I think they couldn’t have possibly made a better choice. The organizers of the game picked him, but he’s such a critical part of the whole feel of the film in general and the game. Like I watched the second year on TV of the Elite 24 and they had these two, like, stiff, NBA-type guys that were saying, {In creaky old man voice} “Hey Bill, that was very interesting. I’m getting the hang of these nicknames…” Something about them just took the life out of the game.


MG: Is he the one who dubs the nicknames?

AY:  Yeah, Bobbito’s the announcer for the game and yeah, he’s thinking of them off the … I was gonna say off the top of his head, I think some of them are off the top of his head, but some of them I think he probably thought about going there.


MG: Michael Beasley is obviously the class clown of the film, but did you ever find yourself having to pull any of the kids back and say, ‘You don’t have to play up for the camera?’

AY:  No, we just tried to document them the way that they are. Just tried to shoot them and see what they do and how they handle themselves. I mean, when they were in their practices on their warm-up day, the day before the game, I kinda mentioned to Beasley, “Oh, you know we’re shooting slo-mo,” and he was like, “OHHH!” And he started doing all kinda wild dunks and stuff like that, so things like that. But they kinda showboat anyway, that’s what those guys do.


MG: What were the kids doing at Sara Roosevelt Park on Chrystie Street with the paint?

AY:  It’s like community service. The organizers had this idea that they wanted to have the kids to do community service. Which I thought was great! They talk about it for a second, but it sort of flies by when they’re talking about cos there’s music playing. When they’re having breakfast, there’s a guy saying, “We’re gonna be going out doing community service.”



~ Mighty Ganesha

June 19th, 2008


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