Continuing my interview with Chrstine Acham & Cliff Ward, the directors of Infiltrating Hollywood: The Rise And Fall of The Spook Who Sat By The Door, we get answers on author and screenplay writer (and documentary star) Sam Greenlee’s FBI monitoring, how it was to interview the great Paul Butler, and what’s in store for Cliff and Christine in the future…
Another great actor from the movie, Paul Butler who played Do-Daddy Dean, seemed to be a wealth of information in your doc. He also passed away, albeit pretty recently. What can you share about him that we don’t see in your film? And was this his last interview?
Chrstine Acham: Paul’s connection to Sam was evident. He really cared for Sam and felt that being in that movie was an integral part of him becoming a solid actor. He was really inspired by Sam’s words. What I really loved is that he’s still tied to political views and loved talking about the black community.
Cliff Ward: What you saw on the screen is who he was. There were no walls with Paul. He was a great interview. It was a tough loss for Christine and I – it touched us both as we had plans to continue corresponding with him and hanging out with him in the future.
Christine: And we never even got the interview to show him the film. And we think it was his last interview – given the timing. He was working on Rubicon at the time and they had to replace him on the show.
And Paul had a great sense of humor, which was really engaging for a documentary.
(Writers note: Roger Robinson replaced Paul Butler on the AMC show Rubicon. I watched the show, and Robinson was fantastic as always and a real draw, but I can see where Bulter would’ve added a great essence to that character. What a loss).
Without giving away anything from the film, how much information were you actually able to piece together from FBI or CIA files about the movie and/or Sam Greenlee?
Christine: We never got any CIA documents. WE requested them on two separate occasions and they never responded. The FBI documents showed that they followed Sam since he wrote the book, then their perspective on what they thought it was all about.
Cliff: Most of the material, ten documents, five of which we were given, were redacted. “Sam flew to Europe, blank, few to Jamaica…” And the rest is redacted.
Christine: When you apply for the Freedom Of Information Act, The reason they give for not handing them over is that they will not give anything that would effect the security of the country or that will negatively impact that person. Interestingly, we had Sam’s signature on the FBI requests for documents, as well as mine, so obviously the fact that it would be damaging to the person is completely ridiculous – he obviously asked for the information. And to the think that an 81-year-old man would be a danger to the country is ridiculous. It was interesting to hear the woman at Martha’s Vineyard [African-American Film Festival) say that’s pretty much it – you can ask and you might get it or you don’t get.
We knew from the documents that he’s definitely considered to be a person of interest.
Ivan Dixon was a very interesting person as an actor, accomplished director and activist as he refused to play any stereotypical parts, served in Negro Actors for Action during the Civil Rights Movement, etc. Any plans to do a documentary on him, especially considering your access to his wife Berlie, who contributed widely to your film?
Christine: Ivan is the one that definitely interests me. Right now I’m working on doing a documentary about Nothing But A Man. And actually, Berlie had volunteered on making some connections for me with the producers of the film. So that’s the next project I’m thinking about doing. Whether that turns out to be a larger focus on Ivan Dixon as documentaries tend to grow and morph, we’ll see.
So where else will be Infiltrating Hollywood be playing next?
Christine: We’re waiting to hear back from some festivals by late September. We applied to various ones: Chicago International, San Francisco Doc Fest, Hollywood Black Film Festival, Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival. We haven’t gotten a New York screening together yet. So check our Facebook page for more info when it comes.
So to close, anything else you feel like sharing?
Cliff: We’ve encountered a lot of the same stories that Christine was saying: the passing along of bootleg copies from their Black Panther grandparents and that people make sure they’ve passed the book onto their kids when they came of age.
Everyone has stories like that, like “I remember seeing this bootleg copy in the basement of my sister’s house…”
The reason this movie is still out there is because the people won’t let the movie the die.
And remember, Christine and Cliff are working to raise finishing funds via Kickstarter to put the final editing touches onto the film, package it for the networks and to get help publicizing the project. As said on the Kickstarter pg: “Infiltrating Hollywood is such an important story of repression and survival and it needs to heard by as wide an audience as possible.” Donate to this project TODAY!
Here is the direct link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1257675187/infiltrating-hollywood-the-spook-who-sat-by-the-do
And ‘Like’ them on Facebook at this LINK.