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Black K Klansman - Behind the Scenes

Updated on October 17, 2018
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Why I chose to write about this film

I share a special Connection to the film, with Instructor X at the helm. Currently enrolled in his “365 Days to Making your Movie,” the method he’s teaching to us, was used in the making of Black K Klansman.

There is too much class information to include in a single Hubpage column. I have a 3-inch binder filled with information, and class is 75% done, from Columbus Day weekend. My learned information would be a series column, which I might do in a future topical outtake (after planning the Blogged content), once Production Intern #1 is set on her writing project of Summer 2018 Film Reviews.

Per an IndieWire interview with the two screen writers, the question of how this film was delivered so quickly, within the one year anniversary of the Charlottesville incident, has amazed industry people. I feel very privileged to be learning with Instructor X, as his “Movie Method” is fairly straightforward, taught by a very knowledgeable instructor.

Please see the provided link below, for a starting point in IndieWire’s coverage of the film. This film is direct competition to Black Panther, in the “Black” film category, for the upcoming Oscar Awards season.


Taken with my Phone!
Taken with my Phone! | Source

Other reasons for writing about the film

If you’ve been reading some of my other film topics, you know that a movie encompasses many different departments, and a coordinated effort to make the movie come together.

From some of my Social Media followers, there is this on-going fascination with actors and actresses, most notably Chris Hemsworth as the Top name. Henry Cavill is a close second, with Dwayne Johnson and Jason Momoa rounding out the Top 5.

As we are learning in class, Instructor X is on a first-name basis with Laurence Fishburne (and most of Hollywood, for that matter), and his re-telling of Laurence wanting Rihanna to be in one of his films, even Instructor X had to calm Laurence down, and level him out with: “Rihanna’s going to ask you, why should she be in your film? What’s the opportunity cost that this Actress is going to give up, to be in your film?”


Ever since this example was used in class, this had me seeing the business, from an entirely different perspective. The Actor group is important, as the talent is what secures the project, taking it from an Idea into the next stage of development. The trend continues with Actors directly involved in the production steps, if they choose to produce their own work, and actors starring and directing their scripted material.

Just this week, another part of this trend is having, what is commonly referred to as, Above-The-Line production people, who are writing, directing and producing their projects. For example, Lauro Chartrand is most famously known for some of the better “Blockbuster” stunts, seen On the Big Screen by Marvel and DC Comics fans.

My favorite example is the Tokyo train sequence in The Wolverine, where Logan is clawing his way towards the antagonist, while traveling at 100+ mph speed. With the 12-minute screen time, Lauro is known for his intense action sequences. Ditto for Suicide Squad (2nd Unit) and War for the Planet of the Apes (Stunt Coordinator). Lauro is part of the trend, where the Stunt Coordinator or Second Unit members are directing their own films. Because of Instructor X bringing us together, I would never have had the opportunity to approach Lauro, much less be learning in an online environment with him. How cool is that!

So, as I’ve been self-chanting, it’s not if I get to work with Chris Hemsworth, but when we, the producers, get to work with Chris.


Source

Where does it all start?

Instructor X has decades long experience in what we term “Hollywood”, with his start in producing Warren Miller’s surf films, which is legendary stuff. I used to wonder, as a kid growing up, how Warren Miller got started in his surf films, and now I know the real answer to the 1970’s-ish question.

When the latest surf crowd sold-out the first show at the latest Andy Irons film at Dole Cannery, and the management added on a second showing, this means that surf movies still carry a market niche. There was a long people line, waiting to enter Auditorium 12, which has fabric seats and leather head and arm rests.

Any Hawaii produced film that utilizes local talent is going to have a local following, as my double weekend open check of Kong: Skull Island, proved this to be true. All shows were sold-out at the Windward Regal location, and most of the audience members were either people who worked on the production, or whose family members worked on the production. The fan base slowed down by the last evening showing on Sunday evening, of Weekend #1. Now, this was pre-remodel of the theatre location, when one auditorium could seat upwards of 250 people.

A lot of aspiring authors ask me: How does it all start?


The answer is: It depends on how the conversation begins.

With Black K Klansman, Spike Lee had contacted Instructor X, and wanted to make a film that people were going to remember, which would be well respected and well-received by all audiences. Most of the populace have mixed feelings about Spike’s films, even though Do the Right Thing is in the Criterion Collection. I am predicting that Black K Klansman is going to end up in the Criterion Collection, due to the use of “Past-Present-Future” method of storytelling. The film was well received at Cannes 2018, along with other film festivals it’s been shown at.

Industry information says that this film is going head-to-head with Black Panther, which is also another great Marvel film, in the “Black” (Black-ish) film category. As AMPAS introduced the “Most Popular Film” category on August 8th, 2018, this has basically split the film industry into two camps: For and Against the category. With its controversial nature, this category has been removed from competition, and might be added into the Oscars 2019 season, to be broadcasted in February 2020.


What is the “Past-Present-Future” method?

I came up with this term, while writing this column. I don’t even think Instructor X has a formula name for this method. Before reading this column any further, please remember:

THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD (for film discussion purposes only) …


The “Past-Present-Future” method is effective, whether you had the time, or desire, to read Ron Stallworth’s memoir. The book provided the basis for the film story, which the screenwriters learned a lot more from meeting and interacting with the real Ron Stallworth, in subsequent production meetings. The film story was developed even further, with real incidents being told on-screen.

The time setting of the book and film stories is Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1978. This would be the Present. In the opening montage of the film, Alec Baldwin as one of the professors in the Past, who was practicing his speech against black people, is pro-white. Using the Past, and then showing the film story’s timeline as the Present moment, with the Future showing the 2017 Charlottesville incident. As only Director Lee can effect, a shocking end of both the Present, with a jumpcut to the current 2017 timeline. End of film.

Some mediums are kept separate for a reason

One Book example is the measurement of Ron’s policeman’s hat, which didn’t make it into the film’s final theatrical cut. Another version did, however, make it into trailer version #2, where John David Washington as Ron, enters the Colorado Springs Police Department dressed in street clothes, patting his afro down, with a hopeful look on his face.

Funny as read, but not respectful to be shown on-camera.

The version that did make it on-screen is how Ron was treated by fellow policemen. Working in the Records Department, where one of the racist policemen, and his verbal treatment of Ron, due to the color of his skin. As shown throughout the film, JDW’s portrayal of Ron, is a policeman who’s just trying to do his job and considers himself neither Black nor White, but an American.

In the “I hate ‘em all” scene, JDW-as-Ron tells the Colorado Springs KKK Chapter Leader, that he hates every race, but most especially “those blacks.” The irony is that Ron is also skin-black (“You used your real name over the phone, didn’t you?”). With the impending meeting of the Organization’s Chapter leader (as they don’t call themselves the KKK) and the real Ron Stallworth, the introduction of Adam Driver as the white-skinned Ron Stallworth, had the audience in stitches for more than a few bars.

The irony is that Adam’s character is Jewish, as the Movie Viewer learns later in the build-up to Act Three, his real name is Phillip “Flip” Zimmerman, who had arrested one of the Chapter’s members, several years earlier. This later story development leads to more dramatic suspense, where no one in the audience left the auditorium (which is typical these days), leading straight into the explosive finale.


Other memorable moments include:

· JDW’s portrayal of Ron as being fluent in both English and Jive

· The Stallworth Brothers’ joint effort in trying to infiltrate the Organization

· The Jewish Lie Detector Test scene

· A telephone conversation with David Duke

· JDW’s Ron being assigned as David Duke’s bodyguard

· The Polaroid picture moment

· The film’s usage of archived footage of the real David Duke, in a recent speech to his followers


Source

I don’t think some of the audience members were prepared for how the film ended, and how the point was driven to the end of the film.

At the film's conclusion, there was a male audience member, an Uncle who shouted “Yeah!,” when the racist policeman was wire tapped, for trying to take advantage of Patrice inside the bar. Not only does this wrap-up the Present story, but leads the Movie Viewer into the Future timeline.


Other project attachments ...

Project attachments is the term for who is working on the film. In addition to having the screenwriters and secured intellectual property, there is the role of the Director, which was already “pre sold,” if you will, as Director Lee approached Instructor X. Instructor X was the one person who organized the other attachments, and bringing people (and ultimately, the project) together.

Some of the Behind the scenes people involved, most notably, Executive Producers Jordan Peele and Jason Blum. I am a fan of both of their film works, although not too familiar with their TV works, as I don’t watch TV (“Hey, that’s what the intern’s for!”).

With Jordan winning an Academy Award for Get Out, and finding an increasing personal likelihood for BH Tilt Productions, I’m really looking forward to Halloween (2018) on October 19th, where Jason is one of the producers. For those Purge fans in the audience, there is a Film to TV series called The Purge.



Another responsibility to the film process, is attracting talent.

As I’m discovering, Hollywood has a few thousand people, who might be in line with your vision and willing to produce the project with you. After taking DGA AD Jason Robert’s class, he really wasn’t kidding when he said that getting a film together, there are a few thousand crafts people at your disposal on-set, to make your vision happen.

The same principle applies here.

Casting talent is a major milestone in the filmmaking process, as without talents’ signed contracts, this is not good for securing financing. Remember, the bond company controls the money behind the film (along with their percentage), as does the production accountant’s contribution at the end of the day. So, remember to be nice to the accountant, as (s)he needs to job-cost correctly, so you don’t run out of money to finish your film. You don’t want Foto-Kem holding onto your film negatives, because you ran out of money to finish the film.

John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Jasper Pääkkönen, Ashlie Atkinson, and Topher Grace are memorable faces. Thank you to the negotiation of the securing these actors-actresses.

As Jason Blum reveals: his secret to making good movies is to use talent from television.


What’s with the story?

Storyline is woven together really well for the Stallworth Brothers, which is a euphemism for Instructor X and his brother, who are a real life producing team. When this scene played out, I almost busted my gut, with the inside joke. I knew I shouldn’t have drank my Vitamin Water too quickly in the movie, as the inside joke almost made me want to take a badly needed restroom break

The question for Instructor X is: Which brother are you? (I suspect the Jive talking brother)

When viewing the running time at 133 minutes, I thought I would be counting the minutes as I did with Blade Runner 2049 (163 minutes) and Avengers: Infinity War (149 minutes), but that was not the case! The story moves along, complete with to-the-point dialogue (“Don’t say that about her! I’ll let you know, once her lips are wrapped around my d***”).


Source

These special elements are shown throughout the film story

The story is actually about Instructor X!

This makes me understand and appreciate him a lot better, and that our online class brings everyone together inside of the Film TV community

The line of dialogue that Phillip has: “Have I been passing my entire life (as being Jewish)?” is never really answered in the final theatrical cut. As Phillip tries grappling with his Jewish identity, the action with the other Stallworth brother continues not only the plot, but the story.

The dialogue was funny, and the Tuesday matinee audience I viewed it with, was pealing with laughter during the First Act. As the movie progressed, and the Movie Viewer was treated to a slice of life in Colorado in 1978, the current recreation of sets, costumes, property and location was top notch.


One of my favorite lines from Black K Klansman: Power to all the people.

Please see IndieWire’s coverage of the film (how it was produced within the year of the Charlottesville incident, which is shown at the film’s conclusion), with the provided link.


A quick navigation tip: to continue reading here, please use the Keyboard shortcut of [Alt] + [Left arrow], after you've visited the IndieWire link.

Based on Ron Stallworth’s memoir

I purchased a hard copy cover of Ron Stallworth’s memoir, named Black Klansman (no K, like the movie title), a few months ago at the Ala Moana Barnes and Noble, when there were 4 copies on the front-of-store table, and 5 in-line section copies. I’m glad I bought it at that time, because the title is not currently on the in-line shelf at B&N. Nor, is it on any table nor end cap display.

Talk about contrabanded material!

The book itself is 191 pages, and I really enjoy Ron’s authoring style. Written in the first person POV, this book provided the basis for the film story. If you are having trouble with finding this book on bookshelves, try your favorite online retailer, or you might need to visit your local library for a copy. I believe the hard copy is now being republished into a Paperback (QP) version.


One of the few films with unique marketing materials

As we have yet to learn in class, there is marketing and retailing, when making your movie.

For Black K Klansman, unique marketing of 4x6 plastic cards at one theatre location on Oahu had these. In case you were wondering, I audit 5 of the 9 theatres on the island, on a rotating basis. Kahala Consolidated Theatre was the only one with these cards. I normally save these types of merchandising, and use them as bookmarks. Or, give them to my other film friends.

Interestingly enough, 2018’s films have less marketing material than 2017’s films. I’m not sure if this has to do with each film’s budgeting, or if companies are not partnering with the proper packaging companies. There is a line item in your production budget, called Marketing, which handles this overhead expense. Just don't go crazy!

For example, in Summer 2017, there was Minion Mania at every national retail outlet: McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Target, Hallmark, and Sam’s Club. The only outlets not carrying Minion merchandise were local franchises, or small business stores.

When we get to the Marketing lesson in my year-long class, I will pose a question to Instructor X, about why 2018 films are lacking marketing material. And, then, I’ll let you know.


Theatrical dates were changed

In the Hawaii film market, this film was originally scheduled to be shown at the Dole Cannery on Friday, August 10th. My plans were to attend Premiere Night on August 9th. The film was shuffled around, and was rescheduled for the week of Friday, August 24th, at the Regal Cinemas chain. As of this Hub publishing, the film has played out at Ward Consolidated 16 and Regal Dole Cannery 18.


Meanwhile, if Instructor X is reading this column, the Consolidated Theatres chain opened with the film on August 10th, and ran for 8 theatrical weeks. During its initial 2-week theatrical run, Kahala Consolidated was showing the film; it has since been replaced on the marquee by other arthouse films, as the second part of 2018 needs to show the remaining Oscar titles.

Currently, Consolidated Mililani is being renovated, so no films showing at this theatre. My Mililani friends are traveling into town, to see their films at Ward.

Please check before you go

As an Independent third party auditor, I would recommend checking each theatre chain’s listing, to see which film title is playing at what location, and then schedule Movie Plans from there. For the MoviePass customers, there have been acceptance issues at both chain's Box Office.

The short answer is MoviePass' entitlement rights to distribute the film title, versus the available inventory that each theatre location makes available to MoviePass subscribers, to be transacted with the discount marketing program. Think of the Hotel or Air travel reservation system meets The Movies here.

Please visit my other Hubbed article on MoviePass coverage, as they are a separate, forthcoming, business case study.


Thank you for reading this film column. I’ve been busy coordinating other production projects, that I took a hiatus from producing Featured Hubpages.

I’m trying to focus on providing some unique content for you again, as the backend of 2018 is full of Oscar Contenders.

Please keep in mind that I am ...

· Currently mentoring a new Production Intern, and would like for her to takeover the weekly Film Review process with her own Hubpages account. I’ll be sure to let you know when this occurs. My intention is to have her take over Guest Blogging for my Featured Hub column, but being a newbie writer, there will be a slight learning curve until she finds her storytelling voice.

· Currently in the process of hiring Production Intern #2, as I’m finding myself attached to some Blockbuster type films in 2019 and 2020, which are due to shoot in Hawaii. Some of my worldwide productions include telecommuting with other producers in London (UK), Budapest (Hungary) and Colorado, for their film projects.

Who will win the Oscars 2018?

Who will win the Best Picture of the Year?

See results


As we're officially in Fall 2018 movie season, which is expected to be busy, and contain quite a few Oscar contenders, from here until December. The Nun is expected to lead the Box Office, and is known as Conjuring #5.

I’m planning on seeing this one in IMAX, as this screen should be not only large, but loud. I also have a $10.00 off coupon on my third IMAX movie – wow, have I really seen that many IMAX films? (I think it was The Incredibles 2 and MI6 that let me to this discounted offer)

If everyone jumps in their seat, then it’s a good scare. Please be sure to check back for coverage on all 5 Conjuring films, as horror is starting to become a current favorite for me.

Aloha, Pam

© 2018 Pam Freeman

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