SpeechIsMyHammer x Rik Cordero (Pt. 2)

24 Dec


Continued from SpeechIsMyHammer x Rik Cordero (Pt. 1) … To read Part 1, in which SpeechIsMyHammer asks Rik about his penchant for the grandiose, and the stigmas that come with rap acts being his primary clientele, CLICK HERE. In this segment, Cordero talks about his feature films, why film school may not be as essential as you’d think, and what artists have proven as his best actors.

This may be a difficult question for you: what is your favorite video that you’ve done so far? And why?
It might be The Roots “75 Bars”, with ?uestlove kidnapping the guy and throwing gasoline on him. I think that was one of my shorter videos. The execution is so perfect, just how I wrote it. And what’s funny is the treatment was originally intended for Mobb Deep, and I think they backed out of it because it was too violent. And then The Roots came up, and I sent it into them for kicks, like I wasn’t sure how they would respond to it, and they thought it was cool. ?uestlove was really supportive, I guess he saw a lot of our work online, and he trusted us. But that was my favorite video.
Actually, it started by this guy, this Hollywood agent, who represented an actor that I wanted to use for one of my films, and I remember right before we shot, this idiot calls me and says the actor will only work for… basically the budget I had for the entire film. So he’s all, “My client is not going to be in this movie,” and I was really pissed off, and that guy was such a jerk. Yeah that was a cool video, it was really personal. It was also the video that Nas liked.

I haven’t gotten to see any of your full-length films yet, but how many have you released?
We released one, in 2004, called Mend, and you can check that out at Mendmovie.com. And the movie that we just wrapped in April, called Inside A Change, and you can check that out at InsideAChange.com. That was really my first project, it was right after I finished school, the first time I picked up a camera in all-black, that was in 2004. Kinda self-taught, experimented, kinda led me to hip-hop videos.

What are each of these movies about?
Well, Mend was about these four friends who move to New York and the stress and their relationships with one another. It also had commentary on prescription drug advertisements-you know we see those commercials where everyone is smiling, but they have these horrible side effects. And Inside A Change is a personal story, it’s based on a friend of mine that passed away in 2004. It’s not about how he died, but it’s about his family structure. The main character is a kid who’s gone away to prison on a minor offense for 6 months, and before he goes he tries to throw his mother a birthday party, and get his brothers together so that they can be a family. It’s a small, simple human drama, very much in relation to how we portray a lot of urban imagery in a very human, universal way. Lots of positive messages in the film, too.

How did you go into directing movies and videos blindly, without any school? Music seems a lot different, where you’re just writing it, or learning the notes. Film seems so much more technical.
It seems a lot different because of tradition. We think that it’s much bigger than it is. You mentioned music: Music and painting are art forms that have been around for centuries. I mean, like, the cavemen could write on the walls, these art forms have existed for a long, long time. Filmmaking is an art form that is less than a hundred years old. It came up in the Hollywood system, where you just meet an armada of people, these huge machines, cameras weighed a ton, so making art in that way was expensive. But again, it’s less than a hundred years old. When you listen to a great piece of music, you don’t think of how much money they spent on it, you just feel an emotion. That’s the fastest way to feel an emotion, music, and I feel like that’s what we’re trying to do with these videos.
Filmmaking in general, the movies I used to watch on the net, it was always, “What’s the budget?” They’re missing the point here, we’re trying to convey an emotion, not count how much money we spent, how many dollars are on the screen. That’s a factor in creating it but it’s not the main objective. Not going to film school, I missed out on that atmosphere, and I have a lot of friends who went to NYU Film School, and you’re told you have to spend years before you can even get a shot at directing. To get a directing gig, you have to come up through the ranks, and only then, you have to knock it out of the park. I never subscribed to that, to that model of thinking-“I have to make a feature before I’m 30,” or, ” I have to make the best feature in the world because that’s the only way I will have a career”. It was just learning, and not being afraid of the mistakes. If I’m going to make something, I’m going to make the most of it, I’m going to spend time with it; even looking back on it, if I wanted to change something, I still am proud of the end product.
It’s very helpful because my mistakes are on the internet, for everyone to see. It becomes almost a resume builder. The amount of videos that were created within a year, it dictated something to the fans, to the audience. They said, “OK, he’s really a director, then.” It broke a lot of rules, because as a working director, you’re not supposed to put your name on the videos, it’s bad taste. To me, though, it was a brand name, it was marketing. It’s the internet, it’s no rules! If I don’t put it on there, somebody will. And that’s the line of thinking that I carry, you know… no rules. So it’s scary for a lot of labels, because how they interact with the artist is on a personal level. We work with no rules, [so] it’s like, “Is he gonna create the video without us?” But at the end of the day, we’re doing this for the artist. We’re in the artist-to-artist business, and that’s why it’s going to last a long time. We’re not doing anything that’s hurting the artist, we’re helping them, we don’t have these big budgets to play around, and even the guys who do have to jump through fire-hoops to get rewarded. No one has it easy. No one. It’s providing a service, you know? It’s not mainstream stuff, and we’re not trying to do mainstream stuff. But we’re not trying to do street DVDs either, [with] just a rapper and a camera and that’s it. It’s its own thing.

So far, what do you find more enjoyable: films or music videos?
I love both, but my heart is drawn to the more difficult aspect of it, which is feature filming, narrative filmmaking. I think my heart lies in that. I love videos, I’ll always do videos, but I want to pump out features as fast as we make videos. That’s the goal.

Are there any artists that you worked with in a video where you think their video acting skills are good enough to make it into one of your movies?
Yeah, actually we have two artists who we’re very good friends with; Joell Ortiz and Consequence, who made cameos in this film and had to act, you know? They had to drop their personalities and be actors. It took awhile, but I think we got a lot of good performances out of them. They weren’t going to coast on their personas; I wouldn’t let them. We were really impressed by them.

There’s always been a lot of criticism behind rappers playing in movies, saying they can’t do the job, and that they’re taking away jobs from actors who have been working hard, and what do you think about that?
I think it’s a legitimate argument. There are actors that are really serious about their craft; that if they tried to rap and landed a record deal, would piss some rappers off. I can see that, I can understand that, and I’ve been on sets where rappers are like “Yeah, I’m acting” and mocking the craft of it. Meanwhile, there’s real actors out there busting their asses, trying to get roles, especially minority actors, who aren’t getting the most prominent, three-dimensional roles. It’s not cool to mock that. But there are actors who are respectable and who have done really good work and had to work their way from the bottom to be respected. You know who those guys are. They start small, and they did good things, but they didn’t get offered the part because they’re a rapper, especially the good movies. The bad movies, who knows how they got in [laughs]. Rappers are capable of acting, it’s a proven thing. Look at Marky Mark (Wahlberg), or Will Smith, or Harry Connick Jr, they’re all acting. It’s an art form. I just don’t like the rappers who are like “Oh, I can act” and then are terrible. They don’t respect the craft, that’s why.


3 Responses to “SpeechIsMyHammer x Rik Cordero (Pt. 2)”

  1. HipHopIsAlive&Well December 24, 2008 at 3:06 pm #

    I think that it all depends on the artists! And I say that loosely, because every rapper in the game is NOT an artist! We(fans, consumers, critics,etc.), or directors, or whoever else that’s affiliated with the game in some sort of way take for granted that every so-called “artist” is going to be open minded, respectful, professional, and actually care about what they supposedly make a living doing, but a lot of those people are not. It’s just a hustle for many, and when you put hustlenomics into any equation that has to deal with being a business person, it always comes out being a big disappointment. I commend this brother though, because he actually believes in the artists and the music that he creates videos for. Much success to his mission. Peace.
    -Will a.k.a. HipHopIsAlive&Well


  1. SpeechIsMyHammer x Rik Cordero (Pt. 1) « Speech Is My Hammer… - December 24, 2008

    […] With such a prolific video director, we had a lot to talk about – so much that the interview will be published in two parts. Follow the jump for the first segment, in which SpeechIsMyHammer asks Rik about his penchant for the grandiose, and the stigmas that come with rap acts being his primary clientele. For Part 2 – in which Cordero talks about his feature films, why film school may not be as essential as you’d think, and what artists have proven as his best actors – CLICK HERE. […]

  2. Miscellaneous Ketch (2-7-09) « Speech Is My Hammer… - February 7, 2009

    […] For more on Rik Cordero, check my interview with him on this site: CLICK HERE for Pt. 1, and CLICK HERE for Pt. […]

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