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indieWIRE INTERVIEW: Larry Clark, Director of “Wassup Rockers”

indieWIRE INTERVIEW: Larry Clark, Director of "Wassup Rockers"

Veteran director Larry Clark (“Ken Park,” “Kids“) returns to screens with his latest installment of teenage drama in “Wassup Rockers.” In the film, a group of South Central skater boys take a ride up to L.A. tonier hoods and go after the local rich girls. They not only attract the girls, however, they also get the attention of cops and jealous boyfriends. First Look Pictures opens the film beginning in New York on Friday.

Some basic Larry Clark stats…

Age: 63
Day Job: doing press for this movie
Former Jobs: Worked as a scaffold rat – building houses out of rock.
Born and Grew Up: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Lives Now: New York and Santa Monica

What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?

I’ve been a visual artist for 44 years and have always been a storyteller – filmmaking is a natural progression on my work. I’ve always thought that I should make film.

What other creative outlets do you explore?

Making love, writing, music, painting, everything really.

What are your interests outside of film?

My children and everything.

Did you go to film school?

I never went to film school. I learned by walking onto my first set – when I made “Kids.” I said out loud to myself “I’m home…” I just felt so comfortable.

Where did the initial idea for “Wassup Rockers” come from?

I met the kids on July 2, 2003, so I’ve known them almost three years. I met Porky and Kico at a skate park in Venice Beach. I’d come out to LA with actress Tiffany Limos to do a photo shoot for the French magazine Rebel, which was doing an issue on adolescents and wanted me to shoot the actors from “Ken Park.” But the guys weren’t around so I said I would photograph Tiffany with some skate kids. Porky and Kico looked out of place and different, really raggedy, wearing clothes that were too little for them, they had long hair, their boards were worn out, their shoes were falling apart. But they had this style, so I went up and talked to them. I took a few pictures of them and they told us they were from the ghetto – from South Central. We ended up taking them back to South Central and meeting their friends, Jonathan and his brother Eddie and Kico’s brother, Carlos. And we photographed them in skate sports for four days all over LA.

The magazine was going to put Tiffany on the cover and give us ten pages. When they saw the pictures they gave us 23 pages plus an interview and two covers, one of Tiffany and a second one with 14-year old Jonathan. When the magazine came out, I went to South Central to show them. They were amazed – we were all amazed. Their parents were amazed as well, seeing their kids in this slick French magazine. The kids wanted go skating again so I took them skating again. Then they called the next Saturday morning at 9am and asked me if we were going skating again. So I took them out again and it turned into a regular Saturday thing. They expected me to show up on Saturdays and take them skating, which is what I did for over a year. I was very dependable – I always showed up. That’s when I got the idea that I wanted to do this film about them. I started working on the screenplay, learning about them and their lives. It was very organic.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project or making and securing distribution for the movie?

Getting financing is always hard and an adventure. I’m not one who makes cookie-cutter movies – I try to make films about stories that you don’t get to see anywhere else.

Getting all the kids together was impossible. They are wild kids – which is what I needed for film. There were seven kids and basically everyone else was a prop – because that’s how they treated us (said with a chuckle and smile).

How did you finance the film?

Henry Winterstern produced the film and paid for it. Henry is a standup guy who now is a CEO of First Look Studios – he bought it. It couldn’t have been better.

What is your definition of “independent film”?

My films.

What are some of your all-time favorite and recent films, and why?

John Cassavetes was the first to make independent film, as we know it. I saw his film, “Shadows,” when I was 19 and it inspired me because Cassavetes saw things the way I see them.

Favorite Films:
The Killing of the Chinese Bookie
A Woman Under The Influence
The Getaway
Mean Streets
Bonnie and Clyde
And many many more…

Recent films:
Last Days
The Squid and the Whale
A Home At The End of The World
Masked and Anonymous

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