Filmmaker/actor Mario Van Peebles ("Baadasssss!") takes a revealing look at contemporary youth culture, showing how teenagers really are behind closed doors with his comedy "We the Party" (out in select theaters this Friday). Set amidst the latest trends in music, dance and fashion, "We the Party" centers on five friends as they come of age.
In this First Person exclusive to Indiewire, Peebles shares a scene from his comedy and opens up about the making of the film. And make sure you check out the clip he kindly provided; it's on the jump.
A while ago I was writing a new script (or rather trying to write one), while my teenagers were upstairs blasting music with the volume at '11.' I went up to have them dial down the fun, but was quickly entranced by the new dances they and their friends were doing. It was like nothing I had ever seen (The Dougie, the Jerk, the Catdaddy, etc.). My curiosity was piqued.
Sensing an opening, my wild bunch started begging me to let them go to some all-age underground clubs. Their reasoning was that only then would they truly be able to show me all the “new stuff” that was happening. Naturally I said what any filmmaker father would say, “Hell, no! Unless, of course, you take me with you.”
They balked. My old soul son Makaylo tried to break it down to me diplomatically. He explained that rolling into a party with your dad was akin to bringing the cops and a sure-fire way to never get invited again. They tried their best emotional jujitsu and teen logic on me, but I held fast to my Van Peebles family values. Finally, my cool two-slap son Mandela offered up a possible solution. “How about you go not as our father but as a member of our entourage, like our head of security?”
Silence… and then my eldest, sweet-talking daughter Maya piped in, “Yeah, kids our age probably won’t recognize you as much, plus you were ‘Sonny Spoon,’ NBC’s detective and master of disguise right? We could put you in a baseball hat real low and swag you out in some skinny jeans and we’re good.” She flashed that Maya smile and the deal was done. I would drive, as long as they and their friends were safe. They could totally be themselves. They could talk like they talk, and party how they party. I would go INCOGNEGRO.
The next few weeks were incredible. Not only did I get to know my kids in a whole new light, but I got a crash course in today’s teen culture. Everything seemed different somehow. Kids of all colors were using the N-word as a term of endearment. One of the most popular kids was an openly gay black boy who could kick your ass with style. Gangster rap is considered old school now. Slow dancing looks more like safe sex on the dance floor. You can’t listen to their music without putting a condom on. Racial lines are blurring while economic ones are becoming more pronounced. They tweet and Facebook at lightning speed. These are the trendsetters that are bombarded daily by hyper-materialism. They are, simultaneously, incredibly informed and yet often woefully ignorant. While some are dropping out, others see “smart as the new gangsta.” This is the first generation to come of age during a black presidency, and for them, it’s not historical. It’s just the norm! For this generation, anything seems possible, both good and bad.
It quickly became clear to me that these teens are experiencing a seismic cultural shift. If I didn’t have kids myself and truly hang out with them, I would have had no idea. I soon forgot all about my other script. Taking advantage of my interest, my kids maneuvered me into letting them throw an “epic” party at our house. This monster kick back became the basis for "We the Party." They had over 400 teens of all colors partying hard at our crib. My boys quickly tripled their birthday money. I walked around like a middle-aged paparazzi videotaping and taking notes like a madman.