Thursday, September 01, 2011

Filmmaker Rashaad Ernesto Green

A Chat with the Writer/Director of the New Indie Film GUN HILL ROAD
by Janet Lawler

The title of this movie caught my eye before knowing anything else about it. I was born in the Bronx and grew up near Gun Hill Road. I always thought Gun Hill Road would make for a great movie title. Apparently, I'm not alone.

GUN HILL ROAD is a new indie movie by a writer/director Rashaad Ernesto Green. Keep an eye out for it at your local art house or soon on Netflix. Keep a closer eye on Green as a new director to watch. Gun Hill Road is Green's first feature film. The NYU graduate and Bronx native's film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January to rave reviews and became a finalist in the 2011 Jury Award.

The film is also a recipient of the Spike Lee Fellowship.

Gun Hill Road starring Esai Morales, Judy Reyes, and the breakout star Harmony Santana tells the story of a family in transition. It focuses on a young man exploring his sexuality in an intolerant and judgmental world and his exploration's impact on his relationship with his parents and himself.  Here is the movie's trailer

The NY Screenwriting Life recently asked Rashaad Ernesto Green about his new work and his creative process on Gun Hill Road:

How long did it take you to write the screenplay for Gun Hill Road?
From conception until final draft, it took me about a year and a half to write GUN HILL ROAD.

What is your daily writing process like? Do you write daily or binge write? Prefer to write during the day or at night?
I'm more of a binge writer unfortunately, and bit unorthodox I'd say. I come from an acting background and always left the writing up to someone else. Now that I write for myself, I usually burn the midnight oil before deadlines.

Filmmaker Ed Burns often says he considers himself a writer first. Do you consider yourself more a director or a writer? Which is your primary passion?
I usually enjoy the process of writing once I force myself to do it, but as far as passions are concerned, I'd say it's probably the last on my list. Acting is first, then directing, and finally writing. The trouble is... I have a lot to say, and the only way I have found that I can fully express it is by putting it on paper first.

You directed/edited/wrote several short films before Gun Hill Road. Do you recommend aspiring writers/directors begin with short films before taking on their first feature?
100%. Absolutely. A feature film is a beast. The best way to develop your craft and hone your writing/directing skills is by starting small and making short films.

What was the Sundance Film Festival experience like for you? How has it helped the film along the way?
Sundance has been wonderful. I had a short film at Sundance in January of 2009 when I began writing GUN HILL ROAD. Once you're in the family, they really look after you. I was really happy to return two years later with my first feature.

In this digital age, how can audience see Gun Hill Road if they can't see it at their local theater?
Eventually, the plan will be to release it on DVD and VOD. However, if they want their local theater to play it, they can go online to request the film at

When will Gun Hill Road be available on Netflix?
Not exactly sure. I'm guessing a couple months after the end of its theatrical run.

I have amazing memories of growing up in the 70s in The Bronx. How did growing up in The Bronx influence you as a filmmaker?
My earliest memories and images of the Bronx are so vivid and bright. The Bronx that I knew has never been portrayed in films, which is why as an artist, I have attempted to offer a different perspective on a section of New York that often goes overlooked.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer/director now since making your first feature film?
Tell the stories in you heart that need to be told. We need them like we need water and air. Never give up, and always work with people you love.

What's next on your plate?
I always have a couple of pots in the fire. I'm working on my next script as well as reading many scripts to see if my voice vibes with someone else's.

Thanks, Rashaad, for taking some time out with us here at The NY Screenwriting Life.
Thank you, Janet! You can keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter at

Cheers for Gun Hill Road and let's support indie films as we head into fall 2011. It will open in many cities like Chicago and Miami on September 16th. Check the film's website for details.

Hope you all had a wonderful, productive summer!
Until next time.

PS -- Don't forget to follow The NY Screenwriting Life Blog on Facebook. Also available on for all you Kindle lovers.

No comments: