Native New Yorker Adam Leon has had quite the year. His first feature film, Gimme the Loot, won the Narrative Feature Grand Jury Prize at South by Southwest. It was just picked up for distribution by Sundance Selects, yet despite the frenzy of attention he still found time to answer our questions. Tickets are only available for the March 25 screening of Gimme the Loot, but be quick – they’re going fast.
Describe your film to someone who hasn’t seen it.
It’s a fast, fun adventure that takes place over two hot summer days and follows two graffiti writers, Malcolm and Sofia, as they try to pull of this grand scheme. We took to the streets, used real locations in the Bronx and all over the city, often shot guerrilla style, and just hustled and schemed like our characters to get it made in the best way possible. Tonally, we were very focused on taking these kids who have vivid, often difficult lives, but making something set in that world which is more about the joys of youth than the perils of it.
What is your favorite (and/or least favorite) movie and why?
I think Empire Strikes Back, Days of Heaven, Trouble in Paradise, and Barry Lyndon are my favorites but I’ll go with Barry Lyndon because it’s the best movie ever made and I have a tattoo of its poster on my arm. Every single aspect of that film is done to the utmost highest level. It’s this perfect thing and also, it’s very very funny which I think sometimes gets lost. People think of it as this staid technical thing, “the movie shot with only candlelight”, but it’s so full of life and features a ton of unforgettable characters, plus a classic last ten minutes. I saw it on the big screen for the first time at the Walter Reade, but I watch that movie all the time. In fact I think I’m going to watch it now.
From what types of art, other than film, do you draw inspiration?
Music is a huge part of the film and just a huge part of everything I did. I had about a ten hour playlist of “Gimme the Loot”-type songs, everything from gospel to jazz to children’s music but all just things that I think fit the vibe we were going for.
What is your favorite food to eat on set?
We made a very concerted effort to embrace the wide variety of cheap eats in the city when shooting, and that became a hallmark of our shoot. We never once had pizza, which is kind of amazing on an indie film. We ate a lot of roti and doubles and bi bim bop but my favorite was falafel. Along with our co-producer Sam Soghor and loyal PA Joey “Bats” Azoulai, we’re a big falafel aficionado crew. The best of the best? Falafel Express of course, that’s probably the best in the city.
Which parts of the filmmaking process do you enjoy the most? The least?
I love shooting, being on set. I think by far that’s the best, but honestly I love all of it. I think you have to. I had this thought one day on set that if I didn’t love doing this so much and care about it more than anything it would be excruciating. But instead, since I do love it and care about it, I think the entire process is the greatest thing in the world. I hope I get to make more movies and I hope I don’t lose that feeling.
Gimme the Loot screens on March 23 and March 25. Follow the film on Facebook and Twitter and visit its official site.