Superfly follows a young career criminal Youngblood Priest who wants out of the Atlanta drug scene, but as he ramps up sales, one little slip up threatens to bring the whole operation down before he can make his exit.
We sat down with visionary director extraordinaire Director X, known for directing music videos for legendary artists such as Rihanna, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Drake & others. We talked collaborating with writer Alex Tse to reinvent the classic 1972 film.
The Knockturnal: Talk about working with Alex on the script and what was that collaborative process?
Director X: I mean the big thing for Alex and I starting this process was the story, getting the story down and how we’re going to approach it and really digging into the original film and saying alright “who, what, where, how, what are the things that have to happen for this to be Superfly?” So that was our starting point. So you see all those characters are back, all our important characters are there. The things that happened to them are very much like the things that happened in the original. It might not be exactly the same way, but if they died in the original they died in this one, spoiler alert. We had to combine some things together like the relationship, some things were difficult. So, “Alright is it better that we make him cheat on his two girlfriends and they don’t know about each other or is it better that we just make him have two girlfriends?” Right, so you saw the choice we made.
The Knockturnal: It was great, I think it worked well.
Director X: It’s a lot of fun, it just builds something else in there. I mean those kinda of choices had to be made. So that was really the big thing for Alex and I. Those were not easy, now that it’s done and it works, it’s like “oh yeah of course make them,” but at one point you’re like “Hey what if they’re all in a relationship together, what if they’re a throuple! Could that work?” And in that dynamic, who’s the classy one? Who’s the ghetto one? And that, you know, how do we now balance it out and all those questions. Why do we introduce new things. Like the snow patrol guys come out of the fact in the original the priest gets attacked by two junkies but I just had trouble believing that a big time Atlanta drug dealer would be anywhere that junkies could get their hands on him, so then that’s it. But he needs to have a conflict with people from the drug world which led us down to snow patrol, then what if they’re rival dealers and then that kept on snowballing into and what if they were all white and what if they’re really… All these new things came from that inspiration, but all our choices always began with the original film and then any changes we made were changes not just for the sake of changing or not because I personally, or Alex or anyone just felt like they wanted to change something cause they liked something better, it was always a question of “did we need to change this? Why do we need to change it? And what does that make it now?”
The Knockturnal: What was the hardest scene for you to put together, technically?
Director X: Technically the shootout in the apartment was a very intense, I think three days.
The Knockturnal: Lex said that was her favorite day
Director X: Yeah, it was a wild day. I mean these are not, these are not…scenes like that would normally take two weeks let alone three days to do it. And then what my one little thing that I’m happy about is that we give Freddy a funeral. In the original, they don’t even talk about it after he dies, but at least Freddy, Freddy had a proper, respectful friendship.
The Knockturnal: Talk about balancing the comedy, the action, and the drama all in one because it’s a great balance of all three
Director X: I mean the comedy really, some of it’s written in. The cops singing Ridin Dirty. Some of its adlibs, the stuff that Jason was doing really was great, like Jason’s adlibs, a lot of his lines that people laugh at are adlibs. So it’s a little bit of written a little bit of adlibs. I mean the action is the action, just it all, it all kind of flowed naturally.
The Knockturnal: Yeah it worked really well. That’s tough, as a director, I’m sure, to make that all gumbo.
Director X: We didn’t walk into like “it gotta be funny and it’s gotta be this” we weren’t pushing on that, those things naturally evolved out of Alex’s writing and then our actors just having a good time on set and it became what it was meant to be.
The Knockturnal: How did all your other projects prepare you for this big feature?
Director X: I mean like shooting music videos is a very quick moving process, but it’s still all filmmaking. It’s all the same equipment, same crew, same rules, same everything. So after 20 years of moving so quickly in all kinds of situations, you know everything so varied that I’ve done, walking into a movie like this where we need to be done, you know, we green lit in November, we shot in January, we finished in March, and we’re out in June. So that kind of speed I felt my background as a filmmaker coming up in the music video and commercial side built for me a foundation that I could deal with all the different elements going on around me.