November 2002
Friday After Next : One on One with Marcus Raboy, Director

Interviewed by Monikka Stallworth

Director Marcus Raboy with Mike Epps and Ice Cube on the set of New Line's Friday After Next - 2002Friday After Next : One on One with Marcus Raboy, Director

Waiting in a plush suite at the W Hotel in Westwood, CA, I sidle up to a makeup artist who's packing up for the day. I canít help but notice his array of foundations for dark skin tones and out of my mouth flies, "You do black girls!?!" He gushes, "I love making up black girls! Have a seat honey." So, Iím chatting away with my new friend Trevor, getting my face beat, when Friday After Next Director, Marcus Raboy is escorted into the room. Busted, I play it cool and then, right on time, an impromptu sneeze breaks the air of weirdness:

He-choo!

Bless you.

Thank you.

(We make our way to the large table for ten and sit a seat apart. Heís tired, Iím the last interview of the day, so his guards seem to be down. Or he just could be as nice and easy-going as he seems. )


MS: So tell me a little about your background, did you go to film school?

MR: I went to film school. I started actually when I was real young with a camera and I would go shoot the basketball games in New York, the Knicks.


MS: How were you able to do that?

MR: Iíd hustle my way down to the court, talk to the press photographers and ask them [questions]. And when I got to NYU, I was in liberal arts, but one way or another I got over to the film department and picked up a film camera and I was like "okay, this is what I want to do." So I did two years in the film school, but it was when I got out of school and started working in the business thatís when I really truly was able to learn. When you get hands on experience and you start working and hustling; thatís when youíre really learning.


MS: What sort of jobs did you have in between graduating from film school and your first directing gig?

MR: I did a lot of P.A. work when I was a student at N.Y.U., and I also was a journalist. I started a film magazine when I was at NYU and got to interview filmmakers.


MS: When were you at N.Y.U., if you donít mind me asking?

MR: Letís see, Iím 36, so um, what does that make it - 1987 when I graduated. Yeah, I was there from Ď83 to Ď87. Did you go there?


Don "D.C." Curry, Sommore, Mike Epps, Ice Cube and John Witherspoon in New Line's Friday After Next - 2002MS: I did a summer program there in the early Ď90s, but I found it very distracting, with so much to do in the city, it was hard to concentrate on the coursework. How did you fare in film school with all of the distractions of the Big Apple?

MR: Well, I grew up there, so when you grow up in New York, you start partying at 15, so by the time I got to college, I was ready for the next thing.



MS: So focus was key?

MR: Definitely.


MS: So, you were saying before that you started off as a P.A.

MR: Yeah, I did a lot of P.A. work, but I couldnít really see how to make the transition from P.A. work to directing, and I wanted to do something more specific, so I started doing P.A. work in the camera department. And then, I was a camera assistant and I liked that, but it still wasnít nearly what I wanted to be doing. And that ended up turning into the chance to shoot some commercials for somebody, for VH1 actually.


MS: As a Cinematographer?

MR: Yeah, and then that lead to shooting videos and the people I was shooting videos for offered me the opportunity to direct.


MS: What was your first directing job at VH1?

MR: It was actually directing karaoke videos, if you can believe that. It was a great opportunity because it was filmmaking. I got out there, did it and after I made my first one, they called me back and were like, "damn this is good, here's six more." And so I did six more and afterwards, I was like "okay, now I did that." And I was still shooting for people (as a cinematographer), doing hip-hop and R&B videos.


MS: Did you have an agent?

MR: No, not at that time - it was a hustle. And then I got the opportunity to direct Naughty By Natureís "O.P.P."


MS: Oh my gosh, I remember that video, you had a crane shot over Treach and the crowd was looking up at the camera.

MR: Yeah, that was a big deal to have a crane. I was a big fan of all the videos that Propaganda Films was making at the time with all these A list commercial and video directorís like Dave Fincher and -


Friday After Next - Movie PosterMS: Iím not so good with names, whoís Dave Fincher?

MR: He directed Panic Room and Seven, but these guys always had cranes in everything they did, so I was like "we gotta have a crane." (chuckling) The point of that is that I was really driven to elevate the game of hip-hop videos, not just because I wanted to direct videos or be a filmmaker, but my passion was there for the music because I grew up in New York. When I directed O.P.P., I was Deejaying at the same time at Stickey Mikeís and I had my nights deejaying. So I would be spinning the records that I was directing videos for.

(Note: Marcus is a white guy, so the need to express his dedication to hip-hop is of utmost importance.)

MR: So, everything was falling into place. From O.P.P., I was able to do Naughty By Natureís "Everything Is Gonna Be Alright" which went from being a fun party video to a very cinematic video and it really told the story of Treach and those guysí lives growing up in New Jersey. And that lead to directing a video for Pete Rock & C.L. Smoothís "They Reminisce Over You."


MS: Thatís dope.

MR: And then that lead to Das EFX and I did their first two videos, but the Pete Rock & C.L. video lead to Puffy calling me. He was at Uptown records at the time and he was Junior and Andre (Harell) was running it and I ended up directing Mary J. Bligeís video. So, the Das video is airing, Iím on my second video for Mary J. Blige and I get a call from Ice Cube.


MS: Okay!¶

MR: He goes, "Man I love your videos, come out and work with me." So I came out; we did a take off from the movie The Predator, the song was "Guerillaís in the Midst" with The Lynch Mob and we did a mini-movie. So Cube and I were like, "Man, we made a mini-movie, look at what we did, cause at the time, he hadnít made a movie yet. He was in Boyz In The Hood, but he hadnít made a movie himself. So then we went on to shoot "Wicked" and then we shot "You Know How We Do It" in Las Vegas and that video set a whole new look in hip hop videos. Nobody had had a video that looked like that ever.


MS: What was the look of the video?

MR: Well, they drive from the hood to Vegas and in Vegas, we wet down like seven blocks and did all these crane moves. It was a unique look that nobody had seen before, reflections and colored lights.


MS: So, youíre like the predecessor to Hype Williams?

MR: Oh, Hype would tell me directly on the streets that that video is the one that set him off. Cause I use to see Hype a lot, we had lofts in the same neighborhood in New York. Heíll tell you flat out, Cubeís people too.


MS: So, Friday After Next is your first feature film, how did it come about?

MR: Cube and I always had a great working relationship and we always wanted to go to the next level together. So he calls me in, tells me the concept; Christmas Eve and Santaís robbing people in the hood. I thought it was a great set up and I wanted to know more, I got the script a month later and within four weeks we were in pre-production.


MS: Any rewrites?

MR: We did two full re-writes during pre-production and were constantly re-writing and refining it on set adding improvisation and stuff like that.


MS: Would you consider yourself an actorís director or more of a camera director?

MR: More of an actorís director on a feature. Music videos demand that they are more visual and Iíve always been known for incredibly visual videos. I knew that I had that in me already and didnít need to focus on that, it was a given, I can do that in my sleep. I knew that making a movie meant focusing on the actors and casting. Well over a year before starting on this movie, I had been working with an acting coach, working on story, just working on all the things I knew Iíd have to learn in order to make a movie. I knew that to

know what I knew for videos wasnít enough, I knew that much. I knew that I knew a world about filmmaking.


MS: The Friday franchise is almost like a genre unto itself, as all of them are comedic slice of life, day in the life of type stories. How challenging was that, having to direct a story that unfolds in one day?.

MR: I basically discovered that the script breaks down into five major acts, as opposed to the traditional three-act structure. And itís tough doing a film that takes place all in one day. Itís a different ride.


MS: How many shooting days did you have?

MR: A total of 45 days with some re-shoots.


Ice Cube and Mike Epps in New Line's Friday After Next - 2002MS: How if youíre shooting a film that takes place all in one day over a period of 45 shooting days, do you match light?

MR: Itís very hard. Especially since we shot in October, November, and December when the skies were cloudy a lot. I mean, we had scenes in the movie when the sun comes out in the middle of the scene and we had to do some correcting in the lab during post and it came out pretty good. It was rough trying to control the look when shooting exteriors, but my cinematographer was pretty incredible. We just had to make the best of it.


MS: How was the mood on set?

MR: It was incredible, like a big family. We had a lot of fun and I try to support everyone that I work with because the more I support them, the more they support you. You gotta spread love and really make sure people are feeling you.


MS: I really enjoyed the animated opening sequence, but then the more I got into the film, I began to ask myself if these characterís were suppose to be as stereotypical as they seem. You know, is this intentional or am I taking it all too seriously. And I just wondered, what kind of creative decisions did you and Ice Cube make about these characters. Are they over the top intentionally or are they based on some reality or are they meant to be farcical or what?

MR: I think these characters are all based in reality, but taken to the comic extreme.


MS: Any regrets about what you had to leave on the cutting room floor?

MR: There were a lot of great moments that didnít make it in, especially with these comedians, I mean every other take that we shot was funny. The DVD is just gonna be loaded up.


MS: I can imagine. Well, congratulations on your first feature, whatís next for you?

MR: Iím reading scripts and Iím trying to find the next great one.