Benny, we’re proud of you. Lets get right into how it all came together and your first reaction when you received the call to direct All Eyez on Me?
Thanks Bro, I was already working with L.T. Hutton and Morgan Creek trying to develop the Black Mafia Family movie which I had a lot of personal insight. L.T.’s original plan was to have a Tupac movie and then develop a trailer for BMF. And then whoever was developing the Tupac movie we would shoot the BMF scenes and use those as part of the trailer for the BMF movie. But then L.T. gave me a call the night before Thanksgiving 2015 and said I’m done with dealing with these other guys, you understand the vision and I want you to do the Tupac movie. So he sent me the script and that Sunday, November 30, I was in Atlanta, and then Monday the 31st we started prepping.
What were your initial thoughts on the film?
I knew it was hard because they had gone through a lot of drafts of the script and, like everyone knows, they had gone through other directors. To be honest it was something I prayed on even before I got put on the film. I prayed and asked for it, if it’s real to give me the opportunity. When I first read the script, I took away the whole “Pac-ness” of it in my mind because that would give me the gitters and as I read the script, I just asked myself, can I make this an excellent film about a man? After I read the script and decided, then I put the “Pac-ness” on it. At the end of the day, the pressure is really what drove me on this because I’ve never had this much pressure in my life, and I’ve been directing for 18 years to get to this point.
Earlier today, we spoke with Demetrius Shipp and he said it was amazing to work with you and that your work ethic has been very inspiring for him. What was your approach to directing the film?
Each film and story is unique, as director you need to add your flavor so your voice is there. I love David O. Russell movies which are very personal, you feel like you’re in the room. And I felt this story needed that feel with less cuts in the scenes to show that the story in a real intimate way. The longer we can stay with the actors in the shot the more connected the audience will be. The beauty of it is that we had incredible actors who all gave top level performances. We were able to shoot the scenes without worrying about cutting around actors who don’t sound good or look good. It was just a great experience all around, and it took everything I have learned in the past from a video director up until now and it was a great experience.
What were some of the biggest challenges in making this film?
One of the biggest challenges was shooting Atlanta and making it appear like all these different cities – New York, Baltimore, Oakland. But we got it done so when it is supposed to feel like New York it feels like New York and all the other cities. And that’s huge because that is something that people will call out and pick out quickly, especially if that’s your town.
What were your personal goals in making the film?
Pac was raised by a single mother and so was I. So that story in particular spoke to me as a director, when I was in film school and writing. In any feature film, you find your voice inside that story somewhere. So for me it was the relationship between Pac and his mom. It was very important for me to show the thread throughout the film; how Pac and his mom supported each other. When you talk about Pac you can’t do that without discussing Afeni Shakur and vice versa. As big as he is, he wouldn’t be who he is without her. And everyone who watches this film has a background in that relationship. Langston Hughes’ poem Mother To Son was one of my favorite poems growing up. And this film is the visual personification of that poem in terms of the mother to son relationship when in the poem the mother is explaining how life is, “Life ain’t been no crystal stair, it’s got tacks in it.” That’s how Afeni raised Pac. You got to break through those challenges and make it hap- pen. So All Eyez on Me is also like a homage to Langston Hughes in terms of the feeling of it in that way.
For the rest of this exclusive interview with Benny Boom, go get your copy of Issue#272 of The Source Magazine available on newsstands now!