The Making of Player Hating A Love Story
The Mother Fucking Saga Continues… (line from film)
Definition: Player Hating- Someone else is about to shine, and you’ll do anything to keep that bastard from getting his cheese — it can be as subtle as negative flow (lyrics) or as extreme as trying to clap (shoot) him. – Trent Bond, Half’s Manager and former NYPD Detective.
After we were robbed in Brownsville, I didn’t know where to turn to find a main character for my film. But eventually I heard about a kid from Albany Projects in Crown Heights Brooklyn, named Half-a-Mill, and a meeting was set up at a production company in Manhattan. To my absolute surprise, the kid not only showed up—he was smart, thoughtful, handsome and talented. I knew he was the character I’d been looking for.
I introduced my idea to Half, which was to follow him and his crew around while they launched his first album, and see what kind of player hating was going to surface. I wanted him to know that although I wasn’t from the projects, I knew there was shit going down there that was important, and wrong, and I was willing to be his voice. I warned him that for sure I would make mistakes, but if he was willing to give me complete access to all aspects of his life, I promised I would always tell the truth, both to him and in the film. Half is smart, he knew that even if there was no money, a movie about him was a winning proposition. So he signed a contract.
The next time I saw Half was when I called a pre-production meeting in my apartment in the East Village in Manhattan. I was there with my female production assistant when Half arrived an hour late with about six to eight mostly black men. His crew. The Godfia Criminals. East Village apartments are notoriously small and mine was 450 square feet, and with ten people in it, it becomes very, very cosy. More black people kept arriving over the course of the next hour or so, and I was shitting bricks because I thought it would never end. And I knew from experience that a good portion of these guys had weapons on them, and they were all talking and laughing, having a good time, paying NO attention to me. The director. They used my phone to order food and I could feel my racist fears rising to the surface. “They took up so much room. They had guns. They were eating barbeque. Ribs, even! Maybe they were calling long distance! Holy shit, what was I doing?” But they were already there, and I couldn’t ask them to leave, so I inhaled deeply, took a giant leap of faith, made a mental note not to have production meetings in my home again, and did my best to relax in order to plan for the first day of shooting.
Our first shoot was in the stairwell of the Albany Projects. The floor Half had grown up on. For me, it was frightening and thrilling because in this five-hour interview I got to ask a black man every question I ever wanted to ask. The good, the bad and the stupid…