Seven Questions For Producer Dale Pollock Of "Set It Off"
by Joshua Moss
Dale Pollacks’ latest effort, “Set It Off”, as producer opened nationwide earlier this month and the film has grossed over $20 million during two weekends in
release. Joshua Moss discussed the film with Pollack.
indieWIRE: How early did you come on board “Set It Off?”
Dale Pollock: I was the first person to find the script five years ago. I
read it and fell in love with it from the start. It was a very different
script at first but the general story was there. Then we started meeting
with directors, and we ended up picking a 24-year-old young filmmaker (F.
Gary Gray) who had shot his first movie “Friday” but no one really knew who
he was. But when he came in, he really blew us away. He came into our
meeting with four pages of story notes on how to make the relationships
stronger and deeper.
iW: When did New Line become involved in the project?
Pollock: They had passed on the script five times; well, every studio had passed
on it, but if you believe in a project you gotta hang in there. After
“Friday” opened, we went back to New Line and it made it easier. But we
still had to fight for the budget. There was some question as to who the
audience was, as you would assume male for the violence, but we had all
female characters. That’s what we had to encounter. But what we’ve seen is
that both male and female, black and white audiences, all respond to it.
iW: Was it a tough shoot, logistically, as it seemed to contain a lot of
stunts in downtown LA?
Pollock: It was tough. We shot the film in 40 days. It was probably the most
strenuous film physically I’ve ever done. We shot the film for under 10 mil
and I’m proud of how good it looks, but we worked hard to get every dollar on
the screen. We pulled in a lot of favors.
iW: The casting of the four leads seemed especially important to
making the film work, and all four did an excellent job. How were they to work with on
Pollock: The chemistry was extremely important. We saw close to 300 actors for
the roles; there was a lot of mixing and matching to find the right balance,
but when we found the four and put them together, and when we found Kimberly
(actress Elise), she made us cry in the room during her first reading and we
knew she was right. We had a two-week rehearsal period, and Gary just had
them sit in his office and talk about their characters. There was this great
meshing of the actors with their characters. What’s great to see in the
movie is these characters who are really good friends (in real life) coming
together. Audiences respond to that because they sense that it’s real.
iW: Was there any discussion/reservations by Queen Latifah about making her
character such a militant lesbian? Was there any worry about this hurting
the movie and/or Queen Latifah’s career?
Pollock: There was definitely some sensitivity on her part originally, but she
realized it also made the character unique so she went for it. The first
time we showed it to her core audience, there was enormous reaction (some of
it negative) to her kiss with her girlfriend. The audience reacted so
strongly to the kiss we had to pad the scene with some extra dialogue
following the kiss to let the audience cool down! I think it ads a little
spice to the movie, but we didn’t do it to exploit it. From the first draft,
Clio was gay. We kept that intact. Queen Latifah threw herself into this
role, and her energy and her spirit really came through.
iW: How did you go about getting actor John C. McGinley (“Wall Street,”
“Talk Radio”) involved? And how much of a role did he play in developing his
Pollock: He was in a film of mine called “A Midnight Clear“, so I called him. Everyone cut their prices for this movie, and John did this for a lot less
then he normally gets. What he liked about the character is that the cop
isn’t evil and ultimately has a moral choice to make in the movie. We also
built a relationship between him and his partner which he helped develop.
We’re still in the confines of the genre; we’re doing a bankrobber movie, so
there are still some expectations we knew we should work in, like the big
shootout at the end, but we generally tried to avoid the usual cliches. But
we felt if we’re doing a robbery movie, we also gotta give ’em robberies.
iW: What’s the distribution pattern going to look like,
in terms of screens?
Pollock: November 6 on 1000 theaters, which is more than “urban” movies normally
get, and it’s opening in a lot of non-urban areas, and we’re very excited, as
we’re trying to transcend a race movie. Ultimately it’s a movie about four
desperate woman who take the only way they can see. The ultimate message of
this movie is that crime does not pay.