Category Archives: Freestyle

Freestyle – “Akim Funk Buddha” (14 of 14)

Posted by Paul Devlin:

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An eclectic artist, Akim Funk Buddha, gets the last word in the movie Freestyle, summing up the spirit of the movement – with a freestyle, of course.

The Making of Freestyle (continued)

I had negotiated that the end of my time on Freestyle would be after the Slamdance Premiere. I knew that Kevin would have difficulty finally finishing the project, and would always want to continue tweaking, but I needed a definitive end, so I could move on to my next movie, Power Trip. I kept in touch as the team had difficulty cutting a sales deal. They now had many good sales offers, including significant advances from distributors. However, the music and footage rights had not yet been cleared, and that cost would have eaten up the advance. Since these were all-rights deals there would have been no money left for the filmmakers. So Freestyle remained stalled in this conundrum for several years. It seemed like the movie might never get released.

Then, while pitching my next film Power Trip at the IFP Market in New York, I met a lawyer who was very interested in working with me. But Power Trip was not his style. He wanted something more like SlamNation. So I showed him clips of Freestyle. He loved it and used his contacts at VH1 to get us a deal. Kevin resisted at first because VH1 would completely re-cut the movie for their purposes. But we convinced Kevin that it was the only way to release Freestyle from its shackles: VH1 paid for all the clearances, but only took U.S. Broadcast rights. That left Kevin with rights to distribute our version of the movie on DVD, in theaters and internationally. Eventually he signed a deal with Palm Pictures to release the movie.

Of course when money gets involved, things get tricky, especially when everyone has been working on deferred salaries. Not my first canoe trip, so I was prepared with some leverage in my back pocket. So I got paid (that’s a whole different story to tell sometime), but I’m not sure about everyone else, and I know there were some hard feelings floating around.

Kevin Fitzgerald took Freestyle all over the world, and Henry-Alex Rubin went on to receive an Academy Award nomination for Murderball. But since then I’ve completely lost touch with them, and haven’t been able to track them down, even in the new world of facebook and twitter. So, I’m sending out the word to Kevin and Henry-Alex to get in touch someday!

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Freestyle – “JUICE VS SUPERNATURAL” (13 of 14)

Posted by Paul Devlin:

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Two Freestyling legends go head-to-head, in the most important hip hop battle of last century!

The Making of Freestyle (continued)

The premiere of Freestyle in Park City was fantastic! Sundance and Slamdance were in full swing, we rented a house, and the entire team joined us – some from early stages of the movie, whom I hadn’t met yet, including Kevin’s sister, Executive Producer Tiara White. Lots of supporters joined us and the freestyler Wordsworth, came along as well and it was fun to get to know him. I was exhausted from the all-nighters getting ready, but it was still a great party and a packed house for the premiere. The audience LOVED the movie! De La Soul was playing during the festival and Henry managed negotiate a deal with a hip hop clothing sponsor to make that show the Freestyle After Party! Fantastic! Wordsworth performed with them, a great mix of generations. Such a fun time.

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Freestyle – “Mr. E” (12 of 14)

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Mr. E ‘transcends’ in this virtuoso improvisational performance excerpted from Freestyle – The Art of Rhyme.

The Making of Freestyle (continued)

Eventually, the hard work on the re-edit of Freestyle paid off and the movie was accepted into the Slamdance Film Festival in 2002. We had to work hard to finish, we recruited graffiti artist, EQ to do the titling work for the Chapter headings. (EQ was also a shooter and provided some priceless historical footage, including one of the angles of the Supernatural vs. Craig G battle. It took a lot of to convince him to give that up). I took EQ’s work to my edit room at CBS to trick it out with video and effects.

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Freestyle – “Juice” (11 of 14)

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One of the most talented hip hop artists ever, Juice’s rhymes are stunning. Written or Free? You decide.

The Making of Freestyle (continued)

Kevin Fitzgerald’s passion for hip hop sometimes created tension between him and the producer Henry-Alex Rubin and myself. Kevin was all about the integrity of the complete performance. Henry and I were all about structure, pace and story. We felt it was our job to make the material accessible, Kevin felt it was his job to honor the performers and their performance. One time, the night before submitting to a crucial festival, Kevin re-edited the movie without telling us, including dropping in a 3-minute freestyle into the midst of a very tightly structure sequence, building to a climactic battle. Luckily we caught the change before the cut went out, and convinced Kevin that the sequence should be restored. Often Henry and I felt that we had to fend off Kevin for his own good.

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Freestyle – “Rage” (10 of 14)

Posted by Paul Devlin:

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A concise history of hip hop’s emotional and culture roots.

The Making of Freestyle (continued)

Director Kevin Fitzgerald’s love of hip hop and freestyle was pure and passionate. His production company was called Organic Films, and that’s exactly what the movie Freestyle was. It was a fluid work, ever changing. Kevin would take the current version of the movie, and screen it at a hip hop event. Of course, all the freestylers would show up and start cyphering on the street after the screening. Kevin was there with his camera, capturing it all. And those performances would be incorporated into the next version of the movie! He would screen that version and the process would start all over again.

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Freestyle – “NY History” (9 of 14)

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A look back at the heyday of NYC cyphering in the early ‘90s, with SuperNatural in Washington Square Park, commentary from Mos Def, and a spectacular Freestyle narrative from Wordsworth.

The Making of Freestyle (continued)

In order to develop the story threads for Freestyle, we began gathering new material. First I added the interview and performance of Juice that I had already shot. Then we researched those historic battles and started collecting footage from around the country. We became Freestyle Central for awhile! When the director, Kevin Fitzgerald came to NYC from LA, I shot new footage with him. We sought out Craig G for a crucial interview and also brought in Anthony Marshall and Danny Castro of Lyricist Lounge. They stopped by my apartment to check out the results one day.

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