BASTARDS OF THE PARTY An Interview with Director Cle ŌBoneĶ Sloan
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BASTARDS OF THE PARTY
With so much violence happening around the world, for some long time rivalry, the longer the fight, the reason why it all began becomes so distant that the fight continues without a purpose. Black on black crime is nothing new. ItÕs been going for centuries, going back to the African countries, where it still exists today when you look back at the situation in Rwanda and other areas. In the United States, we have the Bloods and Crips, gangs that originated from the West coast and have expanded nationwide in recent years. There are have been other gangs as well but not as notorious or long lasting as these. Che ŌBoneĶ Sloan was once a gang-banger who did his time in jail, but at the same time was looking for a way to get out or a path that would lead him from the violent world he grew up in. In making a change, he confronted his past in a way that no other person has done, he looked up the history of his environment and found much more that he could ever imagine, and decided to document his discovery in a film called ŌBastards of the PartyĶ, which explores the roots of the Bloods and the Crips. Sloan, who had a small role in ŌTraining DayĶ and was directed by Antoine Fuqua, developed a friendship after the film that Fuqua came on board as the producer. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Sloan talks about getting out of gangbanging to acting to directing a film about his environment.
Can you briefly describe your background and how you came to be an actor and now a director?
Cle Slone: The way I came into the industry is really strange. I grew up in South Central LA like everyone else and got heavily involved in my neighborhood, the bloods. I started pretty much gang-banging. All of my friends followed my brotherÕs lead. I just got heavily involved. My name started to get out there a little bit and my brother went to the penitentiary. I started to be known in the streets. From there, I met Jim Brown. We had this big situation in the neighborhood and he came in to intervene and calm things down and he invited us up to his house. We ended going up there everyday for almost three weeks. He had this huge house and we hadnÕt gone far from our house and he let us run amuck in his house. From there, I went back to jail and Jim Brown came to see me a couple of times. When I got out of jail I wanted to switch things up a little bit.
So in meeting Jim Brown the first time, and hanging with him, your life was still the same?
CS: Yes, I had gone back to jail right after the Õ92 rebellion. When I got of jail, I told Jim that I didnÕt want to sell drugs anymore. I wanted to get it together. He said to me, ŌIÕll get you a job but your ego is too big, so I donÕt know if you really want to do itĶ and that job was ultimately being a production assistant. I was doing little commercials and other little stuff. That was cool for the moment, but after a while it didnÕt pay as much, but more importantly, it kept me out of the madness, with 14 hrs a day or sometimes or even longer. I started embracing the fact that I wasnÕt on the block 24/7 and I was hard to find because I was always on the film set and that went on for almost 2 years. Then I became a camera prod. asst. and I got a job with Claremont Cameras for a while. I was running around with lenses and gear heads. I started learning about filter and film stock and other things and that opened the door for my passion. Anything I get involved with, I go overboard and thatÕs either negative or positive. Then I started diving into the technical aspect of film acting. Every time I was delivering something onto a set, I would learn something new. From there I met a cameraman named John Lilly and I worked for him about 2 weeks and he brought me on to a small film, which I forgot. I learned a lot in that period and in my mind, I had made it. Not only did I have a job, but I had the potential to have a career. At the same time, I was still getting caught up in the streets, whenever I wasnÕt on the set, still getting into bullshit cuz my name was still hot out there. I was going back and forth between the set and the streets and there wasnÕt that much of a difference between both; itÕs either the gutter or somewhere nice.
After working on some projects and making some money, it was pretty cool, but I was still getting caught up in police raids and going to jail and still having issues but I had toned it down to a minimum. There was one time where the police picked up 45 guys at like 4:30 in the morning and I was on the film set and I really embraced the fact that I was working. I have always asked my homeboys how this things got started and who fired the first shot and why we get down like this and they could only take me back as far as 1972 and a story about a leather jacket. I started researching the 70s and some guys gave me some clarity on it and some stories were vague, but it always came down to what I call the ghetto folk tales and leather jacket stories. As I was doing research, I found out that a kid, Robert Ballou, was killed over his leather jacket and he was a student in Los Angeles at the time and the significance of the story was that it was the straw that broke the camelÕs back for a lot of people. At the time, the Crips were actively recruiting all over Los Angeles. There was a peace movement at some point, but by 1969, weÕre blowing each otherÕs brains out. In just a short time span, we went from brothers to niggas.
When did you decide you wanted to make this film and get finance?
CS: At the same time I was researching, and I was being obsessed with this, I was thinking I should write a book about this and my homies were encouraging me to do so. My response was, ŌIf I write a book, you are not going to read itĶ and thatÕs when the light turned in my head about making it easy as possible for them, and try to put this on film and make a documentary. ThatÕs when I got the idea of researching history of who shot the first shot. As far as financing, I would pitch it to people. I had met another filmmaker who had done something similar to what I wanted to do and he lived in the neighborhood; a white guy trying to shoot a film about how South Central was after the riots. His whole take was on post-riot LA, and I pitched it to him and he got excited and intrigued about it and he took me to some people to pitch and thatÕs how we started raising financing. He was a filmmaker and I was a student of films and thatÕs how it all took off.
How did Antoine Fuqua get involved?
CS: Fuqua came on board like 5 yrs after I started the project. He didnÕt get involved until 2001. I had shot some footage from 97-98 and had gone back to jail for a little bit. I had got out and put it to rest for a minute and Fuqua had put me in a commercial about the streets and shortly afterwards I got calls to do other commercials and thatÕs how I became an actor. Now, IÕm doing commercials and national spots. I had three ads running at the same time. In my eyes, I had really made it. In 2001 he called me for ŌTraining DayĶ and I ended up being an actor as well as a creative consultant amongst other things. I then started showing him the stuff that I had shot already three ago before then. I was telling my story on how I wanted to do more but I didnÕt have the financing. He was blown away by the 18 minute cut I put together. He told me that I had to finish the film and I told him that he has to help me and we discussed it some more but it wasnÕt until 2002 that he has asked me to rally up the people I wanted to work with for my film. He started writing checks and I started shooting and I had it wrapped up by late 2004.
What were some of the challenges you faced while making this film?
CS: After I got it in the can, I was having problems trying to get it distributed. It was such a huge story and kept growing and growing. It started out as a local story around my neighborhood and then once I started exploring the past it became bigger. It went from an LA story to a community story to an American story. I shot over 150 hours of film.
Who helped me put the story together to make it coherent?
CS: Once I knew the story and connected the dots. I knew how to put it together. IÕm from that world. IÕm still ŌBoneĶ. Once I learned the history and how it related to my neighborhood, then I looked how it related to me. I knew a lot of information that some people were going to get and some wouldnÕt get. I made myself the bridge to narrate the area that would confuse the audience and make it clearer for them.
What have you learned from making this film and what do you want people to get from watching this?CS: I just want to put a human face on the situation because there is so much misinformation out there and people donÕt have a clue as to whatÕs going on. I wanted to shoot it on film. As far as my life goes, just the journey of the whole situation I got so indebted in it, I became so obsessed with it, I detached myself totally from banging. The subject itself is about banging but I was so swamped from shooting, and cutting and trying to get more money and blah, blah, blah, that it took me out of the streets
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