The Streets of San Francisco

Expanded for Web! Filmmaker points camera at citys unseen side and strikes a universal chord

I, of course, was well aware of [co-writer/actor who plays "Vain"] Brian [Burnam]'s background in the graffiti subculture, since we basically grew up together. But I was moved by [co-lead actor] Lane [Garrison]'s performance before I learned of his run-ins with the law. There were several other actors who were cast for their talent first, before I discovered the real life experiences that effectively qualified them for their respective roles. And our friend Dave Lieberman, who plays the stick-up kid in the film, was facing 18-21 months in state prison for graffiti while we were shooting. His experience was well-publicized in the local media. Actors' personas have a way of creeping into their performances. I love that.

What most surprised you about this project?

We were most surprised by the sheer enormity of the graffiti subculture and how tight the community is internationally. When we went to Berlin, the writers in our crew were immediately connected with the Kings over there. These cats are linking up all over the world and painting together. It's phenomenal. And beyond the elite crews, there are kids involved with graffiti on some level or another in every corner of the globe. We get dozens of emails every day from writers all over the world who are touched by the film and want to help get the word out. We knew we would get support from SF and NYC. But we had no idea we'd have people in Berlin, Stockholm, and Indiana offering to help promote. Graffiti has become a truly global phenomenon.

Morgan: Look, Ma, no paint! Photo by Amy Morgan
Morgan: Look, Ma, no paint! Photo by Amy Morgan

Can you tell me a little more about your decade as a government social worker?

I have worked in a variety of settings, from juvenile hall to children's mental health. I also founded Live & Learn Productions, which is a video production company for at-risk youth. Live & Learn produced public service announcements and a teen talk show for community television. I currently run a teen court program, where youth are tried by a jury of their peers for minor crimes. My goal in working with youth is to give them access to healthy, constructive outlets and provide them with skill-building opportunities that will help them succeed in future endeavors. These are both things that are severely lacking in the lives of most at-risk youth.

Any other films in the works?

Yes, we actually have several projects in the pipeline. We founded Relentless Co. to produce, acquire, and distribute independent films. However, we are putting all of our energy into Quality of Life right now. This is an incredibly exciting time for independent filmmaking. The tools that are available for production—video cameras, digital editing—and distribution—the internet, low-cost DVD replication—have made it possible for anyone to create something and have it seen by an audience. For example, what's happening on MySpace right now is phenomenal. Just this week, we won the MySpace Film Users Choice award – thanks to the votes from thousands of people on MySpace who would have never heard about the film otherwise. We have been able to reach hundreds of thousands of viewers for free! The democratization of the filmmaking process is definitely upon us. And we're psyched to be in the middle of it. 


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