Hollywood Official has been following the career of ‘You’re Nobody Til’ Somebody Kills You’ director Michael Pinckney very closely. It’s not everyday film legend Spike Lee takes someone under his wing, but now it’s time for Pinckney to spread his own wings and fly!!
Pinckney’s popularity skyrocketed this past week when we EXCLUSIVELY announced he was working with Bobby Brown on a movie the co-penned. But this was not some big publicity stunt, there’s more than meets the eye about this budding filmmaker!
THO: If you weren’t a filmmaker today, what would be your second career choice?
Pinckney: My second career choice would have been teaching. That’s probably why I speak at high schools and colleges so much and why I’m a big proponent of mentoring. It’s my way of giving back.
THO: What has your experience been transitioning from AD to Director?
Pinckney: The transition from assistant director to director was something I actually started before I was an AD. I’ve been writing and directing projects for the past 10 years before I was an AD. Usually after I AD a film, whether 25th Hour, The Best Man and Inside Man I would always jump right into shooting a film I was developing and even casting while we were shooting.
THO: How did you get Spike Lee on your project?
Pinckney: I was an Assistant Director on Inside Man and the last week of shooting I told Spike about this film I wrote called “You’re Nobody ‘Til somebody Kills You” and asked him if he would come on as an Executive Producer. He read the script loved it and agreed to come aboard. It was a natural progression to me. I had been working with him and paying my dues for the past 10 years and it was only natural to go to him to get the stamp of approval.
THO: Would you call Spike your mentor?
Pinckney: I would definitely call him a mentor. I started working for him when I was 19 years old and a sophomore in college and at a young age I got to work with and watch a master at work. It was like going to school all over again. So for more than ten years I feel like I was groomed to be on the track that I’m on now. From getting my first job from him to him Executive Producing my first feature, I’ve come a long way.
THO: Where did the idea of ‘You’re Nobody Til Somebody Kills You’ come from?
Pinckney: I’ve loved Hip Hop growing up and I’ve always been a big fan of slasher films and I thought it would be a great idea to marry the two. I wanted to see what would happen if a Hip Hop classic like Krush Groove mixed with a classic thriller like Seven, and the child born of that union is “You’re Nobody til somebody kills you”
THO: Why chose a horror genre? Is that your genre of choice?
Pinckney: I love dark stories. I think it’s a fascinating genre and if handled correctly something special can be created.
THO: What was your biggest challenge in getting this film made?
Pinckney: Financing is always a hurdle for independent black filmmakers. Shooting the film on a small budget and with a tight schedule can be grueling and challenging. You never want to compromise your vision but you have to make sacrifices sometime.
THO: How do you feel today’s Black filmmakers are different today than those of the past?
Pinckney: I think today’s filmmakers have a lot more resources technically in terms of equipment, and distribution outlets but the financing is an even bigger challenge for today’s filmmakers. As a result I think the field is a little saturated with filmmakers that have access to the technology but aren’t as seasoned.
THO: Do you even like the term Black Filmmaker?
Pinckney: I think the term black filmmaker is a term that can be used to limit the scope and appeal of a filmmaker, and as a result studios might be more reluctant to green light a film by a “Black Filmmaker”
THO: What are your top 5 films? Characters?
Pinckney: Taxi Driver (Travis Bickle)
Seven (John Doe)
GoodFellas (Tommy Devito)
Do The Right Thing (Mookie)
The Dark Knight (The Joker)
THO: What is your camera of choice and why?
Pinckney: I love the RED camera because it has such latitude when shooting and in post to do so many things visually. The images are amazing and the colors pop.
THO: What is the premise of ‘Nobody’?
Pinckney: You’re Nobody ‘til somebody Kills You” is an action packed and gritty story of two New York City homicide detectives that are forced into the high-stakes world of the hip hop industry. A complex web of murder, sex, money and music unfolds as the homicide detectives track a serial killer with an appetite for some of hip hop’s biggest stars.
THO: There has been much hoopla around Tyler Perry casting Kim Kardashian in ‘The Marriage Counselor’. As a director, would you have made that choice?
Pinckney: What do you think the thought process is when casting a name like that? I wouldn’t have casted her because she’s such a polarizing figure and I’m really not a big fan of reality stars turned actors. I respect actors to much to give a role to someone just because they have a following.
THO: What are the biggest challenges in casting a film like ‘You’re Nobody’?
Pinckney: When a film has a small budget it’s tougher to go after the actors that you really want in the beginning but once you start the casting process you find so many diamonds in the rough that it all works out in the end for the better.
THO: Do you feel an obligation to cast as many African Americans as possible in your films? Why or why not?
Pinckney: I feel an obligation to make my films diverse and representative of the real world; Black, White, Asian, Latino. America is a melting pop and I think films have to do a better job of illustrating that.
THO: . What would you tell an up and coming filmmaker about their future plight?
Pinckney: I would tell them that if they love it to go for it. It’s a tough road but I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
THO: And advice to them on keeping the faith.
Pinckney: I would also tell them that it’s a process and it’s more about the journey and less about the destination.
THO: ’Nobody’ was produced independently how did you raise the money?
Pinckney: While working as an assistant director on Inside Man I gave the script to the film to Detective Neil Carter who was the technical advisor on film to get his input on the script from a law enforcement perspective for authenticity and he loved the script so much he wanted to help me make the film. He came onboard as a producer and helped raise all the money for the film.
Do you believe independent financing is the way to go for filmmakers as opposed to approaching a studio first?
Pinckney: I think it’s great to do a film independently to maintain as much creative control as possible as a filmmaker but working in the studio system also has its perks. You have a built in distributor which guarantees that people will see your film, so I think no matter how you get your film made that important think is to get it made.
THO: Next projects you are working on? When can the public expect to see ‘Nobody’?
Pinckney: The film is being distributed by Grindstone Entertainment/Lionsgate and tentatively slated for a July/August release. I have a few films and television projects in development. The Badboy of R&B (The Bobby Brown Story), “The First Kill” in addition to the TV projects “SWAG” and the female cop series “NYPD W”.
Check out Michael’s reel below:
No doubt we’ll be seeing more of this brotha!
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