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Posts Tagged ‘John Singleton’

John Singleton (1968—2019)

“One out of 21 black American males will be murdered in their lifetime. Most will die at the hands of another black male.”
Opening graphic in Boyz n the Hood

”Before I could do long division, I mastered which neighborhoods and housing projects to never step foot in. I can easily remember running full speed from the bullets indiscriminately spraying out of a red IROC-Z Camaro; and the face of the man who put a gun to my temple in high school is forever seared into my brain.”
Gerrick D. Kennedy/ L.A. Times
“How John Singleton’s ‘Boyz n the Hood’ shaped the life of one boy from the hood”

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 10.00.19 AM

John Singleton received Oscar nominations for both writing and directing Boyz n the Hood (1991) and it was one of those rare films that taps into the zeitgeist of the times. My last post was on the Aretha Franklin documentary Amazing Grace which was filmed in 1972 at The New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts—which just happens to be located in the heart of South Central L.A. where the story of Boyz n the Hood takes place.

One of the reasons Boyz n the Hood hit me particularly hard when I saw it was just a few years before the movie I spent some time in South Central L.A. as a photographer. While I was going to film school in the early and mid-80s I worked for Yary Photography which at the time was located in Cerritos, California. They are best know for doing team sports photography throughout Southern California.

I remember clearly the cultural close-up I got driving and working in South Central L.A. Once my car broke down in the Lynwood (just north of Compton). This was the days before cell phones so I had to walk on foot to find a mechanic who could help. I was very well aware that I was an outsider in a land known for drive-by shootings. I eventually found a mechanic and my car got fixed with no incident, but I will never forget that walk.

Another time I was doing a photo shoot at Los Angeles Southwest College on Imperial Highway (where the 110 and 105 now meet) and I was taking photos of a football player and asked him if he wanted to take off something that didn’t match his uniform (I think it was a wrist band or bracelet) and his coach said he couldn’t because it was gang related. The player wasn’t in a gang, but he had to wear it for safety.

This was 1983-1986 and I remember thinking there are some stories to be told from here. John Singleton started his career with one of those stories and went on to have a long and successful career working on film and Tv projects.

That same year Lawrence Kasden‘s Grand Canyon touched on some of the same themes as Boyz n the Hood coming at it from a different angle.

Two Years later Menace II Society came out.

And in  2001 Training Day hit theaters.

And though Straight Outta Compton came out in 2015 it is a story set in South Central in the mid-’80s.

P.S. While I was planning on releasing my screenwriting book in April, the death of my mother last week took up much time. Look for it being released in May.

Related post: Filmmaking Quote #41 (John Singleton)

Scott W. Smith

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“Don’t go through the system. Do it yourself. Do something you believe in.”
Oscar-nominated  writer/director John Singleton (Boyz in the Hood)
2013 Filmmaker Magazine article by Allan Tong

Some of you weren’t even born in 1991 when John Singleton’s Boyz in the Hood hit the theaters. It’s a different kind of coming of age story than Boyhood that I wrote about yesterday. Singleton was fresh out of USC film school when at the age of 23 he directed his first featured from his screenplay and received two Oscar-nominations.

P.S. Singleton’s quote is reminiscent of the Edwards Burns quote, “Don’t try and compete with Hollywood.”

Related posts:
25 Links Related to Blacks and Filmmaking
The First Black Feature Filmmaker

Scott W. Smith

 

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It is a small world after all when tonight begins the first ever Disneyland verses Disney World NBA championship when the L.A. Lakers face the Orlando Magic. 

And while this is the first championship showdown between these two teams, they made their big screen debut in the 1991 Lawrence Kasden film Grand Canyon. The film opens with a street basketball game and then about two minutes into the credits cuts to the Forum and a game between the Lakers and the Magic.

That movie is particularly meaningful to me for a couple reasons. First I have a lot of nostalgia for that early Magic team because I lived in Orlando at that time.. The Grand Canyon opening features a brief clip of my favorite all time Magic player Scott Skiles (now head coach for the Milwaukee Bucks) and also Magic player Jeff Turner who I went to South Seminole Middle School with when we were both in sixth grade.  

But mostly Grand Canyon captures the disconnectedness of the Los Angeles I felt living there in the 80s. The sense that something was wrong with the world. It was a world of drive-by shootings, gangs, freeway shootings, serial killer Richard “The Night Stalker” Ramirez, and seemed on a collision course between the have and the have nots. 

You could see the pot boiling in the 80s. While in film school I worked for Yary Photography taking team photographs throughout Southern California and got an inside look in just a couple years that few there see in a lifetime. Armed with my trusty Thomas Bros map and an Mamiya RZ67 camera I went everywhere including areas like Compton, Inglewood and Watts to take photos.

I never had any problem in those areas including the time my little 280z broke down in Compton. But there was one incident I recall from a school where I was taking pictures of a football team in South Central LA when I asked why one player had a different color wristband than his team colors and the coach explained it was a gang thing. Though the kid wasn’t in a gang he had to wear the gang colors in his neighborhood for protection. Danny Glover said it best in Grand Canyon, “Man, the world ain’t supposed to work like this. Maybe you don’t know this, but this ain’t the way the world is supposed to be.”

I left L.A. at the end of 1987 and by the time the Rodney King trial ended a couple years later (where four LA policemen were acquitted) the LA streets erupted in protest. The riots lasted almost a week and resulted in looting, assault, arson and 53 people dying with a total of $1 billion in damages. A few years after returning to Orlando, L.A. was still fresh on my mind when Grand Canyon hit the theaters. I saw it three times because I appreciated Kasden’s attempt to make sense of the world there.

One shinning spot in the L.A. during the 80s was the L.A. Lakers during their “Showtime” era lead by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and their five NBA championships. It was hard not to be a fan. Then I moved back to my hometown of Orlando and became an Orlando Magic fan when the team formed and even got to go to their inaugural game on November 4, 1989. 

Back in those days Orlando seemed out of place on the court and even just being mentioned with bigger cities like Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. Shaq changed all that. He brought respect to the team and the city and led the Magic to their first NBA finals in 1995. And then he went off to L.A. where he helped lead the Lakers to three more championships. No hard feeling, right?

The Lakers are favored to win just as they did in the movie Grand Canyon. But there will be plenty of drama just like in Grand Canyon which earned the husband & wife writing team of Lawrence and Meg Kasden an Oscar nomination in 1992. (John Singleton was also nominated that year for his similar but different look at Los Angeles in Boyz N the Hood. 1991-92 were not good PR years for L.A. ) 

 

Scott W. Smith

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