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:::::: KING'S MOB presents T H R E A T ::::::...... . . . . . . : : [MAKING OF] : : . .
HOW THEY DONE IT, THEM MOB KIDS "THREAT is designed to demonstrate what we've been taught as American youth and to prove that these teachings are wrong. THREAT deals with the established concept that our different races and lifestyles separate us and that any attempt to cross those lines will only end in violence. It illustrates what we perceive to be the end result of this thinking: total destruction. However, the making of THREAT proves that what we've been taught is not true. The cast and crew of THREAT span many lifestyles of modern youth culture, and we were able to persevere together through years of rigorous working conditions toward a common goal and finally succeeding."
- The King's Mob FORMATION OF THE MOB
King's Mob Productions was founded in 1997 by Katie Nisa and Matt Pizzolo. They met in NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and soon realized that they were likeminded both politically and artistically. The two shared an intense DiY (Do-it-Yourself) attitude based on Matt's history in hardcore punk and Katie's history in political activism.
Their goal with King's Mob was to create new, dangerous, and thought-provoking media.
At the time, Matt had just dropped out of NYU and was living out of a backpack. Nonetheless, he managed to publish several independent zines and write a rough first draft of THREAT, a dark screenplay about racial tensions leading to a violent street riot that shakes the survivors into aggressive social consciousness.
Matt and Katie decided to collaborate on THREAT, drawing from their experiences coming of age in a violent, urban environment. They gathered material from the diverse group of friends they encountered and the experiences which shaped their world.
All of those experiences painted a stark picture of modern society and the potential fate of America.
In the story, Jim, a homeless white straightedge kid, and Fred, a young black father/revolutionary, work together in a comic book shop. One night, their friends meet and an argument ensues. The argument explodes into a club brawl, which, when mistaken for being racially motivated, pours out onto the streets and escalates into a full scale riot. Jim and Fred try to stop the violence and maintain their friendship, but are pulled into the riot's maelstrom. In the end, the survivors realize that, instead of fighting each other, they should be focusing their anger against the establishment that pit them against one another.
Unlike standard one-location talking-heads indie films, THREAT's script blueprinted a renegade movie involving more than 50 locations, a variety of effects, and scenes that demanded as many as 100 extras.
Taking their cue from independent filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch and DiY media outfits like Ian MacKaye's hardcore label Dischord Records and Ani Difranco's Righteous Babe Recordings, Matt and Katie formed their indie film army King's Mob Productions.
THE MAKING OF THREAT
Matt found an internship at the downtown NY film co-op Film/Video Arts, the same co-op where Kevin Smith edited CLERKS. Matt's internship involved cleaning up after classes and managing rentals of the co-op's 16mm cameras and lighting equipment. The internship gave King's Mob free access to the equipment whenever it wasn't in use.
While Katie and Matt had strong enough DiY reputations to pull together a team of reliable and intelligent young adults, they knew that, no matter how committed the team was, a functional King's Mob would still require at least one crewmember with the technical prowess needed to instruct the entirely untrained crew on the rudimentary skills of filmmaking. Katie recruited Benjamin Brancato, a student at NYU Film School. Though only a junior in the undergraduate program, Benjamin had already shot over 20 short films and knew the production equipment inside and out.
With a youth crew made up of non-professionals entirely in their late teens and early twenties, the Mob set out to cast THREAT.
They started by auditioning professional actors, but quickly realized that casting would have to be as non-traditional as every other aspect of the project. The nature of the script required authentic performances from non-actors who could relate to the characters. The Mob began auditioning friends, acquaintances, and people they ran into on the street. They posted flyers in record stores and held open casting calls after shows in area clubs.
In some cases, characters were loosely based on real people (i.e., Katie/Kat, Rebekka/Mekky, Neil Rubenstein/Ruby). There was no favoritism in casting, though. Even Katie had to audition three times against a range of other candidates for the role of Kat. In most cases, people didn't pass the auditions to play their own namesakes.
Early in the shoot, the King's Mob truly became a collaborative effort. Divisions between cast and crew dissolved as the team pulled together. No crew member specialized in one department, no cast member spent the below-freezing nights in a heated trailer. The producer, director, and stars could all be found gaffing wired and serving meals.
With no budget for things like permits and insurance, the THREAT shoots were complete run-&-gun renegade filmmaking. Crew members would sneak into illegal locations and tap electricity from lamp posts. In order to attain high visual impact, Benjamin and the camera were strapped to the hood of a moving car, strapped to the side of a moving van, carabineered to a fire escape, and braced atop a 15 foot pile of industrial garbage. In a neighborhood flooded with big budget movie shoots, the King's Mob established such a respected reputation that locals would come out and lend a hand when they saw the Mob was filming on their stoops.
One particularly unlawful late-night shoot, which involved 30 people, a generator, and several guns on the rooftop of a 15 story building, went sour when a fire alarm was accidentally tripped. Since the film co-op was located in the same building, Matt lost his internship. As a result, the Mob lost their equipment.
The shoots became even more rigorous when Katie and Matt turned to credit cards to finance short-term equipment rentals. Average shoot schedules ran 22 hours a day for weeks at a time. Since no one had time to commute, Katie and Matt filled their small East Village apartment with mattresses and the principal cast and crew moved in.
Every step along the difficult road of DiY production helped THREAT evolve from the expression of two people to the joint expression of 200 people. The cast members began coming to set with script ideas that would be workshopped and often end up influencing the scenes being shot. The entire cast and crew worked throughout production on developing every aspect of THREAT to create a film like few before it: a portrait of a generation of youth by members of that generation, not adults attempting to portray youth.
When the shoot was done, Katie and Matt snuck into a two-day video editing workshop and learned the basics of Avid editing. King's Mob had established its reputation enough for local editing facilities to donate Avid time to the young renegade filmmakers. Matt and Katie also rallied interns at a post-production sound facility to do late night foley and music sessions for THREAT.
Around the same time, riot beat impresario Alec Empire of Atari Teenage Riot learned about THREAT. Not only did he join up with the The Mob as a contributor of original music to THREAT's score, but he brought along all the artists on his London-based label Digital Hardcore Recordings. The Mob's own psychojunglist Queque stitched it all together, and Digital Hardcore will be releasing the soundtrack.
ON THE ROAD WITH THREAT
When THREAT's first rough cut was completed, 15 Mobsters piled into a van and drove to The Sundance Film Festival. They didn't know what to expect and didn't understand the methods of entering film festivals, they just knew Sundance was about to begin and it seemed like the right place to go next. Once again, the King's Mob reputation preceded them: not with the festival, but with the locals.
At the time, a Doc Marten's shoe store happened to be located right across the street from Sundance's flagship Egyptian Theater. The punk rock kids working in the shop convinced their bosses to let the King's Mob turn the shoe store into a renegade movie theater for two nights. Taking advantage of Wal-Mart's 30-day no-questions-asked return policy, King's Mob transformed the shoe store into a screening room and sold out all four shows, mostly to young people in Salt Lake City who'd learned about THREAT and the Mob through the internet.
The renegade screenings at Sundance scored THREAT glowing international press, which the Mob used as a springboard to launch preview-test-screening tours across the US & Europe. After each screening, Katie and Matt ran DiY Filmmaking Workshops. Those workshops developed into the King's Mob produced DiY-Fest, a touring independent media carnival that featured a range of artists including King's Mob inspirations Jim Jarmusch, Ian MacKaye, and Ani Difranco.
By taking THREAT's rough cut on tour, Katie and Matt learned a lot about the film's strengths and weaknesses, but most of all they learned that all the hard work had not been in vain. The film had an activating effect on its audience, and that inspired Katie and Matt to return to the grindstone and do the long, painstaking work of honing the rough cut into a solid piece of independent filmmaking craftsmanship.
While they put the final remaining pieces together for a polished final cut, Matt and Katie presented a short mini-preview of THREAT in the film festival tent at Goldenvoice's Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. In attendance at the preview was Oren Bitan, the accomplished film distributor who released Radiohead's MEETING PEOPLE IS EASY and The Hughes Brother's AMERICAN PIMP.
Startled and excited by the audience response to THREAT's short mini-preview at Coachella, Bitan approached Matt and Katie about putting THREAT in theaters nationwide through his new HIQI Media outfit. Matt and Katie were familiar with Bitan's previous releases, so they excitedly closed a deal right there at the music festival.
With THREAT's release imminent, the King's Mob founders are focusing on the future. Katie is focusing all her attention on acting, which she is pursuing full-time. She most recently appeared on the LA stage in Patrick Marber's CLOSER. Matt has several new movies in development and production at King's Mob, plus he is taking the Dischord/Righteous Babe model a step further by forming the indie DVD label Halo 8.
The rest of the King's Mob team is also hard at work. Some of the crew members have taken office positions within the company, while others have continued on with their creative pursuits. Several King's Mob alum are making waves musically, such as Keith Middleton with his HYDRA hip hop crew, Rebekka Takamizu with her EYES LIKE KNIVES post-rock band, Neil Rubenstein with his THESE ENZYMES hardcore band, David R. Fisher with his new acoustic project LONESOME DOVE, and Kamouflage with his solo rap career. David R. Fisher has picked up the acoustic guitar for his new music project THE LOST WEEKEND. And THREAT animator Valerie Hallier continues to create amazing new web content on her website.
Creative members of the King's Mob team have also made unexpected multimedia contributions to THREAT. Actor/rapper Kamouflage wrote and produced the THREAT theme song "Am I A Threat?," which was written from the perspective of his character in THREAT. In response, actor/punk-singer David R. Fisher wrote and produced his character's hardcore punk response "I Am A Threat." Both theme songs will appear on the soundtrack to be released by Digital Hardcore Recordings, the London-based indie label owned by THREAT score composer Alec Empire.
In even more multimedia news, THREAT animation illustrator Robert Anthony Jr. has begun work on a THREAT comic book called "THREAT: Silent War."
King's Mob is also finishing up two soundtracks, "THREAT: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack," which features tracks by Alec Empire, Queque, Terror, Bleeding Through, and more; and "THREAT: Music That Inspired The Movie," an album of mash-up deathmatches between electronica producers and hardcore & metal bands (Gorilla Biscuits vs. Alec Empire, Terror vs. Enduser, just to name a few).
THREAT arrives in theaters & on DVD January 24, 2006.
...this is just the calm before the storm...