Rahman Moore is an independent filmmaker based in NY. He will be writing about the intersection of politics and pop-culture for The Good Men Project. He spoke with Savas Abadsidis about drug laws, rap music and how he got his start making films.
What do you think is the main problem with US drug laws?
I really couldn’t nail down one “main” problem when it comes to drug policy here at home because it is such a large and complex issue. If I had to pick something to say quickly I would say: Where is all the data that says this war is helping us as a nation and that we must continue at all cost? Not too long ago in our history we saw high levels of crime and violence that came along with the prohibition of the 1920’s take a huge dip when alcohol was re-legalized and regulated. The same could possibly happen in the case of illicit drugs today but our government is still sticking to their old stories from the 70’s and 80’s even though not one of their old lines would stand up today supported by facts and figures. Should we really still trust and continue implementing any of Nixon’s ideas and policies concerning drugs in this country today? Shouldn’t we re-examine laws created when there was a widespread fear of cultural change in this country and Klansmen and Jim Crow supporters were seen as upholders of American morals and values and helped write some of those laws? I think it’s a good idea to start being honest and truthful about the why’s and how’s. That wasn’t quick, sorry.
Poverty and this era’s drug prohibition are major contributors to gun crime and violence in too many US communities. When the roots are being addressed that’s when we’ll see progress.
What drew you to filmmaking?
It was my second attempt at shooting a short story that I wrote while incarcerated. I had rushed into the shooting process again without planning properly and ended up screwing up the sound so badly that it would have been cheaper to start from scratch than fix it. I had already spent everything I had buying stuff for the short and I had no job or any money coming in from anywhere. I was truly broke. My financial situation combined with the feelings of failure were a lot for me to handle and I ended up in a bad place mentally. Instead of chucking everything out I asked the editor to cut a trailer for me so it wasn’t a total waste. A few weeks went by and I was still down in the dumps, trying to figure how my life was going to work without doing what I loved and the trailer came back. I watched that and was re-energized immediately. Even though I didn’t get the whole short film in the bag I did enough to experience the feeling of overwhelming gratitude for the opportunity, the desire and the ability (though very limited) to take an idea that I wrote down on a state prison napkin and bring it to some kind of life. I knew right then that it would be impossible for me not to keep pursuing my dream.
If you had to describe your style, what would you say it was?
When I was growing up, a lot of the rap music that I listened to functioned like a portal into young black America. The music still has that important role in our communities but a lot can get lost for those on the outside who don’t know the lingo. They miss the message because they make a judgement based on the little fragments of the slang that they understand. I want to write movies where people can get an honest look at certain aspects of the street life and hopefully come away with a better sense of the people, the motivations and the emotions involved.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
My biggest inspirations are the guys that showed and proved that film school, millions of dollars and or a family member high up in the film industry were not necessary requirements to live my dreams. Guys like Robert Rodriguez and Oren Peli who went out there, put in the work, and made it happen with little money and resources.
What would you say were some of the most pivotal films to you?
Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant was one of the films that unleashed the dragon so to speak. It freed me from the pressure of having my characters fit role stereotypes. I was also influenced by the gritty realism of the film and I try to incorporate those elements into a lot of what I like to write.
Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche NY: I like everything he does but this one in particular helped me to gain the confidence that I could write whatever the f*ck I wanted to however I wanted to do it. Seeing how one could break away from screenplay conventions was very important to me because I did a lot of learning on my own and had my own ideas on how I wanted to do things. It was empowering to see people making it and not sticking to the rules.
Gordon Parks’ The Learning Tree is important to me because he was Hollywood’s first major black director. It was filmed in his home town of Fort Scott, Kansas. Parks also wrote the screenplay and composed the musical score for the film all that I aspire to do myself one day.