September 15, 2004
The Guys Behind The "F*** New York" Video
Remember that "F*** New York" quicktime video (actually named "Mission Accomplished") that was making the rounds during the Republican convention, imagining Bush and his GOP crew as a posse of rich white prep school kids who think they're gangsta?
That video cracked me up, but I was also iffy about how liberally these white kids were tossing "niggas" around.. I found it off-putting, but on the other hand you could argue it's supposed to be off-putting cuz the clip is inviting us to hate these little twerps, and it's true to character for the Teenage Punk GOP to play themselves like that..
So I wasn't quite sure what to think about it, and wished I could find whoever made the video and pick their brains a little. Luckily I happened to mention this to our ace reporter Irina, and within minutes she had tracked them down and gotten them on the phone.
Turns out the video was put together by a couple of young filmmakers named Sam Marks (writer) and Max Rockatansky a.k.a. Matt Lenski (director), who just couldn't stand to see these mark ass Republican bustas rolling into their city. Here's what they had to say:
IRINA: How did you come up with the idea to do this?
MAX: We're both native New Yorkers - I was born in Manhattan and lived on Eldridge and Houston when I was little - and of course we were all outraged that Republicans were coming here to use the 911 incident and twist it in their favor. They're coming to our home town and we felt like we did when we were sixteen years old and some bully was steppin to you on your block, talking shit. These Republicans are the ultimate punks. I'm a director and Sam Marks is a writer and a playwright so we said let's come up with something.
MAX: So one thing led to another and Sam and I collaborated for a couple of days and because of the nature of the project there were a lot of people who wanted to help us out so we got a really good crew together and did a nice casting, shot it in a week. It was edited and mixed and right away we knew we had something that was dope and it was gonna touch a nerve.
IRINA: The kids in the spot, where did you get them?
MAX: In casting this, we did street casting - go to different school yards, places and slowly amassed this group of kids. That's exactly the way that kid (Bush, portrayed by Alex Lerner) talks. He's from Queens. That talk - that speech with the tongue way back in the throat - it's him.
IRINA: Where did you film it?
SAM: On a corner in downtown Manhattan (49th and 1st), so when you saw it, it was clearly NYC.
SAM: The original concept was that Bush is the biggest gangsta of them all so how can we express that? We wanted to make him a white teenage punk. It was an easy thing to visualize cuz we all know those kinds of kids
IRINA: The idea that they're gonna take New York -- where did it come from?
SAM: The general anger on my part that Republicans were coming to New York and they were disrespecting New York and they were taking our whole city, and saying "WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT, HUH?" So it was like when you're little and these neighborhood bullies, these bullies would just take my hat! And be like, what are you gonna do about it? There's this humorous aspect of Bush being a G and not caring and pushing his will on the general public. It worked so much better with them in uniforms since Republicans are so easily identifiable in the New York landscape.
IRINA: Did you know it was gonna get really big?
MAX: We didn't realize it was gonna get as big as it is! (laughing) There has been a great response by other directors and all sorts of people. Which is great, but most importantly we wanted to do something to make protesting fun, not make it kind of serious.
IRINA: What do you mean?
MAX: If we saw one more poster with a fist on it, in stark black/white contrast, telling me to go fight whatever, I was gonna puke. We feel like protesting needs to be fun and have some sex appeal. We want to get younger people involved. In the 1960s, a lot of people were getting laid for protesting - not that we're getting laid cuz of this movie - (laughs) But protesting is a way to align like minded individuals.
IRINA: Did you have any misgivings about whether it was cool to use the N word?
MAX: We thought it was appropriate for a couple of reasons. These kids are punk-ass young republican prep school kids. We wanted to have a next generation of Republicans shown as the antithesis of the people we want to reach. The antithesis of the people who we want to be involved and who we think this message is for.
Throwing in the fact that the kids are these thugged out individuals is showing that the whole Bush family is the most thugged-out crew in the world. We wanted to write it the way kids talk on the street. we weren't doing it for any company or organization, so we decided not to pull any punches. Not to mention it certainly gets the attention of many people and we have to get as much attention on this election as possible.
White people use the N word. I don't even know if it's a white or a black thing. Any kids who hang out on the street pretty much say nigga this nigga that. You can draw all sorts of things, but a certain lifestyle, a very thugged out mentality - if you can imagine a wigger mixed with a young republican - we wanted that to be our speaker for the RNC. There's no big secret there. and it's kind of hilarious
SAM: I didn't consciously work it out philosophically. To me it's sort of how these characters speak. I think a 16-year-old white guy would use that word. These characters would use that word, they are white "gangstas," and they would use that word. I'm not making a judgment call - it's not right or wrong. It's just how I see the characters speaking, no opinion.
IRINA: Did you ever go to a school where you wore a uniform?
MAX: I'm 26 and I went to Washington Market Nursery School, P.S. 41. I got kicked out of so many schools! I graduated from School of Visual Arts in 2000, but I'm much prouder of P.S. 41 and the nursery school, I had the best time. P.S. 41 is where I first learned how to curse. I attended Dwight academy for one semester where I had to wear a uniform. I got kicked INTO Dwight (laughing). I had never worn a suit ever before and my mom took me to get the clothes and I GOT ALL THE WRONG STUFF. All the other kids were hooked up and I had pants with pleats.
SAM: I'm 28 and I was born in Manhattan and lived in West Village East village - my parents were divorced. I never wore a uniform. I taught an SAT class at Fieldston last summer. I went to Stuyvesant, Stanford, NYU and now I'm at Brown. I got a fellowship to study playwriting.
IRINA: Do you think it's been around the world?
SAM: I've had a lot of people call me or email me throughout America - that says it's out there
MAX: If you Google f**knewyork all together, it gets a huge number of hits. When you start going down, you see who posted it on what blog and what website has it and the comments people have on the blogs, etc. That's huge. The response we've gotten from people shows it struck a nerve. Whether it's because it's about the GOP or if it's five white kids talking slang ..aside from this being fun, it's for a greater purpose.
SAM: What can we do to stop this man from getting re-elected? I really wanted New Yorkers to take to the streets. I'm still so outraged that Republicans came to the city and it was on lockdown - the whole thing is just horrific to me.
IRINA: Are you gonna do a part 2?
MAX: We plan to do another piece right around the elections -- driving people to get out and vote.
IRINA: Have you been recognized formally?
MAX: It showed at rooftop film festival we're thinking of putting it in at (shift.com) they do a digital film festival. But we didn't do this to make money or to get notoriety. We just did it cuz we felt like it needed to be done. And most importantly the mission isn't accomplished.
SAM: It's just getting started.