Michael K. Williams, the actor best known for playing Omar Little on HBO's "The Wire," dons a new hat as executive producer for the first time with the microbudget indie "Snow on tha Bluff," which world premiered at the 2011 Slamdance Film Festival and hits DVD and VOD tomorrow.
Dubbed a "'Blair Witch Project' in the hood" by Williams, "Snow on tha Bluff" documents a few days in the life of real-life robbery boy and crack dealer Curtis Snow via a camera that Snow steals from some college kids. The handheld footage bears witness to robberies of rival dealers, brutal gunfights and brawls, all involving real-life figures from the West Atlanta neighborhood known as "tha Bluff," leaving viewers to wonder: what's real and what's not?
Indiewire caught up with Williams to find out how and why he came onto the project (directed by Damon Russell), and what Wu-Tang Clan fans can expect of his upcoming turn as Ol' Dirty Bastard in the biopic of the rapper, "Dirty White Boy."
The way I got involved was actually through Twitter. A friend of mine brought this clip for me that was floating around YouTube. I didn't know what to make of it. The first thing I thought was, "Wow, this guy looks like the real live Omar Little," you know, Curtis. And then I saw another clip of this guy cut really badly on his face, and that reminded me of when I got cut on my face. It intrigued me enough to make me want to see more. I got in contact with the director, Damon, and said, "How can I see more of this?" We got it together and shot the footage for the feature film and it got picked up.
Given that the film wasn't completed when you initially came on board, what did you bring to the project apart from your clout as an established artist?
I completely stayed out of their way. Obviously they were already on to something. I saw that from the clips that I'd seen on YouTube and Twitter. So I just got in contact with them and I send I'd like to help to make this thing complete and after that I stayed out of their way.
Were you at all nervous about backing something like this?
As a producer, you're always nervous about what is going to be received properly or not. But at the end of the day you can't worry about that. It is what it is, and the reason why I want to produce is to be involved in stories that I find interesting. I want to shed light on people that don't really get it. The community called the Bluff in Atlanta is a forgotten city. I wanted to lend my help to it as much as I could to get it out.
At the end of the day I can't worry about what people think, but what I would hope is that people walk away feeling some type of empathy for what they see because these are not actors. It is not like "The Wire" where there was lights-camera-action. Although "The Wire" was based on reality, all "tha Bluff" is reality. Those people are real and they're really there. Those cuts you see on Curtis' face are real. Those are his real kids in this movie. It's not a Hollywood production in that aspect.
Do you know what is real and what isn't in the film? Did they share that with you or did they keep "tha Bluff" shrowded in mystery?
There real wasn't anything to believe in, it's to just share it. I went down to the Bluff and saw enough. Even if every scene in the movie is not 100% real, it really goes down and these are real people showing you what really happens in the Bluff. It is like the ultimate "Blair Witch Project" in the hood, you know what I mean? These are definitely not actors in the sense where they have to audition for a feature. These are real people.
Did you seek out any kind of legal advice before putting your name behind this? Cops do get involved in several scenes.
The only legal advice I got was from my entertainment lawyer to find out how this kind of thing was happening. I don't live in the Bluff. I don't know the day to day of what goes on. This film is just a pretty good look into the community and that's my involvement in it. I've come to know Curtis via this project, but I don't live up there so I don't spend every day with him. I would hope that the law in that aspect would not do anything to negatively affect this film. I hope that anything that is shown in this film would not bring any type of law enforcement attention into a negative light.